Saturday, April 25, 2009

M.T.A.'s Lack Of Leadership Delays 2nd Ave. Subway Yet Again

As of late much of the blame for the M.T.A.'s woes have been directed at the State Senate, and rightly so. However, when it comes to the completion of the Second Avenue subway line the fingers are being pointed squarely in the direction of the transit authority's management. It appears that division that oversees capital projects can't get their act together on a subway line that was originally planned for eighty years ago.

From The NY Daily News:

The MTA, which has pushed back the completion date several times over the last decade, recently predicted additional construction and design delays totaling 18 months, an internal document drafted in February reveals.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's handling of some aspects of its major construction projects has frustrated the Federal Transit Administration, The News has learned.

After extending the Second Ave. subway schedule in March 2008, citing higher than anticipated construction costs, the MTA was required to give the feds a recovery plan with options to make up some lost time and fill budget gaps.

The feds have "provided the MTA with a time period that is more than reasonable" regional administrator Brigid Hynes-Cherin wrote to the MTA in November. "Unfortunately, the MTA appears to have been caught up in a never-ending process of evaluating and reevaluating each program. The time for evaluation has taken far too long, and the time for presenting a recovery plan is now long overdue."

Supposedly this plan will be done in a couple weeks, but who knows if it will be comprehensive or meet the federal government's standards. The only thing about this project the authority has been good at is to promote the T line, though their ads about the first segment being done in 2015 have not-unexpectantly disappeared.

It really is sad to see that in the preeminent city in the United States, it takes a century (probably more though) to build a subway line, where in other countries entire systems are completed within a few years and with much higher quality.

Obama Calls For Fiscal Discipline In Weekly Address

Two trillion in deficit reductions, overhauling the government to eliminate wasteful spending, that is what the President is calling for and he is ready to make it happen. Republicans can cry all they want about smart, stimulating spending for our nation's infrastructure. Let's see them complain about cutting the bloated government waste and inefficiency they helped grow when they were in power.

Bloomberg Mocks FOIA Request For Term Limit Extension Emails

In an open and transparent democracy, it is the representatives of the people who are beholden to those that elect them. For Mayor Bloomberg though, he does not believe that principle applies to himself. Going around the backs of New Yorkers who voted for term limits, he had the city council reverse the will of the people and extend term limits so that he and other two-termers could run for another four years.

What the Mayor engineered was an outrage to say the least. In response, at least one person at the NY Times (not to mention outside groups) file a Freedom of Information request to see how it all went down. Sadly though, in the same spirit that Bloomberg spit on the will of the voters who enacted term limits, he did the same to that request for information.

From The NY Times:

“Many thanks.”

In the middle of the pitched battle over Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to re-engineer the city’s term-limits laws, those are the only two words that the first deputy mayor, Patricia E. Harris, wrote about the topic.

Or at least those are the only two words that City Hall will allow the public to see.

On Friday, six months after The New York Times requested copies of all e-mail messages about term limits sent or received by six top aides to the mayor under the Freedom of Information Act, the Bloomberg administration released 66 pages of correspondence. (Also available as PDF.)

Much of what the city released amounted to fan mail for the mayor, from businesspeople, friends of his aides or ordinary citizens.
There was absolutely nothing in there that had any of what the principle architects of this political maneuver had written to each other. Nothing about the logistics and nothing about anything of importance was included. Of course, the information is there, somewhere. Bloomberg and his aides however, do not respect the public enough to let them see what or how things went down. Instead, their fear of the public keeps them from disseminating the information that would expose them for the power-hungry politicos that they are.

Friday, April 24, 2009

David Gregory Covers For Bush On Torture, Forgets The Facts In The Process

We know David Gregory hates bloggers. We know he likes to throw soft ball questions for guests that deserve to tell the American people the truth. So I'm still looking for qualities of a credible journalist within the man who's feet are far too small for Tim Russert's shoes. To add insult to injury, as yet another media hack, he is happy to provide a platform for right-wing liars to stand on when it comes to torture and ex-President Bush.

From RawStory:

In a puzzling remark that seems to demonstrate the extent to which the mainstream media tries to "balance" discussions of controversial issues, NBC's David Gregory suggested Thursday that the Bush Administration issued memorandums outlining the torture of detainees out of great respect for the law.

"...Did the Bush administration go out of its way to make sure they were adhering to the law and not crossing over that bridge when it came to getting into torture?" he asked rhetorically.

"At a time when the administration and the President will already be under scrutiny for being tough enough, is this a fight they really want to have?" he remarked earlier. "I would also point you to, if you haven't see this already, the Wall Street Journal editorial page today, which I think raises some really tough points about not only what signal you're sending to the rest of the world, but also to potential terrorists out there, about just what it is that U.S. interrogators would do and not do."
Why he reads the editorial pages of the Journal, I don't know. It would be like turning on Rush Limbaugh and Hannity simultaneously for unbiased news coverage. Gregory reads the wingnut talking points as if it were some sort of truth, when all Bush's people are trying to do is make excuses for breaking the law. Perhaps Gregory should start by reading the reports coming out of the Senate and the Red Cross if he wanted to learn how to expel truth instead of spin for the Republican party.

DNC Rubs NY-20 Victory In Michael Steele's Face

When you win, like the way Scott Murphy won the 20th district in New York; the Democratic National Committee can put ads like this one out to show just how badly the Republicans blew the special election between Tedisco and Murphy.

Oysters Good To Eat, Good For The Environment

Not to sound like a sponsored post (because it isn't) but being the tail end of Earth Day-Week, I thought to reiterate what CNN was saying about how great oysters are. Not only are they great to eat, but when you farm them instead of just overfishing their natural habitat, they work as filters for pollution in the river. The cable news network highlighted a fisherman by the name of Tommy Leggett from the Chesapeake Bay who does exactly that.

From CNN:

"I've been a waterman for over 20 years," he says.

The difference now is Leggett doesn't fish anymore. He's an eco-conscious farmer and advocate who works on his sustainable oyster farm in the James River. He uses the term "aquaculture" to describe what he's doing here. "It refers to the husbandry, or farming, of aquatic species."

Leggett sells the oysters he harvests to local restaurants, growing about 100,000 a year as a part-time business.

He makes sure he always has a product to replace the ones that he sells. He shares his expertise with other watermen, educating them about oyster aquaculture and the importance of sustainability.

Leggett also sells his fresh products to the area market. "Customers want to know if the oysters they are buying are local, which means they're fresher and taste better."
It's a winning situation all around. Restaurants get the best product, Leggett is able to farm the river with consistency and the ecosystem improves from the restoration of oysters in the river. While this may be a success story in Virginia, it is also happening here in New York City. Restoration projects are under way, and who knows, one day the water in the harbor may once again be considered safe as it was 400 years ago.

Tedisco Might Call It Quits Today

As much as some election lawyers would like the special election between Tedisco and Murphy to go on forever, the fact is the 20th district needs a Congressman fighting for them down in D.C. The election was nearly a month ago but the counting has continued. At first the two candidates were close, one ahead of the other and then behind depending on which counties had recanvassed. Yet as the absentee ballots were counted, it became clear that Murphy was winning a majority of them. With less than a thousand to go and Murphy up by 400, the end of the road is becoming increasingly clear for the candidate that was supposed to win this race in a landslide.

From Capital News 9:

A finish line could be in sight in the race for the 20th Congressional District. With the numbers not looking good for Republican Jim Tedisco, sources tell Capital News 9 that Tedisco could concede to Democrat Scott Murphy as soon as Friday afternoon.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Election Board workers open up ballots. Lawyers look for invalid marks that could void the vote. Commissioners from as far away as Essex and Delaware County are here as the campaigns review about 200 challenged ballots. "We will see what the numbers are. We have been charged with opening the valid ballots and that is what we are doing, opening the valid ballots," said James Walsh, Tedisco Campaign Lawyer.
The valid ballots are mostly opened and with so few left and Murphy's lead bigger than ever, Tedisco would need to win three out of every four from now on to come back. The Republican has reportedly lost all hope yesterday and for some odd reason is waiting for the the judge to rule on residency requirements for voters (supposedly for future races) even though he isn't even an official resident of the district either.

Here's to the end of the line of this saga and the beginning of Murphy's term as Congressman of the 20th district!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Col. Rick Reyes Tells Congress Why We Should Leave Afghanistan

It is one thing for pundits and politicians to argue for and against about our presence in Afghanistan. It is quite another to hear how a soldier speaks from his experience on the ground in the war-torn country and how he came to believe that our military mission was not the answer to the Afghani people's problems.

Even Boehner Admits Bush Administration Tortured

While John Boehner came out to trash the Obama Administration for disclosing the Bush memos outlining how authorities should torture alleged terrorists, he let his personal views on the "techniques" slip. Being a member of the GOP, most of his statements today were seriously misguided and harmful to having an open government in our country. Nevertheless, at least he affirmed that what Bush and his cronies did was torture.

From The Huffington Post:

While cable news outlets and major newspapers continue to use euphemisms such as "harsh interrogation tactics" to describe the Bush administration's approach to intelligence gathering, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) used a more succinct term Thursday: "torture."

"Last week, they released these memos outlining torture techniques. That was clearly a political decision and ignored the advice of their Director of National Intelligence and their CIA director," Boehner said at a press conference in the Capitol.

Of course the press on hand had to follow up and Boehner's spokesman tried to walk back the comments:
Regarding the Boehner's use of the T-word, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel writes, "It is clear from the context that Boehner was simply using liberals' verbiage to describe these interrogation techniques. The United States does not torture.
Nice try Michael. Someone in a position like Boehner's should know the difference between the truth and a GOP talking point. Perhaps it was a subconscious slip but at least it was evidence that Boehner could tell at least one truth among the empty partisan rhetoric that came out of his mouth today.

Advocates For The Homeless Point Out Bloomberg's Disastrous Policies

Bloomberg claims on his campaign website he wants to use his "honest, independent leadership" to keep New York moving. There should be an asterisk next to that statement, so that it honestly leaves out help for the homeless. While the Mayor has no problem getting behind the ethically challenged (and very rich) car czar Steven Ratner, getting behind programs that give the homeless a leg up is something he cannot be bothered with.

From The NY Times:

The Bloomberg administration’s four-year-old policy of denying federal housing vouchers to the homeless has helped push the number of families in New York City shelters to record levels, an advocacy group for the homeless said in a report released on Wednesday.

The group, the Coalition for the Homeless, which is frequently at odds with the Bloomberg administration, predicted that the city’s policy, coupled with the economic recession, would worsen homelessness significantly in the coming months.

“We felt that it was a mistake in policy four years ago when they did it, and it’s even more mistaken now, given the recession and the rising numbers of homeless families,” said Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst with the coalition.

According to data analyzed by the coalition, the economic downturn helped drive nearly 110,000 people into city shelters in 2008.
Tell me how exactly is that leadership that New York wants to see continued? The Mayor on the other hand tries to point out that the homeless rolls are decreasing. Why the discrepancy you ask? Well, I guess it matters how exactly one goes about counting the thousands of New Yorkers who can't afford a place to live anymore.

Bush Catches Rove Lying About "Benefits" Of Torture

It may not have been on purpose but even the ex-President can disprove the pathological liar that is Karl Rove.

From DailyKos:

Over the past couple of days, Karl Rove and Fox News have offered a new argument in defense of the Bush administration’s torture policies.

Now, they say, waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) yielded intelligence that led to the disruption of an al Qaeda plot to attack the tallest building in Los Angeles, the Library Tower (which both Bush and Rove called the Liberty Tower, for some reason). There’s just one problem with Rove’s new story: it couldn’t possibly be true.

As Timothy Noah pointed out in Slate, the Los Angeles attack was foiled in February of 2002. KSM was not captured until March of 2003, however — more than a year later.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that timeline is impossible. Perhaps appropriately, then, here’s a video of George W. Bush — in his own words — proving that Karl Rove and Fox News are lying about torture:

I know, Karl Rove, blatant lying about the Bush White House, who da thunk?

Brooklyn Paper Makes Excuses For Superfund Cleanup Of Gowanus

I know the buyout of the Brooklyn Paper to NewsCorp was bad news, but for them to subtly side with the city over whether the EPA should come in and make Gowanus a Superfund site is just a little too unseemly. Although they do not specifically advocate for letting the city do what it wants (letting Toll Bros. develop 460 condo units and a not-so-thorough cleanup of the canal), reading between the lines in the "City could be holding bag for feds’ Gowanus clean-up" article isn't too hard to do.

From The Brooklyn Paper:

Despite its name, the Superfund is not a pool of money that federal officials tap into for environmental remediation. In fact, one goal of Superfund designation is to identify guilty polluters and get them to pay to clean up toxic sites.

But there is a long history of towns and municipalities being forced by the EPA to open up their checkbooks to pay for decontaminating polluted land. In February, for example, the upstate cities of Poughkeepsie and Newburgh were held responsible for hazardous material on a car and metal processing plant, and had to cough up $12 million.

Well since the city has pretty much neglected any kind of cleaning of the canal for decades, the city does share some of the blame here. Just because there is some concern now that developers show interest in the area doesn't mean NYC has made a good-faith effort on its own.

Cleaning up the Gowanus, with its dioxins, PCBs, coal tar — and, more important, tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage that spills into it on rainy days — would be considerably more expensive.

The EPA says local governments are usually minor defendants in their suits, but industrial companies have sought big bucks from cities to defray the costs they have to pay to the EPA. In a case from 1989, companies joined together to sue 29 California cities for $500 million as part of a Superfund battle.

The EPA says it does not yet know who would be targeted if the Gowanus Canal is added to the national priority list of Superfund sites, a controversial proposal first floated earlier this month.

Amid this new debate, a clearer picture began to emerge this week about why Gov. Paterson secretly appealed in December for federal assistance with the cleanup of Brooklyn’s infamous channel. It turns out, state officials now believe that their highly touted efforts are neither adequate to clean the area, nor powerful enough to identify parties responsible for the pollution.

Of course it is expensive! Good for Paterson for realizing what a serious job this for enlisting help from the Feds. Whoever they find liable for the damage to the area should pay for it, from the oil and chemical companies to the City of New York. Putting the area back together again should be concern #1, not giving into the Toll Brothers who do not want the stigma of a Superfund site attached to the area. The Gowanus is already toxic, the label from the feds won't change that. If anything, long-term rehab of the canal will improve lives and any living conditions that eventually take place there.

Some environmentalists say the Superfund designation is the only way to get a comprehensive clean-up of the so-called Lavender Lake. But other do-greeners point out that remediation can take decades, cost far more than anticipated, and not always work.

"Some environmentalists" links to another Brooklyn Paper article that highlights three toxic cleanup projects in New Yorkthat took years and millions upon millions of dollars to undertake. What do they expect, that the EPA can just go to an area that was polluted for decades with a magic vacuum cleaner that will suck up all the bad chemicals? Developers might like the sound of that, but it doesn't work that way in the reality-based world. The awful truth of the matter is that Gowanus is a filthy canal that needs a serious rehabilitation that will take years if not longer. Putting the wishes of developers and the politicians that love them ahead of the safety of the area is simply unacceptable.

Time To Indict Condi Rice For Torture

Jay Bybee, John Yoo and other senior Bush Administration figures have already been fingered for their roles in making torture "legal" for the government. Whether they had written the memos or passed them along, they played a part in shaming our once proud nation by committing those despicable acts. Cheney has been called out before too, but for the most part the upper echelon of Bush's people have not been touched. Now though, it looks like former Secretary of State Rice had intimate knowledge and approval of, torturing terrorist suspects.

From RawStory:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The CIA first sought in May 2002 to use harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding on terror suspects, and was given key early approval by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a US Senate intelligence document said.

The agency got the green light to use the near-drowning technique on July 26, 2002, when attorney general John Ashcroft concluded "that the use of waterboarding was lawful," the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a detailed timeline of the "war on terrorism" interrogations released Wednesday.

Nine days earlier, the panel said, citing Central Intelligence Agency records, Rice had met with then-director George Tenet and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," the agency's first high-value Al-Qaeda detainee, pending Justice Department approval.
Though Rice was the first of the inner circle to approve of torturing suspects, Ashcroft, Cheney and Gonzales were all there with her on this from the beginning. Since we have this declassified report out in the open, the only and natural next step is for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor and draw up charges for every single man and woman that decided to spit on the honor of our country and disregard the basic tenets of decency and morality for humankind.

Cenk Goes Off On TARP Wife's Woes

Cenk Uyugr spent a few minutes yesterday on the wife of the big bank CEO who accepted TARP money. She penned an article in Portfolio about how they cut back in these tough times, but judging what she wrote, the cluelessness about how the other half 90% lives is readily apparent.

If It Walks Like A Duck, Talks Like A Duck....

Well then it probably is a duck.

The same approach can be used for Sheldon Silver's actions as Assembly Speaker when he tried to influence the State Controller (and criminal) Alan Hevesi. He went to the Controller on behalf of former hockey legend Mike Richter in order to get him connected with the pension fund. Although the deal never happened, that doesn't excuse his behavior.

From The NY Daily News:

Silver twice arranged sitdowns with the controller, who has sole control over pension investments, the Daily News has learned.

One of the most powerful men in Albany, Silver a few years ago accompanied investor Shlomo Kalish of Jerusalem Global Ventures to meet with then-Controller Alan Hevesi to discuss a possible deal.

More recently, Silver and Richter met with Controller Thomas DiNapoli. Richter, the hero of the 1994 Stanley Cup team, is a partner with Environmental Capital Partners.

The pension fund ultimately took a pass on both deals.

But the involvement of Silver - whose spokesman Dan Weiller confirmed the meetings - has raised serious questions among government watchdog groups.

More serious questions for the Speaker that go on top of the pile of questions he refuses to answer. The big problem here is that the way he uses his influence isn't even illegal here in New York. A more transparent state government might want to do something about this, but not in the Albany that good government groups fight against on a daily basis. While Hevesi may be in hot water (along with Joe Bruno) much of the corruption that goes on in our capitol is given a pass, or at least a wink and a nod. And with Shelly Silver at the wheel, don't expect things to change anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Over Jimmy

The more ballots election officials count, the better things look for Scott Murphy and his growing lead over Jim Tedisco. Another 250 were counted today and now Murphy is ahead by 365 votes. It seems that with each passing day that ballots are added to the total, Tedisco is looking weaker and weaker.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—Democrat Scott Murphy's lead over Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in their race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in Congress has grown to 365 votes, the latest official tally shows.

According to the State Board of Elections, the overall tally now stands at 79,751 for Murphy; 79,586 for Tedisco. The new tally reflects updated numbers from Warren and Essex counties. Counting is still taking place in Saratoga and Washington counties.

And yet another prominent (or once prominent) upstate Republican politician has chimed in to say it's over for Jim Tedisco. Jimmy, you are losing all your friends and allies, it is time to call it quits before that political career gets too many nails in its' coffin.

CATO Analyst Embarrasses Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly was looking for a torture-apologist to back up Dick Cheney and his neo-con friends, but he didn't find that in Army Captain and CATO Institute analyst David Rittgers.

Wingnuts Biggest Fear Coming True, Obama Encourages National Service

One of the common themes at last week's tea parties (apart from the subtle racism that underlies much of the activities) was that Obama is bad because he wants to force Americans into doing some sort of service, thereby curtailing the rights of citizen or something like that. Well, those angry protesters now have an opportunity to expound on their fear because (drumroll please) the President signed a bill yesterday that tripled the AmeriCorps budget and increased the ability for young people to attend college. I know, I'm just as shocked and appalled as you are.

From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON – Calling on Americans to volunteer, President Barack Obama signed a $5.7 billion national service bill Tuesday that triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college. "What this legislation does, then, is to help harness this patriotism and connect deeds to needs," said Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago.

"It creates opportunities to serve for students, seniors and everyone in between," he said. "And it is just the beginning of a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to involve our greatest resource — our citizens — in the work of remaking this nation."

Joining Obama was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has been battling brain cancer. Kennedy championed the legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the bill was named in honor of the Massachusetts Democrat.

Nevermind that the legislation is about creating opportunities for the next generation, that the bill is bipartisan and there is nothing "mandatory" about it. Wingnuts will be emboldened by Obama's utilization of the government regardless if it helps Americans where private enterprise does not.

Thankfully, those angry teabaggers protesting programs like this are merely a fringe group in the political sphere. Meanwhile Barack Obama enjoys a 70% approval rating and a strong backing from the Congress, especially on items like increasing AmeriCorp funding.

Tedisco's Friendly Judge Can Only Delay The inevitable

Jim Tedisco may be "hopeful" about the outcome of the still-contested race in the 20th district, but the facts are simply not on his side. With 1,800 approximate votes to count, Murphy's current lead of 273 and the fact that most of the remaining ballots were contested by Tedisco point to a nearly inevitable win for the Democrat. Although it would be great to seat the winner as soon as possible, the judge in the case doesn't feel that way.

From The Albany Project:

Judge Jim Brands, the "pizza stain" judge has just ruled that not only can ballots be challenged on a case by case basis, a move that could delay the seating of a representative for the 20th for quite some time, but that the campaigns can now have access to the applications for absentee ballots so that Tedisco's lawyers can try to argue that the voters that cast those ballots aren't actually residents of NY-20. That's pretty rich when one considers the fact that Tedisco himself is not a resident of NY-20 and couldn't even cast a vote for himself.

This is certainly a break for Tedisco, but I don't know of anyone that thinks that this have any effect on the outcome. That 273 vote lead is just too great a hill to climb.

Instead of the system allowing for the counting to be finished, Judge Brands is delaying the district the right to be represented in Congress and giving Tedisco as many tools as he can to strike already-validated absentee ballots. Unfortunately for Jimmy, the probability of overcoming Murphy's lead is slim to none given who has challenged what votes.

The Debate Over What To Do In Afghanistan

Right after 9/11, a quick consensus was formed that we had to go into Afghanistan in order to get the terrorists that attacked us. So we went in and wiped the Taliban from power. Now more than seven years later, the Taliban is resurging and all we can do is send in more troops. Katrina vanden Heuvel is one of an increasing number that want to rethink Afghanistan, and she debated Center for American Progress fellow Lawrence Korb on what we should do in that troubled country.

De Blasio Advocates For Developers

If there is anyone you should cross off your list for Public Advocate, start with Councilman Bill De Blasio. The job he's running for requires a politician that is serious about standing up for ordinary New Yorkers (IMO people like Norman Siegel). De Blasio however, regards developers like the Toll Brothers as regular people, going so far as to decry efforts to clean up the severely polluted Gowanus Canal.

From The NY Daily News:

City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Park Slope) said he didn't believe the cash-strapped federal program would be able to come up with the funding to complete a cleanup.

"We're being sold a bill of goods," he said. "There isn't necessarily money attached. ... How can you call it Superfund if there's no fund?"


The Superfund program usually pays for the early stages of a cleanup and then goes after polluters and owners of contaminated land to foot the rest of the bill. Cleanup can take years.

So why is De Blasio so adamant about not having the government clean the toxic canal?

Officials from Toll Brothers, whose controversial plan to build 460 condos and townhouses along the waterway was approved last month by the City Council with de Blasio's backing, have said they will drop the project if the canal becomes a Superfund site.

The Bloomberg administration came out against the Superfund proposal last week, touting city plans to spend $175 million on a new pumping station and upgraded flushing tunnel for the canal, and dredging a portion of the waterway.

"We, locally, have gotten our act together. The city's doing the right stuff. ... The Toll site will get cleaned up," de Blasio said, charging the feds would just "get in the way."

That's his opinion (and Bloomberg's). What do environmentalists in the community say?

"Those are just cosmetic cleanups. They do absolutely nothing," said Ludger Balan, a Gowanus resident and environmental programs director at the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy.

He said the most an upgraded flushing tunnel would do is move around dirty water. "It does not remove the toxins."[...]

Federal officials have found high levels of cancer-causing PCBs and metals such as mercury and arsenic in the Gowanus Canal. While contaminants at many hazardous waste sites are measured in parts per million, levels of coal tar more than four parts per hundred were found in canal sediments.

"The city has had decades ... to do something about the canal and they've really been dragging their feet," said Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of the Gowanus Canal. "It's really disingenuous for them to turn around and say [they have] a plan."

Who are you going to believe, a self-interested pol like De Blasio or advocates in the community that care about seeing the area cleaned up? Commenters from Pardon Me For Asking know the deal with De Blasio, and so should everyone who is going to cast a ballot for Public Advocate in the fall.

Bloomberg Unloads A Whopper About "Privately-Funded" NYC Ballparks

The Yankees and Mets are enjoying their brand new ballparks as the 09' season gears up. Unfortunately it is has become a lot harder for the fans to see their games as ticket prices have skyrocketed.

Don't tell that to Mayor Bloomberg though, he could care less about who is able to pay and who is not. As he says, baseball is a business and that's that. Although that is a cold assessment, I agree that professional sports is a business, it is just a shame that the Yankees and Mets business model doesn't include their less-than-wealthy fans. Bloomberg couldn't stop there though and he decided to at the very least, seriously mislead the public about how much taxpayer funds paid for those fancy new ballparks.

From The NY Daily News:

Yankees' principal owner George Steinbrenner and the Wilpon family for the Mets should be praised for their willingness to "go and make those investments" in the new parks, Bloomberg added.

"We put next to nothing into these two stadiums," Bloomberg said of public funding to support the ballparks, even though tax-free bonds paid for most of the construction costs.

Critics have charged that city spent hundreds of millions for neighborhood and transportation improvements around the ballparks. Bloomberg said "they fundamentally were done with private money."

The only investment Steinbrenner and the Wilpon's made was cajoling city officials into giving them hundreds of millions of dollars in municipal bonds and tax breaks. With a combination of schmoozing and threats to move to New Jersey. Bloomberg is either lying to us with those remarks, or he has no clue about our city's finances. Which one is it Mr. Mayor?

When A Lie Is A Lie Is A Lie

Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer went on Anderson Cooper yesterday to talk about torture. Begala and Cooper were pretty much on the same page, saying that torture is bad, and that the evidence of what the Bush Administration approved of consists of torture. Therefore, we need to take action against the torturers in our midst. When asked about whether Bush was lying about us not torturing, Begala had the easy, truthful answer to give. Fleischer on the other hand, couldn't stop defending his old, indefensible boss.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Water Scarcity On The Increase Out West

During the winter months, my weekly conversation with my Dad usually involves the weather. He tells me how it is eighty degrees outside in the San Fernando Valley while the wind chill touches zero here in New York. Then I counter in a semi-joking manner that goes something like this: "Well Dad, you live in a desert, of course it's warm, but at least we get rain here."

While it is funny over the phone, the future implications of that warm, dry weather are extremely dangerous for a part of the country that keeps growing in population yet is seeing its average precipitation amounts falling. Scientists continue to study the problem, but the more they pore over the data, the worse the outlook becomes.

From The NY Times:

The work builds on an earlier study by the researchers that looked at whether Lake Mead, the huge reservoir behind Hoover Dam, would eventually go dry. For the current study, they tweaked their model of river inflows and outflows and looked at the delivery shortfalls that would be needed to keep Lake Mead at the lowest functioning level. The modifications in the model “didn’t really change any of our answers,” Dr. Barnett said. “It just made the study a lot stronger.”

The study found that, with a 20 percent reduction in runoff, by 2050 nearly 9 of every 10 scheduled deliveries would be missed. But the problem may be even worse, because the allotments were determined in the 20th century, when, according to tree-ring data, the region was wetter than normal. So if drier conditions persist, delivery shortfalls will be even greater.

Water deliveries would have to be reduced, something that is achievable through conservation, water reuse and other measures. “We are hopeful that this would serve to get people to sit down now and see what options look realistic,” Dr. Barnett said, “before you have a crisis on your hands.”
On top of all that disheartening news concerning climate predictions, the article forgets to take population growth into account. Cities throughout the west are growing at exponential rates and they simply cannot take consume more for what the area allows. Here on the east coast, twenty million people in the NYC area have no problem getting water from the watershed upstate. We consume a lot, but there is more than enough supply. We even waste millions of gallons a year from faulty pipes and it is still ok (though that really should be fixed). Out in the west, every drop counts, and there are simply too many people for a decreasing amount of water.

CBS-2 Exposes Espada For Not Living In The District

The local CBS affiliate in New York is certainly not the first media outlet to suggest that Senator Pedro Espada lives outside his district but they did so in spectacular form this week. While Espada managed to make himself eligible to run in the Bronx despite his residency in Mamaroneck, the evidence gathered by CBS was thorough and the confrontation the reporter had with Espada was priceless to say the least. And of course, the report is timely because he is blocking the M.T.A. bailout that would help the people who actually live in his Bronx district.

From CBS-2:

Believe it or not the man trying to disguise himself by wearing an orange ski hat is State Sen. Espada -- and he didn't want to talk to CBS 2 HD in the worst way.

CBS 2 HD: "Excuse me Sen. Espada, I wonder if I could talk to you about the MTA …"

Espada: "Please … please … please."

And with that Espada slammed the door.

Espada was so intent on not being seen he held a baby in front of his face as he pulled out of his driveway in Mamaroneck.

And that's the rub. Espada represents a Bronx senate district, but he lives in a nearly $700,000 home in Mamaroneck, that has been in his family since the 1990s.

"He's there a long time. Yeah, he's there all week," neighbor Benny Protano said.
I can't wait to see the video of this posted. A corrupt public official gets caught violating the law, runs away from the press and uses an infant to shield his face from the cameras. In my book, that is pretty much near the bottom of the pole in terms of human decency.

Either Espada should resign (not gonna happen) or the courts and/or Senate should throw him out of office for duping the community he is supposed to be representing. Since the Senate likes to protect their own (see: Hiram Monserrate) any sort of internal ethics review with teeth is highly unlikely to occur. While I'd like to see the courts rip his corrupt ass out of the Senate, the more realistic option is to primary him next year. Given that, I hope there are some progressives up there willing to take him on.

Busting Homophobic Myths, One Idiotic Notion At A Time

NOM's ad earlier this month about the "gathering storm" was quite a doozy, striking fear into the hearts of the ignorant and easily-persuadables out there. Sadly, people who use common sense when it comes to this issue know better, but sometimes you need to get the clergy involved to combat the wingnuts who abuse religion to stop GLBT couples from having equal rights.

NY Same-Sex Marriage Bill Gets Some GOP Support

The relatively liberal State Assembly has been behind a bill to legalize same-sex marriage for quite a while now, but the more conservative State Senate has been holding up any progress...until now. There are signs in Albany that we just might possibly see a signed bill this year, in spite of protests from conservative Democrats. At least one Republican has signaled his support, a hint there may be more defections on the right coming down the pike.

From The Buffalo News:

Opponents believe that advocates of same-sex marriage will need to get at least four Republican senators to back the bill. “Even if we did know, we wouldn’t say,” Duane said of Senate Republicans who might cross party lines.

Senate Republicans say the issue, unlike the budget, is highly personal and will be up to rank-and-file lawmakers to decide on their own.

“I believe in traditional marriage,” said Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.

But there are more liberal-leaning districts than the one Maziarz represents. “I probably will be making a public statement somewhere in the near future,” said Sen. James S. Alesi, a Monroe County Republican who represents part of Rochester. Insiders say he is one potential vote for the bill.

The Empire State Pride Agenda and Senator Tom Duane are quite confident that the bill will pass this year, even with some room to spare says Duane. This is fantastic news if it comes to fruition, though I have to say it is somewhat comical to hear Duane's enthusiasm after berating the governor two weeks ago for announcing his intention to deliver a bill to the Senate without having the votes at the time.

I have to credit Governor Paterson for bringing the issue up, even if it was to save his own political hide. The attention, along with developments in Vermont, Iowa and favorable polling here in the state has all combined to produce a hopeful outlook for increasing equal rights in New York. It is about time we see some progress on that front, so that we as a state can be a leader in this country just as Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts already are.

State Senate Considers Some Actual Reform

So the report from the temporary rules committee is finally out and they have some recommendations for New York's dysfunctional Senate. It has been a long time coming, even to ponder changes in the byzantine-like set of rules that governs Albany. So far at least one respected commentator likes it, even if it doesn't completely overhaul the system.

Here's some of the details:

There are two provisions which would make it easier for bill sponsor's to prevent legislation from staying bottled up in a legislative committee. First, any sponsor can make a petition for consideration after a bill has been introduced for 30 days, removing the power of a committee chair to bring a motion to discharge legislation. Additionally, the sponsor can bring a petition to

The sponsor of any bill--same-sex marriage, for example--could move to have it voted out of committee and directly to a floor vote if a supermajority signs the petition.

Additionally, committees will be consolidated and Senators will be limited in how many they can serve on. No "proxy" voting would be allowed, the report recommends.

Other recommendations include the development of a New York version of CSPAN and regional budget hearings.

As Vielkind points out in his post, this bipartisan committee hints at an easy passage of a reform bill. Though I'm trying not to be a cynical bastard, I still wonder how many of the recommendations will be implemented and if there are any specific changes in the language that could possibly weaken what has been proposed today. This is still Albany we are talking about, so until the system actually changes and we see real reform, then I'll believe it.

The Union Gap

The battle between unions and companies is not one to take lightly. As Elaine Bernard points out, the union movement has to take itself seriously specifically because their rolls have dropped to such a degree in the last few decades. Due to that, companies have taken advantage of workers, especially those that aren't unionized and it makes it that much harder for labor leaders to argue their position at the bargaining table.

Screw Earth Day?

Tomorrow, in case you forgot, is Earth Day. The one day during the year that all the politicians and the press get together to talk about our planet, plant a tree and screw in an eco-friendly light bulb. Teachers probably have a lesson plan ready for their pupils too. It is all well and good, but the people at Grist wonder if only focusing on the Earth one day a year is actually a detriment when you look at what we do to the planet on the other 364 days.

From Grist:

Why does Grist hate Earth Day, you may be wondering? Are you guys jealous or something?

No ... yes ... not really ... then again, sorta. You see, every year as the calendar approaches April 22, the Grist staff gets cranky.

“Here it comes,” we say to ourselves, “the day we’re supposed to do something GREEN and appreciate all the attention that this made-up holiday brings to Grist and every other environmental organization and cause under the sun.”

And then there’s all those people who get to take credit for being green for one day and we’re all supposed to be happy about it. Hypocrites!

Earth Day, then, is sort of like Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa all in one: We Gristers love to talk about hating it, we say we’re only doing it for the kids, but in the end we grudgingly have to admit that we had fun, at least until crazy Uncle Ray started talking about the ozone layer being a myth…

Screw Earth Day was born from mixed emotions about a day that we purists think doesn’t do enough to get the message across about what individuals can and should be doing to protect the environment. While even the most jaded Grist staffer gets a little excited on Earth Day, as lots and lots of people gather together in communities around the world to do something good for our dearly loved Mother Nature, in the back of our heads we’re thinking, “It’s not about a single day, dude, it’s about living green every day.”

So screw Earth Day, everyday is one on the Earth and we've gotta wake up and realize that. This isn't like Yom Kippur where Jews atone for their sins annually. Cutting our waste by 1/365th isn't going to cut it when dealing with man-made climate change and our rapidly warming planet. Comprehensively attacking this problem on a daily basis, both on the individual and governmental level is the only we'll be to make a difference for the Earth.

Nadler Calls For Bybee Impeachment

Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler spoke out yesterday for the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee. Bybee has become infamous for having written out the "legal" doctrine that authorized hundreds of acts of torture by agents of the United States government, sanctioned by the Bush Administration. This is one man that should definitely not be adjudicating from the bench of any court, even one's with kangaroos.

From The Huffington Post:

"He ought to be impeached," Nadler said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law."[...]

"Any special prosecutor on torture would have to look at the authors of those torture memos," said Nadler. "And certainly you have real grounds to impeach him once the special prosecutor took a good look at that. I think there ought to be an impeachment inquiry looked at in any event. Which should happen first, I'm not sure."[...]

"He should be a target. Yoo should be a target. There are a number of targets," said Nadler, referring to for Bush administration counsel John Yoo, who also authorized torture and is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Bybee, noted Nadler, "is the only one who's a federal court judge now."

Nadler dismissed Obama's call to look forward rather than backward, arguing that the United States is obligated to investigate whether crimes were committed. "This whole call of looking forward rather than backwards -- you can't say that. The fact is, if crimes were committed, we are duty-bound under our law, we must -- the United States must investigate torture if it happened in America. That's the law. And the fact is, the law specifically says that instructions from higher officials is not an excuse. And we are obligated to investigate and, if indicated, to prosecute. The failure to at least investigate would be a violation of law," he said.

I couldn't agree more. We need to prosecute Bybee, Yoo and every last one of them that was inside the Bush White House and approved these unholy, unethical and illegal acts. If we have to start with Bybee and work our way up, so be it. The important thing is that we do it, and quickly, so that Bush (and maybe even Cheney) is still alive when he goes to jail for his war crimes.

More Images Of El Salvador

The theme of these five shots are that they were taken outside the big, bustling city of San Salvador:

As you can see, the coastline is beautiful.

Those little green things in the tree are bananas.

The ancient ruins of Joya de Ceren.

Sometimes pedaling up the hill is just a little too hard on your own.

One of the eight active volcanoes in a country the size of Massachusetts, but don't ask me which one this is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another M.T.A. Deal In The Works

With a little more than a month to go until the transit authority hikes fares and slashes services, the state senate is discombobulated on what to do about funding the NYC subway but they do know something has to be done. The latest plan was read from Senator Dilan to reporters earlier this afternoon.

From PolitickerNY:

--A drop-off tax for taxis of either 50 cents or a dollar, depending upon how much is needed for upstate roads bridges

--A car registration surcharge

--A payroll tax, without exemption for school districts or non-profits

--A driver's license surcharge

--The smaller fare hike proposed by the M.T.A.

"We should hopefully have a draft bill today or tomorrow," Dilan said.

Notice that out of all points, there is no toll. The Gang of Four had that as a sticking point, so this bill might actually have legs to carry it across the finish line without the help of the minority caucus. The suburban Dems like Craig Johnson have expressed disapproval of the payroll tax before but if they can be quelled by the taxi surcharge then this thing could be a go.

It is a shame though that funding the M.T.A. has to be such an arduous task. This mess is upon us due to years of fiscal mismanagement and all Albany could come up with this year is a hodge podge of fees along with a second fare hike in about fourteen months. What we need is a more comprehensive, long-term plan though our Senate and its' leaders are too timid to push for a more solid solution. Instead we'll probably be looking at another fare hike next year, whether it be five, fifteen or twenty-five percent.

Michael Savage Sues DHS To Protect His Extremist Listeners

Janet Napolitano has only been in charge of the Department of Homeland Security for a few months, but she is already the target of a lawsuit brought by the wingnut radio commentator Michael Savage. Napolitano had a report released that showed extremist groups go after war vets and to Savage, that warrants litigation (frivolous lawsuit anyone?) to rile up his core listeners.

From ThinkProgress:

Last week, hate radio host Michael Savage, in conjunction with the Thomas More Law Center, filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. They claim DHS has violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment rights by “attempting to chill their free speech, expressive association, and equal protection rights.” GWU Law Professor Orin Kerr responds:

Isn’t the lawsuit frivolous? As I read it, the lawsuit is claiming that the issuance of a government report criticizing certain groups violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. But the Constitution doesn’t provide a constitutional right to have the government not say things that might be considered criticism. Perhaps the plaintiffs want the Constitution to be radically reinterpreted by activist judges to invent some brand-new constitutional rights?

Today’s Progress Report has more here on what the DHS report actually says and how conservatives are reacting.

Now I'm sure Savage's narrow mind and short-term memory helps him forget people such as Timothy McVeigh but this lawsuit is out of control and a waste of time for any court's docket. And since Savage hasn't been one to shy away from the "frivolous lawsuit" debate we can tack on the label of hypocrisy to this stunt as well. Conservatives are all about tracking down terrorists in foreign countries and leaving them in unconstitutional prisons, but heaven forbid we examine where domestic terrorist groups recruit their members who blow up federal buildings.

I guess we wouldn't want to lose the support of the fanatics within the Republican party now would we?

Scenes From San Salvador

I posted a short essay on El Salvador and the hope of Mauricio Funes for the country yesterday, but today I'd just like to show you a few of my favorite photos I took from within the city:

As you can see there's a lot of poverty.

And corporate America is in full effect, even trimming the hedges.

But it is very beautiful set amongst the mountains.

Sitting inside one of the many pupuserias.

One of the optimal ways of carrying large items around.

More to come!

Smith Stands Up To Paterson And Democracy On Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Majority Leader Malcolm Smith isn't against passing a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but he wants it done his way, the "Albany" way. Paterson is trying to bring the bill to the Legislature even if it won't pass this time around. While the Governor may be doing it to redeem his popularity before the 2010 election, the importance of the issue is far greater than Paterson's motivations. Smith is also standing by his position based on politics, dedicated to sticking with the old, corruptive means even if the end is something good.

From The Daily Politics:

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith is sticking to his guns on gay marriage, insisting that he won't heed the governor's call to bring his program bill to the floor regardless of whether it has sufficient votes to pass.

"I'm very concerned about putting a bill on the floor that's going to be symbolism and not pass," the Queens Democrat said. "...I'm going to count until I know that I have 32 if not 34. I'm not going to move it on the floor if I don't have the numbers that I need."

Smith, who spoke briefly with reporters at the DRC meeting in Saratoga Springs last Friday night, also said that when it comes to marriage, he's "not going to get into horse trading" - a time-honored Albany tradition in which seemingly unrelated issues are linked in order to assure their passage by the Legislature.

"I'm not going to get into horse trading," Smith said. "This is the right issue. if you want to be on the right side of history then I think you should support this."
Smith is right that there is no need for horse trading. However, when it comes to being on the right side of history, if he truly believes that then it is only logical that he allow the Senate to vote on legalizing same-sex marriage. History is a record of what goes on in our society and our world, and there is no better place to show how our legislature behaves and responds to the people than the voting record.

Moreover, he should prove there is actual reform going on and allow someone besides himself bring the bill to the floor. Whether that be Tom Duane or anyone of the twenty-some senators in favor of the bill is irrelevant. The key is that we see more democracy in action in our state capitol and not pre-packaged votes that only happen when the Majority Leader has his ducks in a row.

2009 Is Not 1960 In NY-20

I know that historical anecdotes in close elections make for interesting copy, people always love to compare the past to the present when searching for answers. Yet for the comment from PolitickerNY this morning on the Times-Union article showcasing the epic George Chambers-John Rouse of 1960 is a little bit misleading.

From PolitickerNY:

The ballot counting in the race between Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy could stretch seven months, as one 1960 election did.
The Times-Union merely recapped what went on in that House race 49 years ago. To even insinuate this race could stretch out several months is a stretch. First of all, Murphy is currently leading by 273 votes and the remaining challenged ballots are mostly held up by Tedisco's team. As polling guru Nate Silver sees it, all indicators show a Murphy win. Already, the court decisions are going Murphy's way as well, so for this to last several months is highly unlikely, even if Tedisco goes all "Norm Coleman" out.

At Least Bloomberg Has A Sense Of Humor

Of course self-deprecation is a must for this event:

Ah, if only a 94% to 6% loss was a real possibility.

Gioia Advocates Against Fast Food Near Schools

Councilman and Public Advocate candidate Eric Gioia is looking to make news besides from the weekly Public Advocate forums between him and his three competitors. Going off a recent study examining the distance of fast food restaurants and public schools, Gioia wants to do something about the increased obesity rates that are being found.

From The NY Times:

“With the proliferation of fast-food restaurants directly around schools, it’s a clear and present danger to our children’s health,” said Mr. Gioia, who proposed the ban at a news conference at a school opposite a McDonald’s in TriBeCa on Sunday.

“A fast-food restaurant on the corner can have a terrible impact on a child’s life,” he said. “Obesity, diabetes, hypertension — it’s a step toward a less healthy life.”

Under Mr. Gioia’s proposal, new fast-food restaurants would be prohibited within a tenth of a mile of schools; existing locations would be exempt.
While the fast food industry is quick to whine about this or any information that puts them in a negative light, the actual proposal is rather weak. Creating a two-block (Manhattan street-sized that is) sounds more like a ploy to grab a headline than anything else. With the amount of advertising, child-friendly gimmicks and permits allowed for fast food establishments in the city, kids won't mind walking an extra three to five hundred feet to get that extra thousands calories clogged inside those young arteries.

Gioia is going to have to do better than a 1/10th of a mile ban on fast food restaurants if he plans on convincing us of his advocation for children's health.

Yet Another Reason Not To Trust Wall Street

I know, I know, there is already more than enough out there to prove the point Wall Street can't be trusted. Well, here's some more. It seems the billions in bailout money that went to the big banks were not used for what they were intended for. (Gasp!) No really, now there is serious proof. The banks were supposed to start lending more money out to make the economy going. Many CEOs claimed they were doing that in order to fend off any lawmaker who asked them about it. Unfortunately though for the rest of us, they were lying.

From The Huffington Post:

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Treasury Department data, the biggest recipients of taxpayer aid made or refinanced 23% less in new loans in February, the latest available data, than in October, the month the Treasury kicked off the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The total dollar amount of new loans declined in three of the four months the government has reported this data. All but three of the 19 largest TARP recipients with comparable data originated fewer loans in February than they did at the time they received federal infusions.

The Journal's analysis paints a starker picture of the lending environment than the monthly snapshots released by the government and is a reminder of the severity of the credit contraction. One reason for the disparity: The Treasury crunches the data in a way that some experts say understates the lending decline.

Basically the bailout as it played out was wholly ineffective. The banks did not follow instructions from the government and instead went with the attitude of the market and squeezed their lending practices even further. Thanks to almost no oversight from the Congress for the TARP money, there was nothing anyone could do once those billions were doled out.

Now we were told when TARP was being drawn up that everything was going to go by the book and that the banks would do as they were told. The cynics though, we right and there was no reason to doubt them. Unless you have stringent oversight when dealing with Wall Street, the odds are everyone but them is going to get screwed in some fashion. Many of these people should be in jail but then where would they spend those fat bonuses for a job gone horribly wrong well done?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Real News On The Status Of EFCA Legislation

As the program notes, the biggest problem that faces workers today that wish to unionize is the law as it stands now. Corporate America has dictated the tone and metamorphisis of union legislation for far too long and EFCA would be a great first step in turning that around.

Just Got Back From El Salvador

Wow, it has been more than a week since I last posted a blog, probably a record for me in the last two years or so. Though it has been for good reason though, I was spending the time down in El Salvador with my fiancée. Although I thought I'd be doing more touristy things, what I saw was simply incredible. I didn't know what to expect when I went down there other than that the country was poor and Mauricio Funes is like the Barack Obama for the poor.

I did expect some humidity to start with, and it hit hard at the airport. San Salvador was a little more bearable in that regard with the increase in altitude, but as fast as we climbed in elevation, the pollution skyrocketed thanks to fume-belching buses and many cars that were anything but up to U.S. standards. The city was spread out between volcanoes and other mountains, and full of activity. Much of the area is very poor, but there are a few neighborhoods that you'd call upper-middle class in America. The CIA calls it a dangerous place but from my experience in the last week, as long as you don't flash any signs of wealth no one is really going to bother you, so long as you do not venture into dangerous goes for any metropolitan area in and out of the U.S.

Now I could go in a million directions with this post, but I'm going to contain it to politics as much as I can. Driving around the city and throughout the countryside, many Campesinos and San Salvadoreñans alike flew many flags for FMLN and put up posters of Mauricio Funes. I even got myself one of the dozen or so types of FMLN camisetas that are being sold in the markets of central San Salvador. Billboards also dot the landscape, thanking El Salvador for voting for him, even as pictures of the current President still grace the airport and municipal buildings.

From what I gathered in my travels, many people see him as the man that can help save the country from the greedy capitalists. Meanwhile, the ARENA party tried to make voters afraid that he'd turn the country communist. The truth is, the FMLN is not what it was during the civil war and has become much more of a political organization and not a guerilla war operation.

Years of right-wing domination has made the country an outpost for corporate America. It was unbelievable to see the name-brand companies from the United States and oh did they dominate the landscape. Everything from KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut for food, Shell and Texaco for gas (more expensive down there than it is in New Jersey) and Citibank is practically everywhere. Though there is plenty of the authentic El Salvadoreñan experience awaiting travellers from abroad, there is no way it was this would have flown under a more leftist government.

Many of the voters that gave FMLN its' slight edge are hoping that Funes will be more like a Lula da Silva of Brazil and not a Chavez of Venezuela. What this impoverished country needs is a leader that will stand up for his people without completely scaring away business. Lula has already shown it can be done in Brazil, I hope that Funes can follow in his lead. I can't wait to see how things progress in the coming months and years. At the very least, those in ARENA that are afraid of a communist takeover will have their fears assuaged.