Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Now Is Not The Time To Roll Over

Simply put, last night was a rough one for the Democratic Party. Sixty or so seats in the House, six or seven in the Senate and a plethora of governorships and legislatures across the country were lost to the Republican Party. Soon to be Speaker Boehner is claiming a mandate, President Obama has tail between his legs, but now more than ever is the time to fight for a progressive agenda in America.

For some odd reason, the President thinks that being a Democrat is a bad thing in light of what happened at the polls. He is mistaken however.

In the last two years the President has accomplished more to help the American worker since L.B.J. Where Bill Clinton failed on health care in 1993, Obama succeeded by taking the first (but not final) step towards ensuring that all Americans have health insurance. The Recovery Act helped our nation avoid a true economic catastrophe. And there are many more fucking things on list of accomplishments.

Unfortunately though, the devastation wrought by the Bush Administration was beyond horrific and could not have been remedied in under two years' time. Sadly, the American voter by and large assessed Obama and his party with the blame for our unemployment woes.

Obama and his party can take some of that heat, not for what they did, but for what they did not do. A full scale, innovative and assertive jobs bill should have been the first item on the agenda (perhaps if they stuck to their guns with the original idea and intent of the Recovery Act).

Most importantly though, what has been a complete failure for the men and women in blue has been the lack of effective messaging. What was Obama's greatest strength as a Presidential candidate was the weakest link for both the White House and the Democratic majority on the Hill. For instance, the word "stimulus" should have been left to the policy wonks. The "Jobs, Jobs and more Jobs Act" would have been better.

So in the next two years, as Obama re-learns his campaigning skills (a Ryan Seacrest interview does not signal an improvement in his game), our party's faithful has to push harder than ever to force the thinned out Democrats to stick to their principles and vote for smart, sensible legislation and not the type of bill that widens the income equality gap more than it's at now (which is at it's largest in American history). Republicans will try to claim that giving tax cuts to the wealthy will spur job growth, but in reality that has only hurt the American worker, hardly ever has it helped. Instead we must regulate big business, or at least make it clear to the voters that that is the intent of the (sadly) leaner and (hopefully) meaner Democratic Party.

If the lesson learned for the Democratic leadership is to "compromise" with the uncompromisable G.O.P, then the results of 2012 will look a lot like 2010....only with the Presidency on the line.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Go Vote!

I know it's been forever since I've opened my blogger's publisher tool, but I just had to take a minute to post this message:

"Go Vote!"

And this one:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Schultz And Papantonio Tell Dems To Focus On Themselves, Not Tea Party Whackjobs

Teabaggers are nuts. They have no real solutions to helping our country out of it's morass. Yet they know how to get under the skin and into the minds of many that are sick and tired of the troubled times and more than a few are buying their heated and often times racist rhetoric. Ed and Mike are right on here, it isn't good enough that we make fun of the lunacy candidates like O'Donnell and Paladino exhibit.

Democrats must put forth an agenda that will make sense to voters this fall and defend their record thus far. Stick the path that puts job creation ahead of deficit reductions and remind voters of where we came in the Bush years.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New York Primaries Prove Anything Is Possible

Generally elections are static events, especially in primary contests. Few people vote and for the most part, the incumbents are able to use their power to remain in office. While that happened in most cases yesterday, there were quite a few examples of where it didn't. Most impressively, the people of the 33rd Senate District did the decent thing and kicked Pedro Espada to the gutter, where he belongs. Gustavo Rivera trounced him, and my hat is off to the voters, Rivera's staff that made the message of change clear and for the other challengers that bowed out so that there was no vote splitting. Truly it was a great day in this district.

The same cannot be said in Harlem, where five challengers fell over each other to depose the corrupt Charlie Rangel. While Rangel has been an institution in Harlem for four decades, his unethical behavior should have brought his career to an end. Unfortunately the primary purpose was lost on the four whose name did not end in "Adam Clayton Powell." I know, I know, a political dynasty should not determine who makes the best candidate, but this is New York and sometimes if you want change, you have to humble yourself for least until the day comes when every single voter is well informed on the issues and truly wants to be robo-called at 9pm on Sunday so they can get one last appeal to sway their opinion.

Of course, I figured Charlie would triumph but seeing his 50.55% threadbare majority shows me that was some hope after all. Perhaps we can learn a less from the (gulp) Bronx.

So other than expunged heap of garbage that is commonly known as Pedro Espada, the only other game changer last night was the resounding victory Carl Paladino had over the Republican establishment's favorite Rick Lazio. While the Democrats made an internal party change for the better, Republicans decided to go with their basest instincts and nominate a raving bigot to be their standard bearer (who will fail miserably) against the Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo.

Paladino likens himself to the 'mad as hell' Howard Beale and he isn't going to take it anymore. I have to hand it to this racist and sexual deviant, he crushed Wall Street's Rick Lazio and was able to win what has been called an unlikely victory. However, this is just another example (among others from last night) that there is a wave of populist rage going through the Republican party and the 'folks' are sick of being played by politicians who claim one thing and do another. Unfortunately, the people on the right who are sticking their heads out of their windows and yelling are being guided by racism, bigotry and above all, fear of whatever is different from them. So instead of seeing the big picture, they tend to go for the candidate that unabashedly makes racist and derogatory remarks without any real ideas about how to govern a state or nation that is dealing with decades of public policy that favors the wealthy elite at the expense of the middle class.

At least for the moment though, New York for one will go with the saner Andrew Cuomo in November. Other states such as Delaware will follow as should New Hampshire (by electing Hodes to the Senate). However, populist rage can be infectious, so if our current leaders (and by that I mean Obama and others who have his general mindset about fairness, equality and respect for fellow mankind) want to improve the plight of America and help those that are struggling, they better get to it soon....or else things might really get out of control.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

One Man's Humble Act Could Spell The End For Pedro Espada

One of the best institutional guards for incumbency is that multiple challengers can split the vote for change in a district. Even if more voters opt for someone else, an elected official can remain in office if they win a plurality. State Senator Pedro Espada thought he had that when four different candidates were running against him. Over the summer two of them dropped out, and now with one week to go, Dan Padernacht is nobly laying his banner down and joining forces with Gustavo Rivera, the strongest challenger to date to face the infamous Espada.

From The Daily Politics:

Dan Padernacht, a 34-year-old community board member, formally threw his backing to fellow challenger Gustavo Rivera, 34, saying he wanted to create “a united front” against Espada and restore credible representation to the district.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do,” Padernacht said at press conference outside the Municipal Building in Manhattan, where he was joined by a bevy of elected officials who are backing Rivera’s campaign, which has drawn endorsements from potent unions and many Democratic elected officials.

In return, all of Gustavo's endorsers in and around New York City are singing Padernacht's praises. Perhaps he can cull something out of this in the future for himself, but right now he gets that this race is bigger than him, and that taking out Espada is priority number one. Espada is low life criminal with a title that is too big for his britches.

The only downside is that he waited too long to get his name off the ballot and inevitably will probably get a few votes that he now does not want. Nevertheless, with a strong campaign and Get Out The Vote system that joins Rivera and Padernacht's forces, amazing things can happen, even up in the Bronx.

Gibbs States The Obvious Concerning Ministry's Quran-Burning

This really should be a no-brainer, but with the way things are going in American Conservatism a good old fashioned book burning isn't sadly not surprising. When people's fears and ignorance is stoked constantly by the media they consume, human rage knows no bounds. At least we have a White House that will speak to this and make the connection for these Nazi imitators that burning the Quran in effigy does our troops overseas no favors.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform Makes A Difference... And It Shows

Money and politics have always had a contentious relationship, generally alienating people from the process who do not have much to give to politicians running for office. However in a few cases, reformers have made headway in making elections and the run-up to them more accessible to a wider spectrum of voters. Here in New York a step towards cleaner elections was taken a few years ago, and the results so far are definitely impressive.

From The NY Times:

The examination, to be released on Wednesday by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, shows that changes enacted before the race encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the new data suggests that, in a year when voter turnout was historically low and pundits treated the mayoral election as a foregone conclusion, many New Yorkers of more modest means felt compelled to participate in the election process.[...]

For the 2009 election, the city matched donations of $175 or less at a ratio of six to one (turning a contribution of $100 into $700). As a result, the Campaign Finance Board found, almost 70 percent of contributors gave $175 or less in 2009, a 22 percent increase in those donations over the election in 2005. Over all, such donations accounted for 15 percent of all the money raised, up from 8.5 percent in 2005.

Among new donors, the percentage was even higher: 80 percent gave $175 or less.

The next step is to take this, or even a more effective measure, up to Albany and implemented in such a way that New Yorkers across the state can be allowed to participate in local politics. Currently a wealthy donor can give tens of thousands to a gubernatorial candidate (or to anyone running for statewide office), an amount that undoubtedly has significant influence in the way an elected official treats certain issues. By bringing more small-donors into the mix, it not only moves politicians to heed the demands of the general constituency, it allows those without means to run for office themselves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Appeal To Help A Hate Crime Victim

There are many terrible crimes that one person can perpetrate on another....and a hate crime is certainly one of them. When Ahmed Sharif was brutally stabbed by an intoxicated and belligerent young man last week, the very worst of humanity was shown to a cab driver who's only crime was his faith. That is not the United States that our founders envisioned and it is certainly not how the great majority of Americans feel about religious tolerance currently.

While most of us shook our heads at the news last week, and were grateful that Mr. Sharif was not killed in the act, the aftermath is still serious. Currently Mr. Sharif is out of work and the benefits afforded to him by the Taxi Worker Alliance does not go the distance for his wife and children..

CNN has more on this:

"Ahmed is a strong man, but mentally he has limits," said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "The trauma he's experienced will last for a long time."

Desai spent time this weekend with Sharif. She said his most pressing worry is how he'll provide for his wife and four children -- including a 10-month-old --without a job. Sharif is receiving 2/3 of his salary, about $30,000 a year, in workers' compensation. Union members do not get health insurance or disability payments, Desai said.

"My guess is that he'll be unable to work for at least four months," Desai said. "He can't even pick up his baby because of the wounds to his arms. He can't turn his neck."

An assistance fund was set up for Ahmed and his family, but sadly not much has been contributed to it. Perhaps there hasn't been too much in the way of publicity other than the initial newscasts covering the story. Hopefully it is not due to a lack of compassion on the part of New Yorkers. Instead of simply lamenting about it, I have donated $10.00 dollars and would like all those that read to give the same, or even $5.00 to help out. If you can't cover that, ask someone else to contribute. America is bigger than this heinous act, and I for one believe we should prove it.

Donate here now.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Alan Keyes Speaks Out Against His Party's Quest To Abolish 14th Amendment

Alan Keyes may be a Republican, but when the G.O.P. moves so far to the extreme right that they are thinking about tampering with the 14th Amendment, even he publicly objects. In case you need a refresher on 19th century American history, the 14th was the one that allowed the children of slaves to become citizens because they were born in the country. The fact that the same political party that helped write the Amendment nearly 150 years ago wants to curtail those rights is atrocious.

Four Months Later....Albany Finally Passes A Budget

The deadline for our state government to fulfill their obligation of passing a state budget came and went long before our sultry summer, and even our brief spring began. Now in the midst of 90 degree weather, legislators from around the state managed to pull it together and get something to stick. It wasn't easy (as Pedro Espada created a tremendous amount of trouble...and assault possibly) but the bill made it to the Governor's desk late last night.

From The Times-Union:

The final party-line vote -- 32 to 28 -- arrived after the sun had set on a dizzying day of last-minute negotiations, one-house bills that have almost no chance of passage in the Assembly, and frenzied efforts to round up two Democratic senators who spent much of the day missing in action.

In other words, it was a fairly typical day in the Senate, which all year has veered between chaos and inertia due to the Democrats' razor-thin 32-to-30-seat majority.

In order to pass the revenue plan that for more than a month has been the remaining piece of the budget puzzle, Democrats needed all 32 votes on deck. Senate Republicans have been rejecting almost all spending measures en masse this summer.

Republicans were set to let the bickering Democratic caucus cave in on itself, but in the end Sampson, Smith and others (despite their many, many flaws) managed to pass a multi-billion dollar budget without borrowing as L.G. Ravitch had proposed. Instead, they gave a victory to wealthy hedge fund managers by not making them pitch more in for the state where they make their personal billions. Who lost out? Well for those that rely on the sales tax exemption for clothing purchases under $110, they won't be saving those few dollars anymore. Large cuts to Medicaid will also be adding to the burden to the least amongst us. In all, a lot of money was lost from the coffer in the last couple of years and the reality was that cuts had to have been made. And to be fair, those in the highest brackets did have to relent on a couple of items.

And to give a bit of good news, the legislature approved a moratorium on hydrofracking the Marcellus Shale, at least until next July. And guess what? Republicans joined the majority and made it a bipartisan victory.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sen. Reid's Challenger Sharron Angle To Reporters: "Shhh!"

Politicians who do not like to be held accountable to the people they wish to represent would be well advised not to air their grievances in public. Unfortunately for the candidacy of Sharron Angle, a Republican from Nevada, she forgot (or perhaps never learned) how to use common sense. Instead of taking the questions of Nevadans, she proposed a different way of being held up to scrutiny in the Silver State.

From TPM:

"We needed to have the press be our friend," Angle said in an interview that aired on Fox over the weekend.

"Wait a minute. Hold on a second. To be your friend?" said a disbelieving Carl Cameron. Before Angle could fully answer, he added: "That sounds naive." Apparently this was too much for even him.

"Well, no," said Angle. "We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

Cameron's face may have shown disbelief, but only because Fox likes to keep these friendly relationships on the down least when it comes to admitting it. Fox has a long history of proving their allegiance to the Republican party.

As for Angle....well her actions are simply idiotic. Her numbers, once strong and promising for her quest to oust the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, have tanked quite precipitously. I presume comments like this will just keep moving her in the downward spiral she now inhabits.

Cantor Concedes Flawed Republican Tax Cut Policy

For decades now, the Republican party has adhered to the notion that tax cuts reduce the deficit. The thinking goes that if the government taxes the very rich less, they'll spend more and it'll "trickle down" to the rest of us. Once the money drips down, deficits are reduced because the spending habits of the wealthy boost the economy. However, as we have seen the national debt explode since Reagan enacted this insane ideology, Republicans have unsuccessfully made their case in the real world. Today, G.O.P. Minority Whip Eric Cantor admitted it on live television....even if it came out unwittingly.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Score A Victory For The Constitution Down By The WTC

Defenders of religious freedom and tolerance won a solid victory this week from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The highly controversial debate over whether to allow a mosque to be built on Park Row (two blocks from the World Trade Center site) has been going on for weeks now, and the Commission decided to ignore the bigots who group the terrible attacks of September 11th with the entirety of Islam.

From The NY Daily News:

Board members at the Landmarks Preservation Commission intend to vote unanimously against granting protected status to the 152-year-old building that would be knocked down to make way for the project, the Daily News has learned.

The Italianate building on Park Place, two blocks north of Ground Zero, simply does not meet architectural criteria for protection from the city, sources with knowledge of the issue said.

"The building is not worthy," a source said. "It does not rise to the level of an individual landmark."

The more intolerant among us decided to latch on to the issue of landmarking an old Lower Manhattan building to stop the construction of a mosque....not actually caring for the architectural makeup of an old Park Row facade. People such as Sarah Palin and sadly, the Anti-Defamation League (not so anti and much more defamatory these days, at least in this instance) spoke out against religious tolerance, using ignorance and fear to try and blunt one of the core ideas that our Founding Father fought for.

Good on the Commission for letting this go forward, and voting to keep New York City as a beacon of freedom, not a bulwark against it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Albany And The City Council Legislate Greener Buildings In N.Y.C.

New York City by definition is greener than most metropolitan areas. The widespread use of mass transit and higher population density put us way ahead of the sprawling cities of the South and West. However, being in the more temperate Northeast combined with old, large buildings where people live means that New Yorkers rely on antiquated heating oil systems. The large trucks bring it in, and the chimneys belch out the black, smoky byproduct that at first glance gives the impression that a building is on fire.

With hybrid taxis, prohibitive costs of driving in general and an extensive transit system (save for the recent death of the V and W trains), buildings are the last frontier in the green revolution within New York City's sphere of influence. Yesterday the City Council passed legislation that aims to curb that nasty pollution we are accustomed to.

From The N.Y. Times:

As announced earlier this week by the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, one of the new laws will halve sulfur levels in a common type of home heating oil, No. 4, starting in October 2012. The law also will require that biodiesel fuel make up at least 2 percent of all grades of petroleum heating oil.

With the enactment this month of a New York State law that will drastically reduce the sulfur content in No. 2, the most common type of heating oil, the city’s action is expected to make an important dent in soot pollution and asthma cases.

The City Council also approved a package of bills ushering in the first major overhaul of recycling laws adopted in 1989. The new laws will increase plastics recycling, put more recycling bins in schools and public areas and allow residents to recycle hazardous waste like paint.
Quinn might be ethically-challenged in other areas, but when it comes to the environment this was the right move. In the future our buildings will hopefully all be LEED certified, but for now those historic relics of the 1800s and early 1900s should be adapted to limit their pollution as quickly as possible. These city and state laws will help to accomplish that.

Tony Hayward's Congressional Grilling: Does It Mean Anything?

Tony Hayward heard it from Members of Congress this week, but to what end? He claimed that the blame was not BP's alone, but that his soon to be ex-employer will be helping to ease the pain of their many victims. Compensation and public relations have already been doled out in some fashion (though hardly enough of the former), so my question is besides good press for the Representatives who pummeled Hayward at the hearing, what good will that do? Especially in regard to preventing future spills (like this one).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lindsay Graham, Constitutional Amendments And Xenophobia

There is nothing new about Republicans stoking xenophobic fears among their party's faithful, but it seems the G.O.P. is constantly looking for more preposterous solutions to a complex problem that they clearly do not wish to grasp. Utilizing right-wing zealot and ex-Congressman J.D. Hayworth is one thing, but for Lindsay Graham to step into the stupid shows how far they are willing to go to rile up fearful Caucasians that see immigration as a threat (you know, just as every other group in American history has).

From Politico:

“I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here,” Graham said during an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake ... We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen.”

Asked how intent Graham is on introducing the amendment, the South Carolina Republican responded: “I got to.”

“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It's called "drop and leave." To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child's automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

First off, the "drop and leave" scenario is more of a scarecrow argument than anything. The vast majority of undocumented workers that come to the U.S. and have children want to stay in the country and make a better life for themselves, just as immigrants have for more than 200 years.

If something like this passed, it would only end up hurting the children in these cases and hardly stem the fears of those that ascribe to the bigotry that Lindsay Graham and his G.O.P. brethren hawk.

Thankfully though, passing a Constitutional Amendment and nullifying a portion of the 14th Amendment is highly unlikely. Graham's a smart guy, he knows this, but for his conscious decision to play this card speaks more to the content of his personal character than to his intellect.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fare Hikes Away!

It was bound to happen sooner or later amidst the budgetary mess that New York is in.

That MetroCard you are holding in your wallet, purse, pocket or cellphone case is going to be getting heavier. The M.T.A., the agency most New Yorkers love to bemoan is going to be giving us more misery by charging more for what they are giving us less of. As we are still grieving the loss of the W, the V and parts of the M and the G, news of fare increases has already hit the ears of straphangers everywhere.

From The N.Y. Times:

By Jan. 1, when the increases would take effect, the heaviest users of the city’s subways and buses could be paying as much as $104 instead of $89 for a monthly system pass. Drivers who use E-ZPass on many of the city’s tunnels and bridges would pay 10 percent more per trip, and rail commuters could face the frustration of longer lines to buy tickets.

The unlimited subway and bus MetroCard, which pushed ridership to record levels after its introduction in the 1990s and revolutionized the way New Yorkers imagine their transit system, could also be on the way out. One proposal would place limits on how many rides could be taken on monthly and weekly passes.

All sorts of punitive measures are also included, such as steep ticket-refund charges, expiration dates on tickets will be pushed up and higher fares for all the commuter rails too. Of course this is tentative for now, as the vote will not be for a couple of months. Yet the agency's announcement of these high numbers means that no matter how the cookie crumbles, the taste will be sour come January when the rates take effect.

I think this may finally be the straw that breaks this camel's back.....I'm finally going to my sedentary arse to the bike shop.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Financial Reform Was A Good Step Forward....But

"The Real News" interviews economist William Black, who talks about the reform act that recently passed through Congress and signed by President Obama. The key item discussed is that while Obama's people are better stewards of the nation's finances at the moment, their reforms will not curb any of the abuses that a Republican regime might take up if they regain power.

Monday, July 26, 2010

As The Country Sizzles And Bakes, Krugman Nails Climate Change Deniers For "Greed And Cowardice"

Week after week, New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman expounds on the issues of our day. His latest opinion piece is no different, and calls out those that deny the overwhelming evidence of global warming as our nation has been beaten by the latest summer heat wave. Far from using the recent hot weather as proof, Krugman asks where the voices of those that claim the planet is cooling went; now that their faulty logic has broken down like many an overtaxed air conditioning unit. The undeniable proof is out there for anyone that wants a science-based education in global warming, but Krugman uses this piece to give a go at the root cause for all the deniers out there.

From The N.Y. Times:

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.[...]

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.

Krugman goes on to describe the downfall of John McCain, who was once a celebrated "maverick" (though he now denies it) who positioned himself in the middle. Krugman aptly calls him out for bashing legislation such as cap and trade that he once championed only a few years ago. Clearly, greed and cowardice got to the Arizonan Senator, as much as it has to the rest of his party...and a few that claim to position themselves on the left.

Build The Damn Mosque!

I can't help but shout this out to all the irrational fearmongers who are afraid of a mosque being built in Lower Manhattan. So a few muslims want to build a place to pray in New York City, the idealized place of hardworking immigrants coming in to the melting pot that is our great country. Why are people so nuts about this? Irrationality and ignorance is what propels their hatred of anyone that doesn't look and act like themselves, even if freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution they claim to admire, adhere to and protect.

Tom Robbins from the Village Voice gives us a glimpse at the insanity observed at the latest hearings to approve the mosque:

Preserving urban landmarks hasn't been high on the roster of concerns in Tea Party land, from where a lot of the protesters were recruited. But many who showed up to denounce a Muslim-sponsored development so near sacred ground tied their cause to municipal art. All were suddenly gung-ho advocates for salvaging this splendid example of 19th-century Italian palazzo mercantile architecture.[...]

Testifying at a microphone on the aisle, a heavy-set woman pointed to a tiny teenager seated nearby wearing a hijab. "How do I know this young woman isn't going to be strapped with explosives?"

That was about par for the course during the three-hour session. One speaker suggested that this is how Muslims took over London. "It's unsafe for a Westerner to go to London's East End," she said. "The mosques are used to subvert the neighborhood." After she sat down, she was asked if she'd been to London. "No, but I've been doing a great deal of reading about it, mostly on the Internet," she replied.

Ah the internet, and I'm sure her reading was fully of well-sourced material....straight out of the tea party websites esteemed for their fact-checked stories and award-winning journalism.

The sight of this melée for the even-keeled Robbins must have been nauseating to say the least. I'd like to say that these displays are infrequent and unrepresentative of the general body politic, but sadly it is not. Too many Americans indulge in ignorant views that help them feel greater than. It has been practiced in America since the beginning of miscegenation laws of 17th century Virginia. It continued with the Know-Nothings of the mid-19th century and the Ku Klux Klan of the late 19th century and well into the 20th century.

Despite all that miserable bigotry, I do hope that the decision-makers in the approval process for the mosque are above that nuttiness. America is supposed to be better and bigger than it's lowest common denominators. Allowing freedom of religion to flower, especially in spite of 9/11 is exactly what will help us win the battle of ideas with the actual terrorists who wish us harm, not muslims like Sharif El-Gamal who are working for the common good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rangel Indicted By House Ethics Committee....Finally!

Remember when Charlie Rangel acted as if he were above ethics allegations?

From FDL:

I guess that really isn't the case anymore, is it Charlie?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

White House Does Quick 180 With Sherrod

I must admit that I was a little slow to this story surrounding Shirley Sherrod. Only last night did I tune in to Anderson Cooper of all people to watch the infamous video clip....and the entire video that gives us the real story that was parsed for the benefit of right wing hacks like Andrew Breitbart.

It wasn't upsetting that Breitbart manipulated the video of Sherrod's speech about the history of racism in our country and how her personal story led her to realize that people must be helped no matter what color their skin may be; what infuriated me is that Obama's Administration and the NAACP fell hook, line and sinker for this Fox News-driven story (Fox News' participation in this was so abhorrent, even their own Shep Smith went off on his network).

So Obama's U.S.D.A. man Tom Vilsack came out today and apologized, offering Ms. Sherrod her job back (NYT):

“Without a doubt, Ms. Sherrod is owed an apology,” the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Wednesday in his daily briefing, referring to Shirley Sherrod, who until Monday was the rural development director for the Agriculture Department’s state office in Georgia. “I will do so certainly on behalf of this administration.”

The apology capped what had been a humiliating and fast-paced turn of events for the White House, the national media and the N.A.A.C.P., all of whom, Mr. Gibbs said, overreacted to a video that appeared to show Ms. Sherrod saying that she had discriminated against a white farmer. The remarks were taken out of context from a longer speech in which she said she learned to overcome her own biases.

Later, Mr. Vilsack held his own news briefing to say that he had called Ms. Sherrod to apologize and had offered her a new position with the agency.

"She was extraordinarily gracious," he said.

Sherrod was used here by Breitbart, as only people like Andrew Breitbart would do. Using the topic of race in America the way he did was atrocious. Breitbart will go down as one of the scummier right-wing smear merchants in the early 21st century. Unfortunately, that is what we expect from those who are involved in conservative politics these days. Ignoring the Breitbarts, Bachmanns and Palins is what we must do. Ignoring them will reduce their power in our country. What the NAACP and the Obama Administration did was exactly the opposite, and encourages these spiteful and nasty people to continue their dastardly acts.

Marty Markowitz Believes His Trips To Europe Should Be On The People's Dime

As things get interesting for one ethically tainted City Councilman tomorrow, scrutiny is being paid to Brooklyn's own mascot-in-chief, Marty Markowitz. The affable jokester who's face reminds me some buffoonish Disney character is back in the news for using his position for his personal gain. With the Atlantic Yards fiasco (and his collusion with it) seemingly safely behind him, Marty is back at it and willing to get away with more of our money and laughing all the way.

From The NY Observer:

Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz took two trips, whose prices both fell somewhere in the tantalizing gulf between $5,000 and $39,999.

It took him four days in March to spend the first sum, while he enjoyed the "Kingdom of Netherlands." According to the form, he was a guest at Holland's "official celebration of their 400 year relationship with New York." Awkward!

He spent the next bundle during five November days in Izmir, Turkey, where he was doing more wooing than celebrating. According to the form, he spent his time trying "to develop sister-city status."

And then there's a trip to Israel in 2008, but no dollar amounts were mentioned. Markowitz proves over and over that behind his smile, lies a greedy political crook that is only looking for the perks of office and then some. If Ydanis Rodriguez gets the can for improper touching (and if it's true he should be tossed) then Markowitz should suffer the same fate for improperly stealing from Brooklynites and New Yorkers from all five boroughs.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Finally, Gregory Calls Out Republicans Out On Their B.S.

David Gregory is usually an abject failure in his role as moderator on Meet The Press. Yet he managed to do a decent job yesterday holding Pete Sessions' feet to the fire on his continuous use of broad strokes and generalities. Republicans are truly the party of no ideas, and it shows:

NARAL NY Scorns Senate Incumbents, But For What Reason?

One of the larger New York political organizations, NARAL New York, has decided to blow off the incumbents in the State Senate they generally support. Their reasoning is simple, as well as indicative of the anti-incumbent times in Albany and across the country. NARAL cites the Democratic majority (if you can call it that, especially counting thugs like Espada and Diaz, Sr.) for not standing up for reproductive rights.

From The Daily Politics:

Here's NARAL Pro-Choice New York's first go at endorsements for this year's state legislative races, and one thing certainly pops out: There are no Senate incumbents on the list.

"Due to serious concerns about the current Senate leadership's commitment to reproductive health and rights, we are not making endorsements of incumbent State Senate candidates at this time," the group said.

More specifically, NARAL is upset that the Reproductive Health Act has failed to come to a vote for the third year in a row (as I blogged here).

Senate Majority spokesman Austin Shafran countered that the Dems had done a few good things, such as passing the Domestic Workers bill, the no-fault divorce law and increasing protections for the survivors of domestic violence victims. Clearly in NARAL's eyes, that does not make up for the failure of the Reproductive Health Act.

However I had another thought. With so much anti-incumbency feeling out there and with the possibility of power tipping back to the Republicans this fall, perhaps NARAL is playing it safe so that they might curry favor with the right, just in case the mostly-pro-choice Democrats lose their slim majority.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Paterson Puts An End To Stop And Frisk

David Paterson, for all his faults, has done good things in his time as Governor of New York. Yesterday included one of those, when he signed legislation ending the stop and frisk police procedure that police use in our state. The controversial tactic of stopping and searching frisking people without little cause (or a warrant) has been overwhelmingly used against minorities in our city. Police claim that it's helped them solve cases, but Paterson saw through their anecdotal evidence.

From The NY Times:

Mr. Paterson said in an interview, the examples Mr. Kelly provided only further convinced him that signing this bill would not lead to a rise in murders and other violent crimes, as some, including Kelly had warned. “I saw this as a two-pronged test,” he said. “One, was it violative of privacy rights, which I thought it was. Two, was the effectiveness of stopping very serious crime, or perhaps acts of terrorism, dependent on this information? And my conclusion was overwhelmingly that it was not.”

The documents submitted by Mr. Kelly represented the first time the police had put specific cases behind its argument for being allowed to keep information on all of those stopped.

A look at these 170 cases shows instances where the stop-and-frisk data clearly did assist investigators in tracking down perpetrators. In many cases, the data provided shortcuts that speeded investigations along, such as providing hangouts of a known suspect or the names and addresses of potential witnesses known to frequent a location where a crime occurred.

But in many of the cases, it was hard to determine how helpful the data was in solving crimes, because the information provided to the governor was, in his words, “at best inconclusive.”

The only conclusive data found here is that police by and large stop people who live in poor areas that creates a feeling of fear and submission to law enforcement that hardly protects and serves. Governor Paterson made the right decision yesterday in ending this police-state procedure, and I for one applaud him.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If Argentina Can Pass Same-Sex Marriage, Why Can't New York

Legislators in Albany should watch this and think about their previous vote on the issue, and then ask themselves why too many are intolerant of men and women who wish to love and care for another human being who happens to be the same gender.

Term Limits Question Goes To Voters For A Third Time

It is looking more likely that the Charter Revision Commission is going to pass the buck on what to do about term limits and leave it up to the rest of us New Yorkers. Twice before we overwhelmingly told politicians that two terms is enough. Apparently Michael Bloomberg, Christine Quinn and their sycophants in the Council didn't care much for those prior votes, so they overrode the will of the people. Now to make up for things we get to vote for a third time, whoop dee doo!

From The New York Times:

Come November, New York voters will almost certainly be asked to decide one of the most contentious questions in recent political history: term limits. But exactly how the question is phrased remains up for debate.

Two terms? Three terms? Unlimited terms?

Several members of the Charter Revision Commission, the group responsible for suggesting updates to the city’s 335-page constitution, floated the idea of eliminating term limits altogether at a meeting on Monday.

The Mayor's hand picked people...surprise...think we should eliminate term limits all together. I would love to agree with Mr. Fiala on the Commission who claimed that elections are the great arbiter, but he is too short-sighted to see that elections do not happen in a vacuum. Our system is set up to favor the incumbent and throw roadblocks up in front of challengers. Unless we can level the playing field, term limits are in my opinion one of the best solutions to stop the corruption that saturates our system of government.

When that question is placed on the ballot, the Commission should be warned to not leave the question of keeping putting a two-term limit in place for New York's public officials.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pilgrim-Hunter Bows Out Of Challenge To Espada

Espada may be kicked out of the Democratic party shortly, but regardless he needs to be beaten at the ballot box this fall. Since he is considered a vulnerable incumbent several (actual) Bronx residents decided to challenge him, though one has already decided to bow out. Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter seemed to be an excellent candidate to clean the mess in the 33rd Senate district, but apparently that wasn't the case.

From The Bronx News Network:

“This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ll ever have to make,” she said. “In the interest of making sure that [incumbent state Senator] Pedro Espada is out of office, and also building power in my community, I’ve decided to withdraw.”

Money, or lack of it, was the main reason she decided to end her bid, she said. Despite several fundraisers in supporters’ homes, she had raised only $30,000, while Espada already has more than $300,000 on hand.

“We did a really good job of fundraising,” she said referring to the number of small donors in the community who gave to the campaign. “It wasn’t enough to be able to have an effective fight and win this race.”
This statement comes not so long after charges were made against her for taking disability payments while actively campaigning for office. Pilgrim-Hunter claims that there are legitimate reasons for the disability payments she collects but the story casted doubt over her chances of ousting Pedro. Now there are three challengers left, Gustavo Rivera, Daniel Padernacht and Fernando Tirado. As far as basic political campaign theory goes, splitting the anti-Pedro vote three ways is better than four, but still gives too much to the corrupt and unethical incumbent. When you have a scoundel like Espada who will buy petition signatures with free food, there's nothing he won't do to win another term.

I honestly cannot say which of the remaining three challengers has the best shot, Boogiedowner and other Bronx blogs have a better take on that than I do. What is of most importance is that a challenger win, because I truly believe no one can be as despicable as Pedro.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Even Steinbrenner's Death Is An Opportunity For Rush's Racism

As a Dodger fan, I was never an enthusiast for George Steinbrenner. Seeing that he passed this morning though, I felt for his family and the Yankee organization, because life comes before any sporting rivalry. However for Rush Limbaugh, sports wasn't on his mind when considering Steinbrenner's memorial. Instead he went here:

Wow. How this man is allowed an amplified voice by any sane or moral group of people that control his parent corporation is beyond me.

Espada Bought Petition Signatures With Free Food

As someone who has stood on street corners and knocked on doors for petition signatures, I can tell you that if I had free food to give out, I'd have added to my totals exponentially. However that's illegal, so I didn't even think to do it. Senator Espada however, who is being threatened with expulsion from the Democratic party decided to gamble on committing that crime in order to look good at his press conference yesterday.

From The Daily Politics:

I spoke with Rivera strategist Horacio Guttierez this morning, who summed up: "We got people who were not liking what they were seeing who would call our office to let us know."

espada free fruits.jpg

As he describes it, residents of Espada's district would get the letter you see part of here, urging them to come pick up free food (courtesy of the New Yorkers For Espada campaign). When they arrived at the pickup site, Guttierez said, they were induced to sign Espada's petition to get on the ballot.

Guttieriez noted that the program seemed very similar to a Senate program Espada announced back in February: An anti-obesity "Farmers Market Initiative" based at the Davidson Community Center, which, via a state grant, would provide free, fresh produce to residents.

While any statement from a political opponent must be taken with a grain of salt, that flyer from Espada's office says plenty all on it's own.

Friday, July 09, 2010

BP Nightmare Continues For Gulf Residents In So Many Ways

BP has been in a glaring public spotlight for weeks and months now, yet they continue to abuse and lie to the millions whose lives they have affected. The Gulf itself is a disaster, countless wildlife are sick and dying, industries are ruined and the oil continues to gush out from deep underneath the water. This is what you get when the region you live in relies on the production and refinement of oil.

Beyond the basics, BP is not trying hard to throw off the stereotype of being an evil and uncaring corporate giant. These two stories show how:

From RawStory:

After BP crews scoop up the oil off Gulf beaches, the waste is transported to Mississippi's Pecan Grove landfill. Even workers' protective suits, gloves, shovels, rakes and anything else that touches oil is buried there.

The Board of Supervisors in Harrison, Mississippi passed a resolution saying they don't want any BP waste in their community but there is little they can do. BP has cut deals with Waste Management, the owners of the landfill. They answer to the state instead of local county government.

BP ignored the press on this issue, but the landfill that contracted with them says it's safe because they installed a liner underneath. Whether or not that liner holds....tons of oil and tons of kitchen garbage are a bit different from each debatable. Of course BP does have to do something with the oil, so perhaps they have some wiggle room, but when it comes to making things right with fishermen whose income has been decimated, there is no excuse for this:

From Perilous Nation:

Hundreds of fishermen from Lake Charles to Moss Point, Miss., were supposed to get checks from BP on Wednesday but didn’t.

Wednesday night, their lawyer wanted answers. Jeffrey Briet represents more than 500 fishermen, and he said the payment system he set up with BP required his clients to be paid every 30 days. Now that process has suddenly changed without warning, Briet said.

“Not only did they spring it on us that the process has changed, but the people I’ve been dealing with for six weeks who’ve done a good job said, ‘We don’t know what the process is going to be. We’re not authorized to talk to you about it. Someone from BP will contact you,’” he said.

Unsurprisingly, no one from BP contacted them and continue to stone wall. One would think it's a no brainer to compensate these poor fisherman....but then again, we are dealing with big oil, a tragedy in of itself.

D.O.M.A. Is Done!

Every once in a while the judicial branch comes through and slaps down a Congress that legislates contrary to the principles set forth in the Constitution. Striking down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act yesterday is one of those times I smile at this particular aspect of the balance of powers.

More from the Rachel Maddow Show:

Jeremiah Frei-Pearson Fundraiser Tonight (July 9th)!

The most talked about item this morning is that LeBron James will be leaving his Cleveland fans in the dust in the pursuit a championship run down in Miami. While this Laker fan shrugs his shoulders and wishes him all the best (LeBron actually being able to play Kobe in the finals so we can put the comparisons to rest finally would be nice) but that is not why I am typing sentences on the keyboard this morning.

My motivation is Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, a good friend and dedicated progressive activist that is running for State Assembly in Western Queens. The campaign finance reporting deadline is fast approaching and tonight is a great opportunity to make sure Jeremiah has a strong showing and a great chance to compete in the upcoming election.

Here are the details:

RSVP to Marti Cummings by July 8th to

Suggested Contribution of
$25, $50, $75, $150, $500, $1,000 or $3,800

Frei-Pearson lives in Astoria with his wife, Karal Mosley Frei-Pearson, and their two cats: Scooby and Scrappy. Jeremiah has lived in Astoria since graduating from law school–drawn to a community he loved from child- hood visits with his father, who has lived in Queens for more than a decade. Jeremiah’s commitment to serving Western Queens grows from his roots and his experiences as an active participant in the life and politics of our community.
Queens is the most diverse county in the US, and our strength as a
community is based on respect for everyone who lives here. How-
ever, the state legislature has failed to lead on the most basic
issue of civil rights and equality for all. In its failure to pass mar-
riage equality, New York’s leadership has betrayed the progres-
sive values that out state has represented for so long.

For more information
on Jeremiah Frei-Pearson:
And of course, here's the facebook link.

Oh and I almost forgot, the event is on the rooftop at 4 Lexington Avenue just across from Gramercy Park. So come out not only to support a great candidate, but for the amazing views as well!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bruno's Prosecutors Go Soft While Appeal Is On Hold

They fought hard. They proved their case. At the end of a long trial, Joseph Bruno was found guilty of being a corrupt politician and everyone knew it.

However there was a small problem.

Former Senator Bruno was convicted under the federal "Honest Services" law. That means he was found guilty of not disclosing what he did and not for the actual corrupt practices. The intricacy of it all led the judge to allow Bruno to go free while the law itself is being reviewed by the Supreme Court. And now even the attorneys that helped convict the elderly pol are easing off on ensuring he does the time he deserves.

From The Daily Politics:

Federal prosecutors say ex-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno can stay out of jail while he presses his appeal.

Prosecutors, in a one-sentence letter to Judge Gary Sharpe yesterday, said they would not oppose Bruno's request to remain free while he argues his appeal.[...]

Prosecutors Elizabeth Coombe and William Pericak did not mention the Supreme Court decision in their letter to Sharpe yesterday.
With the mindset of the current Supreme Court leaning towards moneyed interests and against average (see: not wealthy) citizens, the Court will most likely rule in favor of Joe Bruno and swipe the law from the books.

Prosecutors might just be showing signs that their case could ultimately be lost and are giving up on their job to make Bruno pay for his crimes. Unfortunately, at Bruno's advanced age and his image in certain circles of doing great good as an elected official, the man will probably never see the inside of a jail cell.

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Please Remove Your Shoes" Uncovers T.S.A. Theater

Anyone with the ability to fire a few neurons in their head can see the farce of the T.S.A. Taking off shoes, wanding old ladies and as of recent looking at people through their clothes are all tactics utilized by glorified security agents. Now we finally have a film to expose what is going on at the agency and where the lapses are. Check this out and remember it when you fly and are forced to foolishly take your shoes off under the guise of safety.

Dems Say "Good Riddance" To Pedro Espada

Pedro Espada may still have a few months until election day, but his departure from the New York Democratic Party is just around the corner. Sources have let on that the corrupted Senator has made enough enemies within the party to be officially ousted and left to his own devices. Mr. Espada has had a mottled political career from the get go and he hasn't done much to change that image.

Needless to say, the heave-ho couldn't have come soon enough:

A top state party official, in an unprecedented move, has prepared a letter to Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the Bronx Democratic chairman, calling on him to formally begin the ouster effort.

The letter, expected to be delivered tomorrow, was written with the approval of Charlie King, the state party's executive director and a top political aide to Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo, who has accused Espada in a civil suit of "looting" $14 million from his Soundview health-care clinic.[...]

"Through his repeated public statements and bad conduct, Sen. Espada has shown he is not 'in sympathy' with our party's fundamental principles," says the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Espada is certainly the top offender within the party that is worthy of such a letter. A few others could use it as well, but I'm impressed that the state Dems are cutting the cord with at least one bad apple. The man is clearly anything but a Democrat and only a self-interested politician that cares nothing about the people that he is charged to represent.

The election effort that ousts him from power will be far more rewarding come election day (this presumably pushes his d-day back to the General Election and not the Primary). If you want to help ensure this important political change, check out my personally endorsed candidate, Desiree Hunter.

Friday, July 02, 2010

U.N. Says Dump The Dollar, Replace It With Something Global

For decades now, the world financial system has relied on the strength of the U.S. dollar to trade a wide variety of commodities. Everything from pork bellies to oil futures rested on the American currency. Now after nearly forty years of economic decline on the world stage, the U.N. is finally giving a hard look at moving towards a world currency that could provide more stability than the dollar.

From RawStory:

"The dollar has proved not to be a stable store of value, which is a requisite for a stable reserve currency," the U.N. World Economic and Social Survey 2010 said.

The report says that developing countries have been hit by the U.S. dollar's loss of value in recent years.

"Motivated in part by needs for self-insurance against volatility in commodity markets and capital flows, many developing countries accumulated vast amounts of such (U.S. dollar) reserves during the 2000s," it said.

Now this development is not being taken lightly. Opposition quickly formed to say that markets will decide whether or not a reserve currency should replace the dollar's dominant position. However leading economic gurus such as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz are advocating for a new way, as many developing countries have suffered from the current situation.

Whether or not this news will lead to substantive change, it is indicative of a growing consensus that the dollar is not working on a macro level. Gulf states have already begun looking at alternatives and the developing world could very much turn if the I.M.F. were to utilize a reserve unit of currency.

Only time will tell, but the way the U.S. is holding itself economically (both domestically and internationally) a new way may not be too far off.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Paterson: Take Your Negotiations And Shove Em!

Governor Paterson doesn't want to hear it from the Legislature. The time to negotiate is over and anything that he doesn't like will be, and has been getting the official veto stamp.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Speaker Quinn And The Power Of Pork

While the New York City Council (rightly so) examines Mayor Bloomberg's problem with hiring minorities, it turns out they have a few in-house problems to fix themselves. The just-passed budget has approximately $50 million in pork-barrel spending that Speaker Quinn has the power to dole out to the other fifty Council Members. With power like that, you'd think an investigation would be warranted.

Oh wait, there is one:

Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, has hired a criminal defense lawyer to represent her in federal and city investigations into Council spending practices, an aide said on Friday.

The move comes a week after disclosures that Ms. Quinn’s office had appropriated millions of dollars to organizations that do not exist, instead routing the money to organizations favored by individual council members.

The lawyer retained by Ms. Quinn, Lee S. Richards III, a former federal prosecutor, will be paid with city funds, as will Sullivan & Cromwell, a firm that the Council has hired to assist in responding to the investigations.

Asked why the speaker felt she needed her own lawyer, Jamie McShane, a Quinn spokesman, said in an e-mail message that the lawyer would assist “the speaker in her cooperation” with inquiries by the city’s Department of Investigation and the United States attorney’s office.

The only problem is that nothing is being done about it (this article referenced above is more than two years old), and the idleness of the U.S. Attorney's Office allows the problem to continue. While she has taken action to clean up the worst abuses of the infamous slush funds, clearly this year's budget shows New York City has a long way to go.

Yes, War Does Make Us Poor

Congressman Conyers and Grayson are on to a good idea by floating H.R. 5353. The "War is Making You Poor Act" seeks curb the out of control costs that the Defense Department burdens the American people with every year. While keeping our country safe is a top priority, the fact is we spend more on our military than the next top fifty countries combined.

H.R. 5353 is pretty cut and dry:

It seems that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) would agree, perpetual war is making you poor.

To begin rectifying the situation, he's joined with Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) in co-sponsoring the "War is Making You Poor Act," which would limit defense spending to $548.9 billion: the exact figure alloted in the fiscal year 2011 budget.

Oh and there's this that might help sweeten the pot:

The act also seeks to utilize an additional $159.3 billion set aside for "discretionary" operations abroad to relieve the full federal income tax burden on every American's first $35,000 earned per year, or up to $70,000 per year for married couples.

While this is great news, it is only a start. Simply halving that massive budget would go a long way in solving many of our top domestic priorities, such as education, health care and job development to name a few (this pie chart helps put things into perspective). Unfortunately though, the defense industry is well staffed with many lobbyists that ensure that anything less than a large yearly increase for their weapons contracts would be akin to hating America and letting the terrorists win. If Conyers and Grayson could pass this Act, it would be a big step in the right direction, even if it only caps the spending where it is now.

Maddow Exposes Another BP Lie

Rachel Maddow continues to be on the job and on the mark about British Petroleum and their penchant to lie to the American people about what they are and aren't doing down in the Gulf. One thing for sure, they are not looking into new and more dynamic ways of cleaning their monumental mess.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Will Cuomo Succeed Where Paterson Has Failed?

We are two days away from July and three months past the New York State Budget's "deadline." A fiscal plan was supposed to be in place, but we are only left with budget extenders, legislative gimmicks and grandiose gestures from Assembly Members, Senators and the Governor. David Paterson has been bashed into oblivion by nearly all that watch and participate in New York politics, so much so that his weak poll numbers forced him to decline to run for re-election.

Due to Paterson's downturn, it has been nothing but smooth sailing for gubernatorial aspirant and the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo. The younger Andrew spent months railing against Wall Street as Paterson fell from grace, but now he's the main man and most likely to succeed Paterson as our next Governor.

The only problem though, is that by and large, Cuomo has been supportive of Paterson's strong actions taken against the legislature; a legislature that has had trouble reconciling the fact we have a huge budget deficit and the constituencies they wish to please by not making big spending cuts. Now it is all well and good that Cuomo wants to keep the state fiscally solvent, but if he follows Paterson's path next year, he will more than likely be subjected to the byzantine maze that is Albany.

And now, not too surprisingly, Paterson is having regrets about dropping out of the race. A day late and (many) a dollar short for that candidacy though.

Cuomo though is running circles around everyone on the GOP side, and unfortunately the people that are supposed to be voting for him in huge numbers. When it comes to the budget, he's glad Paterson is being tough about spending, but he also objects to the idea of raising taxes as a supplement to cutting spending. The budget deficit was above nine billion dollars and for our state, that is a serious amount of money to only be taking from programs that help people survive this miserable economy. While artificially boosting the price of soda and cigarettes will not solve all our problems, using a multi-pronged approach is far wiser than just cutting education and health care programs.

If Cuomo wants to come in next year and tackle the serious problems we face, he had better get his head on straight and stop playing pure politics, and look closer at the policy he will be charged with creating to get us out of our monetary mess. Not only will policy be important, but dealing with the Legislature in a way where they will cooperate with him is essential. Nothing will get done (whether it be on time or not) unless there is a spirit of cooperation, and if Cuomo thinks that he can endorse the bullish behavior of Paterson and somehow skirt through the political cesspool of the capitol on his good looks, he has another thing coming.

Friday, June 25, 2010

NY Top Court Fails On Eminent Domain Yet Again

Allowing a wealthy developer to take the homes of a neighborhood to profit from condos and a basketball arena under the guise of community development was bad enough. Now New York's top court, the Court of Appeals, is bending for the will of an economic giant and against small businesses that stand in their way. We are talking of course, about the private Columbia University, the largest land owner in Uptown Manhattan versus the few business owners that stand in their way of a major campus expansion.

Instead of upholding the lower court's (correct) ruling that the judiciary must follow the state's lead on what qualifies as blighted, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision and allowed the obvious pro-Columbia bias to commence. And of course, their reasoning flew in the face of good common sense and decency.

From WNYC:

Thursday's decision from the Court of Appeals said the lower court had ignored evidence that found disinvestment in the area reached back to the 1960s. The ruling also reaffirmed the principle central in last year's Atlantic Yards case, which found that the governor and his appointees should be given wide latitude in determining what is blighted, the first step in justifying seizure under eminent domain. "Not only has this court, but the Supreme Court has consistently held that blight is an elastic concept that does not call for an inflexible, one-size-fits-all definition," Senior Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by five other judges. The court's seventh judge, Associate Judge Robert Smith, wrote a separate opinion in which he concurred, but reluctantly. Smith was also the lone dissenting vote on the Atlantic Yards decision. "The finding of 'blight' in this case seems to me strained and pretextual," Smith wrote. Professor Patricia Salkin of Albany Law School said the decision was not a surprise. She said the ruling was in keeping with years of precedent that grants the government wide latitude in eminent domain cases and corrects the mystifying opinion by the Appellate Division, First Department, in December. "The order of the day here was the Court of Appeals here continuing the message that where there may be just a difference of opinion with respect to what is blighted, that they are going to rely on legislative deference and the court is not going to substitute its judgment,” she said.
Legislative deference is a cheap way of shirking the judiciary's responsibility to protect individuals from legislation that does undue harm to the citizenry.

Now Eminent Domain is something to be considered when the government builds or does something beneficial to the entire area, such as a highway, railway or building that serves the community. Despite the Court leaning on the idea that Columbia is a non-profit and since Atlantic Yards was approved, this should be allowed to, the University is an institution that only selects a lucky few thousand every year to attend and utilize their facilities. And of course, entrance comes at an exorbitant price.

Instead of claiming the arguments shown above, the Court should come clean, and admit to what's really behind all this. When push comes to shove, the rich are given deference over those that are not. Campaign donations from those that can afford it are used to unfairly sway those that are elected to serve the people. Ultimately, the judges fall in line and make flimsy excuses for allowing this shameful practice to continue.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gasland: A Must See

If you live in New York, Pennsylvania or anywhere that gas companies are thinking of tapping natural gas deposits with a process called hydrofracking, you must see this film first. Josh Fox was offered $100,000 by one company to use his land to mine for gas, and this is what he did in response. Needless to say, that $100,000 disappeared quite quickly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orrin Hatch Seeks To Jump Start The Drug Testing Industry

Who says that Republicans are the "Party of No?" No longer can we claim that all the GOP does is block meaningful reform and access to health care and legislation that denies people from being helped back to work. Senator Orrin Hatch, a long-time conservative Senator from Utah has an idea to spur at least one American industry back into action.

From The Huffington Post:

Utah voters have reacted enthusiastically to Sen. Orrin Hatch's legislation to drug test the unemployed and those receiving other forms of government cash assistance, the Utah Republican told the Huffington Post after introducing his measure last week.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch said.

The goal, he said, is to get users into treatment.

What this has to do with anything, no one really knows. So far his Republican colleagues have wisely stayed away from making comments. Democrats have called the idea punitive and pointless.

Senator Hatch though, says that people love his idea. Whether or not he can back that assertion up is another matter of course.

What Hatch is really up to (besides revitalizing the drug testing industry) is trying to score political points by milking the "let's beat up on the poor" card that conservatives have loved to do since Reagan made it popular. Social policy experts however, can point to several examples where programs like this have been tried and quickly failed to make any real difference. Not that that matters to Orrin, he's just trying to get his own welfare....corporate campaign cash that is.

Israel Lifts Blockade. Hooray For Peaceful International Pressure!

If you haven't heard by now, the constant and thorough pressure brought upon Israel in the last few weeks since the flotilla incident has resulted in a humanitarian victory. Israel will no longer be stopping food and supplies for the emaciated and compacted slice of sand that is known as the Gaza Strip.

From the New York Times:
JERUSALEM — Bowing to worldwide pressure and condemnation, Israel on Sunday formally announced an eased blockade of Gaza that could significantly expand the flow of goods overland into the impoverished coastal Palestinian enclave, isolated by the Israelis for three years.

The announcement, made by the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, came three weeks after a deadly Israeli naval commando raid that thwarted a breach of the blockade by a flotilla of pro-Palestinian aid activists. That raid outraged much of the world and became a catalyst for a serious re-examination by Israel of its policy toward Gaza, which is governed by the militant anti-Israeli group Hamas and is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.
The blockade started shortly after Hamas took power, a method of Israeli "diplomacy" that tried to shame Gazans for electing the terrorist group. Unfortunately it only served as a tool that legitimized Hamas in the eyes of those they govern.

Between the election that saw the decline of Fatah in the Strip and the deaths of Turkish citizens during the raid on the flotilla, the blockade was largely ignored by the international community. Even though plenty of aid groups and NGOs tried their best to plead with the Israeli government to lift the blockade, it took the persistent shaming for Netanyahu to finally relent.

It goes to show that sometimes neither war or stealth shuttle diplomacy can solve crises in the Middle East. Sometimes you just need to get creative in how you make people realize their mistakes in treating other people.