Friday, April 10, 2009

Murphy Is Back On Top!

Damn this is a nail biter! Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy have gone back in forth in the vote totals, but now that the absentee ballot numbers are rolling in Murphy is slowly but surely increasing his lead. Of course, it is still close and anything can happen, so this is a race that has to be carefully watched.

From TPM:

The official state results show that Murphy has taken an eight-vote lead as of 4:30 p.m. ET yesterday, as absentee ballots begin to be counted. However, there is some more recent data that shows Murphy's lead is actually somewhat larger at the moment.

Columbia County has provided their latest numbers to TPM, showing Murphy picking up another 15 net votes, on a 99-42 margin, compared to the 55-13 in the state's current tally of absentees from here. In addition, the Albany Times Union reports that Murphy has picked up 26 votes, an 88-62 margin, in Essex County.

So as of right now, Scott Murphy leads by 49 votes -- though there are still plenty of ballots left to count. (Late Update: Murphy's newest lead is 46 votes.)

I'm going out of the country tomorrow morning for a week, so if there's anything I'm going to miss (politically speaking) it'll be watching the results from upstate New York. For everyone else, if you are literally going to start biting your nails, listen to Nate Silver at 538 to calm your nerves.

This Is How Michael Steele Feels About The Economy

How does laughing at the state of the economy win back any voters to the Republican party? It just goes to show that Steele, like the rest of the Republicans in power are clearly out of touch with the rest of the American people.

Memo to Chairman Steele, conservative radio commentators do not represent the broad range of views in this country.

Agri-Biz Wants Michelle Obama To Use Chemicals

On the creepy-corporate side of the news today, big agriculture is trying to capitalize on Michelle Obama's effort to promote self-sufficiency by planting individual gardens, particularly her's on the White House lawn. Not satisfied in letting this potential loss of business get away, the industry's PR organization decided to put in a few words about who American consumers should bow down to.

From ThinkProgress:

...the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) — which represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and DuPont Crop Protection — are unhappy that no chemicals are being used on the food:

Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical,” the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) wrote the first lady last month a few days after she and fifth-graders from a local elementary school planted the White House Kitchen Garden.

“As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S. in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply.”

Now we wouldn't want to think people could go without chemically treated fruits and vegetables? God forbid Dow and Monsanto lose any business from Americans that might want to grow their own food without weedkiller or what not.

Even The Liquor Is Tainted In New York

Needless to say, there's plenty of drinking going on in New York. It is rare though for anyone to think about the red tape that had to be cut to get the booze to the customer. That is where the State Liquor Authority comes in and apparently the people that dole out permits want something in return for their services...besides a legal paycheck.

From The Gothamist:

While no arrests have been made yet, more details have emerged on the Inspector General's Wednesday raid on the State Liquor Authority's Harlem office, where some two dozen employees control 65 percent of the state’s operating licenses and permits for bars, restaurants and liquor stores in NYC, Long Island and Westchester County. Police sources say employees would not only accept cash bribes in exchange for expedited license processing, but also bottles of booze, and gift cards for meals and clothes—some payoffs even included Applebee's gift cards. Stay classy, SLA.[...]

Some liquor license applicants report waits of almost a year for processing, while others managed to receive licensing withing two weeks. Investigators say "handlers" would steer applications to bribe-friendly employees, who would then push the application to the top of the deck. According to the AP, the agency's computer database lacked security, so any corrupt Applebee's-lover could log on and process applications. Investigators also say that some licenses were given without required criminal background or proof of citizenship checks. And the Times reminds everyone that this isn't the first time the SLA's been mired in corruption.

It just goes to show, no matter where in our state's government, corruption manifests itself like bacteria. All you have to do is add some fresh New York air and watch it multiply.

Ryan Tells Hannity GOP Tax Plan Is Progressive

More comedy from one of the new leaders of the GOP:

By the way Hannity, those "mantras" about Republicans not caring about the poor? They're effective because they're true.

Congressman Bachus Channels Joe McCarthy

There is no end to my amusement with Republicans lately. "Leaders" bow down to Rush Limbaugh regularly, every other sentence out of Michael Steele's mouth is a gaffe and the latest thing this small minority is into is a national teabag party (didn't someone working with the manufactured movement take a moment to think about what "teabagging" meant?) to protest "taxation without representation" despite the fact that their party got spanked in the last two elections.

And if that wasn't enough, let me introduce Congressman Spencer Bachus to you. He goes above and beyond these teabaggers with an act that would make Senator Joseph McCarthy proud. He is going public with a list of Democrats in Congress that are "socialists." BarbInMD at DailyKos sums it up best:


The State Department House is infested with communists socialists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 17 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State me as being members of the Communist Socialist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department Congress.

With this type of behavior, Republicans are only setting themselves up for more pain and punishment in the 2010 elections. Going harder to the right isn't going to solve their party's woes. This craziness might excite the fringe, but 30% or less does not win elections.

When You Call Mayor Bloomberg "Crazy," Would That Be An Un-Endorsement?

Call me crazy, but when a public figure such as Norman Seabrook goes on television and questions the mental capabilities of the Mayor after already endorsing him, would that be a endorsement taken back? Norman is head of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and Bloomberg is threatening to cut several thousands municipal jobs, some which could be from Seabrook's union. He went on NY1 with Dominic Carter to say it all:

NY1 VIDEO: While he’s twice endorsed Michael Bloomberg for mayor, correction officers’ union leader Norman Seabrook is now blasting the mayor as “crazy” for proposing to cut nearly 7,000 municipal jobs.

Seabrook, who heads the 9,500-member Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, tells NY1 political anchor Dominic Carter, “I cannot close my eyes at night and sell out the municipal workers of this city. I can't do that.”

Directly addressing the mayor, Seabrook adds: “And Michael, I'm sorry. It's business. This is not personal. We cannot - we absolutely cannot afford to lose 7,000 municipal workers in this city and we cannot be held hostage at the same time.”

“I think he’s crazy,” says the union leader.

I appreciate Mr. Seabrook's passion, but I didn't hear him endorse Thompson or anyone besides the Mayor, so I'm holding off on my applause. Personally, I do not think Bloomberg is crazy, the man is very smart and is doing whatever it takes to win a controversial third term. What he arrogant, brutally arrogant and does not care about stepping on someone to get ahead, whether it is one person or several thousand municipal workers.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama Backing Off Assault Weapons Ban?

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs certainly gives off the impression that in spite of all the violence we've seen in this country (especially last week) that the NRA still rules the roost in Washington when it comes to smart gun control laws. The always-fearless Helen Thomas asks the tough questions:

Texan Republican Legislator: Asians Should Make Their Names Easier For "Americans" To Deal With

Sometimes it is hard to decipher whether comments like Representative Betty Brown's are ignorant, racist or both. She made headlines on Tuesday while asking questions of Ramey Ko concerning voting rights and accessibility for Asian-Americans. Making the process easier to vote is a great thing, but the way you go about it is important as well. This would be an example of how not to proceed.

From The Houston Chronicle:

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Brown and her Republican colleagues then fanned the flames by not apologizing and instead accused Democrats of playing the race card. Yet if you go by the old creed of "It isn't what you say but how you say it," then hearing Brown's comments reek of ignorance and extreme ethnocentrism. Chinese may be hard for her to learn, but I doubt she's ever had the thought that English could be hard for others to learn as well.

Now plenty of people go by nicknames, whether they are Asian or not. Voting should be done with a person's legal name and the state of Texas should inform voters of that responsibility to use their legal name. No one has to change their name to suit narrow-minded elected officials like Betty Brown. It's as simple as that.

Bloomberg Willing To Violate City Charter To Get High School Interns

If I have to admit one thing about Michael Bloomberg, it is that he's a tough campaigner. In addition to the $80-$100 million he'll be spending on the campaign, the strategists he's hiring an the onslaught of advertising, he's using his pull as mayor to recruit high school interns via official NYC school system letterhead. It may be a conflict of interest, but Bloomberg is willing to go outside the legal ethical box for that extra push.

From The NY Daily News:

Gene Russianoff from the New York Public Interest Research Group said the practice appears to violate the city charter's ban on municipal employees using city letterhead or resources for nongovernmental purposes. "They're free to do a mailing or set up a table outside a school," he said. "You just can't use the parent newsletter."

The campaign defended its strategy.

"Younger voters are excited about Mayor Bloomberg's independent voice and record of getting things done for New Yorkers and we have reached out to dozens of colleges and high schools, public and private, to inform them of a great opportunity," campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in an e-mail. "This kind of sophisticated outreach to younger voters is exactly the type of grassroots organizing that President Obama was celebrated for in the '08 campaign."

Not all of the schools that were contacted complied with the request. One principal, who did not want to be named, said it made her uncomfortable. "We didn't do it, but I wondered if it would get back to City Hall that we refused," she said.

Hazelbaker's response shouldn't be too surprising, especially with her experience with the McCain campaign last year. Having the Conflict of Interest Board and the Education Department behind her, their argument that this is not a conflict sounds official, but when you play it out, the whole thing stinks.

Russianoff said coercion was a concern.

"If the guy who appoints the head of the school system is asking for a favor, it's hard to say no," he said. "They shouldn't be put in that position."

Yet Mayor Bloomberg has no qualms about being coercive, all you need to do is replay the events surrounding the extension of term limits to understand his priorites on getting re-elected versus ethical concerns.

Chuck Todd Calls Out Karl Rove For Being A Liar

Well, in so many words, Chuck did the best he could do, but I'll take it:

The only polarization is coming from Rove and the wingnuts like him, whether or not Karl Rove has the guts to say it (he doesn't).

Gov. Paterson Now Pushing Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Governor Paterson, after months of making bad decision after bad decision, finally did something New York can be proud of. With so many momentous decisions being made on the matter of same-sex marriage across the country, Paterson is using the opportunity to make the state legislature here in New York stand up and take a position on the equal rights issue. The votes may not be all there but the very fact that he wants a vote without it being assured of passage is unheard of in our dysfunctional state capitol.

From The NY Daily News:

"Why can't people just defeat the bill, vote on it?" Paterson said. "If you have the votes later on to pass it, bring it back."

That's actually a bold statement from Albany. A constant criticism of the Legislature - as highlighted in a recent Daily News series, "State of Shame" - is that legislative leaders only put up bills that will pass.

The state Assembly has approved a gay marriage bill and Paterson promised to sign it if it's approved by the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, supports the gay marriage bill but has not allowed a vote because he thinks it will be defeated.

"This is an issue that demands much more than a symbolic gesture," Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said.

Smith shows he's operating out of a status quo mentality that is one of the defining problems in Albany. People want to see democracy on display, not manufactured, behind-the-scenes votes being brought out. That only reinforces the idea that backroom deals are the only way things work, when the possibility for real reform is just beyond that box Smith, Silver, (Paterson for the most part) and others like them live in.

Tedisco Tries To Disenfranchise Absentee Voters In Columbia County

With the counting of absentee ballots now begun, the contest between the lawyers is also under way. We already have reports of the first round of dirty tricks from Tedisco's legal team and it isn't pretty. Tedisco is trying to disenfranchise voters in the heavily Democratic Columbia County and the reasoning behind it is quite ironic.

From The Albany Project:

Those unfamiliar with Columbia County may not be aware that there has been, for many years, a large second home community here -- made up overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, of Democrats from New York City. Many of these voters have been here for many years, in some cases decades. As is entirely appropriate and legal, they have cast their ballots here without incident many times before, including just a few months ago for Barack Obama.

But as I'm hearing it, the Tedisco lawyer in Columbia (sent in by John Ciampoli) came prepared to challenge pretty much anyone who was a Democrat who had their absentee sent to a "downstate" address.

Now, the legal precedent has been affirmed many times on the State and Federal level that a person who owns more than one home can pick whichever of their homes' districts they want to vote in. The law is clear: You don't have to vote at your "primary" residence, where you file your main tax return. So long as you don't register and vote in more than one place, this is 100% legal. There are many good reasons for this: The right to representation where you pay taxes, the difficulty of determining primary residence, the fact that some professionals spend a large part of the year away from their main home, etc.

(How do I know this? Because for several years, I was deeply involved with a concerted effort to re-register these voters in Columbia County. We had the laws carefully reviewed by attorneys, and mailed out thousands of registration forms with legal backup.)

But Tedisco's team evidently wants to reverse that well-established legal principle, and is challenging Democratic second homeowners in Columbia wholesale. (They're also going after some students, apparently.) I don't know if they are doing this elsewhere, but Dutchess County similarly has a lot of weekender voters...

This is disenfranchisement of the most noxious variety, based on who you are, not based on valid and specific ballot defects.

Now a competent judge should be able to toss aside Tedisco's challenges with ease, but the very fact that he is attempting to throw out valid ballots is distasteful to say the least. The action speaks to how Tedisco feels about legitimate voters in the district, especially those that might ruin his chance of getting out of Albany and down to Washington.

Oh and the ironic part? Tedisco doesn't even live in the district he's running for. Shouldn't he be disenfrachised from running in it, according to his own lawyers?

Rachel Maddow On The Lies Of Republicans

I don't know how Rachel does it. With so many falsehoods, mistruths and outright lies told by Republicans on a daily basis, how does she choose the few to fit into an eight and half minute segment?

Obama's EPA Notices The Infamous Gowanus Canal

For years decades well over a century, the Gowanus Canal that runs through Brooklyn has been a polluted man-made waterway. Even though many factories that used to line it are gone, the pollution is still there and it is still a problem. Although there have been many complaints, few have impressed the ears of the powerful. Now that Obama is in office (and with so many New Yorkers scattered about the White House) things are about to change.

From The Gothamist:

The Gowanus Canal, which has long been festering with gonohorrea, may be on the road to getting cleaned up. OTBKB reports that the EPA is likely adding the 1.8 mile long waterway to their Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), meaning the agency would take a look at the contaminated site and work towards bettering it. In their press release, the EPA begins at the beginning, saying, "The canal was built in the 19th century to allow industrial access into Gowanus Bay. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal became a busy industrial waterway, acting as the home to heavy industries, including manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It was also the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff." All that history, and it still has heavy kayak activity.
Now that's change Brooklyn can believe in! Though I wonder how they'll get rid of the gonohorrea? Can you treat a canal with penicilin?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Like Schumer Says: Investigate Torture

It is always encouraging to hear a notably moderate Democratic senator say something that a lefty like me agrees with, especially when it comes to the practice of torture committed by the Bush Administration. It's even better when the senator is my own, senior Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer called on the new Department of Justice under Eric Holder to do something about the damning Red Cross report.

From RawStory:

In light of the startling revelations that came to light this week with the publishing of a Red Cross report, which documented in gruesome detail interrogation practices such as suffocation by water, beating by collar and prolonged nudity, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that he would support a Department of Justice investigation into the reported torture.

"President Obama said he doesn‘t want to spend all his time looking back. Fair enough. But he has also said egregious violations should be prosecuted," said Schumer, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The most logical, best place to start is the Justice Department. They haven‘t said if they are going to do it or not ... If they won‘t do it, someone else is going to have to do it. But they should be given the first crack."
That is the tough talk we need to hear. Of course tough action needs to immediately follow, but that is a good start. Schumer is an important man in the senate and what he says carries a considerable amount of weight. I must say that Chuck has been trending to left as of late. Perhaps it is for his upcoming re-election, but I'll take it on an issue as important as this. Justice will find George Bush and his fellow criminals, one way or another.

The Bigots Are Scared

In response to the momentous Court decision in Iowa, the vote in Vermont and now in Washington, D.C., anti-gay advocates are afraid of a national movement that gives equal rights to the LGBT community. One group decided to spend an unknown amount on this ad in order to peddle their hate to the majority of states that have not approved of LGBT equal rights.

Roger Stone And The Tedisco Campaign Don't Have Their Stories Straight

When the name "Roger Stone" is mentioned, people take notice, especially in elections where there is no victor days after the ballots have been cast. So when the long-time New Yorker was spotted in upstate New York at Jim Tedisco's headquarters, intrepid (and left leaning) reporters were on the trail. That has made for some very unhappy Republicans.

From The Albany Project:

So Liz, being the dogged reporter that she is, actually started making phone calls to inquire as to just why Roger Stone showed up in NY-20 in the midst of a fiercely contested and oh so close recount and just who he is working for. She didn't have much luck. Also, her inquiry seems to have struck a nerve. Stone insists he has "no formal role" in the recount and that assertions otherwise are "left-wing blog crap" from "paranoid" liberals. [...]

Irene Jay Liu at CapCon goes a bit further and asks both the Tedisco campaign and the NRCC if Stone may be in the district at their behest. Both camps deny it and I'm pretty sure at least one of them is being, shall we say, less than truthful. She even gets a dig in at those of us who pay attention to such goings on as chasing a "white whale" in Stone. But, whatever.

Roger Stone, controversial GOP political consultant and white whale of sorts for New York's liberal bloggers, has been spotted in Upstate New York.

More specifically, the liberal "The Albany Project" alleges that Stone was spotted at the campaign headquarters of GOP 20th congressional candidate Jim Tedisco, which has pro-Murphy blog commenters all in a tizzy.

The Tedisco campaign says, unequivocally, that Stone has no involvement in the campaign. From Tedisco campaign spokesman Tyler Brown via email:

We've had no contact with Mr. Stone and he is not affiliated with the campaign in any capacity.

(He is not a volunteer and he is not on loan from the campaign committees).

Stone has not been retained as a consultant for the campaign by the National Republican Congressional Committee, said spokesman Paul Lindsay.

Let's make this simple. This is Roger Stone and (most likely) his pal Michael Caputo:

This picture was taken minutes after they left Tedisco's HQ. Period. Stone and Caputo may indeed not be technically working for the Tedisco campaign or the NRCC, but for the Tedisco campaign to claim that they have had "no contact" with Stone is simply not true. They know it. Stone knows it. Now you know it.

Unfortunately, as Philip points out, the contradiction in Tedisco and Stone's story is glaring...and it means one of them is lying. The obvious answer is that Tedisco's campaign responded too quickly to press inquiries and lied to cover themselves. So now that presents even more problems. First and foremost, the story continues and takes away Tedisco's ability to create a narrative in the media. Second, it shows that Tedisco and/or members of his campaign are liars. Finally, it robs the Republicans of Stone's ability to do what he is paid to do (whomever is paying him for this), which is to create havoc for the Democratic candidate. If he could do it to Al Gore, then he could certainly try and take on Scott Murphy. Now, thanks to great reporting in and around The Albany Project, that will not be happening.

Paterson Continues To Falter, This Time With Unions

With a nine percent increase in the state's budget passed in Albany, it is (tragically) amusing to watch Paterson lay union workers off of their state jobs. Paterson demanded that workers relinquish a 3% (cost of living?) raise. While non-union workers agreed, union workers did not and they'll be let go because of it. While it may look good that the governor is making some spending cuts, they are in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.

From The Times-Union:

As a result of killing the raises to the management/confidential employees, the state will save $32 million over two years, and Paterson won't have to reach the 8,900-layoff target he previously set.

Civil Service Employees Association President Danny Donohue said Paterson's actions are outrageous. "What Governor Paterson is saying is that the highest-paid personnel will not be included as part of his cost-cutting moves. He is also saying that the brunt of his reductions will be on the lower paid employees who actually do the work of the state every day."

As outrageous as it was for Paterson to demand these cuts while dramatically increasing the size of the budget, his response to the controversy was even worse:

Paterson released a letter to all state employees about the situation, emphasizing that unions refused "modest concessions" — giving up the raises and lagging paychecks — to share in sacrifices others are making.

"Regrettably, however, our state's public employee unions refused to consider concessions at all," Paterson wrote. "I was left with no alternative but to implement a work force reduction plan." He said he directed all state agency heads to implement their reductions by July 1.

"We cannot eliminate our state's deficit without layoffs," he said.

The problem is that not everyone has been sacrificing in the manner that Paterson claimed would happen. It was with a great effort against the wishes of the governor that a fair tax is now a part of the equation. The seriousness of his tone about making cuts did not pan out with the reality of the budget and the increases within. Paterson should have made sure state employees, especially union employees were taken care of. The whole matter now stinks of hypocrisy and what's worse, Paterson alienated the public employees union in the process.

I know that the state party is giving Paterson until November to straighten up, but I believe that this is the time for Paterson to realize what he's done to his reelection chances and make the smart decision to bow out early. As long as Cuomo follows some good advice, he can sit in Paterson's chair in less than two years time.

Caller Rips Rush A New One

Ahh, the smell of Republican infighting in the morning!

On yesterday's show, a Republican veteran called in and told Rush what a tool he was and that Limbaugh was a "brainwashed nazi." Then guess what Rush did what he does best, responding with his own name-calling onslaught.

Spies Hack U.S. Electrical Grid...Where's That Stimulus Money?

News about our electrical grid today is a bit on the disturbing side. According to the Wall Street Journal, cyber-spies have hacked into our national grid and mapped it out. They also left software programs behind that could disrupt our power supply in time of war or just to create chaos (possibly starting a war in such a way). Basically, this isn't good.

From The WSJ:

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn't target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."

Many of the intrusions were detected not by the companies in charge of the infrastructure but by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said. Intelligence officials worry about cyber attackers taking control of electrical facilities, a nuclear power plant or financial networks via the Internet.
So what do we do about this potential crisis? Well, instead of just spending a few billion here and there as band aids for the system, we need to completely revamp how the U.S. does energy. Barack Obama talked about a new grid that relies on alternative sources and is soundly and safely connected. It isn't solely about cyber hackers either, the system we have now is old, outdated and full of holes. Being on the east coast for the blackout six years ago, the evidence showing just how bad the way we're wired is glaring to say the least. And as a bonus, building clean energy plants and constructing a grid that fully utilizes the power will create an incredible amount of jobs and reduce our dependence on dirty coal.

Bloomberg's First Ad Cost $3 Mil To Make Him Look Like The Common Man

The mayoral election is still several months away, but Mike Bloomberg is already hitting the airwaves with a multi-million dollar advertising blitz. The internet ads have flooded local websites over the past month, but now he's doing TV in a big way too. The amount being spent is more than his Democratic challengers have laid down to date, and this is just the beginning.

From The NY Times:

Starting on Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg will release two commercials, one in English and one in Spanish, that emphasize his handling of the city’s economic crisis, a theme that is expected to dominate his third-term bid.

The use of the commercials, set to run over the next two weeks, highlights the mayor’s staggering financial edge in the race and his willingness to draw on his personal fortune to spend whatever it takes to win a third term.[...]

Like his previous campaign ads, the mayor’s commercials are polished spots, with the skyline as a backdrop. They feature Mr. Bloomberg, his trademark jacket and tie swapped for a casual button-down shirt, talking to ordinary New Yorkers about their financial woes.

“The economy is in trouble,” he says in the English-language commercial. “But we can do something about it.”
Yes, we can.

And it starts with voting this man out of office. The economy is in trouble, yet since Bloomberg's been in office, his personal wealth has more than tripled to over $15 billion dollars. His ads may look good, but that is because he spent a serious amount of cash to make them that way. He can wear a suit and tie, he can wear a casual shirt, he could come out in a tank-top for all I care. What counts is his record as mayor thus far and his real feelings for average New Yorkers, not some false image that his consultants are trying to get across.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Republicans Are Still Holding Sebelius' Confirmation Back

Isn't it about time to let the President have the staff he needs to get the job done that the American people elected him to do? In case you have one of these Republicans representing you in the Senate, tell them to stop blocking Kathleen Sebelius from being our next Health and Human Services Secretary.

Franken Expands Lead, Another Ridiculous Coleman Argument Shattered

Today was another positive moment for the future Senator Franken from Minnesota. The loser in the race, incumbent Norm Coleman had been dragging out the race in the courts once the recount had finished and put Franken in the lead. Since then, Franken has continued to hold a slim but steady advantage of a couple hundred votes. Now that Coleman had his "wrongly rejected" ballots counted, his chances became even slimmer.

From The Star-Tribune:

Minutes after the ballots were opened for the first time, state elections director Gary Poser counted them, reading off the votes one by one to a hushed courtroom. When he was done, Franken's lead had grown from 225 to 312 votes.

Coleman's case during the trial has rested mostly on counting absentee ballots that he contends had been wrongly rejected. Barring an unexpected court ruling, he now lacks the ballots needed for a trial victory, and his lawyers repeated vows to appeal an adverse final verdict.

Franken's side hailed the day's developments. "The result confirms what we knew going in, which is that more Minnesotans voted for Al Franken than Norm Coleman," said lawyer Marc Elias. "That was the case when we recounted the ballots the first time, and it's now the case after the election contest."

Whether or not Coleman will call it quits after this is still up in the air. He could go completely haywire and protest the state Supreme Court, but I don't know if they accept cases solely because a candidate for office ended up losing.

Meanwhile, millions of Minnesotans are without a Senator representing them in Washington while a few Republicans surrounding Coleman continue to help drag this out for the sake of cheap political games. Franken has been a financial boon to the leaders of the GOP, as they hold fundraisers that paint him as their new official boogeyman of the Democratic party in that they claim he is stealing an election that he had won.

Atlantic Yards Exacerbates Blight Problem It Claimed To Fix

Irony is a funny thing. At some level the situation it describes is both funny and tragic. In the case of the Atlantic Yards monstrosity development, it is hard to find humor when you have been forced to sell your house and/or see your neighborhood ripped up in front of you for a greedy developer. Bruce Ratner and his partners had claimed that it was necessary to clean the area up and make it Gehry-ified but now it turns out it was Ratner that blighted the area.

From The Gothamist:

Government officials and developer Bruce Ratner have for years tried to seize private property in Prospect Heights to build an arena, office towers and apartments, arguing that the neighborhood was the epitome of urban blight. Opponents, meanwhile, countered that the developer was swooping in just as Prospect Heights was experiencing its first revitalization in decades.

Now, after years of demolition but no construction, the project has brought about the very blighted conditions officials ostensibly sought to remedy. Ironic, huh? Sadly, it's not the fashionable Napoleon Dynamite-type irony; more like the old fashioned irony that led Oedipus to gouge his eyes out after he realized what the hell happened. And with the development foundering, residents fear an increasingly desolate future.

Well it may not be as bad as what happened with Oedipus, but what Ratner has done to the area is extremely tragic to say the least. It should be criminal for what they are doing to this neighborhood, but unfortunately the politicians are all too happy to be supportive of the developers in exchange for campaign contributions and not sticking up for what is best for the people of Brooklyn.

What Is A Payday Loan And Why Do People Get Them?

From a third party perspective, payday loans are simply bad news. Yet so many people, particularly poor people commonly deal with these dubious lenders. Amanda Logan at the Center for American Progress explains it:

Absentee Ballot Numbers Look Good For Murphy

Standard campaign protocol dictates that in a race that is too close to call, even after several days, that each side stop just short of declaring themselves the winner. Confidence is key and it also helps to bring in donations to fund all the election lawyers either candidate needs. However, beneath what the candidate says, is the reality of the polling situation. As of this moment, with a day to go before counting of absentee ballots begins, Scott Murphy in the 20th District seems to have the numbers on his side.

From The Albany Project:

NY-20: Absentee Ballot Distribution Appears to Favor Murphy (D)

One thing that seems fairly clear is that there tend to be a relatively higher proportion of absentee ballots returned in counties where Murphy performed well on election night. For example, Columbia County, where Murphy won 56.3 percent of the of the vote last week, accounted for 9.8 percent of ballots on election night, but accounts for 15.3 percent of absentees. Conversely, Saratoga County, which is a Tedisco stronghold, represented 36 percent of ballots on election night but only 27.2 percent of absentees:

If I simply apportion the absentee ballots based on the distribution of the election day vote in each county, I show Murphy gaining a net of 173 ballots during the absentee counting phase. In addition, as Michael Barone has noted, although a plurality of the absentee ballot returns are Republican, they are somewhat less Republican than registration in the district as a whole.

And some more from Campaign Diaries:

1. 3107 (45,8%) ballots have been returned from registered Republicans and 2383 (35,1%) from registered Democrats. Among the entire electorate, the gap between the share of registered Republicans and of registered Democrats is 15%. That means that the pool of absentee voters is significantly Republican than the electorate at large.

2. Counties where Murphy performed well are dramatically over-represented in the pool of (uncounted) absentee ballots:

* Columbia County, which gave the Democrat 56% of the vote, cast 9.8% of the district's votes last Tuesday; but 15,3% of the absentee ballots come from there!

* Two other counties that gave Murphy 56% are over-represented. Warren County and Washington County represented 10% and 8,1% of last Tuesday's districtwide, respectively; but they make up 15% and 9,2% of the incoming absentee ballots!

* Inversely, Saratoga County, which saved Tedisco's candidacy by giving him 54% of the vote, represented 36% of the districtwide vote last Tuesday. Now, only 27% of absentee ballots come from Saratoga - a sharp drop.

Let's put this otherwise: Murphy is winning Columbia County and Warren County by 12%; he is losing Saratoga by 8%. Last Tuesday, Columbia and Warren combined made up 20% of the districtwide vote, while Saratoga made up 36%. Now, there are more absentee ballots from Warren and Columbia combined than from Saratoga. That does not bode well for Tedisco.

Philip at TAP points out that while the numbers are good, we should all help chip in to make sure Murphy's lawyers get compensated for doing their work. Tedisco has plenty of people on his side trying to make the results more favorable for him, so we need to work twice as hard to ensure that the results come out with a full degree of accuracy so that the actual winner prevails.

TWU Doesn't Realize Shame Won't Work On State Senate GOP

Getting a comprehensive bill passed to help the M.T.A. and the millions that use it is becoming more and more of a longshot. The closer we come to May 31st, the harder it gets. The State Senate is unable to get something done because of a few bad apples in the Democratic caucus that think political grandstanding is worth a 25% fare increase for straphangers. The Transit Workers Union, who will also suffer from lost jobs due to service cuts, is trying to push NYC's three Republican Senators in hope of sparing them the doomsday budget.

From The NY Daily News:

Hoping to shame Republicans into supporting a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bailout, the Transport Workers Union will launch an ad campaign Monday targeting a trio of GOP senators from the city.

"Republican state Sens. Frank Padavan, Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza have a choice to make," the TV advertisement states. "They can vote for an MTA rescue plan that saves fares, services and jobs - or they can join their fellow Republicans and sit on their hands while our transit system grinds to a halt."

This effort, while well-intentioned is not going to do anything but help sustain the advertising revenue of whomever plays the spots. Shame isn't going to work on a minority caucus that is hoping the Senate fails New York in such spectacular fashion that the GOP might be able to take back the majority next year.

The only hope of getting something passed is having the troublesome Democrats (Espada, Kruger, Diaz, etc.) get back on board and support whatever Smith and Silver come up with. While that would be an incredible feat, it is much more likely than the likes Lanza, Golden and Padavan scorning Dean Skelos' message of how Republicans are being treated like dirt by Smith and therefore the minority must hold out together because of it.

Wm. Black Explains How To Solve Banking Problem And What Geithner Refuses To Do

Former regulator and financial expert William Black was on Bill Moyers last week and now he's here at Cenk Uyugr's show on Air America. The more he gets press the better, because everyone needs to know what he's talking about.

Ex-Pols Love Their Vanity Plates

They may not have their special-issue state plates anymore, but a few local politicians who have either left or been kicked out of office still like their cars to seem official. The Daily News caught a number of these former electeds with official-looking vanity plates where it could be argued they're looking for a certain kind of treatment with NYPD's parking enforcement.

From The NY Daily News:

Longtime State Sen. Marty Connor lost his reelection bid last fall, but you wouldn't know that from looking at his Jeep Cherokee.

Connor, an election lawyer in Brooklyn, has license plates reading "25 SD" - presumably referring to the 25th Senate District, which he represented for 30 years.

The former senator, who registered the vanity plates just days before his successor was sworn in, brushed off the suggestion that his plate referred to the seat he lost in November.

"That's your conclusion," he said. "I don't have to tell you why I picked the plate."

Connor isn't the only former politician sporting vanity plates that appear to give an air of authority. Several former City Council members own cars with license plates starting with an official-looking "NYC."

Perhaps Connor just likes the letters "SD" and the number "25" put together for aesthetic reasons. And perhaps the other former pols like putting "NYC" on their plates to show they live in New York as opposed to the ten million or so cars that also have New York license plates. However, this is a more realistic reason:

The advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said that, for some government workers and elected officials, plates that appear official are part of a "culture of entitlement."

"Official-looking plates, to our eyes, are one of the most widespread ways that people skirt the law and manage to avoid parking enforcement," said the group's spokesman, Wiley Norvell.

It may not legally give special powers to these former pols, but on the chance that it will fool a parking enforcement official, then the fee would be worth it. Though I really think that may just be a potential bonus, what it comes down to is that these politicians are into their own vanity, and express it on their cars.

Rangel Fails To Endorse Dems Over Bloomberg

Yet another sign of Democratic disunity in New York was on display yesterday when the ethically-challenged Congressman Charlie Rangel couldn't manage to side with his party for the upcoming mayoral election. Rangel is known for blowing off the press in regards to his own corruptive nature, but this is the first I've heard of him blowing off the Democratic party.

From The Daily Politics:

At separate events today, two Democratic heavyweights - Rep. Charlie Rangel and former President Bill Clinton - were effusive in their praise of Mayor Bloomberg, and although both stopped short of endorsing his re-election outright, they didn't announce support of his opponent, Comptroller Bill Thompson, either.

Rangel, a veteran Harlem pol and dean of the congressional delegation, said he is not ready "at this time" to take sides in the mayor's race, despite the fact that Thompson is vying to become only the second African American to hold the post in the city's history.

The DN's Erin Einhorn reports from a Harlem affordable housing announcement that Rangel said Bloomberg has "done a great job," but also added: "Having the comptroller being prepared to be able to run, I think, is totally unfair and the way that term limits have been removed."

Asked point-blank whether he has decided who he will back, Rangel said: "Not yet, no."

So with Bill Clinton at his side, Rangel took out a figurative pistol and shot Thompson in the foot, while the former President looked on without comment. As much as I would hope that Rangel could endorse Thompson (or even Avella) on his own and show that he cares about his local party, the disloyality goes much deeper than just one Harlem Congressman. What we need is leadership and currently, there is none.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Tedisco's New Ad To Help Poll Absentee Voters

Jimmy Tedisco is on the air again in order to raise money for his "ballot integrity" fund:

Yet when we take a closer look at what Jim's post-campaign machine is up to, integrity is the farthest thing from what is actually going on.

A Dream Come True: The "Bush Six"

I always love hearing a good story about how seemingly crazy, wishful thinking slowly but surely becomes certifiable fact. Case in point is British lawyer Phillippe Sands who wrote a book claiming that several of the top men in the Bush Administration would be tried in court for their crimes against humanity. The subjects of the book responded harshly and most of the traditional media in the U.S. ignored it. Now however, Sands' prediction is starting to stand on more solid ground and the story caught the eye of the New Yorker this week:

Last week, Sands’s accusations suddenly did not seem so outlandish. A Spanish court took the first steps toward starting a criminal investigation of the same six former Bush Administration officials he had named, weighing charges that they had enabled and abetted torture by justifying the abuse of terrorism suspects. Among those whom the court singled out was Feith, the former Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, along with former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer; and David Addington, the chief of staff and the principal legal adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney.

In Washington the other night, over a cup of camomile tea, Sands described the behind-the-scenes role he played in spurring the Spanish court to action. He paced his hotel room, seeming by turns proud and stunned at what he had done. “This is the end of these people’s professional reputations!” he said. “This is no joke. We’re talking about the serious potential deprivation of liberty.”

A deprivation of liberty is exactly what those men need, and you can add Dick Cheney and George Bush to that list as well. Yet one has to wonder, how did this Brit get so involved in the illegalities of American politicos?

The current torture case began in the spring of 2004, when photographs of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib surfaced. Sands said that he read the protestations of innocence from Bush Administration officials, who blamed a few “bad apples” for the incidents, with the eye of a barrister. He recalled, “I could spot right away that they were speaking as advocates of a cause. So I decided to find out what really happened.” While keeping up his busy law practice, he travelled to America to interview the key players in what he described as “a writing project I am engaged in on international law and the war on terror.” Many Bush officials, including Feith and William J. Haynes II, the former Pentagon general counsel, who was also named in the Spanish lawsuit, agreed to meet with Sands, perhaps expecting a friendly chat. “I spent two years trekking around the country, finding out that they were manifestly untruthful,” Sands said. “I’ve got a particular bugbear about lawyers,” he added. “If not for lawyers, none of these abuses would have ever occurred.”

Like Sands, I've got a serious bugbear with all of the White House goons that were involved with the condoning of torture. There were some serious crimes committed under Bush's watch and hardly anyone tried to stop the perpetrators. Without much scrutiny, the masterminds were able to blame the little people and expected to get away with their terrible deeds. Now that we have at least one court in trying them, hopefully justice will prevail as Sands predicts.

NY To Paterson, Stay Home Next Year!

Governor Paterson continues to get bad news from the polls. His latest rating has him disapproved by more than two-thirds of New Yorkers and a solid majority want him to simply leave after what is left of Eliot Spitzer's term is up. He may have only been on the job for a little more than a year, but what people have seen so far is basically not good enough.

From PolitckerNY:

Sixty-three percent of voters said Paterson should not be elected to a full term in office, compared with only 22 percent that said he should, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

Paterson’s job approval rating sunk to 28-60 percent.

Democrats, by a margin of 49-45 percent, say Paterson should announce now that he won’t seek election to the governor’s office next year. Democrats also said that if the election were held today, they’d vote for Andrew Cuomo instead of Paterson, by a margin of 61 to 18 percent. That’s a slightly larger margin than Cuomo had over Paterson in Quinnipiac’s poll in February, where he led 55-23 percent. (Coincidentally, I'm sure, the attorney general has begun openly campaigning against Paterson, authorizing a critical statement about the budget to Fred Dicker in today's Post.)

Cuomo is in the best position to run for governor by simply doing his job as Attorney General and letting Paterson sink himself. Not only has Paterson let himself be sucked into all that is dysfunctional with Albany, he couldn't even get anything done with his extraordinary powers. Instead, weak leadership and no real vision has left most voters sour with the accidental executive and wanting for someone that can actually take charge...hopefully with some real reform for the system as well.

Sen. Schneiderman Argues To Remedy The Damages Done By Rockefeller Drug Laws

Senator Schneiderman addresses his critics concerns, then goes full throttle in his defense of the smartest thing the Senate has done since Democrats took over. Watch it here:

Congress Considers Regressive Campaign Finance Reform

Generally when a legislative body considers reform of some sort, the intent is to help society progress in some fashion. However, that is not the case with the latest bill that addresses the tenuous issue of campaign finance. The battle over money in politics has gone on for decades, but the current Congress (particularly those that wrote these bills) is trying to hoodwink the public into thinking something is being done when the "big donor" and "special interest" money is merely being diverted. Dan Jacoby dug through the language of the legislation and found what was being done.

From The Albany Project:

Looking at the House bill, the key sentence is found on in Section 513, on page 17. (House bill text available at the GPO website.) It reads, "For purposes of this subsection, a payment made by a political party in coordination with a participating candidate shall not be treated as a contribution to or as an expenditure made by the participating candidate." In other words, political parties, and their various committees, can continue to raise and spend all the money they can get their greedy hands on.

Under this bill, it becomes obvious to anyone who has been involved in campaign fundraising that instead of a candidate trying to raise $4,600 directly, the candidate will ask for $100 for his or her campaign, and have the other $4,500 donated to the candidate's political party committee. The money won't disappear; it will merely shift from a candidate's campaign committee to the party's campaign committee.

Meanwhile, in a complete waste of taxpayer money, the government will be dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns to replace money that will still be raised and spent on campaigns and elsewhere.

This all means that everything bad about money and politics will remain the same, with the addition of federal money to back it up. The critics get plenty of ammunition to shut this flawed bill down and allows for another year, or two or more to go by with no real solution to our campaign finance problem. Meanwhile, there is a blueprint to go by that works, but the authors of this bill think they can trick us.

Being A Drunk-Driving Ex-Congressman Really Doesn't Work

Ex-Congressman John Sweeney needs help. The former legislator got pulled over for his second DWI in 17 months, qualifying him as a felon. Apparently he didn't learn his lesson in 2007 that drinking and driving don't mix. Though from his professional qualifications, you'd think he would know this stuff already.

From The Times-Union:

At 3:30 a.m., Sweeney, 53, was stopped for speeding on Route 9 in Clifton Park, State Police said. He refused sobriety tests and was charged with felony DWI, police said.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said Sweeney will automatically lose his license for a year because he refused the breath and blood alcohol tests.[...]

Sweeney, a former STOP-DWI coordinator in Rensselaer County, has made headlines a number of times in recent years after brushes with the law. In addition to his DWI arrests, in September it was revealed that federal investigators are exploring Sweeney's dealings with an Albany lobbying firm after the four-term congressman was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee in 2001.

The irony doesn't fail to deliver here. Perhaps he was frustrated that his former Congressional seat might be lost to yet another Democrat, or that his own legal troubles (non-alcoholic) are getting the best of him. Whatever the case, Sweeney should know better, and now he'll have to pay for it.

Honoring The Fallen In Iraq By Acknowledging Them

For the entirety of the war in Iraq, George Bush banned cameras from Dover Air Force Base when our dead soldiers came home. To him, it was better that we not think about the consequences of his action and go on with our lives as if the war was something that happened "over there," not here at home. Now with a new President, we as a nation can finally start to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.

It's An Incumbent's World In NY

The politicians were patting themselves on the back last week for allowing one of their comrades in the state senate to vote for the budget after she had fallen ill, going so far as to hit back against the press that has slammed them for their corruption and greed. Yet when you take a good look at what is going on in Albany whatever the Malcolm Smiths say in response to their critics is mostly fabricated.

So we should vote these corrupt bastards out, right? Well not so fast, the DN's Henry Stern tells us why that is highly unlikely to happen, even if the politician needs to be kicked to the curb.

From The NY Daily News:

The first is gerrymandering. The boundaries of existing districts have been carefully drawn to include areas where the incumbent is popular and exclude areas where potential opponents may reside. The Legislature has repeatedly rejected efforts to provide nonpartisan districting, because the current system gives incumbents districts that have been made-to-order for their political convenience. There's no sign of this changing anytime soon.

The second major advantage office-holders enjoy is free mailing privileges. For most of the year, incumbents send out illustrated brochures, styled as reports to constituents, but largely consisting of self-serving prose about the incumbent's accomplishments and photographs of himself, alone, with children or with grateful senior citizens.

Although these "reports" may not be mailed for a 90-day period before an election, the incumbent will have been sending these advertisements for the preceding year and nine months of his two-year term.

When you factor in that most incumbents have served for many terms - the average tenure exceeds 10 years - the public gains familiarity with the incumbent, even if they have no clear idea of who he is or exactly what he does.

Then you have to navigate New York's antiquated petition-signature process, get around the pork legislators are allowed to bring to their district and of course the cost of dealing with the expense of advertising in the #1 media market in the country. That is why over 90% of incumbents never leave their office until they are good and ready.

And that doesn't just apply to our state government. That is the way it works in the city as well. Term limits was supposed to help curb the powers of incumbency, but we all saw how the powerful politicians (see Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and 28 others) were able to skirt the laws that the public had put in place to prevent such abuse.

Either one of two things must happen to right this ship we are all on. Reinstituting term limits for the city...and a new law for the state would help to some degree. It was starting to work in NYC and that is exactly why Bloomberg and Quinn got rid of it. Or, we could completely overhaul our government so that gerrymandering isn't allowed, pork is cut and the election process is majorly overhauled. Yeah, that is a tall order, so maybe we should start with term limits and go from there...preferably in a quick fashion so that clean elections follows soon after.