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The Borscht Belt Debate

23 Oct

Courtesy WNED and CBS2 New York

Despite Brian Meyer’s desperate efforts to keep the format tight and moving, it was unwieldy. With four gubernatorial candidates being provided with equal time, it seemed at times that Cuomo and Astorino were afterthoughts. After all, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Party candidate Michael McDermott threw some good ideas at people last night at WNED’s studio.

McDermott liked to cut through the BS and had one of the best answers about fracking; that his philosophy was that it was important to wait and see what it does to the environment, because you’re allowed to do on your property whatever you want unless it harms someone else. For his part, Hawkins gave super-liberals the red meat they crave – single-payer, a hard no on fracking, social justice, funding for mass transit. 

Alas, Hawkins and McDermott don’t have a credible chance. 

The format gave candidates one minute to answer questions that often seemed to run on for twice that time, and then occasionally a 30 second rebuttal. One of the problems with contemporary political speech is that we’re too reliant on dopey ads and sound bites, and this sort of debate-by-one-liner exacerbates the situation. No one watched that and learned anything. It treated us like dumb assholes, and yet again we’ll get the Albany government we’ll deserve. 

Take my wife, please. 

Republican Rob Astorino came out swinging at Andrew Cuomo, and didn’t get an opportunity to tell us very much about what he’d do. Cuomo gave as good as he got. It was a good time, but not at all a substantive one. 

Where did you get your haircut, the pet shop?

Here’s how it went, as it went along. 

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Spitzer Unloaded, No One Exploded

1 Oct

“Jail” FINAL :30 from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Right? Wow.

This is the perfect distillation of a desperate campaign looking to get some attention. Frankly, this reboot of the Daisy ad is perfect in its utter stupidity. Now, I know that Cuomo has been hitting Astorino hard on some nonsense lawsuit down in Westchester, but I thought that the “soup is nice” ad was pretty damn effective. (Dentures are an optional Medicaid coverage that New York State offers, and that Astorino wants to eliminate). The ad resonates because it reminds people that Republicans love to cut, cut, cut things that help actual New Yorkers. True, paying for seniors’ oral care won’t benefit the extremely wealthy, like Carl Paladino and indictee Rick Perry, both of whom can feasibly pay for their own dentures and dental work, but it will do much for seniors for whom budgets are often tighter. 

Astorino’s suggestion that Cuomo could go to jail is pure hyperbole – there’s absolutely zero chance of that happening. Secondly, by bringing that up, it reminds me – hey, isn’t Astorino up to some shady shenanigans, too? Thirdly, if Cuomo went to jail, there would not be a catastrophic nuclear holocaust; there would, instead, be an orderly substitution of Kathy Hochul. Remember Spitzer? Spitzer unloaded, but no one exploded.

 

Zephyr Teachout Attempts to Greet Andrew Cuomo, Shake Hand

8 Sep

Her tenacity is met with a wall of staffers and bodyguards, and a governor who is quite deliberately snubbing her. 

Remember, Democrats: Vote Teachout/Hochul tomorrow!

Democrats: Vote Teachout / Hochul September 9th

3 Sep

Tuesday September 9th is primary day, and Democrats throughout New York State have an important choice to make for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

I’m voting for Zephyr Teachout for Governor, and Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor, and you should, too. 

I am deeply disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s mishandling and abrupt cessation of the Moreland Commission’s investigation into Albany cronyism and corruption. These two topics are, to me, among the most important challenges facing the state today.  The role and power of money in politics, the unmitigated power of incumbency, the dictatorship of Albany authorities and bureaucracies, and the quid-pro-quo legalized bribery of electoral fusion all conspire to keep New York politics dysfunctional, slowly reactionary, and self-indulgent. For this reason, as well as Cuomo’s apparent lies about meddling in the state Senate, I have to register my disgust with the status quo.

These are huge, persistent problems, yet no one in or near power has any incentive to address or change them. Zephyr Teachout has made this the centerpiece of her campaign. 

I don’t do this lightly – my hesitation to denounce Cuomo is informed by how obviously good he’s been for western New York, helping to rebuild the foundation on which a new economy might emerge. We are finally making big leaps into the information age, having long-ago shed our reliance on big industry. We’re also rediscovering the value of skilled trades as an avenue for personal success and entrepreneurship. Having lost the WNY vote to Carl Paladino pretty decisively, Cuomo has paid remarkable attention to our region.  Imagine how good it would be for him to run for national office at some future date, and be able to campaign on how he turned around 50 years of Buffalo’s economic depression. I will enthusiastically vote for Andrew Cuomo in November if he is the party’s nominee. 

Furthermore, the Teachout/Wu ticket is focused on issues that matter only to the 5 boroughs of New York City – risibly so. As the old joke goes, ‘what’s the difference between ignorance and indifference? I don’t know and I don’t care’. Take a look at the five pillars of the Teachout/Wu platform, and the words “Buffalo” and “Western New York” appear exactly zero times. This ticket, as presented, has nothing to say about WNY or upstate issues (except for spotty broadband service and fracking) because they don’t know the first thing about it.  Teachout fumbled questions about keeping the Bills in WNY. Teachout/Wu presents a wide spectrum of points of view about New York State – Upper West and Lower East Side. 

Teachout’s “economy” piece deals mostly with consolidation of power, and the parts about infrastructure deal with the MTA and the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Upstate gets an abrupt shout-out about broadband, but that’s it.  The “education” piece is of general applicability to all of New York, and is replete with positions any Democrat should support – especially when it comes to the shameful way Albany has been balancing budgets on the schools’ backs for several years. On the “environment“, Teachout is the only serious candidate who opposes hydrofracking, full stop. Let Pennyslvania destroy its own aquifers – we like ours just fine, thanks. On “an open democracy“, Teachout talks about reforms that really have little to do with opening up democracy, and talks instead of reforming criminal justice, marijuana laws, and preventing abuse of the disabled. 

But the bigger picture has to do with the way the system itself is rigged – even when it benefits us as western New Yorkers.  It’s simply not being treated like the serious problem it is. That’s why the position on “corruption” is so important to me. The only thing missing – because Working Families Party – is an entry denouncing and promising an end to electoral fusion in New York State. Not incidentally, Teachout has written a scholarly work attempting to prove that embedded in our Constitution is an “anti-corruption principle” every bit as important as, say, separation of powers. 

So, because Teachout’s platform imagines that New York consists – with the exception of the Albany exclave – mainly of territories East of the Hudson and South of Poughkeepsie, I will be voting for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor. 

Hochul has the administrative and governmental chops to make up for Teachout’s utter lack of experience, and Hochul brings with her a native’s passion and knowledge about rural and western New York realities to help balance out Teachout’s geographically limited platform. Hochul was an independent-minded, conservative Democrat and balances out Teachout’s progressive-left worldview and mindset. Remember – although Teachout is running with Wu and Hochul is running with Cuomo, you can split these slates up however you’d like. Vote Cuomo/Wu, if you prefer. 

This isn’t about conspiratorial fantasies, either. I’m not trying to punish Cuomo for the NY SAFE Act or the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, except insofar as he’s doing nothing to make state bureaucrats answerable (at least indirectly) to their bosses – the people. 

For all the good he’s done for western New York, Andrew Cuomo has deceived Democrats and reformists in this state to the point of outrage. The brazen horse-trading with Senate President Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver to abruptly end the Moreland Commission on corruption was the last straw. No on-time budget is worth sacrificing the public trust yet again. It also speaks to the fundamental anti-democratic unfairness of the continued all-powerful triumverate that presides over Albany’s body politic. Cuomo’s apparent involvement in maintaining a Republican-led Senate is a betrayal made worse by lies

Albany graft and corruption help to stall and demean economic, political, and social progress in every corner of New York State. Teachout deserves support in the upcoming primary because she’s the only candidate who perceives and identifies the problem, and is assigning it the importance it deserves. But Teachout’s political novelty and ignorance about rural and upstate issues demand that the ticket be balanced with someone with experience and a WNY worldview.

Democrats should vote Teachout/Hochul on September 9th. 

Teachout, Cuomo & the Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy

27 Aug

When I think of Zephyr Teachout, I am specifically mindful of the fact that she’s a protest vote for the liberal wing of the statewide Democratic Party.  Most of them in and around the 5 New York City Boroughs. When I think of Zephyr Teachout, I think of this classic scene from Annie Hall: 

Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu are bright and, as far as anyone can tell, beyond reproach. Both of them are Manhattan intellectuals, and Teachout has adopted statewide political corruption as a platform plank, and Wu is known for his work on behalf of net neutrality.  Indeed, he coined the phrase. 

Andrew Cuomo has disappointed a lot of left activists. While the right assail him for the mild additive restrictions on guns via the “NY SAFE Act”, the left is sick and tired of continued Albany corruption, the constant, unchecked abuses of power, the power of incumbency, the insidious poisoning of the process by money and electoral fusion, and – above all – the comical overnight dismantling of the Moreland Commission just as soon as it started really doing its job. 

The New York Times declined to endorse Teachout due to her rookie non-credentials and her ignorance on anything going on north of Poughkeepsie and west of Nyack. It also declined to endorse Cuomo because of his fumbling of corruption. I think this is something of a cop-out. 

I have no idea whether Teachout can win the primary – I highly doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

Here in WNY we have a unique position unlike other parts of the state. There’s no Billion for Binghamton; no Assets for Albany, no Riches for Rochester or Silver for Syracuse.  Yet Buffalo and WNY have come under special Cuomo attention for two reasons: 1. he lost to Paladino here in 2010, and he wants badly to win; and 2. if he can show the world that Buffalo underwent a turnaround under his watch, he can sell that to the rest of the country in some future run. Fix Buffalo and the world is your political oyster. 

So, it’s tough to ignore the attention that the state has heaped on our fair city and region and simply dismiss Cuomo out of hand. Indeed, it’s about damn time an Albany pol tried to un-fuck Buffalo. 

But from a less selfish point of view, Albany politics are just as ugly and problematic as they’ve ever been. Efforts to change that have not only been stymied – Cuomo has actively prevented them.  Our Democratic governor, whom gun nuts liken to Karl Marx, actively supported the notion of a Republican majority in the feckless State Senate. It took Teachout to get him to actually support the idea that Democrats should win elections. 

Last night, I received a call from a Cuomo phone bank asking for my support. I bluntly told them, “ordinarily I would, but this Moreland thing has really thrown me for a loop”.  She marked me down as “undecided”, but seriously – it’s tough for me to support a governor who so casually dismisses the root of all state evils – Albany dysfunction and corruption.  This is especially true given the clean mandate that Cuomo has had to do just that. Cuomo’s inaction and outright refusal to address these issues is disappointing to me as a Democrat, but should be disappointing to all New Yorkers. 

Bluntly put, you can take your “REPEAL NY SAFE” sign and shove it, because the size of your magazine isn’t the assault on liberty you should be concerned about.

Instead, get angry about Albany’s multipartisan conspiracy with the dictatorial bureaucracies to commit managerial and legislative malpractice. This perverse system ensures that state government works for the tri-state area and no one else. Manhattan’s own Teachout and Wu aren’t going to fix that. Neither is Cuomo from Queens or Rob from Mount Pleasant (really). 

There’s nothing new here. The Brennan Center’s blueprint for reforming Albany is a decade old. No one pushes it because it’s heady and complicated and not as shiny as a gun. 

You won’t do anything about it. Your village, town, city, Assembly, and state Senate won’t do anything about it. Andrew Cuomo won’t do anything about it, and neither will Rob Astorino. Zephyr Teachout is at least talking about the right things, but there’s zero chance that she would get elected in November.

So, suck it up, New Yorkers. No matter whom you vote for in September’s primary, you’re in for another 4 years of bureaucrats running the state for their own benefit.  Unfortunately, short of a governor with some balls or a Constitutional Convention, it’s never going to change. 

Carl Paladino: The Pride of Buffalo

13 Aug

Carl Paladino loves to send emails. Here’s one that went out Monday: 

I don’t really care about the substance of Paladino’s whining to his party’s state chairman. I couldn’t care less about Paladino’s political desires or expectations any more than I care whether Ed Cox is running that statewide gun dealer masquerading as a political party. 

What I care about here – aside from a licensed attorney not knowing how to spell “versus” – is Paladino’s endless hate parade against gay people in general, and State Senator George Maziarz in particular. In this case, he reckons Maziarz would be raped in prison, and wishes for him to be beaten by guards.

In 2012, Paladino stooge, liar (or criminal – one or the other), and perennial candidate for somethingorother Rus Thompson accused Maziarz of being gay, and that they would soon “open the closet”

Libeling George Maziarz ca. 2012

There was no closet to open, and there was never anything that these dummies could put forth except accusations and innuendo.  Maziarz may have a lot of faults – some of which are leading to his resignation from the Senate – but whether or not he’s gay is (a) irrelevant to anything he does in Albany; (b) not a bad thing, if true; (c) an accusation that Thompson and Paladino vomited in order to engorge the vicious gay hatred held by members of western New York’s tea party. 

Without a hint of irony, these malignant assholes don a mantle of good government purity yet throw around wild, false accusations and smear enemies based not on facts or policy, but on make-believe and hatred. Think: what is it about Maziarz that led Paladino to single him out as “not doing well in prison”? Why would Libous fare any better than Maziarz?

Paladino is harking back to his and Rus’ 2 year-old effort to smear Maziarz as gay. Not only is Paladino suggesting that Maziarz would be raped by other prisoners, he is reveling in that notion, going on to wish physical harm on Maziarz, hoping that he’ll receive “very special treatment”, whatever that means. Is Paladino just being a straight-up sadist, wishing not only imprisonment, but violent anal rape against Maziarz? 

What do you think Is the genesis of Paladino’s acute hatred and fear of homosexuals?

Paladino’s invocation of “Dannemora” refers to the Clinton Correctional Facility. Although conditions were found to have improved by 2004, in the 1990s, Clinton was notorious for extreme violence and brutality. Evidently, Paladino is not only hopeful that his foes be anally raped, but also that they be beaten by corrections officers for Mr. Paladino’s amusement. 

These are the twisted words of a sick, sadistic individual. Yet we in WNY treat him and his company like pillars of the community – at worst a crazy uncle, at best a point of civic pride. Check yourself, Buffalo – Carl Paladino repeatedly exposes himself for being unworthy of your respect.  

It takes a special kind of megalomania to demand “cleansing” of a statewide party committee that has to take into account not only the virulent homophobia of influential upstate millionaire emailers, but also of downstate moderates. 

It wouldn’t be a proper Paladino rant if there wasn’t a smidge of racial animus thrown into the mix. Yes, of course, Astorino should ignore leaders in the African-American community and only stick to the upstate fairs, this despite the fact that 4.6 million of New York State’s voters live within the 5 boroughs of New York City, while 7.1 million live everywhere else. Erie County, for instance, which has the biggest county fair in the state, boasts 612,000 registered voters – less than 10% of the 5 boroughs. The state’s largest concentration of minority voters is in New York City. 

Paladino lost to Andrew Cuomo dramatically in 2010.  Who is he to give Astorino advice? 

Cuomo’s Betrayal

25 Jul

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

The biggest and worst problem plaguing Albany and New York State politics is corruption. Albany’s especial brand of dysfunction thrives in an opaque environment, and there is a complete and bipartisan absence of political or moral will to change it. It’s been well over a decade since people and organizations began to seriously address this culture of corruption, and NYU’s Brennan Center deserves kudos for pushing the issue with specificity

It was almost a decade ago that Suffolk County Executive Tom Suozzi barnstormed the state, seeking the Democractic nomination for governor under the banner of “Fix Albany”. We send Assemblypeople and Senators to Albany, and while we see occasional profiles in courage, like Mark Grisanti’s pivotal vote on same-sex marriage, these individuals do little legislating and a lot of grandstanding. Nothing ever changes, and there’s no one who’s all that interested in cleaning Albany up. 

Enter Andrew Cuomo, a former Attorney General who swept into Albany to get things done, but also to restore trust in state institutions. While he has infuriated the gun-hugging areas of the state outside the NYC media market, he has now successfully angered the left, most starkly by helping to maintain a Republican Senate majority. In order to secure the Working Families Party’s Wilson Pakula, Cuomo decided to actually back members of his own party to win Senate races. 

But his most promising act was to establish a “Moreland Commission” to investigate corruption in Albany – most importantly, the misuse and corruption surrounding campaign finance in the state. This dovetailed nicely with Cuomo’s now-erstwhile support for public financing of elections – a goal he all but abandoned in order to “get things done” with respect to a budget deal with the other two men in the room. (That hasn’t changed, either). 

This New York Times article is a blockbuster of investigative journalism, outlining the ways in which Governor Cuomo’s office micromanaged and hamstrung the work the Moreland Commission was doing before he unceremoniously and summarily killed it in order to “get things done” viz. budget deal with Silver and Skelos. Here is a brilliant timeline that the Times put together. Luckily, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, is picking up where the defunct commission left off, investigating and prosecuting obvious illegality. 

I frankly don’t get it. If Cuomo’s aim is to ascend to the White House, he’s just dealt himself a huge blow. It won’t do much to say, “I fixed Buffalo, the unfixable” when opponents and allies alike view him with distrust because when it came time to address the state’s most pressing problem, Cuomo whiffed. 

He didn’t just whiff – he threw the game. 

I’m not going to support Astorino, and Zephyr Teachout lost me by holding a “Cuomo resign” presser with Astorino. It’s high time we stopped demanding resignation and impeachment every time a politician does something stupid or with which we disagree. It’s stupid and childish.

I want someone to say that the NY SAFE Act is a distraction from the real problems we have, like unfunded mandates, the Gap Elimination Adjustment robbing schools blind, the completely unregulated and mismanaged state Authorities, our corrupt and corrupting Wilson Pakula/electoral fusion system whereby party endorsements are exchanged for money and jobs, and the toothless, ineffective board of elections that is unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute campaign finance fraud. These are all long-standing issues, and very well known. But New York has a dictatorship of the bureaucracy, and for some reason elected officials have no will to fight that tyranny of the careerists. Even, tragically, Andrew Cuomo. 

Getting things done is great, and it’s a welcome change from the feckless Pataki Adminstration. But New York Democrats have had almost 10 years to do something meaningful about not just the symptoms, but the root causes of why the state underperforms economically – especially outside of the New York City metro. 

Four years ago, a New York Observer article wrote that mine was the “Site that Saved Andrew Cuomo”. I don’t – for a second – doubt, question, or regret my 2010 support for Cuomo over Carl Paladino. But in 2014, the continued state gutting of public school budgets, tyranny of the Authorities, continued erosion of public trust through “electoral fusion” dealmaking,  and Albany’s unwillingness to heal itself make me wish for a true alternative – not just a Westchester County apparatchik or a leftist Manhattan protest candidate. 

New York isn’t broken because of the number of bullets you can put in a magazine is now restricted. But your focus on things like that help to distract you from genuine problems that affect us all. 

With Apologies to Al Jaffee

8 Jul

In recent months, I’ve taken to quietly deleting comments that I find to be ad hominem, off-topic, and belligerent. If you can’t be bothered to argue an opinion or position, then it’s gone. Repeat or exceptionally egregious offenders are sometimes blacklisted from the site altogether. In any event, it’s wholly within my – ahem – executive discretion what stays and what goes. 

Recent posts about Hobby Lobby (here and here) and the “12th Man” trademark (here) have generated some lively and unusually on-topic discussions, and I’ve only gone back and deleted one or two comments. 

But sometimes, a comment is so thought-provoking – or stupid – that it merits a post of its own. I used to do this quite frequently, but as blogging as a medium has been replaced with newer, terser platforms, it’s been rare lately.

But today, we’ll play “snappy answers to stupid questions”, with apologies to Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee

Tony, aka “wnyresident” is the showrunner of the longstanding cult comedy hit, “SpeakupWNY”. It’s a ragtag collection of Obama haters and other low-information voters who parrot a distinctly right wing weltanschauung. Think Breitbart without the spelling and grammar, or Ann Coulter without the wit. 

Now, it’s not a secret that I’m a partisan Democrat, and a proud one at that. I’m a registered Democrat and town committeeman because I believe that the platform and values of the Democratic Party match my own, as compared with the other major political party – the Republican Party.  I finally made the switch from the GOP to the Democrats in order to help Wesley Clark run for President in 2003-2004, but I had felt that the party had abandoned voters like me in 2000. That year, I volunteered and phone banked for John McCain as he battled George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.

McCain energized me on two occasions – the first was at a Republican candidates’ debate somewhere in the midwest in late 1999. The candidates were asked to name their most influential political philosopher. George W. Bush replied first with an astonishingly unresponsive, “Jesus Christ, because he changed my heart,” whatever that means. Jesus might be a lot of things, but I don’t think he was a political philosopher. (Not that I would necessarily quibble with a candidate who was arguing that, say, Jesus was the most influential figure in his life in general – that would be a valid response. But political philosopher?)

Then one by one, every other candidate parroted – oh yeah, Jesus for me, too. Except for one. 

John McCain said, “Teddy Roosevelt” and explained how this earlier “maverick” had been a Republican who broke up the trusts and believed in conservation. It was a valid response to tendered question, and one that was well-reasoned and insightful. I was impressed, mostly because here was a Republican presidential candidate who was unafraid to not do the easy thing and just say, “Jesus”. 

It showed that McCain was willing to stick his neck out, but more importantly that he had taken the time and brainpower to actually listen to the question – a sign of intelligence and respect. 

The second time? I traveled up to Peterborough, New Hampshire and caught the tail end of a town hall speech he gave.  He was saying all the right things – all the things that a young, sane, Northeastern Republican wanted to hear. 

As we know, John McCain went on to verbally assail the right-wing theocrats Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell shortly before dropping out of the race.  It was a last gasp to attract the sane, secular, Bill Weld Republicans to his team. It failed, and McCain later went on to run a shambolic campaign in 2008 with an unvetted embarrassment of a running mate, whose moronic pronouncements poison our political discourse to this day. In the last 14 years, the GOP has become only more reactionary, theocratic, and unreasonable. 

So, as the Republicans continued to lurch right – especially after the country elected, and re-elected, Barack Obama – its values and platform has gone farther and farther away from my own personal and political values and beliefs. 

I default to Democrat, just like Tony from Speakup, WBEN listeners, and many of you default to Republican. There are exceptions, and I have backed Republicans whom I believe to be exceptional in some way, or somehow better than the Democratic alternative. 

In the case of my own New York State Senate District 61, I am represented by Mike Ranzenhofer.  Mike’s a nice guy, but I think he’s been wholly ineffective in his two decades in public service. So much so that I ran against him unsuccessfully in 2007. He’s now just another Republican footsoldier in the feckless state Senate, and it would be good for SD-61 and New York for his tenure in public office to end. You can’t name anything Ranzenhofer has ever stood for in 20 years, except maybe for his push to make Chobani yogurt the state snack

One big statewide issue is the implementation of the Common Core education standards, and the extent to which kids are overtested in New York schools. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the Common Core because I think that tougher standards are needed to get kids learning at a 21st century level.  I agree, however, that the tests have been poorly implemented and administered, and that teacher autonomy should be respected.  We can strike a good balance here if we retreat from our bunkers and listen to each other, as McCain did at that 1999 debate. 

Elaine Altman is running against Ranz, and she’s a teacher. The Common Core is one of her biggest platform planks because she is uniquely qualified to address it and come up with ways to make it better. Admittedly, the race hasn’t begun in earnest, and we still have about three months to find out more about Altman and her positions. Nevertheless, as a Democrat, I default to Altman over her Republican opponent. As someone who thinks that Ranz has been an ineffective seat-moistener as a legislator, I choose Altman. As a Democratic committeeman in SD-61, I choose Altman over the career politician who’s done little to earn his fat state pension. 

So, regard

That’s a fascinating insight, isn’t it? Sure, Altman would probably be a great teacher – is a great teacher – but she’s now taking her experience as a citizen and a teacher and looking to take that to an insular, corrupt Albany that has no clue how the world works outside of its own decrepit bubble.

For as much bleating as the right makes about “career politicians”, put a professional teacher up against a career politician, and they beat a partisan retreat. By Tony’s own logic, professional gun fetishist David DiPietro would “really make a better dry cleaner” than Assemblyman. 

But this one popped up just the other day – a solid two weeks after the original post went up. 

There are no “open borders”, and anyone who suggests that is being willfully ignorant. There aren’t any candidates who want “open borders”, either – at least, not from the mainstream parties. The United States has, in effect, an army of agents along the southern border and anyone who’s actually tried to cross it knows that the process makes crossing into Canada from WNY seem as easy as a drive into Pennsylvania. 

But even more critically, immigration, the border, customs, and international affairs are wholly within the province of the federal government. The states have little, if any, power or control over policymaking or enforcement of federal immigration statutes and regulations. 

To ask what a candidate for the New York State Senate thinks about “illegal immigration” is as pointless as asking Ms. Altman her position on Burmese ethnic strife or Taiwanese independence. It would be like asking a member of the Amherst Town Board their considered opinion on fishing rights in the Georges Bank

Now, as to my “view” on “illegal immigration”, I believe that the federal government should overhaul the entire immigration system to simplify the process for people wanting to live here, and to enable businesses here in the US that depend on migrant labor to hire the people they need under a modernized guest worker scheme.  

But the current headlines are due in large part to right wing propaganda and misinformation. 

http://mediamatters.org/embed/199990

I don’t know what Ms. Altman’s position is on “illegal immigration”, nor is it in any way relevant to the duties and responsibilities of a New York State Senator. 

The New York Double Tyranny

26 Jun

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The “independent” bloc of Republicrats in New York’s useless state Senate has cut a deal with Governor Cuomo to caucus with Democrats after the next election. This all comes on the heels of Cuomo getting smacked around by the left wing of the party for his failure and refusal to support the idea of Democrats being elected to the Senate. The Working Families Party extracted a promise from Cuomo to back a push to regain Democratic control. 

The Senate has really done yeoman’s work expanding its ability to engage in pointless nonsense. Remember Pedro Espada and the Gang of Three and the coup? Remember Malcolm Smith’s feckless “leadership”? Smith later went on to try to run for New York City mayor as a Republican, and the FBI arrested him and a few Republicans for bribery in exchange for a Wilson Pakula. 

Yet another example of electoral fusion leading to inevitable corruption. (A Wilson Pakula is a party’s authorization to allow a non-member to run on that party’s line). 

Why do we need a state Senate again? I mean, rarely does it ever actually debate an issue – same sex marriage was a recent example. But 9 times out of 10, it exists solely as a Republican, upstate balance to downstate liberal Democratic policies. But even that is completely manufactured, through gerrymandering and legislators’ ability to count inmates as members of the local “population”, even though they can’t legally vote. 

The guy who answered this question is now running for state Assembly: 

So, Cuomo is being attacked from the left for being a DINO, and he’s being demonized from the right because WHAT PART OF SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ARGLEBARGLE. He’s trying to accomplish two very difficult things. On the one hand, he’s trying to establish his bona fides as a strong leader who can get things done with people from both parties. On the other, through initiatives like the Buffalo Billion, he’s strengthening his Presidential resume by accomplishing the hitherto unaccomplishable – turning Buffalo around. There’s no “Rochester Billion” or “Binghamton Million” or “Plattsburgh Penny”. Buffalo gets the attention because it has a unique nationwide reputation for being the rust belt’s poster child – the unfixable. Fix Buffalo, and the world is your oyster. 

Long ago, I wrote a series of pieces calling for a non-partisan unicameral legislature for New York based on the Nebraska model. The way in which government conducts itself in Albany is beyond dysfunctional – here we are, in 2014, still bemoaning the dual state tyrannies of bureaucracy and “three men in a room”. Your voice – our voice is not heard in Albany, a place legislators only leave upon death or indictment. Cuomo can point to all the on-time budgets he wants, but that has no practical effect on average families anywhere. That’s grandstanding. How about rolling back some unfunded Albany mandates? How about consolidating the Regents and Common Core testing? How about taking on the tyrannical state authorities once and for all? Let’s consider how the state’s taxes, mandates, and oppressive business environment puts all the counties outside the five boroughs at a distinct nationwide competitive disadvantage? How about running the state as if it’s 2014 and not 1954?

The ongoing Albany sideshow is counterproductive, unless you’re an elected, a staffer, a bureaucrat, or a lobbyist. If the IDC decides to caucus with Democrats, what difference will that really make? 

Albany has done some good things for Buffalo in recent years, but while “Dreadful Donn” Esmonde bemoans a new Bills stadium as yet another example of typical Buffalo “silver bullet” economic development, what the hell do you think the Buffalo Billion is? It’s the platinum bullet, whereby the political elite hands an unprecedented bankroll to the city’s business elite in order to usher in top-down business development. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all in favor of free Albany money to attract Elon Musk’s solar energy company to South Buffalo and whatever else they’re spending the money on. But the real change in Buffalo is going to happen organically, from the grassroots. Buffalo is a palpably different and more hopeful place than it was when I first moved here 13 years ago. There are good things popping up all the time – from the microbrew revolution, microdevelopment and renovations on Buffalo’s West Side, a new focus on developing downtown, a hot real estate market, lower unemployment, and a burgeoning knowledge-based economy. Insofar as the state can enhance and assist these efforts, it should be making every effort to do so. 

The IDC is going to caucus with Democrats in the state Senate? That’s nice, I guess. 

Same as it ever was

Albany in the Weeds

20 Jun

People throw the term “nanny state” around a lot, especially in New York.  People have used the term to describe everything from seat belt laws to motorcycle helmet laws to anti-smoking regulations. 

But to just chalk it all up to the “state” just wanting to make life less fun or free is silly. 

I think that, in most cases, lawmakers who pass these sorts of laws balance the equities and err on the side of the public good. You might not like to wear a seatbelt, but it might save your life. Same with a helmet. You can’t smoke indoors because it’s offensive and harmful to non-smokers. 

But when it comes to medical marijuana, I don’t think that balance is taking place. 

I don’t smoke marijuana, nor do I think it’s a great idea for people to do all the time, just like I don’t smoke cigarettes or think they’re a particularly healthy choice. I don’t ride motorcycles, either. But I do drink alcohol, and even that is unreasonably regulated – you can’t get a brunch mimosa before noon in New York? 

But just because I don’t partake in a certain activity, or think it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it should be banned altogether. 

Other states have over a decade’s worth of experience not only with medical marijuana, but two western states have gone ahead and legalized pot altogether. Colorado is making a killing on pot sales taxes, and the only people getting hurt are the Mexican drug cartels, who have seen the cost of pot plummet. If Washington is too rainy and Colorado too snowy, pot is now legal in Portugal and Paraguay. 

It’s one thing to regulate a harmful drug like cocaine or crystal meth – things that have to be carefully synthesized in a lab – and it’s another to regulate a plant that grows naturally, and is then dried and cured. 

Furthermore, marijuana has distinct and real medicinal purposes. It reduces nausea and enhances appetite for people undergoing chemotherapy, and for anorexics. It reduces eye pressure in glaucoma patients. It can reduce pain, stress, anxiety, and seizures. It is also most effective and fast-acting when smoked. 

But for some reason that I can’t adequately explain, Governor Cuomo is insisting that New York’s medical marijuana laws be restrictive to the point of pointlessness. 22 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws, but City & State explains

New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana program will incorporate three unusual components: a sunset clause, a kill switch and a prohibition on smoking the drug.

All three were included at the insistence of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who demanded a smoking ban during negotiations and repeatedly emphasized the potential risks of legalizing marijuana for patients struggling with severe illnesses. The governor said that the compromise bill “strikes the right balance” between helping those in pain and preventing abuse.

“We also have a fail-safe in the bill, which gives me a great deal of comfort, which basically says the governor can suspend the program at any time on recommendation of either the State Police superintendent or the commissioner of health, if there is a risk to the public health and the public safety,” Cuomo said at a Capitol press conference to announce the agreement.  

I mean, why not require a state Department of Health employee physically to administer the drug each time, while you’re at it? 

New York’s program would cover nearly a dozen diseases—relatively few compared to some states—including cancer, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Huntington’s disease. The drug could also be used to treat severe or chronic pain, severe nausea and severe or persistent muscle spasms.

State Senator Diane Savino, who pushed for a medical marijuana bill, is willing to compromise because something is better than nothing. (Here is a breakdown of each state’s program). She has a point, I suppose, but I agree with Ray Walter

Republican Assemblyman Raymond Walter, who once opposed the bill and is now one of its co-sponsors, said the bill had taken on an ungainly shape with Cuomo’s involvement.

“There’s an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee. I think we have a little bit of a camel at this point,” Walter said. “Well, the governor thinks it’s a better horse,” Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the bill’s sponsor, replied. 

This is a cautious, overly restrictive bill that places New York about 20 years behind the curve – while an improvement over the status quo of being 40 years behind, some accuse the state of being run by communard progressive, and this bill is none of that. 

Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol – many argue that it’s much less harmful. Its ridiculous reputation as a “gateway drug” becomes somewhat less acute when legalized

What the state has is a need for new sources of revenue, and cost savings. Full legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults is the way to go, and I think it will happen in New York in the next decade.  Just like the last century’s Volstead Act, the enforcement and prosecution of anti-marijuana laws is a massive waste of public money and resources, and simply empowers criminal gangs and cartels.  According to an article in Forbes, Colorado will pull in $40 million in taxes from legal marijuana sales in 2014. That doesn’t factor in the savings from no longer having to enforce and prosecute marijuana prohibition laws. Instead, you might get a ticket for smoking in public. 

You would think that a government like New York’s would find the taxes, fees, and licenses downright addictive.