Saturday, May 02, 2009

Yet Another Reason To Close Indian Point

Environmental groups have been trying to shut down the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant for years and really, even before it was built. It was a bad idea then, it is still a bad idea now. The fact that a nuclear reactor sits only twenty-five miles from the largest city in the United States is scary to say the least. The history of the plant should have been enough to close all the reactors at the site, yet it continues to be a silent plague upon the tri-state area. And now we have another moment to add to that history.

From The NY Times:

A one-and-a-half-inch hole caused by corrosion allowed about 100,000 gallons of water to escape from the main system that keeps the reactor cool immediately after any shutdown, according to nuclear experts. The leak was discovered on Feb. 16, according to the plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of the Entergy Corporation.

Entergy and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission emphasized that the Indian Point reactor could still have been shut down safely with either of two other backup systems, although operators generally avoid using both.

They also stressed that the supply pipe was quickly repaired after the leak was found and that the water itself, which is cleaner than tap water, posed no environmental threat. Yet the leak’s discovery has prompted Entergy and the regulatory commission to begin studying how the chief system for cooling during shutdowns, so important that the Indian Point 2 has three pumps in place to do the same job, could be endangered by the failure of a single part.
Of course Entergy is going to say that this is no big deal. Power is expensive and when you are the one selling it, it is obvious you'll do anything to keep that sale going. That is especially so when you have morality that keeps a nuclear reactor running so close to a major population center like New York City.

What needs to happen here is one thing, and one thing only. Just shut it down. The state can do it if they have the spine to stand up to Entergy.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Candidate Obama On Supreme Court Justices

From what seems like a lifetime ago, here's what Barack Obama said about nominating Supreme Court Justices way back when he was one of many Democratic candidates running for the presidency:

Protecting privacy, the vulnerable and those that know about how real issues affect people outside of Washington is exactly what the American people need up on the highest judicial bench in the land.

Bush Authorized Torture

Hey Truth and Reconciliation Commission, get a load of this. It turns out that the once great and mighty leader, a.k.a. George W. Bush, had indeed approved of torture and knowingly broke the law. The information about this has been out there for quite some time, but leave it to the blogosphere to take notice of it and make it news.

From The Public Record:

A senior FBI agent stationed in Iraq in 2004 claimed in an e-mail that President George W. Bush signed an executive order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other harsh tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

The FBI e-mail -- dated May 22, 2004 -- followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential executive order.

According to the e-mail, Bush’s alleged executive order authorized interrogators to use military dogs, “stress positions,” sleep “management,” loud music and “sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.” to extract information from detainees in Iraq, which is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions ban against cruel and unusual punishments.
Well Senator Leahy, there you go. On the record proof that George Bush willingly broke the law. He thumbed his nose at the rule of law and the rest of the country so that he could be "tough" with Iraqi detainees. Now, we know there's damning proof to at the very least indict Bush for war crimes, but I'm not holding my breath on account of Leahy's ability to actually make ex-President Bush accountable for his crimes.

NYPD Will Stop, Frisk, Then Explain...But Kelly Won't Talk To City Council About It

The NYPD, as regressive as they are with the heavily used "stop and frisk" policy, made a slightly beneficial change in procedure as to how they deal with the minorities they love to search. Instead of just stopping people and frisking them for weapons, at the end of the intrusion they'll hand each person a card stating why they were searched. It's a step forward, but that doesn't mean City Councilmembers reviewing NYPD practices are happy.

From The NY Times:

While Mr. Kelly was discussing the new policy, at a news conference devoted mainly to the introduction of hybrid patrol cars, the department was skipping a City Council Public Safety Committee hearing about the “stop and frisk” practice. Instead of attending himself, Mr. Kelly sent an assistant commissioner to read his letter but to take no questions.

“The speaker and I are very disappointed, first of all, that the Police Department did not answer questions and secondly that they only advised us eight days ago that they would not be testifying when they had well over three weeks’ notice that we were preparing for this hearing,” said Peter F. Vallone Jr., the committee chairman.

Mr. Vallone hailed the new procedure, but objected to the way those plans were made public.

“It seems that some of their best policy improvements, like this one, come on the eve of a public safety hearing, which then slants coverage of the hearing toward their new policy,” Mr. Vallone said. “If that works to improve the Police Department, I am O.K. with it, but I would rather it not happen that way.”
Vallone of course, is the NYPD's biggest cheerleader, so to at least hear him disapproving of Kelly's actions is considerable. The reason he didn't attend, according to the Times is the impending lawsuit against the Police Department for their use of the "stop and frisk." So it seems like the NYPD's addition of "explain" to their stopping and frisking is a way to please the Court so that they do not strike the practice altogether.

Boehner Reverts To Fearmongering

Perhaps this is what the "rebranding" effort is all about. Producing videos and making statements about how afraid we all should be now that Barack Obama is in charge. Boehner and the GOP will use whatever tactic, from fearmongering about terror to how bad it is that Obama wants to help the middle class take all the tax cuts away from the rich. The only problem with this is that there is no "rebranding" going on here, it's simply more of the same from a failed national regional party.

With Souter Out, Who Will Obama Nominate To The Court?

Last night's big news, that Justice David Souter will be retiring from the Supreme Court has everyone talking. Although he isn't the youngest on the Court, he is certainly much younger than the eldest. Justice Stevens turns 89 this year, making him 20 years older than Souter. Whatever his reason for stepping down, the big question becomes, who will Obama pick to replace him? Although with the story not even a day old, there's already a consensus that the next justice will be a woman.

RawStory has some possible names:

Court experts have said Obama is likely to choose a woman as his first nominee. Among the possible candidates are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, the administration's top courtroom lawyer who argues before the Supreme Court; Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and appeals court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood.
I've personally heard of Elena Kagan and of course Gov. Granholm, but I can't say much about the other two. Whoever he ends up picking, from that list or elsewhere, the battle to get her in will be difficult to say the least. Even with the "60" in the Senate, not all those Democrats are in the liberal/progressive corner. And the forty Republicans will also be making a big stink, for the sake of stinking up the process.

Quinn Gives A Weak Excuse For Not Endorsing A Democrat

Speaker Quinn is continuing to take heat for not getting behind her own party in this year's mayoral election. Her close ties with the Mayor have been scrutinized and many have seen it as an attempt to get in Bloomberg's best graces so that she can be the front-runner in 2013 (if Bloomberg steps aside that is). She's been asked before to endorse the Democrat, whomever that is, but again, she just can't seem to do it.

From PolitickerNY:

Quinn said, “Once the Democratic primary is over and we know who’s running on what lines and where, I will pick the person, if I make an endorsement. If I make an endorsement I will choose the person I believe is best for the city. I am not prepared to say that will absolutely be the Democratic candidate—the Democratic primary winner.”
Basically she skirts the question to support the Democrat, not which Democrat.

Like the rest of the city, but perhaps even more so, the third district is heavily Democratic and is starting to pay close attention to Quinn, her record and most importantly, her challengers. One of them, Yetta Kurland, has already picked up several endorsements, most notably from the NY Blade. Quinn might expect it to be easy going as she is the all-powerful Speaker, but your base can't just be at City Hall come election day. Not even Bloomberg's millions can save her there.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

RNC Chair Michael Steele Blasts GOP

Now call me strange, but I always thought that the head of a national political party would be a promoter of his or her own organization. Yet Michael Steele did nothing of the sort this morning, correctly asserting how Republicans started the bank bailouts, not Democrats. He even wentso far as to call Republicans who bad mouth Democrats "disingenuous."

Right on Mike!

Dinkins Lends Tepid Support To Thompson

Former Mayor David Dinkins came out and not surprisingly endorsed Bill Thompson for his old job. On the face of it, the news sounds good for the candidate but unfortunately Dinkins screws everything up from there. Perhaps he's not as politically savvy as he once was or simply that he doesn't care much for Thompson, but the fact is he didn't really make a case for Thompson or even against Bloomberg.

From The NY Daily News:

Former Mayor David Dinkins said today he'll endorse Comptroller Bill Thompson for mayor, but does not anticipate saying anything negative about Mayor Bloomberg because he thinks the mayor has "done a pretty good job.”

“Other than 1969, when I endorsed John Lindsay, I have never, ever supported a candidate for mayor who wasn’t a Democrat," Dinkins told the DN's Michael Saul.

“I think (Thompson) is a fine public servant. I’ve known him forever," Dinkins continued. "So, I’m, I suppose, in a sense, biased. His father is a good friend of mine, and that’s a factor as well. But I think Billy will do fine."

Not much more enthusiasm than his 2005 endorsement of Ferrer:

At the time, Dinkins and other prominent Democrats’ support of Ferrer was viewed as lukewarm because they never offered a rationale for why Bloomberg should be booted from office.

“It’s just not my style to lambaste the opposition, unless it’s, you know, Mario Procaccino or Rudolph Giuliani, somebody I see as very extreme, but otherwise that’s just not me,” Dinkins explained. "...I like Mike."
"I like Mike" he says.....

If only New York City had a Democratic party that was able to cart Dinkins immediately off the stage, never to be seen again. Then again, if we had a strong party in this city perhaps the former mayor might actually show real support for Thompson, or whomever out there running against the Conservative and Republican-backed Mayor Bloomberg. Either way, the Democratic nominee is going to need surrogates that give a damn, not those that can't name a single reason to not like the plutocratic mayor we have now.

The Dysfunctional New York Senate

Jimmy Vielkind of the PolitickerNY penned an article on the highly dysfunctional State Senate today. The question he asks, whether or not the Senate can do the business of the New York is one that remains unanswered, even though some lobbyists are hopeful of potential movement once the Democratic majority gets some time under their belts. As for now though, nothing is happening and the narrow split in the chamber isn't helping anyone.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—After yet another failure to hash out an agreement on how to bail out the M.T.A. this week, State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith declared that it was no longer about the merits, but purely about "what gets us there with the votes we need to get it passed."[...]

"From my perspective, it's extremely frustrating that everyone from the staff down to the speaker to the most recently elected senators can't speak for anyone but themselves, and don't," said one person who represents a major interest group with business before the senate. "Everyone involved should be educating these folks that they actually have a job to perform. It's not just about getting re-elected, it's about running the state."

Yet "getting re-elected" is all that anyone cares about, unless you are Dean Skelos, who can tack on "getting power back from the Democrats" to his primary goal of re-election. Skelos has no intention of helping Smith get legislation passed and the Majority Leader has no willingness to let Skelos be a part of the process. With a few renegade dems within the caucus such as Kruger, Diaz and Espada, Smith doesn't have a true majority and because of it, we all lose out. Whether it be straphangers in New York City or school funding upstate, New Yorkers are suffering from Senate inaction and general dysfunction. As Vielkind quotes Smith, saying that the Senators need to be big boys, men and ladies, it is yet to be seen in any regard.

Ex-Sec. Rice Says President Is Above The Law

Although the ex-Secretary of State tried to word her statement carefully, she failed terribly in her answer to a student concerning torture and her involvement in it. Cenk Uyugr helps publicize the exchange where she pretty much has a Frost/Nixon moment declaring the President is above the law.

Bloomberg Looks To Increase City Sales Tax

Bloomberg has said that he loves rich people (which includes himself, as he is the wealthiest New Yorker as well as Mayor) and he shows it. The great majority of us who aren't do not get as much love, as he shows it in his policies and programs. Despite the millions spent on ads proclaiming his greatness to the city so that we re-elect him, the reality of what he's done to the city is far from the messages on his thirty-second spots and indirect ads plastered on subways extolling the city's efforts on such things as education are misleading those who read them. Parents who actually have to deal with the school system strongly disagree.

This post isn't about education though, but the topic does tie into the priorities of Bloomberg's Administration. With the tough economic times everyone is facing, the mayor fought off attempts to get a raise in the personal income tax for the wealthy, but if he is serious about raising the sales tax to 8.75%, it shows he's ready to institute a regressive tax on all New Yorkers instead of a progressive tax that balances the burden of our city's budget gap.

From The NY Times:

A month after imposing a property tax increase, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to call for a $900 million increase in the city’s sales tax on Friday, as the city confronts a loss of revenue due to the economic downturn.

New York City already has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, at 8.375 percent, and retailers are likely to fight the increase.[...]

In addition to the sales tax increase, Mr. Bloomberg would eliminate the $400 property tax rebate, for an approximate savings of $250 million. He also planned to renew his call for Albany to approve legislation that would charge customers a nickel for each new plastic bag they useat most stores.

So far that measure has not gained great traction with the public, despite supporters’ claims that it is both environmentally friendly and good for the city’s bottom line. There may be other taxes or fees as well.

The tax increases are part of a broader package of tough-love measures that Mr. Bloomberg intends to outline on Friday.
Bloomberg is all about tough-love for the masses, but not for those that live in the top 5%. Some people might like that approach, but with an honest appraisal of his stewardship as Mayor, the majority of those supporters would have to lie in that upper echelon of New York's class system.

If you can still afford private school for your kids, it won't be as bothersome if our public schools are crumbling. A sales tax increase is far better than a rise in the personal income tax when you are making a salary in the mid to high six figures. Everyone knows it pays to be rich, but when Bloomberg is in charge, he's the smartest investment in town for the wealthy, because hey, he loves you!

And for the rest of us? Just believe how great he is, because all those ads with "Bloomberg" on it say so.

Peter King Flips Off Labor On EFCA

New York is still a big labor state despite years of declining activity. That decrease in membership is attributable to years of anti-union legislation brought on by conservatives (in both parties) that put Corporate America ahead of the working and middle class. Yet in New York, local politicians have generally supported unions, even on the Republican side. Congressman Peter King of Long Island tried favoring unions in spite of his party's leadership in Washington.

Now organizations like the AFL-CIO and SEIU among others are pushing to enact the best pro-union legislation in decades. Yet Peter King, who had initially voiced his support for his union friends, has now flipped on them. The unions are predictably pissed off.

From Newsday:

Long Island labor-union organizers, reacting to Rep. Peter King's about-face on the proposed Employees Free Choice Act, are planning to demonstrate at his district office tomorrow in Massapequa Park. Unions say they back the proposal, which King supported and even helped sponsor in the past, as a way to make it easier for them to organize using only card signatures. King has said that economic conditions of the moment make it a bad idea. President Obama is expected to sign the measure if it reaches his desk. The demonstrators are expected to wave -- you guessed it -- flip flops decrying King's new position. King's withdrawal of support came prior to the same move by Sen. Arlen Specter -- the Pennsylvania Republican who created national shockwaves Tuesday by quitting the GOP for the Democrats. (Will he switch back now?)
Of course King isn't the first politican to go back on his EFCA support but every lost vote is an important one. With every other issue getting more play in the news, unions and their advocates have not been able to make enough of an impact on legislators and their tenuous feeling on helping the rights of workers wanting to unionize. With enough pressure, this movement can get back on its feet and make sure Congress passes, and the President signs the legislation.

How Fox News Did "Fair And Balanced" With Obama's First 100 Days

You know how they say (or said) "We Report, You Decide" with as much seriousness as the Fox narrator can muster? I assume he doesn't watch the network much, in order to not burst out laughing everytime he's paid to say the tagline.

M.T.A. Plotting A Second Fare Increase This Year

In a month's time, without action from our state government, the subway fare is set to rise to $2.50. As much as this will bring the "doomsday" scenario upon us, M.T.A. chief Elliot Sander is already starting to psychologically prep us for yet another fare increase this year. And that isn't all, more service cuts could be on the way. If June will bring "doomsday," we could be at "end of days" before 2009 is out.

From The NY Daily News:

The doomsday budget sequel would be more hurtful to transit riders than the first round.

That round of service cuts - most of which to be phased in between June and December - focused on low-ridership bus routes where riders have alternative travel options.
"Having said what we did before was doomsday, this is even worse," Sander said.

"The next ones that we will be looking at are that much more painful...I think some would view them as horrific."

"I'm not sure the English language captures what goes beyond doomsday but to a transit
professional as a citizen and user of this system they are just unbelievably difficult and I think some would view them as horrific."

What could horrific mean when we are already shutting down a couple of subway lines, dozens of bus lines, fired transit workers and reduced frequency of off-hour trains? $3.00 or more for the fare? $150 metrocards? A possible overnight shutdown of the entire system like Boston and Washington, D.C.? This is all so crazy, perhaps we should give the Kheel Plan a look see and screw all the drivers so that straphangers a break for once.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bachmann Needs A History Tutor

How Minnesotans in Bachmann's district re-elected her is absolutely amazing. Not only is the Congresswoman a lying Republican gasbag, she's seriously lacking in her American history. One would hope that the people who represent us know a little something about what has gone on in Congress and the economic policies passed before them, but not Bachmann. She showed off her ignorance in front of her fellow legislators Monday night.

From TPM:

On Monday night, our friends at Dump Bachmann reported, Bachmann took to the House floor and paid tribute to the economic policies of Calvin Coolidge and the "Roaring 20s" (the era that ended with a massive monetary contraction and the Great Depression). One particular line really does stand out, though -- saying Franklin Roosevelt turned a recession into a depression through the "Hoot-Smalley" tariffs.
Hoot-Smalley? What the hell is that? Oh, perhaps she was talking about this:

Here's what really happened: When Franklin Roosevelt took office, unemployment was already about 25%. And the tariff referred to here was actually the Smoot-Hawley bill, co-authored by Republicans Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon, and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover.

Interestingly, this speech also happened on the same day as when Bachmann connected the 1970s swine flu outbreak to Democrat Jimmy Carter being president, even though it was actually Gerald Ford in office at the time.

Bachmann either is flying blind down there on the Hill or else she's trying to look like a complete fool on purpose. Maybe her motivation is to win some sort of award that makes her most likely to resemble the lunacy of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Or she might just like to see her name in the paper as the blogs (and sometimes the traditional media) lambast her for behaving like a moron.

Whatever the reason, I hope her constituents take a long hard look at their Congresswoman before deciding to re-elect her again next year. Even if they only replace her with another Republican, as long as they passed history class in high school, they'll be far better than Bachmann.

WFP Challenges Bloomberg To Debate

Now that the courts have all but given the final go-ahead to Bloomberg for his re-election run, it is time for the candidates to make their case to the people on why they should be, or continue to be Mayor of New York City. So far media mogul turned mayor has spent more money on advertising than most people make in a lifetime. $7.5 million in ads, yet no debate. So the Working Families Party is calling him out on it.

From The Working Families Party:

In times like these, we need a real race for Mayor.

The NYC mayoral contest is already overloaded with 30-second TV ads and 15-second sound bites. Mayor Bloomberg alone has spent more than $7.5 million on advertising.

If it's not too soon to spend that kind of money, then it's not too soon to start engaging directly with the people of New York City on the issues that matter to us.

Candidates Bill Thompson and Tony Avella have accepted our invitation to the Amsterdam News / El Diario-La Prensa / Working Families Party debate. Mayor Bloomberg is the only one we're waiting on.

Go on and sign the petition so that Mayor Bloomberg realizes that the city is not going to just re-elect him because of his wealth. New Yorkers need to hear concrete ideas and a discussion between the people that seek to implement those ideas. At this critical time in our city, we must have a real discussion, not an ad war.

Obama Mocks Teabaggers And Their Cheerleaders At Fox News

I couldn't even imagine an elected Democrat do this to fringe conservative protest group five or ten years ago. Yet the President of the United States has no qualms about calling these teabaggers out for the loons that they are:

Developers Cry Money In Trendy, Expensive Meatpacking District

In these tough times, people have to pull together, help one another in need. Perhaps a neighbor or a friend across town can't make rent or put food on the table. These are actual, real-life examples of living in a recession, or even a society that has a large gap between rich and poor. However in New York City, even the wealthy developers try put their hand in the cookie jar of the city's sympathies.

From The NY Times:

Then there are the hardships of city real estate developers. At a Tuesday meeting at the Board of Standards and Appeals, a lawyer, Gary R. Tarnoff, argued that his client, the Romanoff family, would face hardship if it could not get special permission to build a bigger office tower on its site next to the High Line, the long-awaited elevated park that has helped drive up real estate values in the meatpacking district.

At a meeting that ran more than two hours, Mr. Tarnoff argued that because the High Line cut through a section of the Romanoffs’ site, it was more costly to build a tower there — and, he said, lead contamination, poor soil conditions and a high water table had already added to the developer’s construction bill. So he proposed building a 12-story, 117,000-square-foot tower rather than a building at less than the 75,000 square feet that the city’s current zoning rules allow.

“We’re not saying we wish the High Line wasn’t there,” Mr. Tarnoff said. “But it makes it more expensive to build.”
Yeah I know, I can feel the tears streaming down your face. I'm ready to bawl myself. Seriously though, how ridiculous is it that the Romanoff company is even trying to argue about the costs of building on the high line. The benefits of being on an elevated park more than make up for construction costs.

With zoning laws under attack across the city, this is a case where the community must stand up and reject the Romanoff's bid to build yet another glass and steel edifice that is too big for the area it is being built in. Bloomberg and his allies have had too many victories in the last several years for their development and real estate industry friends. If Community Board 2 has any sense, they'll keep the Romanoffs in check and leave the development as is.

Sen. Duane Claims He Has Votes To Spare For Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday's ESPA advocacy-extravaganza made quite the impact on Albany. Thousands of LGBT allies went up to the capitol to demand equal rights. The focus was on the Senate of course, since the Assembly's passage of a same-sex marriage bill is practically guaranteed. The body's chief proponent of the legislation, Senator Tom Duane was certainly feeling the enthusiasm and expressed quite a bit of confidence in getting the bill passed this year.

From PolitickerNY:

The bill's passage in the Senate is, not surprisingly, less certain, but State Senator Tom Duane said he believes it will pass this year.

"We'll have enough votes to pass it, and I'll get a few extra to spare," Duane told me after a rally this morning. He did not name names.

I for one would love to know those names, besides that of Senator Alesi. Duane is going to need at least one or two other votes from the Republican caucus as Diaz Sr. and several other Dems have already gone on record as being against the bill.

Maddow Reminds Everyone Specter's Switch Isn't The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Like Rachel says, the last thing the Democratic party needs is another Joe Liebermanesque conservadem. The media has been repeating verbatim that with 60 seats in the Senate, Dems can be filibuster-proof, yet that isn't how the Senate works. All you have to do is listen to Arlen's words after having switched.

Airport TSA Coming To A Subway Station Near You

Get ready to take your shoes off when getting on the subway. Well not really, but the TSA employees that demand it of travelers at airports will be coming to New York's subway stations to replace some of the NYPD officers that make random bag searches. It's bad enough that the cops are allowed to randomly (and ineffectually) stop straphangers without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Now it'll be even worse:

MYFOXNY.COM - EXCLUSIVE: The New York Police Department is shrinking, and the department can't hire the number of cops it would like to. Fox 5 News has learned that help is coming from security screeners at the area airports. They'll be replacing some police officers in the subway who do bag searches. But some critics say this is just another clear example that the economy has affected security.

Within the next two months, Transportation Security Administration bag screeners from Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports will be replacing most NYPD cops in the subway that screen bags for explosives.[...]

This is how it would work: About 30 TSA screeners a day will be pulled from the three area airports Monday through Friday to inspect bags at various subway locations throughout the city. At each location they'll be teamed up with one police officer instead of the two or three officers you currently see at inspection sites.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is blasting the plan, saying despite the city's financial crisis the city needs to hire more cops. According to the PBA, the city has 4,000 fewer cops on the street than it did in 2001.

Hiring more cops is another issue but the idea of putting the TSA at subway entrances is a terrible idea. They're bad enough at the airport, at worst abusing travelers and at the least acting as if they really made the airports secure. There is no way thirty of these people can keep the M.T.A. secure. Their presence, like that of the NYPD's current bag searchers is an act that either makes people think they're safe or simply that they have to trade their liberties so that it appears law enforcement is doing something to combat terrorism.

Seriously, leave the TSAers at the airport and put the cops on the trains where they can actually be of some assistance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eric Cantor's Hypocritical Tracks

Eric Cantor has been one of a few younger GOP officials that have been trying to assert themselves into a leadership role for the faltering Republican party. If tales of hypocrisy were the main criteria to be a leader, Cantor would certainly be on or near the top of the list. He may not be a secessionist who turns around the next week clamoring for specific kinds of federal assistance, but this is too good not to mention.

From The Huffington Post:

While the stimulus was being debated in January, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called a group of reporters into his office to outline the GOP's objections. As we filed in, we walked past a giant poster ridiculing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for allegedly pushing for high-speed rail connecting Disneyland and Las Vegas.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Cantor called that project an example of "waste and pork-barrel spending."

Yet one man's pork is another man's prudent investment in transit -- and sometimes the same man's.

Asked about high-speed rail at a recent local event in Virginia, Cantor was all thumbs up. "If there is one thing that I think all of us here on both sides of the political aisle from all parts of the region agree with, it's that we need to do all we can to promote jobs here in the Richmond area," Cantor said of the high-speed rail.

Even though the Disneyland to Vegas high speed rail story was a complete fabrication, Cantor went with it anyway. After being thoroughly disproved the Congressman continued to repeat the lie for the sake of cheap political points among his base. Now that the bill has passed and his vote was recorded as a no, he is trying to claim credit and hype the stimulus money that is coming Virginia's way. It really is amazing to watch Cantor tout the jobs Obama and Democrats in Congress helped create, fighting off people like him to make it happen.

"Do as I say, not as I do," seems to be this politician's creed.

DNC Tells Coleman To Do The Right Thing

Like Jim Tedisco did last week, the DNC is calling on Norm Coleman to concede the race he lost to Al Franken and let Minnesota have their second senator in office. It's been more than six months since the election and most Minnesotans think it is far beyond the time for Norm to let go of the outcome and surrender to the inevitable.

LGBT Advocacy Group Swarms Albany And Its Legislators

As anyone who's been to Albany for the sake of a particular cause, Tuesday is lobbying day (for the regular folk). The LGBT community and its supporters took head and took action by going 2,000 people strong up there to advocate for equal rights and same-sex marriage. With important legislation in committees now deciding the fate of equal rights in New York, their presence was timely to say the least.

From The Times-Union:

This year the event sold out and calls were pouring in of people trying to get tickets. “It was bigger than a Madonna concert,” said ESPA Executive Director Alan Van Capelle in an interview before he took the stage.

Van Capelle noted that most of the buses that brought supporters up were paid for by labor unions. “Organized labor recognizes that you can’t support economic justice without social justice,” he said.

The convention center is filled with cheering supporters, sitting by Senate District, who will meet with individual legislators. It is a concertedly organized affair — Empire State Pride Agenda has arranged for trained “meeting facilitators” to sit in on every meeting between advocates and Senate members and staff. Not every meeting with the Assembly will have similar facilitators. The Assembly passed the gay marriage bill in 2007 and is expected to pass again this year.

Van Capelle said that they have targeted particular Senate districts — Republican and Democrat. They have been polling in the district, organizing residents to talk with particular Senators and advocate.

More and more New Yorkers, whether gay or straight want equal rights across the board. The enthusiasm for the bill cannot be denied and the Republican leadership in the Senate's decision to let Senators vote their conscience was an affirmation of that. Now let's see if all those ESPA supporters can change the minds of just a few Republicans to join the majority of Dems in passing same-sex marriage rights.

Arlen Specter Converts....To A Democrat

It is now being reported that sometime later today, the five-term Republican Senator from Pennsylvania is going to switch parties and run as a Democrat. The consequences of this action are huge. Whether it be the 60 seat "filibuster-proof" majority for the Democratic caucus, the stinging blow to an increasingly fringe Republican party or Pennsylvania's final affirmation that it is no longer a swing state but one that is solid blue, this is monumental news.

From The Washington Post:

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

That has to hurt if you are Mitch McConnell or one of his forty thirty-nine caucus members. Then again, it should have been expected, because there was no other way for Specter to have gone unless he purposefully wanted to lose next year's primary election. The Republican party in PA, like the rest of it nation wide is moving far to the right and away from not only Arlen's political philosophy, but many other Americans as well.

Politically speaking, this gives the Republican nomination to Club for Growth's Pat Toomey on a platter and wipes out any Democrat who was thinking of going in to the race. Toomey's victory though will be short-lived, because come November of 2010, Specter will be looking ahead to his sixth term, only this time with a (D) at the end of his name.

Though as Kos notes, he stays anti-EFCA, a very odd way to start off as a Dem representing Pennsylvania.

The more I think about this, while it sounds good as a story for a story's sake, having Specter stay in and not be replaced by a more liberal, actual Democrat is overall a bad thing for PA. Pennsylvania needs someone that isn't like Joe Lieberman. Progressives down there need to come up with a quick plan if they are going to get someone in the race that will actually stand up for the unions, not just a senator that (after several months) had the wherewithall to switch parties so that he'd remain a senator.

Kaptur Asks Why AIG Gets Special Treatment Auto Workers Do Not

The government has been super strict and harsh on an auto companies that has been behind on the curve in the world market of cars. While they need to get their act together, the fact that AIG got a slight slap on the wrist for their fiscal atrocities is just a bit of a double standard. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur makes a point of it on the House floor:

Unnatural Carbon Dioxide

While idiots like Michelle Bachmann make claims about how great and natural CO2 is, back in the real world the scientific data on rising carbon dioxide levels is becoming more and more dire. Far away from the right-wing nuts in America, monitors in Norway are finding that carbon dioxide levels are rising at a rate they never thought possible.

From The Guardian:

Levels of the gas at the Zeppelin research station on Svalbard, northern Norway, last week peaked at over 397 parts per million (ppm), an increase of more than 2.5ppm on 2008. They have since begun to reduce and today stand at 393.7ppm. Prior to the industrial revolution, CO2 levels were around 280ppm.

CO2 levels recorded in Svalbard tend to be higher than the global average, but scientists said the CO2 level they had measured was unprecedented even for that location. "These are the highest figures collected in 50m years," said Johan Strom, professor of atmospheric physics at the government-funded Norwegian Polar Institute, which collected the data.

"It is not the level of CO2 that is the problem, because the earth will adapt. What is very worrying is the speed of change. Levels [here] are now increasing 2-3ppm a year.
Two to three parts per million does not sound like a lot to the lay person, but to scientists it is quite alarming. And as the rate of increase also rises, the future of our planet and the way we live in it is in peril. The Earth will eventually balance itself out, but as for the society we live in, adapting to a warmer planet has more in store for us than we currently realize. As for climate change deniers like Michelle Bachman, the carbon dioxide that comes out of our noses is not cause for concern but the particles released from our factories, buildings and cars is.

Times-Union Makes A Bigger Audience For Itself

If there is any one word to describe the newspaper industry, it is "decline." Many institutions have closed and advertising revenues are falling across the board. The fact is, people are getting more of their news online and from sources that aren't always first found in print. There has certainly been a lot of complaining from newspaper executives that whine about the big bad internet, the same medium they had belittled not ten years ago. Of course that doesn't apply to every publication, like New York's very own Times-Union, which despite losing a chunk of their print audience, still managed to add readers at a clip that puts them in the top ten of the nation.

From The Times-Union:

The newspaper's net combined audience of print and online readership increased 8.7 percent to 506,929 for the six months prior to March 31, the seventh-best growth of any U.S. daily, according to Editor & Publisher, an industry trade journal. The measurement includes those who have read a newspaper's print edition in the past seven days and its Web site within the past 30 days.

The Times Union also recorded a slight increase in Sunday circulation, rising to 141,105 for the October-to-March period from 141,064 in the same six months a year earlier.

But the newspaper's average Monday-through-Friday circulation decreased to 78,973 in the most recent reporting period from 89,257 a year earlier. That's an 11 percent decline.

The reality about print newspapers is that they are on their way out. What the newspaper industry does about it is up to them. For the Times Union at least, they are doing something right to gain overall readers and for that, they are commended.

Rep. Walter Jones Speaks On The Floor About PTSD

Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) spoke truthfully about the problems of PTSD and TBI on the floor of the House. Due to the overwhelming problem the military faces because of these illinesses, he helped introduce a smart bill so that the government begins to take the problems of PTSD seriously and is able to treat our soldiers.

Monday, April 27, 2009

M.T.A. Budget Woes Go From Bad To Worse

The Senate Democrats are finally starting a conversation bill to address the M.T.A.'s massive budget deficit. They might want to add today's news from the transit authority to that talk, as things are even worse than what they seemed to be only a few weeks ago when the doomsday budget was voted on. We aren't just talking a little worse, this is on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars.

From The NY Times:

Plummeting revenues from ridership, tolls and taxes mean that even after it raises fares by up to 30 percent and slashes service, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a $621 million deficit this year, officials reported on Monday, as they presented a revised budget forecast. According to the new forecast, next year’s deficit will be more than $1 billion.

The authority’s financial outlook has become worse as the regional economy sinks deeper into an economic slump.

The authority has been hoping that the Legislature in Albany would pass a rescue package to help it balance the books this year and next year and provide long-term funding for its crucial capital program, which pays for the purchase of new buses and train cars and critical maintenance and modernization of the transit system.

The economy is putting the hurt on the M.T.A. in so many ways. Less riders and less real estate taxes, coupled with years of being debt-riddled by the legislature is making the situation extremely painful. As long as the state senate remains gridlocked by a few obnoxious and egotistical Conservadems within their ranks, the problems that confront straphangers will continue to mount. What the city needs is a comprehensive plan that funds the M.T.A.'s projects (with good oversight), keeps service going and trims the massive amount of debt that has been lying around. Without a solid plan, New Yorkers will be met with another fare increase, whether it be to $3.00 or more by the same time next year.

Abu Zubaydah Interrogator Speaks Out, "Torture Was Wrong"

Terrorism is bad, really bad. We all get that, whether you were in Lower Manhattan on September 11th or in a crowded Baghdad market where a bicyclist with a bomb detonated himself. Terrorism happens all over the world, and those that seek to terrorize should be stopped and interrogated in order to glean information about what they know about in terms of their organization and future attacks. That would be the basics. How you get that information from them is entirely different story. In the case of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, it is one hell of an incredible story.

From The American Prospect:

The story of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan plays out like a movie. The son of an immigrant from Lebanon, Soufan, using traditional interrogation methods, gleaned from Abu Zubayda a plot to plant a dirty bomb in the United States and the alias of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He turned the jihadis greatest weapons against them, citing Qu'ranic verses from memory and using his knowledge of Islam to gain the trust of terrorist detainees, then using the trust he had gained to get information that saved American lives. When he discovered that the CIA was planning on torturing Zubayda, his reaction was that of a lawman: "I swear to God," he reportedly said to FBI assistant director for counterterrorism Pasquale D'Amuro, "I'm going to arrest these guys!"

Soufan's courage and respect for American values contrasts sharply with former CIA official Michael Scheuer, who insists that the only way to protect America is through torture and that anyone who believes otherwise is anti-American. This contradicts the CIA Inspector General's own 2004 findings that there is no conclusive information that tortured yielded information that foiled "specific imminent attacks." Scheuer's belief in the power of torture is not empirical, but ideological, just like that of James Mitchell, the former Air Force psychologist who helped design the torture program and who, despite having never interrogated a prisoner a day in his life, told Ali Soufan he had no idea what he was doing.

Soufan knew what he was doing and did it well, for the benefit of millions of American lives. Scheuer and others like him however, let their machismo go to their heads, not only compromising the ability to obtain truthful information, but destroying the credibility of the United States in the world's eyes. Tenet may have been given a medal of freedom by President Bush, but Obama should snatch it back and bestow it upon Mr. Soufan.

Assemblyman Dinowitz Threatens Change On Maria Baez

Assemblyman Dinowitz pulled no punches for change in the Bronx. The borough certainly needs it with many self-serving politicians living in and out of the area. He was talking specifically about the representation within the City Council and quite possibly Maria Baez. Whomever it was, one thing is for sure, it was a subject that sorely needs to be discussed and acted upon.

Tedisco Lost For Micro And Macro Reasons

The Albany Times-Union penned an article today on why Tedisco lost the race to Murphy. How could a local, well-known politician in the area and without high negatives lose a six-week campaign to a young, unknown businessman in a traditionally Republican district? The Times-Union covers their bases, but in title they point to a lack of unity in and among the GOP.

From The Times-Union:

State chairman Joseph Mondello wanted Tedisco, 58, as did Saratoga County's John "Jasper" Nolan, whose opinion was powerful because the leaders' votes were weighted by county population. But Washington and Essex counties lined up behind Betty Little, a popular state senator from Queensbury. Warren County voted narrowly for Tedisco. Elsewhere, Republicans in Columbia, Rensselaer, Delaware and Greene counties wanted Faso. Richard Wager in Dutchess County, who ran briefly against Kirsten Gillibrand in 2008, also had support, but Dutchess went for Tedisco.

As a result, Little — already in a delicate spot because she is related to Murphy by marriage — didn't go out of her way to help Tedisco in the North Country, and Faso didn't help in the south. Little was one of the first regional Republicans to suggest, once the vote count began to shift away from Tedisco, that he should start looking for an exit strategy.

Michael Grasso, the Warren County Republican chairman, praised Tedisco and said he was chosen fairly. But he admitted a lack of unity hurt the cause.

Grasso also said Little would have won, and theorized Murphy — an unknown who needed the North Country support — wouldn't have gotten in the race if Little had been the Republican candidate. He also said Tedisco ("a great guy who has always been there for the taxpayer") could have won with a different campaign.

"But hindsight is 20-20," Grasso said.

Hindsight is 20-20 but the vision, or lack there of from Tedisco and his party as a whole was pretty clear. For Tedisco himself, he immediately shot himself in the foot by not answering the question on the stimulus bill. It reflected negatively on whether he had principles to stand on and that matters to voters, especially in these economically sour times. His campaign ran too many negative ads against Murphy and not enough positive information on himself.

On the macro level, Republicans are becoming known as the party of no and without any ideas but to oppose the Democratic party on pretty much everything they propose to do for the nation. While national Republicans may think being the loyal opposition is the way to go, it doesn't work for a special election in a district that voted for Gillibrand in 06' and along with Barack Obama in'08. Furthermore, the NRCC did a terrible job despite spending a sizeable sum on the race. Making it a referendum on Obama's nascent Presidency was also a big mistake.

Basically, a lack of unity was a problem in selecting Tedisco as the candidate, but that by no means assured his eventual loss. When he started out in February, Tedisco was up by over 20 points. In the end, he lost by several hundred votes.

Paterson's Choice To Blow Off WFP Not Too Bright

Perhaps Paterson thinks (or at least says) that he's got the Democratic primary in the bag next year, but the reality of the situation is far from it. Paterson must deal with a very dissatisfied public following the Senate appointment fiasco and especially the budget debacle where Dr. Transparency morphed into Mr. Secrecy. The weekend before last the governor responded to the LCA with a skit that lampooned the efforts of the unions in the budget process and apparently that feeling goes beyond the stage he performed his skit on. The unions' fusion party, the WFP is being left out of the process by Paterson and he doesn't seem to care. What does that mean for Paterson's chances then?

From The NY Daily News:

The WFP is unlikely to endorse a Democratic challenger against the state's first black governor - if one emerges - and almost certainly wouldn't support Rudy Giuliani or any other Republican.

Still, an unenthusiastic WFP could hurt the governor when it comes to the get-out-the-vote operation for which the party is well-known. In addition, tensions between the WFP and Paterson could leave the party less inclined to help Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith widen his 32-to-30 majority - and more likely to back challengers against his members.

"[Smith] can't deliver for the governor," the source said. "[Paterson] has to help the Senate win more seats. The governor alienating some of the very forces central to helping Malcolm is not smart."

Paterson has very few friends left after his first year and this attitude of misplaced centrism (this is New York, not North Dakota) will not fool conservatives nor please the Democratic base that puts the man (or someday a woman) into the Governor's mansion. Working Families Party may not be the all-powerful constituency in the state, but if their focus is elsewhere, such as putting more labor-friendly Dems in office then Paterson may find himself getting an education far from the halls of power in Albany.

Sunday Talk Roundup

I missed most of the Sunday talk shows yesterday on account of the cast of Family Guy (they were on Inside the Actors Studio at Pace and the taping started at 1pm and wasn't over until 7:30. Thankfully though, we all have TPM and their amazing editors that can shrink it all down into four minutes:

GOP Saw Pandemic Flu Prep As "Wasteful Spending"

It almost feels like on every "do-gooder" issue, the Republican party falls woefully behind. Two months ago Bobby Jindal was ridiculed for mocking volcano monitoring, only to be further embarrassed when Mt. Redoubt in Alaska blew its top. While the lava and ash was thankfully going in the direction away from population centers, we knew that because there was money to fund programs that (gasp!) monitored the volcano.

Now the big panic in this country is all about the dreaded swine flu, infecting thousands in Mexico and somewhat sparsely (for now at least, hopefully) here in the U.S. and many other countries. Pandemic flu preparedness has been a concerning matter for health experts for many years, especially when the avian flu made news from East Asia a few years back. In this year's stimulus bill, Democratic Representative David Obey wanted to put in a measure for flu preparedness but guess who helped block that "wastefulness"?

From The Nation:

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

And his partisan attacks on his efforts seem not just creepy, but dangerous.

Dangerous is the key word here. It is dangerous when partisan hacks like Rove can dictate to supposed "moderates" like Susan Collins that investing money in flu preparedness is something to attack Democrats on. If anything, there should have been more money in there for disease control and prevention, not less. In a country where tens of millions are uninsured and many more are under-insured, the potential for a pandemic is serious business. Yet the only thing Karl Rove and his disciples care about is scoring cheap political points and defending the tax breaks given to the rich.

That isn't only dangerous, it's psychotic.

Assembly Vs. Senate On M.T.A. Bailout

There is a little more than a month to go before the dreaded twenty-five percent (give or take a few percent depending on what fare you pay) hike in the cost of mass transit coupled with service cuts for the NYC subway system. Up in Albany though, politics and ego, not the deadline is what the leadership in the Assembly and Senate care most about. Sure, they want to get something done to appease their constituents, but "what" they want depends on which side you're on.

From The NY Daily News:

Negotiations over an MTA bailout deal blew up Friday amid bitter squabbling between Senate and Assembly leaders, sources said.

A conference call to discuss the rescue collapsed when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's staff learned the state Senate had already introduced its own bill and planned to vote on it next week, sources said. "Malcolm and Shelly are having a huge fight," said one source with ties to both Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat. "The staffs are not speaking."

Multiple sources said Silver was upset Smith formally introduced his bill. "This is one-upping the Senate to show you're still in charge," said a source close to Smith.

It really is pathetic that there has to be so much squabbling over such a dire issue. Millions of people who can't afford another fare increase will be forced to deal with $103 a month for a Metrocard with less service for the price.

While much of the blame can be placed at the feet of the Pataki Administration and the Republican State Senate in the past for putting so much debt on the M.T.A., Smith should have been ready for this when he assumed power early this year. His district is directly affected by this matter, along with many other Democrats that represent the New York City metro area. How he can let Kruger, Espada, Diaz and Monserrate push him around on this is absolutely ridiculous. I hate to say it, but Shelly Silver has the best plan out of anyone on this, and if Smith cares about the city more than his ego, he'll try his best to make sure the closest thing to the Ravitch Plan is what passes when all is said and done.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dana Gould On NRA, Take My Freedoms As Long As I Can Keep My Gun

On Real Time with Bill Maher, guest Dana Gould made a great point about guns and the NRA. While not all of their members are on the fringe, many that are help control the agenda. Sadly, that agenda is perfectly fine with taking the rights away that those guns were supposedly meant to protect.

Repeat As Needed: "Torture Doesn't Work"

Despite the onslaught of Cheney interviews where he says that we needed to torture use enhanced interrogation to get information out of terrorists, the facts are simply not on the ex-VP's side. All Cheney is trying to do is to cover his ass, and so is every single Bushie coming out of the woodwork now that pushes the false idea that torturing terror suspects gets good information out of them. The reality is, in words a three-year-old can understand is, "nuh-uh."

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.[...]

The IG's report is among several indications that the Bush administration's use of abusive interrogation methods was less productive than some former administration officials have claimed.

Even some of those in the military who developed the techniques warned that the information they produced was "less reliable" than that gained by traditional psychological measures, and that using them would produce an "intolerable public and political backlash when discovered," according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report released on Tuesday.

Even with everything that we've learned to date, there is still more classified material out there that government has not released. It has been hinted at that the documents and videos the CIA had destroyed were more horrific than anyone in the outside world has seen to date. With all of this evidence, it leads us back to two simple points, that torture does not work and that those that engage and/or order it should be held accountable for their actions. The United States knew it didn't work back in World War II and we even executed Japanese soldiers at that time who practiced techniques such as waterboarding on our very own troops. There is no reason that our standards should change as a nation that respects the rule of law, whether we are fighting Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito or Al Qaeda and the Taliban.