Saturday, November 23, 2013

How tax dodging General Electric threw a community to the wolves

General Electric spent decades polluting the Hudson River that runs through the twin villages of Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, NY. Then GE spent decades and lots of money fighting attempts to make them clean up the mess it made in the river. Then it closed the plants in both villages dealing a gargantuan blow to the local economy and to those who want to work for a living. It claims the Fort Edward plant is “uncompetitive.” It rejected the union’s offer of job givebacks and modernization. It was also reported that the factory’s equipment dates from the 1940s.

This is a bit shocking. You'd think that since GE pays no income taxes, they would have more money to invest in proper equipment.
 
Call me crazy, but is it a possibility that the factory wasn’t uncompetitive because of its workers, but because GE saddled those employees with 70 year old equipment?
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's no longer Republican obstructionism: it's sabotage


It was interesting to see US Senate Democrats virtually eliminate the filibuster for presidential nominations. This was after Republicans elevated the filibuster from a last resort to a weekly tactic. Fully half of all filibusters of presidential nominees IN THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC have occurred during the Obama administration.

I’d prefer they go back to the filibuster as it was before, in all cases: where you had to physically keep talking to slow a bill down. This whole nonsense of saying, “No we don’t want to vote on it” and making the threshold a 60% supermajority is nonsense. The purpose of the filibuster was to slow down the most extreme things, not everything the temper tantrum throwing minority doesn’t like. I’m sure the Democrats thought long and hard about doing this because they will no doubt be the minority in the chamber at some point in the future. That they resorted to this shows Senate Republicans have no interest in governing. 
What’s being blocked here is not new “big government” programs or whatever. It’s nominees for judgeships and agencies that acts of Congress have ALREADY SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED. 
Bear in mind, Senate Republicans aren’t voting down these nominees, which would be a legitimate response to a nominee they may not like. They are refusing to allow these nominees to even get voted on one way or the other.

They’re not even refusing votes on these appointees based on any individual qualities the specific appointees have. It’s a mindless, blanket rejection of any appointee Pres. Obama wants for the sole reason that Pres. Obama wants him/her. No other reason.

I know some might say we shouldn’t care because Democrats are just as corporatist are Republicans and that’s certainly true. But this is another part of the right-wing’s 30+ year campaign. It's no longer mere opposition or obstructionism. It's outright sabotage. The right's objective is to sabotage nearly all government functions, even the judiciary, and then claim it as proof that the government undermined by their sabotage “can’t” work. They don't have the guts or the popular support to outright repeal what they don't like. So they engage in a series of behind-the-scenes death by 1000 cuts attacks that ordinary voters don't pay attention to. It's clever. It's working. And we can't let it.
 
If you don’t like a program, repeal it. If you don’t like a nominee, vote him/her down. That’s how adults act in a republican democracy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to meaningfully thank a veteran or GI

Farenell Photography, run by a Marine veteran, has an excellent blog entry entitled 'How to Thank a Serviceman.' It offers a number of ideas about how to show meaningful thanks to a veteran or active duty service member... and this is important, as well as to their families. It's often forgotten that while only the active duty member may serve, his or her whole family shares in the sacrifices. He offers a number of great concrete suggestions: check it out here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How corporate interests have taken over our politics

The Nation has a very good piece on how special interests dominate Washington (as well as the states) and undermine our democracy. This is not new - liberal hate figure and progressive hero Ralph Nader has been warning about this for years. But the extent to which our political process has been corroded keeps edging closer and closer to 100%, particularly since the fraudulent Citizens United ruling was decreed. The increasing replacement of serious journalism with transcription, talking point-saturated commentary and horse race analysis only makes things worse.

The piece also points out that the much vaunted 'tension' between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and tea partiers is mostly a sideshow, a narcissism of small differences. Both major parties are thoroughly corrupted by corporate cash. Neither wants any sort of fundamental change that would redefine their primary role back to representing real human beings. Their main argument is whether we should be speeding down a hill toward a cliff at 80 mph or 65 mph.

What are the solutions? There are no easy answers. But two that come to mind immediately are:

-Help support and build grass roots parties who are accountable to human beings. The Green Party is my choice. If you're of a different mind set, I believe the Libertarian Party also refuses legalized bribes ("donations") from corporations.

-Join the movement to amend the Constitution to repeal Citizens United and affirm that money is not speech (it is, in fact, property): We the people, not we the corporations.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

NYS ballot proposals

As an odd-numbered year, it's only local offices up for vote here in New York. But voters in the Empire State will have a number of statewide propositions to vote on. All would amend the state constitution.

The exact wording of all amendments can be found at the website of the state Board of Elections.

PROPOSITION 1 - GAMBLING - NO
The most controversial of the amendments would authorize up to seven non-Indian casinos in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo has come under fire for manipulated the wording of the amendment after passage by the legislature, a move of dubious legality. Further, it makes one suspect that makes one suspect that accusations of him being in the back pocket of gambling interests might be true; revelations that he and other pro-casino legislators have taken large brib... I mean, "donations" from the industry add to the appearance of sleaze. Many New Yorkers think the amendment would cause far more problems that it would solve. The process has been so rigged that I can't have any confidence in supporters' claims.

PROPOSITION 2 - CIVIL SERVICE CREDIT FOR DISABLED VETERANS - YES
Current law gives state workers credit for being disabled and credit for being a veteran, but not both. This change would allow them to get credit for both.

PROPOSITION 3 - MUNICIPAL DEBT AND SEWAGE - YES
The change would allow municipalities to exempt debt incurred for sewage facilities from their constitutional debt limit.

PROPOSITION 4 - TOWNSHIP 40 - YES
This amendment would settled disputed land claims in the Raquette Lake area. The change has been negotiated by the state and landowners. It is supported both by local officials and by all the major environmental groups. There isn't any known opposition.

PROPOSITION 5 - NYCO AMENDMENT - NO
This is another amendment regarding state land but is more disputed than Prop 4. The mining company NYCO is offering to swap some of its land for state owned land. It would mine the land and then return it to the state forest preserve. Not surprisingly, this is supported by the business community and most local officials, but it has divided the environmental community. The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club support it. Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild oppose it. I think both sides' arguments have merit but it seems to me that if public land can be handed over the private interests for open pit mining, then it's not really 'forever wild.'

Note: North Country Public Radio has a more in-depth look at Props 4 and 5.

PROPOSAL 6 - JUDICIAL AGE LIMIT - NO
Prop 6 would increase to 80 the maximum age to which some state judges could serve before mandatory retirement. This is a good idea in theory but poor in execution. It does not apply to all judges and has some many exceptions as to defeat the purpose. This amendment should be rejected and the legislature instead should raise the retirement age of ALL judges.