Sunday, November 29, 2009

Guinean pro-democracy march in NYC on Dec. 8

Republished with permission from Friends of Guinea blog.

From: Alliance Guinea

This is far from over - the latest news out of Guinea is a proposed deal that would have the CNDD junta heading a "national transition council" for up to 10 months and open the door for Dadis to stand in elections. At the same time, the UN is beginning the work of the international commission of inquiry into the crimes of September 28, but it's clear that more international pressure against the military and support for the population is needed.

Here in New York Alliance Guinea has joined forces with the Guinean Forces Vives in the US and our friends Kadiatou Diallo and Norman Siegel of the Amadou Diallo Foundation to form the "September 28 Coalition for Justice and Democracy in Guinea."

Together we are organizing a march and rally on Tuesday, December 8 from 11am - 3pm to demand justice for the crimes committed and support for a speedy and democratic transition to civilian rule in Guinea. At 11am we will gather in front of the Guinean consulate at 140 E. 39th St., marching then to 47th Street and rallying by noon at Dag Hammarskjold Park in front of the United Nations. See Stay tuned for a list of expected speakers.

If you live far from New York and cannot join us in person, here are two things you can still do:

1. Make a donation – help us offset the cost of the rally (permits, transport, stage & sound system costs, etc.) through our new online giving button at www.allianceguinea.org. Check it out and pass the word – every gift counts!

2. Write a letter (again!) to your local newspaper or Congressperson/Member of Parliament and tell them about the march and how the latest news out of Guinea confirms the critical need for international pressure and support is critical to getting justice and preventing what could spiral into civil war. For sample letters and other tips, see http://www.allianceguinea.org/advocacy-what-you-can-do/

And if you are in the New York area and can’t make it during lunch hour on Tuesday, don’t miss for what is going to be an amazing "Musique contre la Violence" unity night in Harlem on December 9 at 8pm at Shrine in Harlem with some of the greatest masters of Guinean music living in America and guest speakers from the September 28 Coalition.

The situation in Guinea is just as dire as ever, and justice must be served and the military must go. As those of us here in the US gather for Thanksgiving this week, let us give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and continue to do all we can to help our friends and family enjoy the same.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Senate incompetence threatens to bankrupt NYS

Bob over at Planet Albany blasts the "astonishing irresponsibility" of the New York legislature. Unusually, he's engaging in understatement.

The state is literally running out of money, he writes, and the Legislature refuses to do anything about it. The focus, especially in the Senate, is entirely on the politics of next year's elections.

That's not entirely true.

Part of the focus of the senate (it doesn't merit the dignity of a capital 'S') is using media like Twitter to engage in childish trash talk toward the only adult in Albany, Governor Paterson.

A recent Tweet: Sens Sampson & Skelos commit 2 bipartisan work 2 negotiate a responsible DRP that's better than the Gov's

Apparently the phrase "nyah nyah nyah" would've made it run over the allotted 140 characters.

If the governor tweeted, he'd probably reply, "i dare u 2 put up or shut up."

The governor recently urged the senate to either pass a deficit reduction plan of their own or let him do it. He basically told them to stop yapping and start doing. Stop preening for the cameras. Stop talking smack on Twitter. Start passing a comprehensive and responsible plan. Most New Yorkers would agree with him.

The senate blasted him for having the temerity to suggest that someone should actually show the courage and leadership to do what needs to be done.

The Tweet concluded with Senate stands at ease, which is unnecessary as they've been doing so for most of the year.

The senate may be focused only on next year's elections, as Bob suggests. But at this rate, they are doing far more to enhance the governor's re-election prospects than their own.

Update: The Post-Star ran a good editorial today echoing the sentiments of myself and many other New Yorkers entitled quite simply, "Governor gets it, legislators don’t." It notes that the governor has made it easier for local governments to consolidate and share services. I think we should take consolidation one step further. Let's eliminate the senate and go to a unicameral legislature like Nebraska has.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

On this holiday, I am thankful for those humanitarian aid workers, development workers, Peace Corps volunteers and others who are sacrificing and often putting themselves in harm's way to make our world a better place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You can't make this stuff up

So I was listening to WAMC's The Media Project this afternoon. The commentators, including Times-Union editor Rex Smith, were complaining about news stories about animals.

And not more than a few minutes later, I saw a news article on The Times-Union's website about... a fake animal.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The public nothing

I am starting to agree with the objections of those who rage at the thought of paying so that someone who needs it can receive health care. I will use that logic to see if I, as a non-driver, can get a rebate on my taxes that subsidize the interstates.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Far right candidate needs to put up or shut up (updated)

NY23 Congressional candidate Doug Hoffman has officially lost his marbles.

A few days ago, he "unconceded" his election defeat to now-inaugurated Bill Owens after recanvassing showed that the race was tighter than originally thought. Al Gore unconceded to George W. Bush, so Hoffman's un-concession is unusual but not that unreasonable.

But his more recent comments are, at best, completely reckless.

In a fundraising letter, he is now accusing Democrats, ACORN and unions of stealing the election, of "tampering with democracy."

He does not offer one iota of evidence to back up his fantastical claims. This failure not only calls into question the credibility of his claims, but his personal integrity.

I realize that it was a fundraising letter and that he was no doubt just making sure to tick off each one of the far right's favorite boogeymen (though he did forget to bash the media). But to make such serious claims without providing a shred of evidence is not simply 'irresponsible,' as NCPR's Brian Mann claims, it's borderline defamatory.

Hoffman should either provide evidence to back up his serious accusations or retract them.

Update: In recanvasing the voting machines in Jefferson County, they discovered that there had been a recording error that benefited Hoffman to the tune of 1000 or so votes. Who's "they"? According to the GOP Elections Commissioner in the county, it was the DEMOCRATIC Elections Commissioner who discovered and reported the discrepency that ended up hurting the Democrat and benefiting the Conservative/Republican. If it's a conspiracy, it's a pretty poorly executed one. Hopefully, this divisive, clueless joke of a candidate disappears from the scene.

Economic development for consultants?

The Post-Star did a story on the Glens Falls' mayor's desire to hire a full-time economic development director at an $80,000 a year salary. It was noted that the proposed economic development budget for next year was $308,000... almost 2 percent of the entire city budget.

So apparently, the city "needs" to hire an economic development director IN ADDITION to its business/tourism director and its part-time economic development consultant.

This all is IN ADDITION to the city's Industrial Development Agency (which itself is in addition to the bi-county IDA) as well as city's Local Development Corporation.

I wish someone (maybe a media outlet) would do an analysis on what kind of return on investment these positions/bodies have generated in recent years and if the city of 13,000 needs six different entities doing economic development.


Update: Commenter Matthew adds: "The thing that was making me scratch my head was that this new guy is being paid more than the highest paid elected official by over $20K." (aka: over 30 percent more)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do mom and pop wine shops support their own extinction?

An ad on the website of The Daily News pointed out this website.

It claims It is time for New York to support small businesses throughout the state, from Upstate family farms to mom and pop wine shops.

Yet in fact, it calls for support of a bill that would allow wine and liquor sales in mega chain supermarkets, something that "mom and pop wine shops" can't be too thrilled about.

Its deceit is further evidenced by repeated use of the phrase "Big Liquor Myth" to hammer home its dubious pretense to represent small wine shops.

This group, which is backed by the mega chain supermarkets, claims that "Big Liquor" (whatever that means) is opposed to this change. But it also claims that sales of alcohol would skyrocket if this change were implemented. So why would the mythical "Big Liquor" oppose something that would see liquor sales increase?

Whether you support or oppose the sale of wine and liquor in mega chain supermarkets, this self-interested deceit is something that we could do without.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Milk processors squeeze farmers, gouge customers

It looks like the thieves at National Grid are not the only ones gouging customers. The Associated Press reports that New York farmers are getting record low payments for milk [even though] consumers are seeing just a fraction of the savings.

The health insurance debate

I wish people would stop referring to the current debate as having to do with "health care reform." To the questionable extent that it constitutes "reform," the bill winding its way through Congress is about private health INSURANCE. It has little to with how health CARE is delivered.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Laramie Project in HF

Kudos to the drama club over at Hudson Falls High School for putting on the play The Laramie Project (and I suppose, to administrators for ok'ing it). It's certainly a gutsy topic to tackle in a conservative, blue collar small town. Performances are tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm, all the the HF high school auditorium.

Ignorance or deceit?

A follow up to yesterday's essay...

Today, The Post-Star ran yet another editorial blasting Queensbury school district's spending. And the numbers, the FACTS, I've provided them several times appeared nowhere in the piece.

It's not just that they won't change their editorial position. It's that they refuse to acknowledge the existence of a very important piece of information that seems to seriously undermines their position (and if it doesn't, they should at least explain why).

At first, I just assumed they were ill-informed. They no longer have that excuse now. What they're doing, I'm sorry to say, is now a lot closer to deceit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't let facts interfere with your rant (pt. 823)

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Probably more than any local school district, Queensbury UFSD has been in the firing line by the local Post-Star daily for its spending habits. Most recently here, in the blog of the paper's supremo Ken Tingley.

Yet the Albany Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog provided numbers that told a very different story. It cited a report by the Education Intelligence Agency which compiled spending numbers for the 2006-07 school year.

The report showed that Queensbury (#142 on the list) spent $10,819 per pupil, which is one of the LOWEST spending rates in the state and is 32.3% BELOW the state average... despite generally having an excellent academic reputation.

The amount the distrct spent per pupil on compensation was also one of the lowest in the state and was 29.8% below the state average.

Good education (within the parameters of how it's defined in this country) for a low per-pupil cost. In any other context, this would be called efficiency. So, Post-Star, what exactly is the problem? I left this same observation on Tingley's blog but he hasn't responded, so who knows what his/their thought process is.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

May the VFW disappear

Let's hope, on this Veterans Day, that the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization becomes obsolete in 50 years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Taste of Zimbabwe in Albany

I received information about a fundraiser in Albany, NY to support girls in Zimbabwe made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. It is sponsored by the Dangwa Initiative and the Rotary Club of the Empire Plaza.

A Taste of Zimbabwe will be held on Friday November 20 from 7:00 pm until midnight at The Linda (WAMC Performing Arts Studio).

It will feature living Zimbabwean music by Fafi 3 Percent, the sale of Shona sculptures and Zimbabwean cuisine.

Donation is $25 for adults, $20 for students ($35 at the door).

For reservations, please call (518) 459-2914 or email: info @ dangwa.org

You can pay online at: wamcarts.org/artsched.html

Or you can mail checks (payable to: FCNY/Dangwa Initiative) to:

Dangwa Initiative
PO Box 5125
Albany, NY 12205

For further information, you can call Teresa at (518) 221-9423

Fining people for being poor is NOT better than nothing

As someone who cares about human beings after they reach the post-fetal state, I'm left to wonder about reaction to what some are calling the HMO bailout by Congressional Democrats.

The so-called health care reform bill that passed the House would add an inadequate but tolerable in the short-term public option. But since the public option is the only part of the bill that would even modestly reform health care access, it's almost guaranteed to be emasculated in the Senate, where the "progressive" party holds a crushing 59-seat majority.

The rest of the bill has some things that would make needed, but small improvements to a badly broken system. These should be passed separately. However, by themselves, they are little more than putting slightly more comfortable deck chairs on the Titanic.

There has been much outrage by liberals and progressives against Democrats who voted against this "reform" bill. But I'm left to wonder if the criticisms are serious on the merit of the bill or simply a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that Republicans and Joe Lieberman hate it.

The bill's most unconscionable provision would levy fines against people who did not have health insurance. Essentially, this provision would punish people for being in difficult economic circumstances. It would fine people for being unable to afford insurance

I can't see how anyone who calls him/herself progressive can possibly support something that would fine people for being poor.

It's not the working class who would benefit from this health care "reform" sham, from being compelled to buy garbage they can't afford. It's the private insurance companies who would see a huge boon in revenues because the government would be forcing people to buy their crap.

Insurance companies have never cured an illness, sutured a wound or repaired a broken bone. They do not provide health care. All they do is shift around money and take their 30 percent cut. How they have this much power is a testament to corporate suffocation of what was once democratic governance.

Opposing this bill on this basis is not, as often derided, letting "the perfect be the enemy of the good." It's not some trifling objection. It's fundamental.

According to Democratic rhetoric, the purpose of the bill is to make health care more accessible and more affordable. Fining people for being poor necessarily makes health care for those people LESS accessible and LESS affordable. And for that reason alone, the bill should be opposed as long as this unconscionable provision is part of it.


Update: According to Wikipedia*: It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of poor Americans are not covered by Medicaid.

(*-the source link doesn't seem to work)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lushes (of the non-teen variety) have an advocate on the corner of Cooper and Lawrence

Editorials speak not just about the positions of a newspaper, but about its priorities. As I've mentioned on this blog many times, New York state electoral law is badly rigged in favor of Democrats and Republicans (as well as their factions: the fake parties of the Working Families and Conservative Parties) by putting obscene hurdles to participation by smaller parties and independents.

The Post-Star has often espoused as "throw the bums out" editorial line with regard to the legislature in Albany but has never seen fit to link that to broader electoral reform that would enable much-needed real multipartyism. Yet yesterday, the daily ran what is at least their second editorial denouncing bureaucratic problems of the state Liquor Authority; there have been several investigative news articles on the topic as well.

Based on their editorial judgement, having increased options to buy a bottle of Wild Turkey or Absolut seems a far more important priority to the paper than multiparty democracy.

This is particularly ironic considering that one of their other editorial crusades is against teen... drinking.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Moderate GOP legislator receives death threats by self-styled patriots

Fallout continues to rain down in the aftermath of the 23rd Congressional District of New York special election. The far right spin is that the 23rd was a victory for them that a registered Republican with a national following and funding lost a two-person race in a region with huge Republican advantage that hadn't sent a Democrat to Congress since before the Civil War to an unknown supposed Nancy Pelosi clone.

And that speaks volumes. It was more important for the far right jihadists to purge the party of infidels than to win the race with a candidate who agree with them on most issues.

That's why the far right ran not against Dede Scozzafava and the now-elected Bill Owens, but against the presence of moderates in the GOP and against the House Speaker. And it didn't work. Even in conservative (but pragmatic) upstate, the "Owen=Pelosi" smear wasn't enough to overcome the far right candidate's strident ideology, hatemongering and often bald-faced lying national backers and wilful ignorance of local issues.

Upstate NY Republican Assemblywomen Scozzafava and Janet Duprey both gave interviews to North Country Public Radio in which they wondered if there were still a place for moderates in the GOP. A third, Teresa Sayward, seems to wonder the same.

Sayward, Scozzafava and Duprey align with the Republican mainstream on most issues. But to the jihadists, politicians are judged solely on two: abortion and gay marriage. Anyone who varies from theocratic orthodoxy on either of those two issues is a "liberal" heretic to be burned at the stake. By contrast, "pro-life" frauds not only have no problem supporting pols who advocate state murder (the death penalty) or bloody wars of aggression without the slightest sense of contradiction, but do so eagerly and with startling regularity.

What's most notable is that all three of these Assemblywomen voted in favor of gay marriage during the last legislative session, Sayward famously giving an impassioned plea based on her status as the mother of a gay son. And yet none of the three received either a primary or general election challenger in last November's race. Further evidence that upstate may be conservative temperamentally but without the frothing-at-the-mouth ideological fervor that the far right wants to believe.

Probably the most disturbing part of the Duprey interview is her claim that she's received not just hate emails, but threats of physical violence. This is the edge to the far right that is extremely disturbing. According to media reports, President Obama has received far more death threats than any previous president. There certainly are strident left-wing ideologues, but they are typically derided by opponents as pacifists and sissies, not the groups most likely to commit violence to achieve political objectives. If the far right wants to marginalize the Republican Party into irrelevance, that's certainly its democratic prerogative. But it's one thing to threaten to take a politician out at the voting booth. It's quite another to threaten to just take him/her out.

And while there's certainly tension and harsh words within the Democratic Party as well, I don't know of anyone who's threatened to kill against Joe Lieberman or Max Baucus.


Update: Just to show that nastiness and vitriol is not unique to the right. From a MoveOn.org newsletter...

We're not pulling punches. We need to turn up the pressure on any senator who might be a Turncoat Democrat who supports a Republican filibuster. It's time to bring back our hard-hitting ad pressuring Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to support a public option. If we raise $100,000 by Thursday, we can blanket the airwaves and turn up the pressure for Mary Landrieu back home before she decides how to vote in D.C.

Does it make me a "turncoat progressive" that I don't support the Democrats' HMO bailout that would fine people for being poor?

Friday, November 06, 2009

A letter to Congressman Murphy on health care [guest essay]

by Ben L.

(also see his essay America's Great Healthcare Denial of Service)


Dear Representative Murphy,

I would like to tell you my story, which is only a small horror story in the context of this wretched system of wasteful, greedy health care in the US. Hopefully, there is a tipping point where the people make their will known for a simple, effective system. Everyone should have access to care.

This year, my health care provider (HMO to PPO) changed from MVP to United Healthcare. Since then I am left to the wolves for fighting for benefits that they promised to me and then denied. I can see no mechanism that punishes them for the denials -- only their own benefit of stealing money from their members, from providers, from institutions.

I have Crohn's Disease. It is a chronic disease that requires medication to keep my condition from going into painful inflammation.

In October of 2008, I began trying to verify with United Healthcare (UHC) what my out-of-pocket expenses would be for covering Remicade infusions (for treatment of Crohn's Disease). After many phone calls, I received assurances in January of 2009 that the procedure would be coded and billed as an office visit and I would be responsible only for the co-pay. At this time I was coordinating services through Gastroenterology Associates of Northern NY in Glens Falls (through Dr. Michael Chase) as well as Glens Falls Hospital.

In April, I received a bill from Glens Falls Hospital for $1,677.09. This was for my first Remicade infusion for the year. The relevant UHC claim is [number].

A subsequent infusion was performed on 3/17/2009 and I again was billed using this different criteria. This time patient responsibility is set at $603.24 and UHC is now saying that this is the remainder of the maximum out of pocket expense for the year. (Although, actually I have been billed for $645 more because my gastroenterologist who I thought was in-network is out of network even though there are no local gastroenterologists in network, there is a different out-of-network out-of-pocket maximum than the in-network out-of-pocket-maximum -- this has subsequently been resolved after 3 appeals with UHC and another appeal through Tribune Company who actually self-insures the plan with UHC administering).

Although the hospital expenses appear to be a difference in how the billing is coded, I have not been given any direction or opportunity or redress to get them coded in a manner that is compliant with how I was described this process would work (and what my payment responsibility would be) as consistent with what I was told at the beginning of the year. For Dr. Chase’s bill, I was told that I would be able to obtain a waiver because there are no in-network gastroenterologists, but this has been refused in appeals with UHC.

I would like to get this figured out soon as I am getting a lot of bills that I do not feel I should be responsible for with “Past Due” and “Final Notice” on them. These bills in question are:

Glens Falls Hospital service date 1/20/2009 $1,677.09
acct# [number]

Glens Falls Hospital service date 3/17/2009 $603.24
acct# [number]

I am in the bad debt file over in the hospital and have 30 days to resolve the matter (pay the debt, set up a payment plan, etc.).

Please, please, please do something to reform this system, rife with abuse so people who are sick are not attacked by predatory corporations.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Local mill leading national polluter, says group

The Post-Star reports that Glens Falls' paper mill Finch Pruyn is the nation's 6th largest polluter of cancer-causing chemicals, the leading polluter in New York state. According to the group Environment America, Finch released into the Hudson River 26,541 pounds of carcinogens, the vast majority of which was formaldehyde.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Conservative in politics, liberal with the truth

Perhaps it's no surprise that someone endorsed by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck would, to be polite, play fast and loose with the facts... especially after a campaign where he showed so little grasp of them. But maybe Hoffman ought follow Palin's advice (something the vice-presidential candidate never quite did) and "quit makin' stuff up."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Guide to judicial candidates

Adirondack Almanack has a useful guide to local judicial candidates for the state Supreme Court* as well as a link to a statewide guide.

*-The Supreme Court is actually the lowest level (trial) court in the New York state system and its justices are elected.

"Stalinists" for "McHugh's heir"?

Over the weekend, the Republican-endorsed candidate for the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional district Dede Scozzafava pulled out of the race. The race was provoked when GOP Rep. John McHugh was tapped by Pres. Obama to become Secretary of the Army.

Scozzzafava spent much of the campaign defending herself from a barrage of attacks by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and other far right national media types who backed her Republican-running-as-a-Conservative opponent Doug Hoffman. For his part, Hoffman was widely accused of being a generic ideologue who knew very little about and talked very little of issues that affect the district. This was fueled by his decision to skip both public debates held during the campaign, the first of which he snubbed to get cozy with Beck on his show.

Hoffman and the national far right that backed and funded him weren't running against Scozzafava and Democrat Bill Owens, who most couldn't tell from Eve and Adam. These jihadists were crusading against infidel RINOs and against satanic Nancy Pelosi. Democrats were no doubt licking their chops at this GOP self-cannibalization, hoping the party will become even more marginalized than it is now.

As Adirondack Almanack pointed out, on the day of Scozzafava's withdrawal, Hoffman said warm and fuzzy things about the woman he spent months savaging. Hoffman had initially promised to accept the wishes of the GOP party bosses in the nominating process; then when they tapped Scozzafava to be the nominee, he renegged on that promise. That history didn't stop him from piously praising Scozzafava for putting the party ahead of her own personal interests.

But then the Republican Assemblywoman endorsed Owens as the best man to represent the district's interests. As the only candidate in the race who'd ever actually had the job of representing the interests of any voters, her opinion wasn't insiginificant.

Suddenly Hoffman decided that he and Dede were no longer BFF!!!... forever being an even shorter time in politics than in adolescence.

Reactions to the developments varied on ideological beliefs. The New York Times' Frank Rich described the national activists on Hoffman's behalf as "Stalinists." Anti-abortion blogger Bob Conner at Planet Albany says that the "pro-life" (read: anti-abortion) Hoffman is the real heir to John McHugh on abortion.

Hopefully the voters of the 23rd (which do not include Rich, Conner or myself) will finally be allowed to make up their own minds without further meddling from outsiders.

Update: Planet Albany's Conner reports that top Republicans in the state Assembly are backing Hoffman. Controlling a whopping 26.7% of the chamber's seats, Assembly Republicans are no doubt the model of 'ideological purity = electoral success' that Hoffman and his far right backers are seeking to emulate.

Yes on NYS Constitutional Proposal #1

North Country Public Radio's blog has a piece on the two proposals to amend New York's state constitution that will appear on the ballot tomorrow.

Proposal #1 is a state land swap with the National Grid power conglomerate that would provide for more reliable electricity to the Tupper Lake area.

Proposal #2 would allow prisoners to voluntarily do work for non-profits.

The Watertown Daily Times decided to endorse both proposals.

Proposal #1 was strongly pushed for by local officials. But the move also has the broad support of the environmentalist community, getting the thumbs up from the the Adirondack Council. Environmental groups support the swap because it would, in the Council's words, avoid an environmentally disastrous six-mile detour through the woods... the detour would involve road construction through an old-growth forest, 95 streams and wetlands, and habitat for the endangered spruce grouse.

Don't forget to vote on these proposals tomorrow. They're usually at the very top of the ballot.