Thursday, December 30, 2010

[Guest essay] Legislators should be paid once for their work, not twice

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported that North Country Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey will both be "retiring" on December 31 before starting their new terms the following day. This will allow them to collect both a salary and a pension, a controversial tactic commonly referred to as "double dipping." This has particularly galled many people since Sayward and Duprey frequently brag about their 'fiscally conservative' credentials. Although the Syracuse Post-Standard reports that the tactic is not limited to state legislators who claim to support smaller government and less spending. This loophole was recognized as being inappropriate and was closed several years ago by the legislature but Sayward and Duprey were grandfathered in. The pair defended their double dipping in an interview with North Country Public Radio. Post-Star columnist Will Doolittle said that everyone else does it, so why shouldn't pro-smaller government legislators. A local resident disagrees.



Guest essay
by Benjamin Lapham

In a survey (available here) prior to the election this past November, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward had this to say:

Government is too big, there are too many agencies, authorities, political appointments and benefits are way too rich, Albany needs to lead by example and move to computerize the legislature, make all allocations for the legislature equal as is currently done in congress, and budget for only the basic needs of the state, health, education and welfare, retirement benefits are unsustainable, as a start all politicians should be taken out of the NYS Retirement System and put into a 401K type of benefit, no one should be receiving retirement benefits without paying into the system, realistically the deficit will not be addressed until special interests are taken out of the mix, this can happen if there were term limits on all elected NYS officials, 4 year terms, three terms max.


One might think that because Sayward is concerned about limiting service in the Assembly, that her upcoming retirement on 12/31/2010 is a case where a public official is putting her words into action. And I suppose it is a kind of action, in as much as hypocrisy is an action. Because, you see, she will be beginning her new term on 1/1/2011. This will allow her to collect two checks for one job (see here).

In Sayward’s own words, she defends her decision to “retire” for a few hours and unethically pull down two checks (a retirement check for her 2010 term as well as a check for her 2011 term) as a benefit for her husband. “We were dairy farmers,” Sayward said. “All he has is social security and the little bit we were able to put aside.” “It simply was a decision I made to protect my husband,” she said.

Wouldn’t the ethical thing be to provide better Social Security benefits for everyone? If she thinks it is a concern of dairy farmers, what other dairy farmer benefited by her taking a check for Assembly and also cashing a check for being retired from the exact same job? It is grift, pure and simple. If it were not, why would this “loophole” have been closed in 2005 (see here).

Sayward says, "I've worked hard. I'll have to continue to work, just like anybody among my constituents. Most people, when they retire, still have to work." This is an insult to every person in her district who are paid once for their labor. Teresa Sayward has gone to Albany under the pretense of making New York State a better place to do business, but has proven the only one she is benefitting is the family of Teresa Sayward.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The truth about Wikileaks (for a change)

Twitterers were able to publicize a correction that National Public Radio tried to bury.

The broadcaster's wrote: In recent weeks, NPR hosts, reporters and guests have incorrectly said or implied that WikiLeaks recently has disclosed or released roughly 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Although the website has vowed to publish "251,287 leaked United States embassy cables," as of Dec. 28, 2010, only 1,942 of the cables had been released.

By all accounts, the correction was the result of a number of listener complaints to NPR's Ombudsman.

And this is why we need Wikileaks and sites like it. Mainstream media outlets in this country, even the best ones, have a truth telling problem. And while NPR deserves some credit for actually running corrections, unlike most broadcasters, it shows how important it is for people to be watching the self-appointed watchdogs and holding them accountable.

The correction also rubbishes one of the many dubious claims of anti-transparency advocates that Wikileaks is "not showing any restraint." The site has published fewer than 0.8% of the cables it was given.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

[Guest essay] Christmas in Afghanistan

Republished here with permission of the author.

by Molly Conner on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 10:40pm

As you go to Christmas services this year, please take a minute and remember the servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan this year.

The United States has lost 494 servicemembers this year. The UK has lost 101. Total Coalition Forces casualties are at 702. It is the deadliest year of the war so far. Yet no one in the United States is paying attention. News coverage of the war makes up 4% of media stories, down from 5% in 2009.

Less than 1% of voters polled before the midterm elections this year considered the war in Afghanistan to even be a major issue.

So please, as you celebrate the holiday this year, take a moment to remember those who gave their lives for this country, those who were wounded, those who lost limbs, and those who lost loved ones. I honestly don't care if any of you are for or against the war. Your position doesn't matter. Just please, keep us in mind, remember us, and pay attention when the stories come on the news. Please let the war in Afghanistan take precedence in your mind over Bristol Palin in Dancing With the Stars, or Lindsay Lohan's latest drama in rehab. Please remember us. Have the debate. Ask the hard questions. Decide if it's worth it, and if it is, what more needs to be done, what you can do to help. Visit your local veteran's center, ask what you can do to help. Donate to the wounded warriors project. Or just visit the websites of the units in Afghanistan, and look at the names, pictures, and biographies of the fallen. I link to my own 101st Airborne Division, which has lost over 100 soldiers this year. But they all deserve to be remembered.

I don't believe that all soldiers are heroes. I don't believe that military personnel should be automatically labeled as role models, as too often happens. I don't pretend that hundreds of thousands don't initially enlist for reasons other than patriotism.

However, I do believe, with my whole heart, that when you allow your elected government to send soldiers to fight and die in your name, you owe them the basic human dignity of paying attention, and acknowledging that sacrifice. And yet, nine years into this war, media coverage is down, and the war is a non-issue in the election, while soldiers continue to die at their highest rates yet.

Attention should be paid.

So please, when you celebrate the holiday this year: remember us.



http://www.icasualties.org/

http://www.campbell.army.mil/eaglehonors/Pages/EagleHonorsHome.aspx

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,840/

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Pentagon takes care of its own

NPR ran a report explain how the Department of Defense's health plan refuses to cover brain-damage therapy for soldiers and veterans.

This sort of thing nauseates me. The Pentagon spends billions shoveling corporate welfare into the troughs of 'defense' contractors like Boeing and Halliburton, but when it comes to taking care of the actual human beings seriously injured while following their orders, all the DOD gives is the middle finger.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Most US medical bankruptcies are by people with health insurance

A blog post on Naked Capitalism cites numbers from publications like Reader’s Digest and The Washington Post which note that the overwhelming majority of Americans driven into debt and bankruptcy due to medical bills have insurance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Periodic Twitter update

Note: This is a series highlighting selected stories from the Twitter feeds for my blogs Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian and Black Star Journal. The Twitter feed contains not only links to original pieces from my blogs but also links ("re-tweets") to diverse stories from other media outlets. 129 people presently get their updates this way. Those interested are encouraged to subscribe the Twitter feed to get all stories by going to Twitter.com/mofycbsj and clicking 'follow'.



-Poll: [NYS] Voters Say No To Raises, Yes To Taxing Rich (The Journal News)

-EU to sanction Cote d'Ivoire (al-Jazeera)

-How Glenn Beck's Twisted Worldview Goads Disturbed People into Acts of Violence (AlterNet)

-Australian Media's Finest Defend Wikileaks [unlike craven American journalists] (The Wakely Foundation)

-TX GOP Official Opposes Jewish House Speaker: Christians ‘Are The People That Do The Best Jobs’ (Think Progress)

-Indoleaks launched [Indonesian answer to WikiLeaks] (Jakarta Globe)

-Rwandan genocide finds release in photos (NPR)

-Julian Assange, like Daniel Ellsberg and Joe Wilson, Feels the Heat (The Progressive)

-Howie Hawkins says the Green campaign continues (GPNYS)

-Phone Companies' $100 Billion Rip-off -- Where Is That Hidden $6 a Month Going in Our Phone Bills? (Alternet)

-Guinea's [President-elect Alpha] Conde plans truth commission on violence (Reuters)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ike's 'garrison state'

James Ledbetter had a good op-ed in yesterday's New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower's famous warning against the undue influence of the military-industrial complex.

Even at the early stage in the Cold War, Gen. Eisenhower had noted with dismay the development of "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions."

The World War II hero was concerned about the military-industrial complex not because he was a pacifist but because he worried about the armed forces' relationship with the larger society and the potentially corrosive influence on public policy.

It is not a stretch to believe that this armaments industry — which profits not only from domestic sales but also from tens of billions of dollars in annual exports — manipulates public policy to perpetuate itself.

But Eisenhower was concerned about more than just the military’s size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military.


And that

Eisenhower warned that the influence of the military-industrial complex was “economic, political, even spiritual” and that it was “felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.”

[...]

On this score, Eisenhower may well have seen today’s America as losing the battle against the darker aspects of the military-industrial complex. He was no pacifist, but he was a lifelong opponent of what he called a “garrison state,” in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.


Ike's warning is just as relevant today, if not more so, than it was in 1960.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dirty money

This report on WAMC gives new meaning to the phrase 'toxic assets.' The public radio station reports: A new study out from the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and New York's JustGreen Partnership , has revealed that things we touch everyday: money and cash register receipts, are laden with BPA - a hormone disrupting chemical linked to serious health problems such as cancer, infertility, and early puberty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

WikiLeaks

Although I've often said "Secrecy is the enemy of democracy," I'd be lying if I said the WikiLeaks' dump of diplomatic cables didn't make me a little uncomfortable. I think the public interest would've been better served by a more targeted leak. Much of the information was more along the lines of high school gossip: juicy but harmless. I think this overload of trivia diminishes the real impact of the more important revelations.

However, the leaks show exactly to what extent the US government is wedded to secrecy. Much of the stuff 'revealed' did not need to classified. Is it really a state secret that Libya's leader likes his hot blonde Ukranian nurse or that Germany's chancellor is uncreative? Transparency should be the default position in a democratic society, with secrecy allowed only when truly necessary and under stringent, demonstrable conditions and okayed by an objective third party. Our national security state has it bass ackwards.

I'd prefer a more restrained WikiLeaks [WL] and a less restrained government, but if only given two choices, I'd rather have radical transparency than radical secrecy.

One thing I am certain about is that the reaction to WL frightens me far more than WikiLeaks' actions. Though none of this surprises Pentagon Papers 'leaker' Daniel Ellsberg, who pointed out that: "EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and [its founder] Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the most insufferably self-righteous man in Washington, bullied Amazon.com into booting WikiLeaks from its servers. If Amazon wants to boot WL, that's its prerogative. But when pompous politicians start pressuring organizations to impose censorship, that's pretty unnerving in a society that claims to be free.

Then there's Rep. Peter King, who opined that WL should be treated as a terrorist organization. In recent years, conservatives have waged war on many things, including language. Violence and the threat of violence is inherent to terrorism. To describe WL as a terrorist organization is to strip the word 'terrorism' of any meaning. To people like King, the war on terrorism includes the war on the unvarnished truth.

That's to say nothing of people like Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who said that if WL didn't do anything illegal, then the law should be changed.

And to say nothing of scum like Bill Kristol and Sarah Palin who called for the assassination of Assange. This terrorist organization needs to be dismantled via... umm... assassination (the non-terroristic kind of course).

The vice-president of PayPal said it froze WL's assets because the State Department unilaterally decreed the organization illegal. This McCarthyistic trashing of the rule of law is a far more dangerous precedent than anything WL did.

Oh by the way, none of the above incidents or suggestions involved in any way a court of law.

WL opponents claim that the organization has blood on its hands, that people have died because of its revelations. When reporters challenged their vitriolic rhetoric against WL, both the State Dept. and the Pentagon admitted that it had no evidence that anyone had actually died because of the leaks. Furthermore, Assange claims that before all three major leaks this year (Afghanistan, Iraq, diplomatic cables), it asked the Pentagon and State Dept. for its assistance in redacting out the names of people who might be at risk. In all three cases, the government refused cooperation... and then later whipped out the 'people will die' card.

For all the huffing and puffing, the fact is that innocent people were dying before WL's revelations. Those deaths were revealed by WL. And they continue to die.

For all the hysterical libel/slander, one fact remains indisputable: WL has not killed a single human being. It's merely revealed the killings of human beings by others.

Opponents are trying to have it both ways. They say the leaks are pointless because so much is frivolous. Then they claim that the leaks are reckless and putting people's lives at risk. Which is it: frivolous or life-threatening?

They are also trying to spin it by saying that the cables reveal that a) America's private diplomacy is remarkably consistent with its public diplomacy and that b) diplomats are doing a great job in a very complicated world. Neat trick.

I haven't looked extensively but the few cables I've looked at have actually redacted the names of "innocent bystanders." Though I suppose this means anyone named XXXXXXX has reason to fear for their life.

The cables have revealed some very important things related to US foreign policy. For example, I think it's important to know that the Saudi king is baiting the US to launch an aggression against Iran. I think it's useful to know that US diplomats privately admitted that the overthrow of Honduras' leftist, democratically-elected president was indeed illegal and unconstitutional, even as they publicly waffled.

Some people are concerned with provided metaphoric 'ammunition' to the bad guys. I’m more concerned about providing REAL ammunition to bad guys... something the cables and other reporting has revealed that our 'allies' in Pakistan and Afghanistan are doing. The cables reveal that Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai, whose government and personal protection would collapse without my tax dollars, is corrupt and in league with drug dealers and terrorist thugs. Ditto the Pakistani 'security' forces, who also receive more than a few of my tax dollars. My money is funding this crap. And thanks to WL, I know that even our diplomats admit this is a sham. I have personal friends who are putting their lives at risk to defend the crooked regime in Kabul. And my outrage and disgust supposed to be directed at Assange? Give me a break!

Despite all the sanctimonious official outrage at WL, what do I hear on the Voice of America's African news program a few days ago? A piece about a WikiLeak cable concerning the political situation in Kenya, another on a cable about Nigeria and a third about cables concerning African leaders. This includes the a bit about how angry the US government is that these cables have been published. That's the same VOA is run and funded by... the US government.

So it’s supposedly illegal for ordinary Americans to share the WikiLeaks cables but ok for a US government mouthpiece to publicize them?

Some argue that WL has been reckless and unrestrained. Yet, according to The New York Times:

Had it chosen to do so, WikiLeaks could have posted on the Web all 251,287 confidential diplomatic cables about six months ago, when the group obtained them. Instead, it shared the cables with traditional news organizations and has coordinated the cables’ release with them. As of Friday, fewer than 1 percent of the cables had been released on the Web by the antisecrecy group, The Times and four European publications combined.

“They’ve actually embraced” the mainstream media, “which they used to treat as a cuss word,” [Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University] said. “I’m watching WikiLeaks grow up. What they’re doing with these diplomatic documents so far is very responsible.”

When the newspapers have redacted cables to protect diplomats’ sources, WikiLeaks has generally been careful to follow suit. Its volunteers now accept that not all government secrets are illegitimate....


What is the ultimate illustration of US government hypocrisy? The fact that some of the WL leaks were published on... the State Department's own website.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Why NYS is in such a bad state

Since early 2008, NYS Gov. David Paterson has been warning about the fiscal challenges and calling for action but has consistently been pooh-poohed and called Chicken Little by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

So naturally, it's Paterson who will be out of office next month and Silver who will be re-elected by his cronies and become the longest serving speaker in state history. Sigh...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

My taxes are too high, now give me more handouts

In the last few days, I’ve read two stories about GlobalFoundries, which is constructing a chip fab plant in Malta with $1,300,000,000 (and counting) in subsidies from the taxpayers.

One article was them whining about New York state taxes and fees.

Another was about how they were allegedly going to create 400 jobs with another almost $16,000,000 in subsidies from already strapped new York state.

And despite getting $1.3 billion in subsidies, they're balking about a claimed $94 million discrprency in their property tax assessment by the town of Malta. Haven't they milked the taxpayers enough?

Maybe a reason taxes and the budget deficit are so high in NYS and is because we’re shoveling so much money toward this sort of corporate welfare. But if some mom on food stamps buys a $3 Red Bull, now THAT’S the real outrage.


Update: As if that sort of bad neighborliness isn't enough, Planet Albany blog reports on serious concerns by local officials about the storage of hazardous chemicals in undisclosed, off-site locations.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday thoughts for those serving abroad

Spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of Americans serving abroad who aren’t with their families this holiday weekend: humanitarian aid workers, Peace Corps volunteers, development workers, some diplomats, armed service men and women and many others.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Afghanistan is not Vietnam... it’s worse

This weekend, the US will have occupied Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union did in the 1980s. Often credited for helping bring down the Soviet empire, the occupation of Afghanistan is often referred to as the USSR’s Vietnam. America’s own occupation of Afghanistan is also referred to by many as Vietnam redux. New York Times blogger Richard Wright disagrees: he says the war in Afghanistan is quite a bit more harmful to America than Vietnam.

He writes: And how many anti-American jihadists has the war created on the battlefield itself? There’s no telling, but recent headlines suggest this admittedly impressionistic conclusion: We’re creating them faster than we’re killing them. And some of these enemies, unlike the Vietcong, could wind up killing Americans after the war is over — in South Asia, in the Middle East, in Europe, in America.

[...]

Al Qaeda’s ideology offers nothing that many of the world’s Muslims actually want — except, perhaps, when they feel threatened by the West, a feeling that isn’t exactly dulled by the presence of American troops in Muslim countries.


None of this is particularly revolutionary to students of world history. Overreach inevitably causes empires to collapse, by creating hostility and resentment and suppressing national and cultural identity. This hostility and resentment usually mystifies the imperial power who has deluded itself to believe that people want to be dominated by foreigners, so long as those outsiders deem themselves ‘enlightened.’ The power thinks that if it replaces one for of overlordship with another, the victims will be grateful for Change. In essence, the imperial power thinks that its own perceived beneficience and omnipotence invalidates human nature.

I almost forgot something that Rep. Dennis Kucinich pointed out: Afghanistan is already America’s longest war... and with no end in sight.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Random thoughts

PRIORITIES
The American people had no problem with kidnapping random and sundry foreigners on foreign soil, guilty or not, and “renditioning” them to torturous regimes under the pretext of national security. We had no problem with funding such tortuous regimes with oodles of your tax money (but God forbid we help working Americans get health care). We had no problem with our agents doing the torturing themselves. We had no problem with the horrors revealed in Wikileaks’ Afghan and Iraq war logs (sorry I can’t link to them as Wikileaks’ site curiously appears to be down). Heck, we had little problem with the insane and counterproductive aggression against Iraq in the first place, even after the WMD fairy refused to show us where those weapons were. But we draw the line at airport pat downs and body scanners?

**
NATIONAL 'DON'T USE YOUR BRAIN' DAY
First, there was a national “Don’t Buy Gas” Day protest. Now, there’s a “Buy Nothing” Day. Do people realize how stupid and pointless these one day protests are? Do you seriously think you’re sending a warning to the consumerist economy by refusing to spend a dime on useless crap today but then going out and buying useless crap tomorrow? Is the self-indulgence of empty symbolism really that powerful? If you really want to send a message, don’t change your day. Change your dang lifestyle.

**
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ONE, ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL
If teachers should be held “accountable” via their students’ test scores, shouldn’t corrections officers be similarly held “accountable” via their released prisoners’ recidivism rates?

**

THE JUDICIARY HIJACKED BY THE MOB
So Mike Huckabee is gloating that he and his fellow theocrats helped oust several Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of equal protection of the law for gay citizens. He claimed that the ruling sent a message.

It sent a message indeed: beyond a certain level, we shouldn't have elected judges.

The system here in New York is fine. Trial court judges are elected. But appellate court judges, those who set precedents, are appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature but to a limited term of office. This gives them a certain degree of accountability but shields them to a certain extent from mob fury.

The judiciary is not supposed represent the "will of the people." It's supposed to uphold constitutions, including minority rights protections, regardless of what the hysteria or scapegoat of the day happens to be.

And it sent another message about why electing judges is dangerous: it lends itself to the same corruption of outside money as the election of politicians.


**

OXYMORON OF THE DAY
New York’s governor-elect wants the judiciary to intervene in a few close election recounts to ensure that we have a “functioning Senate” in January. It’s amusing that he thinks the courts can impose this. Between being run by boobs and criminals (convicted, indicted and not-yet-indicted), NYS hasn’t had a functioning Senate in several years.

**

MONEY WELL SPENT?
The US alone has spent $56 billion on “Afghanistan reconstruction.” For reference, if the US had instead divvied up that money equally and directly given it to the people, that would have put $2000 in the hands of every single Afghan.

**

FORTUNATELY NO ONE EXPECTS COHERENCE FROM SPORTS ANNOUNCERS
Soccer commentators should be thrashed for improper use of the word 'unlucky.' Hitting a shot 15 feet over the cross bar or, worse, out for a throw in is NOT unlucky; it's incompetent. Unlucky is the FC Dallas player who scored the own goal on Sunday night.

**

RADIATING FURY
Last month, Hundreds of gallons of radioactive water from a cleanup at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory spilled from a drainage pipe into the Mohawk River in NY’s Capital District, according to an article in the Albany Times Union. A failed sump pump system caused about 630 gallons of tainted water -- containing Cesium-137, Strontium-90, uranium and plutonium -- to overflow into a culvert draining directly into the river, [the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation] reported.

The T-U described these as ‘known carcinogens.’

I can’t imagine why there’s public reticence about the expansion of nuclear power as an energy source.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A matter of trust: the anti-APA Post-Star plays fast and loose with APA 'facts'

A few weeks ago, Post-Star head honcho Ken Tingley patted himself on the back for how well his paper informed the public. A month or so ago, he did so again by bragging that his 'Newspaper can still make its readers smarter.' (One observer wondered how many issues of The Post-Star he'd have to read to become smarter than non-P-S reader Stephen Hawking.)

Apparently, even Tingley's large ego became so sore from the repeated massaging that he had to take yet another 'brief' two week vacation.

But his claim that reading the Glens Falls daily will make you smarter is accurate if 'smarter' means knowing things that are demonstrably false.

A few days ago, the paper editorialized that Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo ought to make 'reform' of the Adirondack Park Agency one of his priorities. By reform, they mean abolishing it, as they editorialized earlier this year.

In this week's editorial, the paper wrote:

The 11-member APA board is currently comprised of the commissioners of the Department of Environmental Conservation and Economic Development, the state secretary of state, three members of the public from outside the park and five from inside the park - one from each county [emphasis mine]

There's a little problem (aside from the grammatical error in the beginning): there are more than five counties inside the Park.

I left an online comment pointing out that I thought there were between 9 and 11 counties with territory inside the Blue Line (there are actually 12) and I named them.

They didn't change the wording of their editorial. They didn't claim I misinterpreted the phrasing. They didn't even acknowledge my comment pointing out an apparent factual error in any way shape or form.

This error doesn't seem intentional or manipulative. It's not a detail that's central to the editorial's thesis or the paper's general editorial line. It's easy enough to fix. Why they don't correct it raises some questions? Do they not care? Do they feel that, as the self-appointed watchdog, they are unaccountable?

Even though they can't/won't get their basic facts straight, and refuse to correct them when confronted with their error, I'm supposed to give them credibility and take them seriously on this issue?

Have parts of their purportedly objective reporting on the APA been tainted by such sloppiness with (or manipulation of?) the facts?

Some years ago, I asked my mom if she wanted a subscription to TIME magazine. She said she'd never read that magazine again. When asked why, she said that when she was in college in the late 1960s, the weekly did a story about her university. In it, a graphic or photo misidentified one or more buildings on campus. She explained that if they didn't get the facts right that she knew, how could she trust their account of the facts she didn't know.

As part of the declining newspaper industry, The Post-Star would do well to heed this lesson.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thoughts on yesterday’s elections

Green gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins got more than the 50,000 votes required to secure ballot status for the Greens for the next four years. This will allow Greens all across the state to run for all public offices much more easily and offer an alternative to the corporate Democrats and Republicans. It also established the Greens as the third party in New York state and the top non-corporate party. Thanks to all who voted for him and a progressive agenda and, by extension, for multipartyism in NYS.

Before 2009, the last time Democrats controlled all three of the governorship, Assembly and Senate was 1935. So it was entertaining to hear state Senate Republican leader Dean Skellos act like his party has had nothing to do with the mess that is NYS. The two corporate parties have run the state into the ground in that most sainted of manners: bipartisan. It's time for some multipartyism, courtesy of the Greens.

It was also amusing to hear Sen. Skellos say that we needed a GOP senate to act as a check on the corruption in Albany. A check on Joe Bruno-style corruption?

It was maddening to hear all these liberals rave about Andrew Cuomo. Do they even have a clue what he ran on? I mean, besides the empty “Change Albany” rhetoric. Guys who will act as a check on Wall St. excesses do not get oodles of campaign cash from Wall St. Guys who run on progressive agendas do not get endorsed by the far right New York Post. Remember that, more often than most people want to believe, you really do get what you vote for.

I went to vote and I saw a bunch of cameramen and photographers outside my polling place. So I was prepping myself for the red carpet walk which they obviously wanted me to do. But then this tall red-headed guy with his family comes walking out and all the paparazzi follow him instead. Some Congressman Murphy guy, apparently. I suppose that’s the modern media for you: all substance, no style.

I remember that when Tea Party candidates won primary elections, many liberals were gloating, sure that they would get slaughtered in the general election. As that famous Bard, Lord Dark Helmet of the movie Spaceballs, said, “Evil will always prevail because Good is dumb.”

I don’t think much of most Democrats but am still very disappointed at Russ Feingold losing. When the Profiles in Courage of the last 50 years is written (a slim volume to be certain), Feingold's lone vote against the Patriot Act in the face of post-9/11 hysteria will be one of the chapters.

I love how all the media outlets declared Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand the winners only a few minutes after the polls closed despite reported vote totals of 0 for all of them. Only in the punditocracy is 0 > 0.

If the only way you can get elected is to buy office with your own fortune or to buy it with corporate America’s fortune after they buy you off, is it democracy or oligarchy?

How come no one is demanding to see Marco Rubio’s birth certificate? Or for that matter, John Boehner’s?

Those running on the purported agenda of ‘smaller government’ and ‘less spending’ won big last night. I wonder what amount of the military budget, which by itself accounts for 52% of all discretionary federal spending, these principled spending cutters will slash.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mixed messages

So today’s Post-Star runs an editorial portraying voting as a sacred duty paid for with the blood of our local servicemen. Standard stuff, trying to encourage civic participation.

But then on the very same page, it runs its Don Cheapshot column (that overstates it a bit, it's merely a snarky little one-liner, anonymous of course) whining what’s the point of voting because they all stink.

And in actual fact, most of Don Cheapshot's recent one-liners have been in the same vein: whining about the election (such as here, here, here and here... and that was just for the last week!)

Ignore the cowardly, anonymous wild canine. Listen (for once) to their editorial board. Vote today.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Endorsement: Howie Hawkins for governor

It probably won’t come as a surprise to readers of this blog that I endorse Howie Hawkins for governor of New York.

Hawkins visited Glens Falls recently and spoke at an event I attend. Like most people who heard him that evening, I came away certain he was the best candidate for governor, certainly far more substantive than either major party candidate.

Hawkins spoke in great detail about his platform for over an hour without notes. He spent at least 45 minutes take questions from the audience... and actually answering them directly.

He spoke about the Green New Deal to restore our crumbling infrastructure, to prevent local economic disasters like the sudden closing of the Crown Point bridge.

He spoke about reforming New York's rigged electoral system and democratic (lowercase d) improvements like New England-style town hall meetings.

He spoke about supporting investment in renewable energy rather than in natural gas, whose extraction requires a water-polluting procedure called hydrofracking.

He spoke about implementing Medicare for All in New York, which would save the state large sums of money.

He spoke about making Medicaid run by the state rather than by the counties which, if enacted, would significantly reduce the state's sky high property taxes.

The state currently collects a 0.05 percent stock transfer tax but then rebates it all to the brokers. Hawkins proposed stopping that rebate, an act which would not only eliminate New York's budget deficit but would also fund his infrastructure improvements.

For context, a stock sale of $10,000 would be subject to a tax of a mere $5 (you pay more tax buying a $100 iPod).

Just as importantly, voting for Hawkins can help implement real multipartyism across New York state. If he gets at least 50,000 votes, then Green candidates across the state will be able to run for local, county and state office much more easily. This would no doubt be welcome by the majority of New Yorkers dissatisfied by the corruption of the two major parties in Albany.

Unlike the major party candidates, he is not a millionaire; he works for a living. Hawkins is the only union member running for governor. And with Democrat Andrew Cuomo pushing the corporate agenda, Hawkins is the only center-left candidate in the race. And aside from Libertarian Warren Redlich, he is the only candidate to have elaborated a serious, detailed agenda.

He has earned my vote, and hopefully you'll give him yours too.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Nobel Committee will not be getting back to him

One of the most striking characteristics of Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley is his pomposity. One of the ways it most often manifests itself is his penchant for breaking his arm patting himself on the back. Take this most recent example.

His column opens:

We try to eliminate excuses with our election coverage.

That's how I see our mission here at The Post-Star. We want to eliminate every possible excuse that a citizen might have for not voting. From not knowing where the polling place is, to not knowing who is on the ballot, to not knowing what a candidate stands for.

Over the past few days, we hope we have provided all that information to our readers.



I can sense a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year... no doubt Tingley will nominate himself. I just hope when they give him the winner's ribbon, the pin doesn't puncture his ego.

That they try to remedy a citizen's 'not knowing who is on the ballot' a farcical claim, since the paper's reporting virtually ignores the majority of candidates who will be on my ballot.

Tingley self-love fest adds: I often tell people that they cannot be a good citizen if they do not subscribe to the newspaper.

And I often tell people that they cannot be a good citizen if the newspaper is their ONLY news sources. Listen to NPR. Read BBCNews.com. Watch al-Jazeera English. Read regional blogs to get perspectives the corporate daily has no idea exists (or willfully ignores). Broaden your horizons beyond the extremely narrow focus of the local newspaper and the narrower focus of the wire services most of them rely upon.

Someone who relied on the Glens Falls daily as their sole news source would have little idea of all the candidates on the ballot for governor, would have no idea of all the candidates on the ballot for comptroller, attorney general and both US Senate races and even less idea what these candidates stand for. The rent may be too damn high but some candidates have an agenda broader than that.

People who relied solely on The Post-Star would know nothing about the serious candidates but would be greatly informed about Andrew Cuomo's love life and Carl Paladino's penchant for horse porn. Thanks Ken!

Oh wait, amidst the hundreds of articles on the corporate party candidates, the paper did do a real article (singular) on one of the smaller party candidates for governor: Howie Hawkins and his visit to Glens Falls.

Tingley's right. This IS their most in-depth election coverage ever!

Except it's a sad indictment of what Tingley and most of the media view as worthy of flowery self-congratulation.


Note: If you really want to learn about all the options, forget The Post-Star which is obviously uninterested in doing such legwork (gotta have room for horse porn and poll analyses!). Instead, check out this voter guide by the non-partisan and well-respected New York state League of Women Voters. It has information about ALL the candidates running for statewide office.


Update: I was listening to a wrap up on WAMC about the attorney general debate where the questioners were discussing the event. New York public radio’s Karen Dewitt said she was going to ask a question about hydrofracking but didn’t because they were running out of time and they’d promised to ask a question about Carl Paladino.

Here, you have one of the most respected reporters of state politics scrapping a question about a tremendously serious issue of public policy to a large chunk of the state in favor of one about tabloid personality politics. I think most voters would’ve rather had the serious question in the debate and been allowed to go to the
New York Post instead for the tabloid stuff.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You’ll never get change by voting for the same old, same old

The New York Post had a front page story which reported: A Rasmussen Reports survey released yesterday found 65 percent of likely voters would prefer to fire every member of Congress and start from scratch... 53 percent of American voters dislike Democrats, and 54 percent dislike Republicans.

And yet most polls show that nationally, at least 85 percent of voters are already committed to voting for a Democrat or Republican... and no doubt, few of the undecideds will go elsewhere.

So most Americans want to get rid of all of Congress because they view Democrats and Republicans as responsible for most of the problems in Washington. But their idea of a solution is to replace those awful Democrats and Republicans with... Republicans and Democrats.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

It seems that Jon Stewart's Election to Restory Sanity is coming not a day too soon.

For a non-insane option, consider voting for a Green Party candidate (such as New York gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins) if one is available or for another smaller party or independent candidate.

Bloodthirsty cowards or 'defenders of freedom'?

It's interesting how many self-proclaimed 'freedom loves' (said breathlessly) are really nothing more than bloodthirsty cowards whose instinctive reaction toward the actual exercise of freedom always seems to be one of violence.

Witness Jonah Goldberg who thinks that there hasn't been enough carnage. The right-wing extremist syndicated columnist bemoans the fact that Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange hasn't yet been assassinated.

Oops, my bad.

According to FoxNews.com's Christian Wilton, another bloodthirsty coward who wants The Assange Problem to *cough* disappear, the new euphemism for assassination is a 'non-judicial action.'

And given all the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who've perished via 'non-judicial actions,' one wonders why the esteemed New York Times pooh-poohed Assange for going into hiding.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest essay: Howie Hawkins for governor of NY

Green Party candidate for New York governor Howie Hawkins was recently endorsed by the Metroland newspaper. The Albany paper's endorsement can be read here.

I will be voting for Hawkins for reasons which I will explain in a future entry, one of which is that he is the only candidate on the ballot pushing a progressive agenda (and a darn fine one at that).. Below is a guest essay from former presidential and US Senate candidate David McReynolds explaining his support for Hawkins.

Winning on Tuesday

One is tempted to blame the tardiness of these comments on the matter of age, having just turned 81.
But let's not use false excuses - it was a combination of a trip to California combined with a computer
which had to be taken in for servicing (thanks to Carmen Trotta and Bruce Cronin for their help). which
delayed writing this important election eve piece.

This is late. So I ask you, if you find these thoughts useful, send them to friends in New York. Because
in New York state it is possible for us to "win while losing". I'm not going to make things easier by starting
with a quote from Martin Buber, which appealed so much to A.J. Muste that he often used it in his talks:
"To drive the plowshare of the normative principle into the hard soil of political reality is a tremendously
difficult undertaking". What Buber meant is that turning your high morals into real politics is extremely
hard. Slogans do not constitute reality.

On Tuesday, November 2nd, I hope you join me in voting for Howie Hawkins for Governor, and Gloria
Mattera for Lt. Governor on the Green Party line. (I'll also vote for all the Green candidates on the state but
it is the vote for Governor that may make it possible for the Greens to secure a ballot line - they need 50,000
votes).

I know Howie Hawkins. He worked hard on my own campaign for Senator in 2004, when I ran on the Green
Party line. He is a working man, a teamster who believes that government should serve working
people. He has run for office before, he is a member of the Socialist Party, he is smart, well informed, and,
if lightening struck and he was elected, he would make an excellent governor.

Gloria Mattera is someone I also know, and, like Howie, consider a personal friend. She lives in Brooklyn, is
a community activist, is active in labor and environmental issues, and is well qualified for public office.

However they won't win. One isn't supposed to say that in elections, but I think facing reality is helpful. How
can we win while losing? First, it is really a "free vote". There is a consensus that Paladino has no
chance of being elected. Don't let Paladino scare you into wasting your vote by feeling you need to vote for
Cuomo. Cuomo will win. He is running as the candidate of both the Democratic and Working Families Party.

Many, worried about Paladino, will vote for Cuomo on the Working Families Party line. There are times when
this might be justified. I'm writing this as a man who voted for LBJ in 1964, and for McGovern in 1972. I've
never felt guilty about that McGovern vote, but the vote for LBJ was one of the times I felt I had to choose the
lesser evil. As I said in the first paragraph, translating your moral values into political reality is not easy. This just
happens to be one time when the right vote is also a safe vote - a bargain really sees in politics!

A word about the Working Families Party - since I have friends who are active in it, and I know a number
of committed radicals have made that their choice. I respect their choice even if I do not agree with it. As
Buber said, it ain't easy knowing how to drive your moral values into the hard soil of politics. The problem
- for me - is that the Working Families Party has endorsed the whole Democratic ticket, which includes not
only Cuomo, but Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (because Hillary Clinton resigned her seat to become
Secretary of State, Gillibrand had been appointed for the rest of her term and that is why we have two Seante
seats open this year).

Schumer is one of the strongest supporters of Israel in the Senate, so there is no chance he will cast any
vote to curb military and economic aid to Israel. Nor is there any reason to think Schumer and Gillibrand will
move to cut military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan (though spending measures originate in the House).

If you oppose the Iraq and Afghan wars why vote for Schumer? If you oppose the role of the bankers in shaping
US economic policy, why vote for Schumer? If you oppose the whole military/industrial complex, then voting
for Schumer is a mistake.

I do understand that significant parts of the New York labor movement are involved in the Working Families Party
and they hope to gain an advantage on issues involving labor, welfare, housing, etc. and are willing to make the
compromise of backing the full Democratic ticket in the hopes that the Democrats, if they see that a significant
number of voters voted for the Democratic candidates on the Working Families Party line will make compromises
in the future.

But in the here and now, a vote for the Working Families Party is a vote to support the Afghan war. It is a vote
to support Israeli policy in the Middle East. It is a vote to endorse the military/industrial complex.

The Governor's race is in a separate category from the Senate races, because no matter how many votes
the Green Party candidates get for their Senate candidates, it will not give them a ballot line. But if Hawkins and
Mattera can rack up 50,000 votes, then New Yorkers will have a real "party of the left" on the ballot. It would
be good for New York if we had a real third party - and, God bless them, the Working Families Party isn't it. We
need a party which is independent of the corporate structure, and that is the Green Party.

On issues which I think matter - ending the drug war, equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, cradle to grave medicare
for all, public banks, etc. - the Greens offer a real choice. Check them out by going to their web site: www.gpnys.com and
for full information on Howie Hawkins, visit www.howiehawkins.org.

I hope you can read this before Tuesday, and consider the "risk of winning by voting for two very good folks
who will lose".

(EdgeLeft is an occasional column by David McReynolds. It can be reprinted and used without further permission.
David was the Chair of War Resisters International, was the Socialist Party's candidate for President in 1980 and 2000.
He is retired and lives with his two cats on the Lower East Side and can be reached at: dmcreynolds@nyc.rr.com)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Question for Scott Murphy and Chris Gibson

If I had a question to ask Scott Murphy and Chris Gibson, candidates for Congress in New York's 20th District, it would be this.

As a career soldier, Mr. Gibson has received taxpayer-funded health care for the entireity of his adult life.

Mr. Murphy has also received taxpayer-funded health career since he became a Congressman.

My question is this: if publicly-funded health care is good enough for senior citizens, soldiers and politicians, why isn't it good enough for ordinary Americans?

Connecting the dots on Democratic corruption

Some are rightly complaining about the avalanche of secret money in political campaigns since the odious Citizens United decision. Still the best broadcast news outlet in America, NPR has a great series about it that will probably disgust you. I believe that if elected officials are going to be bought and paid for, the public has a right to know who owns them. Lack of transparency is the foundation of corruption, something the United States doesn't do nearly as well at as it should.

But while the conventional wisdom is that the secret money is helping the corporate Republicans, the corporate Democrats are doing just fine, outspending the GOP by nearly 50 percent in key races.

The New York Times reports that Democratic candidates have outraised their opponents over all by more than 30 percent in the 109 House races The New York Times has identified as in play. And Democratic candidates have significantly outspent their Republican counterparts over the last few months in those contests, $119 million to $79 million.

And where's the money coming from?

The excellent non-profit, non-partisan journalism organization Pro Publica did an excellent story entitled 'The New Democrats: The Coalition Pharma and Wall Street Love.'

It portrayed a Democratic Party completely under the influence of, among others, banks, big pharmaceutical interests and insurance companies.

(And that's the national Democratic Party. The New York state Democrats have their own myriad of corruption scandals, of which the Aqueduct racino mess is only the latest of many)

The influence of the banks was illustrated by the Wall St. bailout that was approved by a Democratic Congress. The influence of insurance companies was illustrated by the great giveaway misnamed as health care 'reform.'

Now, I read that the UK congolomerate GlaxoSmithKline is in trouble for having sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant, according to the NYT, despite warnings from employees.

Last year, Glaxo gave 63 percent of its political 'contributions' (legal bribes) to Democrats.

Note: the Green Party, both nationally and in New York State, does not accept contributions from (as per the GPUS website): corporations, labor organizations, national banks, government contractors or foreign nationals. Green candidate for NY governor Howie Hawkins does not accept corporate contributions either.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Non-shock of the week: Iraq invasion helped terrorists

Documents reveal that al-Qaeda gained influence in Iraq only AFTER the US invasion.

Yes... the same US invasion that was justified by the fradulent claim that it was designed to expel al-Qaeda from Iraq.

That the aggression against Iraq helped increase terrorism exponentially is not a new revelation.

But it's a reminder that the people who conjured up the invasion should not be enjoying a peaceful retirement. In fact, they should not be enjoying freedom at all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Death of the Liberal Class

"Democracy is one man, one vote. Corporatism is one dollar, one vote." -Chris Hedges

Unfortunately, I missed the great Chris Hedges speak in (sort of) nearby Troy at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, though I was told by friends he was fantastic. Hedges spoke about his new book The Death of the Liberal Class. It’s definitely a book I will have to pick up. The publisher’s description of the book is quite revealing itself.

The Death of the Liberal Class examines the failure of the liberal class to confront the rise of the corporate state and the consequences of a liberalism that has become profoundly bankrupted. Hedges argues there are five pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, universities and the Democratic Party— and that each of these institutions, more concerned with status and privilege than justice and progress, sold out the constituents they represented. In doing so, the liberal class has become irrelevant to society at large and ultimately the corporate power elite they once served.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet the Green Party candidate for governor this Saturday in Glens Falls

Press release

Local progressive and Green Party activist Matt Funiciello, announced today that Green Party candidate for New York State Governor, Howie Hawkins, will be the guest of honor at a “Meet and Greet” fundraiser to be held at 6:00 p.m., October 23, 2010, at Rock Hill Cafe in Glens Falls. The event is sponsored by the Upstate Greens, a group of enrolled Greens and citizen activists. Refreshments will be served. Space is limited, so advance tickets are suggested and will be available at Rock Hill beginning Tuesday morning (suggested donation $25).

This election cycle will include an all-inclusive debate at which Hawkins will face all six candidates in this Governor’s race. The debate will be held October 18th at 7:00 p.m. at Hofstra University (Long Island) and is scheduled to air on select stations that same evening. “Hawkins represents the best and brightest of the Green Party,” said Funiciello, a former member of the Green Party's National Committee, “We’re extremely proud to have our candidate face the two millionaires, Cuomo and Paladino. But we’re also extremely pleased that all the candidates on the ballot have been invited and will attend. I think every New Yorker is sick and tired of corporate candidates who only represent the wealthy elite who pave their way into office. It’s long overdue that an actual worker like Howie, someone with a clear agenda and some very enlightened ideas on how to fix our economic and social woes, be allowed to share those views with the electorate.”

Howie Hawkins has been active in movements for peace, justice, the environment, and independent progressive politics since the late 1960s. A former Marine, he helped organize opposition to the Vietnam War and was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976. He was a co-founder of the Green Party in the United States in 1984 and currently serves on the Green National Committee.

After attending Dartmouth College in the early 1970s, Howie worked as a carpenter in New England and helped start up a construction workers cooperative that specialized in solar and wind energy installations. Howie moved to Syracuse in 1991 to be Director of CommonWorks, a federation of cooperatives working for an economy that is cooperatively owned, democratically controlled, and ecologically sustainable. A member of Teamsters Local 317 and active in the national Teamster rank-and-file reform caucus, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Howie presently works unloading trucks and rail cars at UPS.

Howie's articles on social theory, cooperative economics, and independent politics have appeared in many publications, including Against the Current, Green Politics, International Socialist Review, New Politics, Peace and Democracy News, Peaceworks, Resist, Society and Nature, and Z Magazine . He is the editor of Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2006).

Upstate Greens is a group of local Independents, along with members of the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, Democratic and Republican parties interested in fostering a local dialogue on today’s most important issues.

For more information, contact Matt Funiciello at (518) 361-6278 or mattfuniciello @ earthlink.net

To contact the campaign directly,
2010 @ howiehawkins.com or http://howiehawkins.com/2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homophobia today, homophobia tomorrow, homophobia forever!

"Heresy is just another word for freedom of thought." -Graham Greene

For a long time, I used to be fairly tolerant of people who were 'uncomfortable' with homosexuality or gay rights, so long as they weren't overtly hateful or malicious. I'm finding I'm less and less tolerant of that.

I had a 'Eureka' moment in that regard thanks to a family friend.

Recently, there have been a spate of highly publicized suicides by gay teens who were mercilessly bullied. There were other incidents such as repeated anti-gay comments by New York's GOP gubenatorial candidate as well as a savage hate crime in New York City against two people suspected of being gay.

Someone posted a column on Facebook in which a reader wrote to Dan Savage, politely explaining that he didn't hate gays, he just felt that gays shouldn't have the same rights as straights. Savage gave him an appropriately angry and dismissive response.

I reposted it on my Facebook saying something like, "Bigotry, politely expressed, is still bigotry."

A family friend wrote back claiming that it wasn't bigotry and then went to explain that the guy's objections probably had something to do with his religious beliefs. And that's it. Nothing else.

And that was my "Eureka" moment. There really is no 'reason' for homophobia, except 'religious beliefs.' In other words, there is no rational reason.

It wasn't new observation but I guess it just hit me in a different way.

At its best, religion is a guide for how to treat one another. Much good has been done in the world due to the impetus of religious people. The black civil rights' movement in the US, being one of many examples.

But at its worst, religion is an excuse to forfeit independent thought. There are countless examples, both historical and contemporary, of this as well.

People who oppose homosexuality or gay rights do not have a rational, thoughtful reason for doing so. At least, I've never heard one. They simply hide behind the 'religious beliefs' argument as though it's a protective cloak that exempts them from having to come up with a real argument and exempts them from criticism. Being gay is not a choice. Being a bigot is.

Some people are under the mistaken impression that you are not a bigot if you aren't hateful or malicious or wish death up them. Some think that as long as you don't take the route of Fred Phelps or Bull Conner or the people who assassinated Matthew Shephard.

This is simply wrong.

In the old south, some lynched black people and launched hateful invective at them. Other people supported segregation but tried to be nice (within the context of society) toward blacks.

Yes, the latter group were a bit less violent and nasty about it, but they were still bigots because they supported a bigoted system and held bigoted beliefs. In fact, these 'nice' bigots were instrumental in upholding Jim Crow. They were the 'respectable' face of segregation. They weren't keen on violence, so long as blacks kept 'their place.'

Both of these groups of people were racists and bigots for one simple fundamental belief: that being black was inferior to being white and that the law should reflect that.

Similarly, even people who express their anti-gay or anti-gay rights position in a 'polite' way are still homophobes and bigots. Many of these people can tolerate the existence of gay people so long as they aren't gay in public, so long as they keep 'their place.' They think this is being generous. But no matter how they rationalize it, they fundamentally believe that being gay is inferior to being straight and that the secular law should reflect this.

In the civil rights struggle, Alabama governor George Wallace became a star of bigots by declaring, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" Later in life, Wallace recanted his racist views. We can only hope that, 25 years from now, large numbers of people will similarly recant their homophobia.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Media deceit, smaller party candidates and good business sense

When challenged about their blacklisting of smaller party/independent candidates, the Post-Star and other corporate outlets usually offer the rationalization that they don't have 'space' or 'resources' to waste on candidates they decree 'no one is interested in'... despite evidence to the contrary.

The lack of resources argument is a common theme. In this blog piece, Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley began: "I’m often surprised when a reader suggests that we should get one of our investigative reporters on a story," before going on to explain how expensive journalism was. Though readers can rest assured that they will always find resources to do dubious pieces on anything related to the Adirondack Park Agency or green groups.

Still, Tingley's admission is rather startling. If I ran a newspaper, I wouldn't be surprised when readers suggested investigating a story. I'd be flattered.

One reader of this blog emailed me with these comments on the blog piece (posted with his permission): He states that the P-S has eight news reporters and five sports reporters. The staff email directory lists nine news reporters and six sports reporters (not counting stringers). Unless this is his way of announcing another round of staffing cuts, Mr. Tingley should really consider getting someone to check his arithmetic as well as his grammar and spelling.

Incidentally, Mr. Tingley's latest tweet—beside the explanation of how difficult it is to assign investigative pieces—is a comment to the effect that with baseball playoffs coming it will be tough getting to work for the next few weeks. Priorities, Ken.



The Post-Star, like most corporate media outlets, has chosen not to cover any of the five smaller party candidates on the ballot for governor of New York.

(To its credit, the Long Island paper Newsday is co-sponsoring a debate on October 18 involving ALL the gubenatorial candidates.)

Despite its blacklist against candidates it decrees 'not serious,' The Post-Star managed to find precious resources and space to run a story on some guy running a write-in campaign, one who admits to consciously "not taking many positions, hardly any at all."

However, the 'lesser known candidates' on the ballot mentioned in a side graphic to the article (but nowhere else) are on the ballot precisely because they gained thousands of signatures to put them there.

The paper claims not to have space or resources to cover these serious candidates (who take actual positions!) who've done the hard work of generating interest but they find resources and *front page* space to cover this Green Tea guy (to say nothing of all the empty personality politics and polls analysis articles about the major party candidates).

In response to past criticisms of the same nature, Tingley has emailed me to complain, angrily asking me to tell him when his paper has been unfair. In his mind, they give about equal coverage to both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate, hence it's fair.

Or to put in a way the former sports editor might understand. In his eyes, an umpire can be biased against the other 28 Major League Baseball teams but as long as he treats the Red Sox the same as the Yankees, then he's 'fair.'

In the corporate media's eyes, fairness means ignoring the overwhelming majority of the candidates or given them only the occasional token mention while running hundreds of empty articles on polls or the personal lives of the major party candidates. Fairness means ignoring smaller party candidates in a nation where the majority of people want more than two parties. All we need now is the self-appointed advocates for the public to report on those that already exist. Who knows? Maybe if newspapers gave their audience what it wanted, it might prevent that audience from shrinking even more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brainwashing children into being civilized... or scumbags

I don’t particularly care what Carl Paladino thinks or says (and I use the word ‘think’ quite generously), even when he’s pandering to one of the most socially conservative groups in the country. Maybe if I swore a lot and insulted everyone I could think of, that might make me qualified to fix the world’s 16th largest economy.

Carl may think ultra-orthodox Jews should set the political agenda, but most of the rest of us believe in freedom and the Constitution. Though admittedly that group doesn’t include the Bronx gang that savagely and methodically brutalized and sodomized a 17 year old they suspected of being gay.

Carl and others seem to forget that while being gay is not a choice, being bigoted certainly is.

I don't want children to be brainwashed into thinking that being a hateful, anti-American scumbag is an equally valid or successful option compared to being a civilized human being.


Update: One of Paladino's opponents, Howie Hawkins, rightfully denounced Paladino's scapegoating and bigotry. Hawkins compared Paladino's comments and the general mood within the GOP to the old Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s. Their politics of fear and division scapegoated Catholics and immigrants. Today’s Republicans target Muslims instead of Catholics and people of color, gays, and Latino immigrants instead of Irish and German immigrants.

Friday, October 01, 2010

An –ism is bankrupting this country, but it’s not socialism

The theory behind socialism is the redistribution of wealth to make society more economically equal. Even critics of socialism cite this as its main flaw (or at least the means required to achieve this goal). And yet income inequality, already high in this country, is surging even faster.

It just goes to show that people calling President Obama a ‘socialist’ haven’t the slightest clue what the term signifies and merely use it as a generic insult devoid of any meaning.

His policies and results are nothing like what socialists actually advocate. Did Marx ever advocate taking money from the working class and giving it to banks, as TARP did?

Let's get serious, please.

And speaking of cluelessness, let’s talk about the people who wave their arms hysterically and claim that things like foreign aid for poor countries is taking food out of the mouths of America’s poor. This graphic and its numbers intrigued me.

What it shows is that combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (not including the huge amounts of other military spending) cost 37.4% more than what is spent on arts funding, Amtrak, public housing, Head Start, the EPA, NASA, Pell Grants, foreign aid and national parks COMBINED.

People are right that an –ism is bankrupting this country, but they have the wrong one. It’s not socialism. It’s militarism.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Barbarian demands to dig up Muslim cemetery... and other musings

"If fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -Sinclair Lewis

Religion is a strange thing. It seems to bring out either the absolute best in people and the absolute worst in people. For example, it was Christians who were instrumental in pushing the black equal rights movement. And it was also Christians who perpetrated the Inquisition and the Holocaust and, on a less severe scale, are the most vocal opposition to the gay equal rights movement.

I found interest a survey by the Pew Forum concluding that atheists and agnostics in America know more about religion than the religious. It reinforces my suspicions that organized religion discourages intellectual curiosity by its insistence on deference to a central authority.

But this isn’t that surprising. My experience as a Catholic growing up depended greatly on the priests at any given time. The good clerics drew out the religion’s humanity. The mediocre ones never went beyond the realm of theory and scolding. Though this variation was counterintuitive to the principle of a universal church.

I wonder why anti-Semitism is (rightly) considered vile and repugnant but Islamophobia is increasingly socially acceptable... if not mandatory in some circles.

And speaking of Islamophobia, I don’t think you can demand the desecration of cemeteries and call others barbaric and uncivilized.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Howie Hawkins: Voters Want Something Other Than Tea Partiers (guest essay)

As mentioned here, I am allowing my blog to be used as a medium whereby smaller party and independent candidates can publish statements since they are blacklisted by the mainstream media.

Though this is open to any candidate, regardless of whether I agree with or endorse them, I am happy to start by posting a piece by someone I DO agree with an endorse: Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for governor of New York.

In this piece, he points out that although there is a lot of anger and frustration among voters, not all of it is by those who identify with the so-called Tea Party.


Howie Hawkins: Voters Want Something Other Than Tea Partiers

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called today for Andrew Cuomo to agree to open debate in the Gubernatorial election. Republican Carl Paladino supports including all Gubernatorial candidates.

"The polls shows that the voters don’t want this election to just be a coronation for Andy as Cuomo II.. The voters are entitled to hear real solutions to the problems such as 800,000 New Yorkers out of work, a $9 billion state budget deficit, and skyrocketing poverty rates. Nor should the debates be limited to whether or not a real estate developer or a career politician best represents the fringe Tea Party movement. It is incredible that we are in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years and my opponents have no plans to put New Yorkers back to work other than cutting state spending, provide tax cuts to the rich, and attach public employee unions,” said Hawkins, the only union member running for statewide office.

“Public jobs for full employment, single payer health care, making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and a ban on hydrofracking – these are four policies that have widespread support among New Yorkers. But they will not have a champion if I am not included in the gubernatorial debates. Most New Yorkers do not agree with the Tea Parties agenda,” Hawkins added.

Hawkins has advocate a WPA style jobs program for NYS. If individuals can’t get a job from the private sector, they would go to the local employment office to find work that would improve the local community.

“It is amazing that the major party candidates have largely ignored the fact that we are in the greatest recession in 70 years.” This recession has hit the poor far harder than the rest of society. Unemployment among the poor in the US is now in excess of 30% – as bad as the Great Depression. Our first priority is to put people to work, not cut state spending or protect the wealthy from paying their fair share of the tax cuts,” added Hawkins.

Hawkins also said that the environmental issues were critical to the well-being of New York. “Climate change is probably the greatest threat to our future. We need to invest in an immediate transition in renewable energy, not waste resources on more fossil fuels such as hydrofracking for natural gas. We also need to reduce other uses of fossil fuels, such as increased investment in mass transit and a reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers as we move to a local, sustainable food system,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said rather than building more nuclear powers plants with their huge cost concerns and radioactive storage problems, he would shut down the state’s existing nukes, starting with the Indian Point nuclear plant. He said that the negative impact on fish and the lack of a realistic evacuation plan gave the state ample groups to stop the plant. Indian Point has also had problems with a steam boiler rupture, a transformer explosion, siren failures, increasing leaks of radioactive material, and numerous unplanned closures. Hawkins said that while the Attorney General’s office has done good work recently in supporting efforts to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut the plant down, since announcing his run for Governor Cuomo has been more evasive as to the conditions under which he would seek the plant’s closure.

Hawkins also said that as Governor he would work with the federal government to push General Electric to finish the dredging of PCBs from the Hudson River as soon as possible. GE once again is trying to delay the cleanup, calling for additional studies since the level of PCBs were higher than they predicted.

“For too long companies like GE have increased their profits by polluting our natural resources and expecting the taxpayers would pick up the costs not only for cleanup but for the various environmental and public health problems they created. We need to adopt the concept that polluters pay and that they have to be responsible for their external costs,” said Hawkins.

Since the primary, Cuomo has argued that he embraces the Tea Party agenda just as much as Paladino.

“Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino want to cap or cut state spending and blame teachers, public employees, and people using safety net programs for the state’s deficits. I say we have deficits because the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Cuomo and Paladino refuse to raise taxes on the rich, who have enjoyed three decades of tax cuts that were supposed to give them incentive to invest and create jobs. That trickle down economics theory is a proven failure. I say it is time to tax the rich again and put their money to better use in the public sector funding a Green New Deal that will create jobs and a sustainable green economic recovery based on renewable energy, mass transit, fully funded schools, single payer health care, and a green industrial policy. It’s a choice between the Cuomo/Paladino austerity plan and the Green prosperity plan – and New Yorkers deserve to hear that choice debated,” Hawkins said.

In addition to a guaranteed living wage jobs program for all New Yorkers, Hawkins said that as Governor he would enforce the state law (Sec. 54 of the State Finance Law) requiring the state government to share 8% of its revenues with local government; instead, lawmakers each year waive the law and provide only about 2% of its revenues to cities and other local governments. Hawkins also supports reducing local property taxes by having the state take over the counties’ contribution to Medicaid and by enacting a state single payer Medicare for All type program.


Update: Hawkins also agrees with the plurality of Americans who feel that health care 'reform' should've gone much further.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twice as many want a stronger health care bill than think it's 'socialistic'

After Congress passed a controversial health insurance reform law, the public was largely angry. Conventional wisdom had it that Americans thought the law too expansive and meddlesome. This seemed validated when hysterical mobs stormed last summer's 'town hall' meetings denouncing the health insurance law.

But a recent poll suggests that conventional wisdom was, as is often the case, wrong.

The media bought into the Tea Party-stoked fury. In their mind, there were only two significant populations: those who thought the health insurance reform bill was 'socialistic' and went way too far and those who thought it hunky dory. After all, there are two sides to every story.

Except when there are three.

It never occured to them that there might be a significant part of the population who thought the health insurance law did too LITTLE. It never occurred to them because the media perceived no political party advocating a stronger bill.

Of course, there were political parties, such as the Green Party, advocating Medicare for All, but the media pretends only two parties exist.

The Associated Press poll found that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1.

Additionally, The poll found that about four in 10 adults (40%) think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system... On the other side, about one in five (20%) say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

Only a quarter of those surveyed felt that 'minimal tinkering,' which is what the Obama bill does, would suffice to address flaws in the health system.

Breyer: conservative activist judges threaten Court's credibility

A New York Times piece explores the worries of the Supreme Court's least activist justice about the threat posed by conservative activist justices to the Court's credibility.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tea Party presidency

I am convinced that if a Tea Partier ever got elected president of the United States, he’d sound something like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: loud, hysterical, belligerent, peddler of a martyr complex, an expert manipulator and blaming everything including the bad weather on the US government.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Calling all smaller party and independent candidates!

If you rely solely for your news solely on the mainstream media, the types that pontificate on the importance of media literacy, chances are you won't be too well informed. You'd probably think that the only candidates for governor of this state were the Democrat and the Republican (and maybe the other Republican). You'd probably have no idea that there are EIGHT other candidates for governor besides those from the two major parties.

The corporate media only covers the corporate parties, no surprise there. The media's infatuation with polls has its limits: it ignores the one that shows that 58 percent of Americans think a third party is needed.

Of course, there ARE 'third parties' in this country, but most people aren't aware of them because... oh wait, I already covered this.

So one thing I will do is open this blog up to publishing statements from any candidate for office in NYS from outside the Republicrats.

Obviously, this isn't a substitute for the actual journalism that professional reporters should be doing but since the corporate party candidates get tons of free air time and print in the corporate media and other candidates get virtually none, it's the best I can do.

This offer is not open to any registered Democrat or Republican who is running on a third party line, a process which I believe subvets attempts at real multipartyism. The offer is only open to candidates actually registered in a smaller party or registered independents.

If interested, please email me at: mofycbsj @ yahoo.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are journalists slaves to polling companies?




"At times it feels as if American politics consists largely of candidates without ideas hiring consultants without convictions to stage campaigns without content. Increasingly the result is elections without voters." –Gerald Ford

I’m a big fan of North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann. I think he’s probably the best journalist in this area. His news stories are fair (different than neutral) as well as offering a depth and nuance pretty much unseen in this region’s journalism. But one of his weaknesses is his infatuation with the horse race of politics; this blog piece where he went on about a poll regarding the NY governor’s race is a recent example. I won’t crucify him for it because his real journalism is of such quality. But as someone who’s regularly criticized the overreliance on polls that cripples modern journalism, I wish he’d tone it down a bit.

I think journalists are infatuated by polls because they are far easier to frame than more complex (and more relevant) stories about issues. The way stories about polls are framed are remarkably similar to the way stories about sports are often framed. But ESPN's hype machine aside, most sports journalists don't pass their work off as being of epic importance.

Polls really are a a crutch of modern journalism. As I’ve said before, polls can be useful when they illuminate a story or issue. Far too often, though, they ARE the story. Polls fine as the dessert – fine in small quantities, easy to digest but with little nutritional value; instead, they are usually passed off as the main course – thus we get a malnourished civic soul.

I am convinced that this is a reason why ordinary people are tuning out of politics and why they are losing respect for journalism. Nearly all the coverage, and I mean in the state media in general not just Mann's blog, of the governor’s race is based on polls; this was exacerbated when a poll was released showing the GOP’s Carl Paladino only 6 points behind Democrat Andrew Cuomo. The small rest of the gubernatorial coverage has about Paladino’s controversial personality and emails he once sent.

I’ve seen hardly anything about the FOUR other statewide races, those for attorney general, comptroller and two US Senate seats. There was a little coverage about the Democratic attorney general primary (again mostly focused on the polls and who was 'ahead') but virtually none since.

The state is in a crisis but journalists seem to think that no one’s interested in hearing ideas about how to address the crisis and that everyone's more worried about the little parlor games of polls that ignore most of the candidates anyway.

Yes, the only people talking about issues and ideas are the smaller party candidates... this is almost always how it is. But if the media is going to blacklist those smaller party candidates and perpetuate the deceit that they don't exist, don’t they at least have a responsibility to press the major party candidates to talk about real issues, not just a candidate's crude emails or lineage?

Oh wait, I have to go. A poll shows that Paladino’s popularity has increased by 0.0441 percent since 22 minutes ago. Stop the presses! I need to write a story about this Earth-shattering development!


Update: Matt Funiciello offers his take.

Second update: Curiously, the media's infatuation with polls doesn't seem to extend to the one that shows 58% of Americans think the Republicans and Democrats so inadequate that a third party is needed. Of course, there ARE 'third parties' so this means that the majority of Americans think the media should actually cover them, like is done in the media of every other democracy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apologies to Muslims

New York Times' columnist Nick Kristof published an apology to Muslims for all the hateful, defamataory and vitriolic generalizations directed at them by far too many citizens of the so-called 'home of the brave.'

Kristof begins: Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.


He laments that a Maine newspaper caved in to hysterical hatemongers by apologizing for an innocuous article that portrayed Muslims as... (insert menacing music)... civilized human beings. In 2010, that's apparently something to apologize for.

The Post-Star ran a similar, innocuous story earlier this month on the religious practices of a Muslim gentleman in Queensbury, which also provoked filthy invective. I'm no fan of the paper's managing editor Ken Tingley, but to his immense credit, he refused to apologize for a piece which portrayed a decent human being as a decent human being and as well as for denouncing the vile bigots.

I applaud Tingley for standing by the article and standing against the mindlessness. I also echo Kristof's apology to Muslims.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

“I support unlimited war... and limited government"

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Chris Gibson is the local Tea Party-backed candidate for Congress. Gibson is the pro-war corporate Republican who claims to be a fiscal conservative running against Scott Murphy, the incumbent pro-war Democrat who claims to be a fiscal conservative.

Gibson’s campaign motto is succinct: “[Iraq] Combat Veteran. Fiscal Conservative.” I’d love to hear him rationalize this given that, their inherent immorality aside, interminable wars of choice and aggression like Iraq are pretty much the most fiscally reckless thing any elected official can support.

But I suppose coming up with such a rationalization would require him to recognize the contradiction in the first place.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Border Patrol: worse than Arizona

The state of Arizona has come under immense criticism for passing a law essentially requiring all citizens and residents to carry proof of citizenship or legal residency with them at all times.

However, this report from North Country Public Radio points out that the Border Patrol is doing very much same thing.


Basically, if you live within 100 miles of the border, you need to carry your passport or green card with you at all times or else risk being detained. Remember that next time you drive to the grocery store to get a gallon of milk.

In many ways, this is worse than the Arizona law. While the controversial situation in the southwest was implemented by the normal legislative process, the Border Patrol did this by nebulous and unaccountable "policy."

Additionally, at least the Arizona law forces authorities to fake some sort of pretext. The Border Patrol can demand proof of citizenship from anyone or search their laptops or whatever for no reason far away from the border.

This story evokes memories of my time living in West Africa, where I needed to carry my documents with me at all times in case I ran into a military checkpoint.

So you think if you're here legally, you have nothing to worry about? Not quite.
Since 90% of all New Yorkers and 2/3 of all Americans live within 100 miles of the border, the 4th Amendment apparently doesn't apply in most of the country.