Friday, March 27, 2009

DNC Eviscerates GOP For Yesterday's Budget Gaffe

The GOP handed this one to the Democratic party on a silver platter:

Honestly, if you are trying to fight off the stigma of being the "Party of No," do not come to the public with a non-existent budget that only pisses everyone else off.

Murphy Leads Going Into The Final Stretch

Time is short in the 20th district, but Scott Murphy has proven he's got the stuff. Jim Tedisco was supposed to have been handed this seat, yet now with four days to go, the insurgent candidate has come up with the lead.

From Siena:

Loudonville, NY. As the special election in the 20th C.D. enters the final weekend, Democrat Scott Murphy has reversed a four-point deficit and turned it into a four-point lead over Republican Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco. Murphy leads 47-43 percent, having trailed two weeks ago by a 45-41 percent margin, according to a new Siena (College) Research Institute poll of likely voters. Tedisco's campaign is viewed by voters as more negative by a 44-25 percent margin, while Murphy's campaign is seen as more positive. Regardless of who they are supporting, by a 45-35 percent margin, voters think Tedisco will win the election.

"While the percentage of likely voters supporting Murphy has risen about three points per week for the last four weeks, the percentage supporting Tedisco has dropped three points. In the last four weeks, Murphy turned a 12-point deficit into a four-point lead," said Steven Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena New York Poll.

"Murphy has sealed the deal with Democrats, leading 84-11 percent, while Tedisco has the support of less than two-thirds of Republicans, leading 64-27 percent. Independents are virtually tied, with Tedisco leading 45-44 percent, after trailing with independents by six points two weeks ago and leading by 14 points four weeks ago," Greenberg said. "Tedisco's 16-point lead in Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties two weeks ago is down to six points. Murphy slightly expanded his lead in the northern counties from 25 to 29 points, and turned a seven-point deficit in the southern portion of the district into a two-point lead in two weeks."

Murphy turned that around because he's been the candidate that presents a comprehensive and engaging vision for the voters. Tedisco is only more of the same out of Albany and shown he'll to do whatever it takes to shield himself from making hard decisions and presenting a front that goes up against the President's vision of change without any vision of his own. No wonder Tedisco saw his lead vanish, he never did anything to hold onto it.

Bloomberg To Get Independence Line After All

Bloomberg's stance on marriage equality this week should have been an early sign that he wasn't too worried about getting on the local GOP's good side. The deal he has seemed to have worked out gets him on a party line and reflects the image he tries to present, that of "independence."

From The NY Times:

Two founding members of the party, in an interview on Thursday at their town house in the West Village, said they would back Mr. Bloomberg’s bid to become the party’s mayoral nominee and expected their members to do the same in a coming vote.

“I think he’s got it,” said Fred Newman, a party leader. “And I think he deserves it.”

The nomination would amount to a political coup for the mayor, who had so infuriated party members last year that they threatened to deny him their ballot line in retaliation.

In an audacious move, the mayor and his top political aides had backed a bid last year by the state Independence Party chairman, Frank MacKay — a strong Bloomberg ally — to oust the party’s leadership in New York City, a gambit that failed, and quickly backfired on the Bloomberg administration.
Now that a few years have past, the second tier party is ready to make nice, and take gobs of money from the wealthiest man about town. A win would also give them pull as a party in New York City to say the least, especially if they are the only ones to give Bloomberg a ballot line. This is definitely a good thing for the mayor, so that he at least gets his name closer to the left side of the ballot. While Thompson is running a campaign for all New Yorkers, now at least Bloomberg can claim something too, "independence" to do as he pleases. Not that he wouldn't do that to begin with.

Scott Murphy's Obama Ad

The Republicans are trying to make the special election in upstate New York a referendum on Obama. Even though this race is really about the people of the 20th District, Murphy is set on working with the popular President, while Jim Tedisco is set on joining the Party of No. Tedisco can claim he's above partisan politics, but when push comes to shove, he isn't behind the President and Murphy is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

GOP Presents Their Alternate Budget...Which Is Nothing

The Republicans reinforced their "Party of No" label by adding the word "nothing" to the repertoire. That "nothing" refers to their well-publicized event today that was supposed to be a presentation of their alternate budget for Congress to debate. Instead of bringing something to the table, empty rhetoric was the only thing reporters could find.

From TPM:

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."

When pressed further by reporters, Boehner promised that Republicans would release their actual budget within the next few days and pointed a finger back at the president.

After Obama delivered a prime-time speech previewing his budget, Boehner said, "he didn't offer his details until days later."

The lack of any statistical heft in their packet left the House GOP stumbling out of the gate as it worked to re-dub itself as the "party of yes," in the words of No. 3-ranked leader Mike Pence (R-IN). House Republicans unveiled an alternative plan for the foreclosure crisis yesterday, and they are continuing to tout their economic stimulus proposal (along with an erroneous claim that it creates more jobs than Obama's).

The GOP's "Road to Recovery" packet, divided into sections on spending limits, job creation/tax reduction, and debt control, is certainly replete with big promises. The plan commits Republicans "to ensur[ing] that the federal budget cannot grow faster than families' ability to pay the bill" ... though it doesn't explain what metric the party would use to measure the "average" family's debt burden.

Big promises, little action. That is what the nation has come to expect from the Republican party. From this Republican caucus, the reign of George W. and back beyond Reagan, there have been grand ideas but nothing much has ever been accomplished aside from making the wealthy wealthier at the expense of the working and middle class. Now that most people are starting to understand that, it is getting harder and harder for people like Boehner to trick the American people anymore.

Brooklyn Paper Already Showing Signs Of Murdoch-ness

Only two weeks ago, the storied Brooklyn Paper was sold off to News Corp after several decades as an independent newspaper covering the borough. The immediate worry was that the coverage would shift towards something more favorable to the conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. BP's executive staff claimed the contrary position. Now only time can tell how the paper will change...or not but apparently the beginnings of that change are already evident before the month is out.

From The NY Times:

“The Brooklyn Paper’s always had a very independent feel, and we’ve been told to continue that feel,” said Mr. Kuntzman, whose paper is peppered with playful headlines with exclamation points. “We’re a scrappy paper. We always have been; we always will be.”

Some media-vigilant Brooklynites are skeptical. For example, while The Brooklyn Paper has been generally critical of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project, other News Corporation publications, such as The New York Post, have supported it.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that The Brooklyn Paper’s news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more,” wrote Norman Oder, a critic of the development, on his blog Atlantic Yards Report.

The paper’s employees will leave their Dumbo office and join Courier-Life in an office in Downtown Brooklyn that is owned, as Mr. Oder noted, by the Atlantic Yards’ developer, Forest City Ratner Companies.
Atlantic Yards is just one issue in Brooklyn, but it is an important one. It is a battle between rich developers and those that wish to make sure the borough is developed, but not destroyed. This is an indicator of who the Brooklyn Paper will speak up for and sadly, the signs of who they will go with are ominous. This means that it will be up to what is left of the independent voices in the area, such as Atlantic Yards Report, No Land Grab and Develop, Don't Destroy to do the reporting that the News Corp. empire is unwilling to commit to.

Obama Responds To Marijuana Legalization Question

One of the top questions for Barack Obama's web forum today was whether or not he thought that legalizing pot could help stimulate the economy and create jobs. Here's his answer:

Ed Henry Is A Pathetic Twit

I know the title may sound a bit harsh, but Ed Henry deserves it and then some. Now this might just be me, but when you have the ability to question the President, I would hope most journalists would want to try to address the salient issues of the day in a way that connects the President to the American people.

Unfortunately, Henry thought he was being witty by connecting Obama to George Bush when he wondered out loud why the President didn't call on the American people to make a sacrifice in these troubled times. Obama responded beautifully, even if it may have thrown Henry back on his heels. What Henry didn't/doesn't get is that the American people ARE suffering, even if Henry and his friends in the elite bubble of Washington, D.C. are still living quite comfortably. Instead of trying to make an effort at understanding his disconnect to the rest of the nation, Henry went on a rationalization binge for his network instead:

... I was heading into this event with the same strategy: make news on something unexpected.[...]

But on Tuesday night, as I sat in the front row nervously reviewing my hypothetical questions ... I kept thinking back to a conversation I had with Wolf Blitzer [...]

The pressure was on now because the president had called on me. Someone handed me a microphone, millions were watching, and it's scary to think about changing topic in a split second because you might get flustered and screw up.

But it's fun to gamble and like any good quarterback (though I was never athletic enough to actually play the position), I decided to call an audible. [...]

So I waited patiently and then decided to pounce with a sharp follow-up. From just a few feet away, I could see in his body language that the normally calm and cool president was perturbed.[...]

What do I think? I've got no hard feelings toward the president and I assume he feels the same, but I can't worry about that. I was doing my job -- and he was doing his.

Advice from Wolf Blitzer? The pressure is on? Doing your job??? None of that makes any sense whatsoever, unless of course you are a mindless drone masquerading as a reporter within the confines of the capitol. Blitzer for the most part is a phony, there's always pressure involved when being on TV, especially with the President (should have been prepared) and as for doing your job, asking the President to tell people to sacrifice when they are already starting to live in tent cities as hundreds of thousands lose their jobs every week is one of the most callous things to say. Obama didn't deliberately move us into a recession as Bush had lied us into a war with Iraq. Any good reporter should know that the two situations are completely different from each other. Ed Henry should have known this, and if he did, and went on to waste the President's and our time, then yes, he is a pathetic twit.

NY Set To Repeal Most Of Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

For nearly forty years now, we as a state have been throwing people away to rot in jail cells for doing drugs. Naïvete and a rash propensity to act against a drug epidemic ended up feeding a growing prison-industrial complex and did nothing to counteract the core problems surrounding drug use in New York. The name Rockefeller did not only then correlate to money and power, it also took on one of the failed approaches of a "drug war." The idea of this being a "war" is the crux of the problem in how we deal with drugs. Drug problems need to be treated, not battled. Now with a Democratic majority in place in Albany, we'll finally be able to repeal the worst of those drug laws and focus on treatment.

From The NY Times:

Under the plan, judges would have the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders in all but the most serious drug offenses — known as A-level drug felonies — to treatment. As a condition of being sent to treatment, offenders would have to plead guilty. If they did not successfully complete treatment, their case would go back before a judge, who would again have the option of imposing a prison sentence.

Currently, judges are bound by a sentencing structure that requires minimum sentences of one year for possessing small amounts of cocaine or heroin, for example. Under the agreement reached by the governor and lawmakers, a judge could order treatment for those offenders.

Judges would also have the option of sending some repeat drug offenders to treatment. Repeat offenders accused of more serious drug crimes, however, could only go to treatment if they were found to be drug-dependent in an evaluation.

It's been a long time coming and this is at least one benefit of having the State Senate in Democratic hands. As far as drug law reform goes, this is a huge step forward for our state and we have the new majority to thank for it. Now imagine if this display of common sense could be thrust upon the other important items of the day that our government could address and correct.

Will You Stand With Dr. Dean?

Howard Dean, who is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Democracy for America, isn't resting on his laurels. Instead of relaxing after four years at the helm of the DNC, he is looking for a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to our nation's health care crisis. Will you stand up for that? I certainly will.

Italy And Switzerland Forced By Climate To Redraw Their Borders

The changes will be minute, in fact no Swiss or Italians will have to suddenly switch their nationalities. However, the changes to the border has everything to do with our rapidly changing planet. Global warming is altering the face of the Earth and when it comes to man-made markers of nationality and territory, those are no match for mother nature. Italy and Switzerland are seeing that first hand at their common border in the melting Alps.

From CNN:

The Italian Military Geographic Institute says climate change is responsible for the Alpine glaciers melting.

"This draft law is born out the necessity to revise and verify the frontiers given the changes in climate and atmosphere," Narducci said. "The 1941 convention between Italy and Switzerland established as criteria [for border revisions] the ridge [crest] of the glaciers. Following the withdrawal of the glaciers in the Alps, a new criterion has been proposed so that the new border coincides with the rock."

What was a part of the landscape seventy years ago is no more. Now this may not seem to make a big difference to the Italians and Swiss who live in cities far away or to any of us here in the States. However, it is just one sign out of many that we are drastically altering the planet with the carbon-loving lifestyle that we all enjoy. If we do not cut it out soon, melting glaciers in the Alps will be insignificant to the water wars, flooding and many other problems the future holds for us.

Camara Makes His Stand To Fix Albany

Assemblyman Karim Camara knows the degree to which our state government is dysfunctional. Everyone there knows it, but the question is what do you do about it? Most go along with the all-powerful leadership. Do as they say...and you get rewarded for it. However if you call attention to the problem and worse, propose to reform it, watch out for the wrath of Shelly Silver and his captains. Camara, for one (at least at the moment) is ready to take on what the leadership will throw at him.

From The Capitol:

An upcoming “white paper” Camara is set to release—suggesting a number of radical Assembly rule changes that fly in the face of Democratic leadership—may test his faith.

While the report is not yet fully fleshed out, an outline Camara shared with The Capitol tentatively titled “How to Fix Albany”, offers seven suggestions that would increase the power of the Assembly’s minority Republicans and all of its rank-and-file members.[...]

Perhaps his most controversial proposal would place term limits on all legislative leadership positions, including 15-year Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). That is a step even further than a recent Brennan Center for Justice report—which nonetheless proposed enough changes to have Silver call it “nonsense”—dared to go.

Modeled after the operations of Congress, Camara’s plan also calls for equal distribution of resources among all members regardless of party, leadership position to be voted on by the whole body, for committee chairs to hire and fire their own staffs and for the open sponsorship of bills.
Good government groups are loving this, and as the article notes, in some areas Camara's proposal even goes above and beyond what the Brennan Center advocates for. Now this will be a tough battle, and one that is highly unlikely to succeed. There are just too many Assemblymembers that want to keep the system in shambles because it is so personally rewarding to do so. A few others who do want reform are scared of being rebuked by Shelly Silver. So to stick your neck out like Camara is is a big deal. What'll happen to him? Who knows, but he is doing the right thing, and that is a breath of fresh air in Albany.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NYCLU Highlights The School To Prison Pipeline

With the possible reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in the news, legislators would be good to notice another chronic problem of the prison system, the school to prison pipeline:

$2.50 Fare Is Just The Beginning

Much of the city is learning today that we will almost certainly be paying 25% or more for getting around on the subway by June. Service will also be cut, especially for bus lines and a few of the subway lines as well. Metro-North commuters are looking at a 30% hike as well. "Doomsday" is finally here. Oh and if this sounds bad, just wait until what happens next.

From StreetsBlog:

Without new financial help from Albany soon, the MTA says its current bad finances may mean another fare hike in 2010.

That would make it three years in a row for fare increases -- March 2008, June 2009 and early 2010 -- the worst record in the MTA's 40-plus year history.

It demonstrates a trend of shifting the costs of operating transit from some beneficiaries of the subways and buses -- such as motorists and businesses -- onto riders. For example, the riders' share of operating costs for the subways will go from 69% to an astonishing 84%, according to the MTA, if the just-approved fare increases are implemented.

Under the plan proposed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, no new fare hike would occur before 2011.
That is Gene Russianoff talking, and trust me, when it comes to mass transit in New York, he knows his stuff. Of course, this is also common sense. If our leaders do not come up with a comprehensive plan to alleviate the debt load of the Authority, there is nowhere to go but down. Sadly, the new Democratic leadership has been behind in the message game and has let the Republican minority and few insurgents within the party own the debate:

Meanwhile, the excuses for inaction are pouring in. GOP State Senator Marty Golden, a Brooklyn rep who never broke ranks to support the Ravitch plan, sent around a press release blaming the state's top Democrats for "closing the doors completely to Republicans." Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos excused his party's monolithic opposition to the transit rescue effort in much the same way, and added that the MTA was asking for a "blank check" by seeking to fund its five-year capital program. As Liz Benjamin notes, that's exactly what the Fare Hike Four and Senate Dems have been saying.

It's a patently false claim. Any plan is subject to oversight and approval by the Capital Program Review Board. The leaders of the State Senate and the Assembly each appoint one voting member to the CPRB, as do the mayor and the governor. Any of the four voting members can veto the whole thing. Said Russianoff: "If they appropriated the money, they would still have power over how it's spent."

Why on Earth Smith is letting the Republicans and DINOs (Monserrate, Diaz, Kruger, Espada, etc) get away with lying to the people is infuriating. It just reinforces the fact that he is weak and unwilling to present real leadership in this difficult time. If only someone could step up and take over the show....perhaps place the DINOs in line and start winning the argument (because the truth is on our side) against our state's own version of the Party of No.

Regulation Is What We Need

I attended a symposium on the credit crisis yesterday up at City College and couldn't help but laugh. The "experts" were well versed in what they knew but there was really nothing new coming from them. Hedge funder Jonathon Trugman's idea to eliminate taxes on certain financial products typified the conservative idea that we can tax-cut our way out of this mess when it was tax cuts (and laissez-faire capitalism) that helped cause the problem. What we really need is re-regulation, something that Obama and Geithner show signs of understanding.

From RawStory:

"In the coming weeks, we will take additional steps, among them, proposing new and stronger rules to protect American consumers and investors against financial fraud and abuse," Geithner said.

"These will help us deal in the future with threats like the practices in subprime lending that kicked off the current crisis," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in a New York speech.

Geithner said that the plan would not focus solely on financial regulations in the United States, "but -- with the help of other interested nations and strengthened international bodies -- on stronger standards globally, as well."

Geithner will accompany US President Barack Obama to the Group of 20 summit of developed and developing nations in London on April 2 aimed at devising a global system to ensure recovery and making financial reforms.

In our highly connected world, we do need to devise a plan that not only deals with American-bred greed and corruption but international forms of it as well. Using ideas of the past should not be a part of the equation that could possibly be developed at the G20. People like Trugman and those with ideas like his need to buried and regulations that were successfully utilized in the past need to be revamped for our 21st century world.

How About An M.T.A. Telethon?

With the doomsday budget officially passed by the M.T.A. and the State Senate has made it known they refuse to help straphangers we'll need new ideas to keep mass transit moving in New York City. So how about a telethon?

Quinn And Avella Get "Perfect Attendance" But Quinn Deserves An Asterisk

This morning, before the dire M.T.A. news crowded everything out, it was reported that out of fifty-one Council Members, only two, Tony Avella and Chris Quinn, had perfect attendance. Now attendance is an ambiguous term. In this context, it refers to actual votes.

From The NY Daily News:

Only two members had 100% records - Tony Avella (D-Queens) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

Avella, the Council's maverick and underdog candidate for mayor, made it to all 135 of his assigned meetings and sessions.

Quinn attends full sessions only - and those committee meetings where she wants to spotlight an issue. She attended 38 meetings and sessions.

Council posts are technically part-time, although only a few members hold other jobs.

For part-time jobs, all CM's make very nice money and then some when they awarded the sweetest "lulus." Quinn of course gets the biggest stipend as she is Council Speaker, but that is beside the point.

Quinn has attended all full sessions, but when the serious issues are up for debate, she is nowhere to be found, especially during the short public comment periods that she allows for. Case in point, during the term limits extension Quinn was the guiding force for ramming the bill through the Council, but she was absent when voters came to voice their opposition to the bill. So while this set of criteria gives Quinn an A+, when it truly matters her grade drops to something like a D-.

Gehry Proclaims Atlantic Yards Dead

In what may be one of the worst pieces of news for the embattled Bruce Ratner, his star-architect (or starchitect) Frank Gehry said that the controversial Atlantic Yards development is kaput. Well, he didn't say "kaput" but the answer was just as bad.

From The NY Daily News:

Asked by a trade paper about "unrealized commissions" he most wishes had been built, famed 80-year-old architect Frank Gehry brought up Atlantic Yards.

"I don't think it's going to happen," he told the Architect's Newspaper in an interview published online.

The comment suggests the troubled relationship between Gehry and developer Bruce Ratner is over.

"While Ratner's project is a big question mark, it appears to be clear that his star architect - a key selling point for the project, its sponsors and Barclays bank - is no longer working on the project," said Daniel Goldstein, a member of the anti-Yards group Develop Don't Destroy.

Atlantic Yards probablity of being built has diminished for the last year or so and the current state of the economy has helped drive it into the ground for good. Credit is tight, construction costs have risen, but most importantly, the controversy of the development helped keep the project in question just long enough to help quash Ratner's dreams. Now he'll try to build something a lot smaller and less grand, but this is where a competent city government would come in and restore some order. Of course, as long as Marty Markowitz is around that possibility is quite slim.

At Least The State Senate Is Getting Better At Something

Malcolm Smith is having trouble on everything from budgets and M.T.A. bailouts to delivering for marriage equality advocates and rules reform. However, at least he can manage to have put together this fifteen-minute piece of Senate news:

Obama Throws His Support Behind Scott Murphy

Fresh off his presser from last night, Barack Obama decided to flex some political muscle in upstate New York for the underdog Democratic candidate Scott Murphy. Murphy is running against Jim Tedisco in the 20th Congressional District and has gone from having a slim chance in the race to making this thing a toss-up. The district itself has more Republicans than Democrats, but Obama won big here last fall. So having the President publicly supporting you is a big deal.

From the AP:

"I'm writing to you now because you have the opportunity to make a big impact on my efforts to bring about a lasting economic recovery," Obama said in an e-mail in which he announced his support for Democrat Scott Murphy and tied himself — and the popularity of his economic policies — to the outcome of the March 31 election.

It's no surprise that Obama is backing his fellow Democrat. But the popular president attracts supporters from across the political spectrum, making his support a potentially potent weapon for Murphy as the Democrat runs in a heavily Republican district against the well-known Jim Tedisco, the GOP leader of the state Assembly.

Obama has been stepping up his political activity in recent days, activating his grass-roots campaign apparatus, Organizing for America, in earnest over the past week to put pressure on Congress to back his budget proposal. Campaigning and fundraising are the next steps in a gradual ramping up of his role as chief of the Democratic Party even as he preaches the need for bipartisanship in governing.

Sent Wednesday to about 60,000 Democratic activists around the upstate New York congressional district, Obama's e-mail said Murphy "has the kind of experience and background we desperately need right now in Washington" and asked voters to send the venture capitalist and one-time small-business owner to Congress, "where we'll work together to get our economy moving in the right direction."

The outcome of the race had already been associated as an early referenda on the nascent Obama Administration, but this shows Obama is ready to back up what is being said in the press. Of course, the President wouldn't be doing this if he didn't think Murphy had a shot, and most of the credit for that belongs to Scott Murphy for running an honest and credible campaign against an ethically challenged Albany politician of the worst order.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Irony Alert Of The Day: Bloomberg References "Network"

Mayor Bloomberg usually has an opinion on things but for the most part, he has remained mum on the M.T.A. since his congestion pricing plan was shut down last year. However, with the deadline for the fare increasing being tomorrow, the mayor has found some faux populism buried in his suit pocket and dished it out for the press today.

From The Daily Politics:

Asked today what people should do if Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders fail to reach an agreement on the MTA bailout before tomorrow's deadline, Mayor Bloomberg replied:

"If Albany doesn't come through, then the straphangers are going to have to bear the brunt of this. I don't think that's good for the system. I don't think it's good for our economy. But we cannot walk away from mass transit. We have to have it. So I hope it doesn't get to that, but if it does, what I would suggest when you see what's going to happen to your commuting costs, you should call your state legislators and say, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.'"
Of course, that's rich (no pun intended) coming from the richest man in town. It would be much easier to fund a bailout of the M.T.A. if the state had more money to spend....and if we taxed the rich...and well, the mayor doesn't approve of that, now does he?

Mayor Bloomberg is no Howard Beale, out of anyone who could tell the people to start yelling out their windows, the billionaire mayor is the last one on the list. If anything, they should be yelling at him.

Geithner Wants The Power

Treasury Secretary Geithner is asking Congress for more authority to oversee financial institutions such as, or specifically, A.I.G. The question though, is will he use that power for the common good or the "market's" good?

Al Gore To Write A Solution-Based Book On Global Warming

Nobel-laureate and ex-V.P. Al Gore is back in the news again. After having widely-heralded success with "An Inconvenient Truth" and other anti-climate change efforts, he's back to do more good for the Earth. Soon we'll have another one of his brilliant books to pour over. The question though, is why after putting out all the pertinent information on our climatic problem should we have to rehash it again?

From The Atlantic:

Following up on his New York Times bestselling An Inconvenient Truth of 2006, former Vice President Al Gore will release a new book later this year, titled Our Choice, in the hopes of spurring action on climate change. The book will draw on discussions from the climate "Solutions Summits" Gore has held since 2006. One might ask how the new book could be different--after all, one can only point out the need for action on climate change in so many ways. But even if the book makes the exact same points as his previous bestseller, it's the duty of any activist to continue calling attention to one's issue until that issue is solved. And, since the political climate of 2009 is different, linguists would argue that the meaning of Gore's new book will be too. As Gertrude Stein said, a rose is a rose is a rose...but the last rose wasn't quite the same as the first.
So yeah, we need to be aware of the problem, or else we will never do what it takes to solve the climate crisis. Also, it isn't so much about the problem...since we know (even the deniers know it) that the planet is being deeply affected by human activity. The key is that we focus on solutions and how to start reversing the damage we've done.

At Least Some Rich NYers Realize They Need To Be Taxed More

Dysfunction in Albany is at an all-time high, with dissension growing in the ranks along with a weak-kneed governor coupled with the capitol's byzantine system of keeping citizens in the dark about what is going on. The budget is far from getting done and April 1st is approaching fast. So that is why we are pushing so hard to get a fair share tax on the books that makes the state income tax based on a progressive pay scale and not just a simple 6.85% for those that make more than $25,000.

Now Bloomberg, as the richest New Yorker out there, has taken it upon himself to defend his wealthy class. However, he is only one of an elite class in this state that is made up of tens of thousands, and many of them have a different idea about taxation than Mayor Bloomberg.

From The Times-Union:

ALBANY — Although "please tax me more" is a sentiment that's rarely heard — especially in this state — more than 80 well-to-do New Yorkers are asking political leaders to boost the state income tax on the wealthy.[...]

The letter was organized by a consortium of groups, including Responsible Wealth, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness and the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The signatories include New York residents as well as those who live outside New York but pay in-state income tax.

Bloomberg would ask these people, why do you not love yourself? Well, it seems at least for these eighty signatories, they see life through a less myopic lens:

Released as the Legislature is weighing a range of proposals to do just that, a new open letter to Gov. David Paterson and legislators asks that any budget cuts to programs affecting education, health care and the poor be ameliorated by "an increase in income taxes on those who can afford it — which means us."[...]

"I've been pretty lucky, and I've always felt that a disproportionate share of the tax burden falls on lower-income people," said Chet Opalka of Averill Park, who put his name on the letter.

The well-known philanthropist and founder of Albany Molecular Research said that government tends to "cut in all the wrong places" — from the arts to education — and that he's equally committed to tightening up government spending.

So Governor Paterson, Majority Leader Smith, stop listening to Michael Bloomberg and similarily-sounding lobbyists that circle the capitol and realize there is more to budgeting than sparing the rich. If these wealthy signatories can see the problem in not encouraging the growth of the bottom 95% of society, then so should you.

What's Up With All These Lefties?

Being a lefty, I know the difficulties of living in a righty-world. Growing up there were never left-handed scissors, so I had to learn to cut with my right. It makes things more difficult, but also challenges you to think outside the box, or at least how to cut it out with both hands. As for why so many of our recent Presidents have been lefties (sans Bush II and Carter)....well I'll leave that for you to ponder.

Monserrate Is Right, The Truth Will Prevail

Finally after a few months, a grand jury indicted Senator Hiram Monserrate yesterday for five separate counts of assault (three in the second degree, two in the third degree). Monserrate and his girlfriend, after initially confusing their stories has been consistent on pleading his innocence. The Senator is so confident in that innocence, that he is determined to see the truth prevail in court. I for one, cannot wait to see that truth.

From PolitickerNY:

"The reality is that from the very beginning, I said this was an accident. My girlfriend said this was an accident, and we look forward to the dismissal of these charges based on the truth. Thank you very much," he said.

I asked whether he intended, then, to let the truth come out in court, rejecting any potential plea agreements in the matter.

"We are fully prepared to see that the truth prevails and we look forward to the dismissal of these charges based on the truth. I'm here doing the good work of my constituents, I will continue to do so, and I expect to be doing it for many more years."

What works for his constituents is for justice to be served. As an indicted man, Monserrate should have the decency to step down from the Senate, if only temporarily until the trial is over. The truth will prevail in this case Mr. Monserrate, no matter how badly Ms. Giraldo suffers from battered wife syndrome.

Oh and then there was this:

Monserrate had been sitting with colleague and fellow gang-of-four member Ruben Diaz Sr., who jumped in front of the camera to ask why, if both Monserrate and his girlfriend said it was an accident, the incident was being prosecuted. He asked why it was different than the case against Lehman Brothers bankruptcy Judge James Peck.

"Why are we dropping the charges against the white judge, but not the Hispanic politician?" he asked. Robin asked if reported surveillance tapes might have something to do with it.

Oh so now it's a racial issue as well. Monserrate's buddy is ready to pull out all the stops to sow doubt in the judicial process. Planting those racial remarks in the press has nothing to do with his case and everything to do with misleading the public on what this trial is about. I can't speak for the case against Peck, but the law has a responsibility to deal with abusive boyfriends, even if they are state senators.

Bloomberg Plans To Pal Around With Michael Steele

Mayor Bloomberg is still hard at work, trying to make up with the G.O.P. so that they'll put him on their ballot line this November. He already has one of three boroughs behind him and with two more to go, he's pulling out all the stops, even preparing to meet up with the curse chair of the RNC, Michael Steele.

From PolitickerNY:

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is coming to Manhattan on April 1 for an event that is slated to include a number of New York Republicans, and also Michael Bloomberg, according to two sources familiar with the event.

Bloomberg is currently courting local G.O.P. officials because he is hoping to be allowed to run in the Republican primary.

The event is scheduled to take place at the Women’s National Republican Club in Manhattan, and is being organized by Matt Mahoney, according to one of the sources. Mahoney is a Republican operative currently working on Bloomberg’s campaign.

Since this a fundraiser, I wonder if there is a minimum dollar amount that Bloomberg must meet in order to get back into their good graces. He already gave the state party a ton of cash last year, but he's going to have to do better than that if he wants back in to the Party of No.

Personally I'd hate to see him on Row B, but the more he tries to associate with the party of failed ideas, and now a Republican leader who has provided an unending string of ridiculous gaffes, hopefully this Democratic town will realize exactly (and are beginning to do so) what Bloomberg stands for.....enriching the rich at the expense of the poor, just like the G.O.P.

Tedisco: Just Another Albany Politician

Is this the experience that Tedisco is going to bring to Congress?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scrubbing The Name "A.I.G." Off The Building Doesn't Make The Damage Go Away

Like anything in life, looks can be deceiving. For example, it is widely known that A.I.G. is now synonymous with greed, corruption and a degree of callousness towards the American people (who bailed them out) that personifies the relationship between Wall Street and the rest of the country. So when you are within that organization that is A.I.G., do you atone for your sins? Give the money back? Do whatever it takes to win back the trust of the people you lied to and cheated on?

Or do you scrub the name "A.I.G." from your building and pretend nothing's wrong?:

Reader Dan Albanese sent us photographs of the anonymous-looking exterior of 175 Water Street. The building formerly had "American International Group" prominently over the front doors, along with "AIG" etched in the windows and doors. According to the Post, AIG spokespeople explained that "the company had decided to replace the large AIG sign -- outside the entrance to its property-casualty offices -- as part of its plan to change that operation's name to AIU Holdings Ltd"—to "distinguish these well-capitalized businesses from AIG." Is the subtext, then, that the employees here are not the ones protesters should be harassing?
So just pretend nothing happened, or that A.I.G. even exists. It isn't even a question of pride for these people, it is that protesters look bad for business and confusing them into doing something else is best for A.I.G.'s profitability. It is much cheaper for them to pay a maintenance worker to take their name off the glass in the lobby than actually reform themselves into being ethical and morally upstanding people in society. If anything, it would take a jail cell for many of these corporate crooks to turn themselves around.

Paterson Tells Straphangers To Stick It

Another symptom of Paterson's (and Smith's) poor leadership is about to come out this Wednesday, when the deadline for the M.T.A.'s doomsday budget passes. The transit authority has been warning/threatening us for months that a fare increase and service cuts are inevitable if Albany does not bail them out. Now the hour is at hand and Paterson has come up woefully short. To make matters worse (or more real) he spoke today pretty much giving up on a deal to save straphangers from higher costs and poorer system.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—David Paterson said the M.T.A. board should go ahead with raising fares at its Wednesday board meeting, implicitly admitting that state government will not enact a revenue package to mitigate fare hikes beforehand.

"I don't think that the agency should delay any action," Paterson just said at a Red Room press conference.[...]

A reporter asked Paterson if he felt he had failed.

"No, I think it's an aspect of government that we all have to recognize: these two gentlemen run conferences in the legislature that need consensus and the three houses have to agree," he said. "Ascribing any kind of blame to one sector of the triad is often a way that people try to explain it, but you've got to have consensus. That's the way our democracy works."

That is really cute, especially coming from a politician that prefers to work in the dark and keep things as anti-democratic as he can. Whatever Paterson waxes poetic about democracy, the people can do as well. When you register a 19% job approval rating, it shows exactly how you are doing in the eyes of those that will vote (you out) for you in next year's gubernatorial election. Residents of New York City demand and deserve good transit, and this Harlem native is failing to deliver.

Fox News...Crazy As Ever

Sometimes, it really is hard to understand the talking heads on this network. Then again, you have to be at least partially deluded to believe what they are saying about current events.

Robert Reich Points Out Potemkin Village On Top Of Capitol Hill

It is amazing to watch how quickly Congress can get together to act on a particular issue. For the most part, specifically on legislation that counts, the process gets bogged down nearly every single time. Yet when there is something out there that where Congress can get on a soapbox and passes a law that is extremely popular yet does nothing to get at the crux of the problem. Robert Reich knows the system well, and is not hesitant at all to expose what is going on here.

From The L.A. Progressive:

When the public isn’t looking, Congress reverts to its old ways. The Obama-supported plan to allow distressed homeowners to renegotiate their mortgages under the protection of bankruptcy has run into a Wall Street wall. Although Citigroup temporarily broke ranks a few months ago when it was receiving one of the most generous bailouts, the rest of Wall Street has remained adamantly opposed, and apparently Democratic leaders have decided not to push back.

Meanwhile, Obama’s plan to limit itemized deductions for the richest 1.2% of taxpayers (including the top 1.9 percent of small business owners) to 28%, starting in 2011, is also in trouble on the Hill. Wealthy contributors and friends of congressional leaders involved in setting tax policy have balked. So Congress is telling the White House to look elsewhere for the $320 billion it needs over 10 years to finance half of the tab for health care reform. Congressional leaders have also informed the White House that they don’t have the votes to pass Obama’s proposal for treating the earnings of hedge-fund and private-equity managers as income rather than capital gains.

Angry populism thrives on stories about the rich and privileged who use their influence to get cushy deals for themselves at the expense of the rest of us. AIG’s bonuses provide a perfect example. It’s too bad the same populist outrage doesn’t extend to issues involving far more money, affecting many more people, and entailing far more insidious abuses of power. Congress’s potemkin populism over AIG’s bonuses disguises business as usual when it comes to the really big stuff.

The "really big stuff" is exactly what counts and what Congress is desperate to avoid. This can also be said about who we prosecute for grand economic crimes. A diarist at OpenLeft discusses why Bernie Madoff gets life in prison while the other titans of finance are allowed to be free and keep their dubiously acquired money. Too often, we allow our leaders to pick (guilty) scapegoats while the majority of those responsible for the mess we are let off scot free.

It's Never Sunny In Albany

Governor Paterson might be/should be feeling rather gloomy today with the news that his popularity ratings have dropped to Cheney-like numbers. When four out of five New Yorkers disapprove of how you are governing the state, there is a serious problem especially when Paterson had over 60% of the people behind him less than a year ago. Poor leadership is definitely a part of the problem but the way in which Albany operates (the Governor being responsible for a part of that) is detrimental as well. The irony surrounding "Sunshine week" highlights the darkness that envelops our state capitol.

From The NY Times:

ALBANY — Sunshine Week in the capital this year offered little reason to break out the sunscreen.

The seven-day period — a nationwide initiative promoting openness in government — was marked by Gov. David A. Paterson’s closed-door lunch for legislative leaders at the executive mansion on Thursday, where they discussed the $120 billion-plus budget, but declined to share details with reporters afterward.

The top Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly walked out of the luncheon early, griping on their way back to the Capitol that Democrats — who control both houses and the governor’s mansion — were intent on conducting the entire budget process in secret.

Meanwhile, the Senate planned to commemorate the week by passing a resolution calling on the governor to issue an official state proclamation recognizing Sunshine Week.
Ah, a proclamation! Now that will make everything better! Meanwhile the Senate...and the Assembly (or at least the leadership within each body) will work with the governor in secret away from the prying eyes of the people that elected them. This type of dysfunction can only breed mistrust by the voters and leads to exactly what Paterson doesn't want, his dismissal approval rating.

Hey Paul Krugman!

Paul Krugman has a column today about how concerned he is about Tim Geithner's latest plan to bailout the banks by recycling old Bush fiscal policies. Perhaps he should listen to this guy, and take over at Treasury so that we get a more progressive fiscal policy from the Obama Administration.

Poughkeepsie Journal Gets It All Wrong With James Tedisco

With the special election in the 20th district only eight days away, last minute endorsements are making their way in. The Poughkeepsie Journal came out today in favor of Republican and State Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco. Their reasoning however, is a little off track and while they recognize Jim's failings and Scott Murphy's positives, their connection from the facts to their decision is far from clear.

From The Poughkeepsie Journal:

The district needs someone to jump right in and make a difference, and veteran state lawmaker James Tedisco has those abilities. District voters should give him the opportunity to serve.

Tedisco has considerably more experience than his opponent, Democrat Scott Murphy, who has never sought office before.
Tedisco's experience has shown that he is capable of extending considerable perks to himself and his fellow Republicans that make up the leadership. As Minority Leader he was able to manage the limited budget afforded to his caucus but as for pushing legislation that has been effectively shut off by Sheldon Silver.

In an editorial board meeting with the Poughkeepsie Journal, Murphy made the point he could best serve with fellow congressional Democrats John Hall and Maurice Hinchey for the good of the mid-Hudson Valley. There is something to be said for that - and for being in the political majority in Congress. But there also is something to be said for having candid, dissenting voices in any political body to keep the majority from going astray.
The first two sentences are right on, but that last one has no basis in fact. As for being "candid," Tedisco is anything but and the Journal acknowledges this three paragraphs down:

Tedisco has refused to answer directly whether he would have voted for the massive $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress. He said there are aspects of the measure - such as helping the unemployed and providing money for infrastructure projects - he likes. But he rightly questions the overall pricetag and says he would have sought amendments to eliminate spending that doesn't directly deal with aiding the economy.
The logic doesn't add up and as for asking questions on the pricetag, the Journal does not adequately understand the scope of our fiscal crisis. Tedisco makes a claim that he would try to eliminate spending that doesn't deal with aiding the economy, but he is not able to define what that spending is.

The only part of this editorial that I agree with is the very last line:

The special election will be March 31, and voters should come out in force with so much on the line.
That is exactly why district residents must elect Scott Murphy as their next Congressman.

Newsday Gets It On Pay To Play Politics

Ah the term "pay to play," always has an interesting ring to it and makes one think the worst of politics and power. If you want action from your government, then get ready to pony up with the legislator that can make it happen. The idea is a staple in New York politics, and it is the leading cause of so much of the corruption we see across the state. The question of how to get rid of it is to get rid of the money by instituting clean elections. After Hank Morris and David Loglisci were indicted last week for their extreme pay to play crimes, it was heartening to see Newsday's Op-Ed get on board with the program.

From Newsday:

New York is only one of three states where an elected official in the only person responsible for managing the public pension fund. Most states have boards of trustees who are appointed, with myriad combinations of how they are selected and how much independence they are given. A board, however, is not a perfect solution. In recent years there have been scandals and probes of board members in several states, including California, Texas and Illinois.

Whether New York should change its sole trustee arrangement needs to be examined. What doesn't need to wait is campaign financing. Not needing millions of dollars to run reduces the temptation to abuse the office.

Since DiNapoli took office, he has been recommending public financing for comptroller races. His proposal would cap spending in the primary and general election campaigns and allow the candidates to get $6 in public funding for every $1 raised. This still requires the candidates to solicit contributions of more than $1 million in private funds. It's a start.

The Morris indictment, however, should spark support for public financing for all statewide races. In the past two years, Gov. David A. Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have all supported campaign financing reform, if not outright public financing. Which ones will now take ownership of the movement for campaign reform - Paterson? Silver? Or Smith?

Attorney General Cuomo just hung a "For Sale" sign for all to see on Albany. Now, we need to see who's going to take it down.
That "For Sale" sign is something that Cuomo has been repeatedly pointing out so that all can see it. The sign has been there for decades.

As for taking ownership of campaign reform, any of the three of those being responsible for change is laughable. Smith and Paterson are for it in name only and Silver is a high priest in the pay to play culture. They all benefit from the current power structure and are reticent to change it. The movement must come from the grassroots and it has to grow into a fevered pitch so that the three men in the room have no choice but to relent and institute clean elections. That can happen with a dedicated single-issue campaign to hold legislators feet to the fire by having them go against their party's "leadership" and act as leaders on their own.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Congressman Sherman Takes On CNBC

The more I watch Brad Sherman go up against Wall Street's apologists the better I like him:

The Emperor Doesn't Care About His Clothes

While Michael Bloomberg went on Meet the Press to praise Barack Obama today, that does not excuse him from his pro-corporate agenda as mayor of New York for the past seven-plus years. His zoning law policies and general favoritism for real estate interests in and around the city clearly showcase that sentiment. Bloomberg has also often been found to making statements that are glaringly out of touch with the typical middle class New Yorker. Yet somehow he still has relatively high popularity (though it has dropped since the term limit extension fiasco). The question is, why? And then it came to me, from a seemingly innocent interview with the mayor by a fashion news assistant.

From The Daily Politics:

"You are much better looking than he is," Bloomberg said, jerking at thumb at your faithful Daily News correspondent (which, in this case, would be DN City Hall Bureau Chief Adam Lisberg). "What are you wearing? That's what I've got to say."

Cass: "I'm wearing Betsy Johnson. Who are you wearing?"

Bloomberg: "I have no idea. Probably Paul Stuart."

Cass: "Mayor, tell me, what role do you think the fashion industry plays in New York City?"

Bloomberg: "Fashion sets the tone. It provides the glamour. And all the other industries feed off that. We all want to be part of the best and the brightest, but also the most elegant and the most fun. And New York City is the fashion capital of the world."

With that, the mayor was off and running, talking about the size and importance of the fashion business, the state of the city's economy and the great job President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are doing.

"Fashion helps people," Bloomberg said. "It gives them confidence in the future. It makes them proud of themselves. You know, everybody likes to dress up and look in a mirror. That's what life is about."

"Fashion helps people?" Life is about dressing up and looking in the mirror? Um, did the mayor read that in the back of a Vogue or Cosmo magazine? Fashion may be important to the people that work in the industry, but that's about it. As for the industry and us being the capitol of the world, if it were up to Bloomberg the industry would be kicked out of here to make room for businesses that'll pay higher rents and build shinier buildings in the area. Unless you haven't been to the fashion district in a while, it is being taken over by chain hotels and condo-loving developers that are looking to cash in on the somewhat cheaper neighborhood.

That is what Mayor Bloomberg is all about really. He may not be all about clothes, but he is certainly into having people believe that he has the best vision for the city when it is clear that he doesn't. Perhaps his royal court of developers and real estate executives think he looks great (policy-wise) but as for the rest of us, we need to stop buying into his hype that because he has an ever-increasing bank account full of billions, that the rest of us somehow have access to that wealth.

CostCo, Starbucks And Whole Foods Offer Fake EFCA Compromise

The fight over the Employee Free Choice Act has been a tough one, with pro-union forces looking for more freedom to start unions and corporations wanting to stifle worker collectivity. For decades corporations have largely been winning, evidenced by a long-term decline in union membership. With a majority of people supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, some companies are trying to pull a fast one on union supporters by offering a fake compromise.

From ThinkProgress:

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Costco Wholesale Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. are seeking to compromise with union groups to support a modified version of the Employee Free Choice Act. The compromise would allow a union to be formed if 70 percent — instead of the current bill’s 50 percent proposal — sign a card favoring unionization. However, the anti-union lobby refuses to back the deal:

“These huge companies are apparently willing to sell out hundreds of thousands of small ones under the guise of making some phony and misguided compromise with Big Labor,” Mix said in a statement. “We believe we have this draconian bill defeated outright, so these actions may well lead to the bill’s passage.”

The Workforce Fairness Institute’s (WFI) Danny Diaz slammed the proposal in his morning e-mail, Politico reports, calling it a “non-starter” and “even worse” for workers. WFI’s executive director Katie Packer said, “Calling a proposal which exposes 70% of employees to intimidation instead of 50% a ‘compromise’ is beyond absurd.”

Basically this is a last-ditch effort by corporate America, who are using the names of somewhat progressive companies to tout a "compromise" that is anything but. I wonder what group of PR flacks hatched this convoluted plan? Trying to trick us is simply a waste of everyone's time. Now imagine if all the money that goes into subverting the working class from getting better represenation at the companies they work for were used for helping employees. Now that would be a novel idea.