Thursday, June 17, 2010

Erik Prince Running From The Justice Department?

There are now three independent sources that are saying Blackwater founder and mercenary-criminal-extraordinaire Erik Prince is getting ready to leave the the country for Dubai. Why you ask? His inner circle is about to be charged by the Justice Department for their nefarious ways and it seems Mr. Prince is trying to outwit those that may want to hold him accountable for the crimes of Blackwater.

Now the question is, will Attorney General Holder stand for this? Time to get smart Mr. Holder.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In NYS, More Than A Thousand Pensioners Receive Six Figures

When I used to make phone calls for political and non-profit contributions, one of the most frequent excuses I got was that the potential donor was on a "fixed income." For a lot of retirees, that is a valid objection, but if one was to dial the numbers of the people on this list, they better pony up for your good cause.

Celeste at the DP has more:

The Empire Center has out a new database of the pensions of 342,543 New York State retirees on, and I gotta say it looks to me like the party's at George M. Philip's house.

Philip, former executive director of the NYS Teachers' Retirement System, tops the Empire Center's list of pensioners, pulling in $261,037 per year.

While not everyone is like George Philip, plenty of retirees make a lot of money from "time served." And from See Through NY, a more detailed run down of the numbers show that Police and Fire Fighters are less than ten percent of the entire roll, they more than sixteen percent of the monies. Meanwhile, the average pensioner in the Employee Retirement System only receives $25,000 approximately. So there's definitely a disparity, and while it can be argued that being New York's Finest and Bravest should be rewarding in old age, it cannot be denied that there's preferential treatment.

Enough about the numbers now, I'm calling George up for donations!

Obama Shows He's Great At Talking...Action In The Gulf Is Another Matter

President Obama gave his official Presidential primetime address on the BP oil spill last night, nearly two months after the well-publicized rig explosion occurred. Now the White House may have been intimately involved in the situation early on, but Obama's speech showed that perhaps nothing much of substance has come from his interaction.

Talk of making BP pay, developing a plan to deal with the devastation and crying out against our anti-regulatory political environment over the last twenty or thirty years is all good stuff. However, the President must be a leader, and any politician can make big, broad claims as Obama did last night. What we needed to hear was immediate and effective action plans. I wouldn't have minded an apology for his kowtowing to the oil companies earlier this year when he spoke in favor of offshore drilling either.

Kate Shepard of Mother Jones might have served Obama well if she were let in on writing the speech and more importantly, the policy decisions that should be made for the good of our country and the planet. Here's a bit of what she had to say:

On the Gulf disaster, Obama could have offered clear direction on several issues: for instance, by clarifying the administration's stance on eliminating the liability cap to protect oil companies from damages following a spill, or by offering a hard number for how much money BP must set aside for the independently administered fund the government has proposed.

Then there are the questions about wider energy and climate policy that remain unanswered. Obama largely avoided the issue of climate change, only uttering the word "climate" once as part of the phrase "a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill." He at least hit the right notes on clean energy, talking about solar power, wind, efficiency, and electric cars, an improvement over his State of the Union address this year, where nuclear power, "clean" coal, and offshore drilling figured heavily. But what his speech lacked was specific directives, which is what the Senate needs at this point. There wasn't even a clear call for a carbon cap, which I fear all but dooms its chances this year.

All of those things and more must be addressed if we want to be assertive in cleaning up the mess in the Gulf and preventing the next environmental catastrophe. You would think that creating more than half a million jobs a year by changing our climate-harming ways would entice Obama and the weak-kneed (and surprise, extremely vulnerable) Congress to do something about the fossil fuel industry. Of course, that would make sense for our long-term prospects, so obviously, they won't do it.

It is easy to call BP incompetent. Hell, they even admit to it themselves. The country is desperate to have a leader grab the reins and make change happen. Yes We Can......if

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Minerals In Afghanistan, Oh My!

I'm sure this shocks and surprises you as much as it did me. Suddenly it is big news (even though it's old) that Afghanistan has untold mineral resources valued by the Pentagon at a trillion dollars. Whether or not the price tag is a trillion d0llars even, the fact that the army is making a big deal shows that unfortunately, the U.S. government will facilitate multinational corporate interests to tap all that the Afghanis have. Of course, I have a feeling that the locals might have something to say about that....just ask the Russians, oh and yeah, ourselves.

Monday, June 14, 2010

There's A Deafening Clucking Sound And It's Coming From Albany

As I lament the Game 5 loss of my beloved Lakers last night, the feelings for my basketball team quickly fade in the shadow of this impending, or possibly impending, state government shutdown. Senators such as Espada and Diaz, along with the entire Republican caucus have made it nearly impossible to reach any kind of tenable deal to keep New York state humming. Of course, trimming a multi-billion dollar deficit while making everyone happy is an uphill battle but their "self-imposed deadline" came and went months ago. However at this moment the Democrats can't even manage to pass emergency extenders and the clock is ticking quickly towards one of three things, either we get a budget, a way for the renegade Democrats to sign off on another extender or...

As the Daily News calls it, High Noon!

It's high noon today in an Albany budget showdown that will decide if state government shuts down for the first time in New York history.[...]

But a key Bronx Democratic senator continued to insist yesterday that he'll vote against the latest bill because it cuts spending for mental health and social services by $327 million.

"I'm not voting for no more cuts," Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. said. "Let the Republicans cut. I'm a Democrat and Democrats protect services for the poor and needy, they don't cut them."

Without Diaz's vote, the Democratic majority does not have enough votes to pass the bill without Republican help.

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson expressed confidence the 32 votes will be there to ensure government doesn't shut down.

"We're not playing a game of chicken here," the Brooklyn Democrat said.

Actually, this is a giant game of chicken. No one seems to have the gall or guts to get anything substantial done. The Senate consists of 62 chickens and their squawking and clucking over budget details is getting on everyone's nerves. I understand Diaz doesn't want to cut. If it were up to me and in an alternative universe I'd be increasing the budgets to help the poor and the needy. Unfortunately the Senate and the rest of Albany has been a poor steward of the state's money over the last, oh well let's just say it's been a minute. Because of that, we are stuck with out of control deficits and not enough Senators exist that have the chutzpah to tax the few New Yorkers that had instigated the latest financial meltdown. So, we have to compromise and that means we need to cut. Diaz had better get on board, or else there'll be no state services at all.