Tag Archives: Cuomo

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. 

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.

 

Erie County Republicans Support Free Tuition for All

24 Feb

I applaud the Erie County Republican Committee’s efforts to make a college education free for all in-state children. The problems that the students in this video identify are all wholly solvable through legislation, and I’m sure that our local Republican delegation is working feverishly to ensure that every New Yorker attending a state school gets the free quality education that our post-industrial society requires. 

Attica U.

19 Feb

Via Wikimedia Commons

New York State’s prisons are not necessarily filled with bad people. 

They are, however, filled with people who have made bad – sometimes violent – choices. They are filled with people who have broken our laws. 

Many of them, for instance, have been imprisoned falsely. Some are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes. Many are just straight up murderers, rapists, assailants, batterers, burglars, armed robbers, kidnappers – people who have deliberately or recklessly done harm to innocent people. 

It’s very, very easy to forget the purposes of incarcerating criminals. It’s not always just punitive – there is supposed to be a degree of redemption and rehabilitation built into the system. However, it hasn’t worked that way, and people are loath to try because “coddling criminals”. 

How we treat New York’s inmates reflects on us as human beings. It also speaks to whether we’re smart or not. As it stands, we’re not. 

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world; about 3/4th of 1% of our population is behind bars. About 22% of America’s detainees are awaiting trial; presumed innocent, having been convicted of nothing. Incarceration rates have skyrocketed since the early 1980s, and New York is 37th in the nation in terms of the rate of its people who are behind bars – about 1/3 of 1% of New Yorkers. Of those, the prison population is overwhelmingly black and Latino – the disparity between the general population and the prison population is dramatic. Most state prisons are upstate, and these newpats are counted as part of the local population for election purposes. 

It costs $60,000 to house, feed, and guard New York prisoners, and also to give them just enough entertainment so they don’t murder each other or the men and women who guard them. Anyone who thinks that New York’s prisoners are guests at a country club facility should arrange a visit to, say, Attica. These are grim fortresses housing a great many people who never had a fighting chance at doing anything else with their lives. 

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he wanted to implement a program to give inmates a chance to earn a free college degree. A private initiative operated by Bard College has found that recidivism rates among prisoners who earned a degree while behind bars plummeted from 40% to 4%

The knee-jerk reactions from outraged people was swift, furious, and downright disheartening. I believe that people deserve a chance, and even a second chance, at least.  I believe that a $5,000 annual investment to provide an eager, motivated inmate with a second chance at a productive life outside prison is an investment well made. Would we rather shove him out of the prison environment back into the environment from where he came, with no help, services, skills, or education? What do you think is going to happen? Shall we do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results? Would you rather that a man fresh out of prison with nothing more than a probation officer is going to magically find his way to building the sort of life that you or I enjoy, without any guidance, mentoring, or life skills? 

I would rather not pay for an inmate’s return to prison. I would rather that society save the money on pretrial detention, police services, court time, court personnel, transportation, post-conviction detention, food, housing, clothes, etc., through a program to redirect and truly attempt to rehabilitate people motivated to find a new way. 

This doesn’t mean we’re going to be handing out Bachelor’s degrees to murderers, but if there’s a drug dealer behind bars at 21 who’s due to be released in his 30s, doesn’t it make sense to give that person hope and life skills for a future where he’s not relying on crime or the victimization of others? 

In 1995, Governor Pataki dismantled an already existing program. This Huffington Post contributor wrote this, at the time

We the imprisoned people of New York State, 85% of whom are black and Latino, 75% of whom come from 26 assembly districts in 7 neighborhoods in New York City, to which 98% will someday return, possibly no better off than when we left, uneducated and lacking employable skills, declare this Kairos in response to the elimination of the prison college programs, GED and vocational training programs and education beyond the eighth-grade level. The elimination of prison education programs is part of Governor Pataki’s proposed budget cuts. It amounts to less than one third of one percent of the total state budget, but it will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in the years to come.

I went on to state that many studies, even one conducted by the New York State Department of Correctional Services, have demonstrated empirically what people know intuitively: that prisoners who earn college degrees are far less likely to return to a life of crime upon release. According to research conducted by the Department, of the inmates who earned a college degree in 1986, 26% had returned to state prison, whereas 45% of inmates who did not earn a degree were returned to custody. For many prisoners, gaining an education signals an end to personal failure and a ladder out of poverty and crime. Without it, the governor may as well change the name “Department of Correctional Services” to “Department of Correctional Warehousing.” As the former Chief Justice Warren Burger stated: “To confine offenders without trying to rehabilitate them is expensive folly.”

The author of that passage was imprisoned at Sing Sing for a nonviolent drug offense under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws – he went in the system in 1985 and was released in 1997.  During that time, he took advantage of a then-extant program at Sing Sing operated by the Bronx Community College. 

My two year degree opened my eyes to the value of getting a college education. After that I received my B.S. in Behavioral Science from Mercy College, then went on to receive a graduate degree from New York Theological Seminary. I survived imprisonment because of my ability to transcend the negativity around me because of the rehabilitative qualities of a college education.

When I was released from prison after receiving executive clemency for Governor George Pataki in 1997 my reentry into society was eased because of my college education. But it was not an easy deal. When some people found out about where I got my college education they were not too happy. I remember going on a few television shows and talking about my college education. Instead of being happy for me they talked about how I got a free college education instead of being punished. My response was that I did not get a free education, I paid dearly for it serving 12 years in prison and I did everything I could to make a bad situation good.

Our prisons should not be equipped with revolving doors for poor, uneducated, downstate black and Latinos; kids who more often than not came from dysfunctional homes, bad neighborhoods, and who had no one to teach them the value of anything. At some point, some effort should be made to ensure that there is no return visit. Through that investment, we can – in the long run – help save the taxpayers billions. 

Former inmate Anthony Cardenales, 39, of the Bronx, earned degrees from Bard College during his 16-year prison sentence on manslaughter charges. He is now vice president of an electronics recycling company in Mount Vernon.

 The costs of our high recidivism rate is throwing good money after bad. The people convicted of crimes deserve to be punished, yes. But we as a society are completely ignorant and blind to the societal costs of reintroducing ex-cons to society without the support and tools they need to make it. We don’t spend $60,000 per year to rehabilitate them – just to cage them. The New York system already uses their slave labor to build furniture. (Here is another article about other penitentiary work programs).

We already run GED programs and high-school level courses for inmates. 

If we can exploit their labor, certainly we can give those who want it an education and a chance at a better life as productive members of society. 

Doctor’s Orders

9 Jan

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Good News Everywhere

22 Nov

The Ford Stamping plant is adding 350 jobs and a 3rd shift to help feed parts to nearby Canadian Ford factories that are being crushed by demand for Ford’s excellent new lineup of cars. (Now imagine if Ford didn’t have to be in the business of providing health insurance for their employees and could just concentrate on hiring the best people to produce its cars, and if people had the freedom to apply for those jobs without regard to health benefits. That’s how it is in Canada, and that’s why Canada is attractive to manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, Honda, and GM. A 2002 analysis found that the labor cost to automakers in the US came out to $45.00/hour; in Canada, with its socialized medicine and all, the rate was closer to $30.00/hour). 

Governor Cuomo has been in WNY practically every two weeks ever since the locals decided that the NY SAFE Act was a horrible affront to 2nd Amendment rights because every American has the right to have an arsenal powerful enough to defeat the most expensive and powerful military in the world. Or something. 

Yesterday, he came to town to announce $225 million project to create a green energy campus at the site of a barren brownfield in Buffalo. Two companies are being attracted from California to develop and produce energy-efficient LED lighting and solar panels. The state is developing the property and buying the companies some machinery, and the companies will be hiring hundreds of locals for well-paying jobs and investing $1.5 billion in the move. Tax breaks are expected to attract even more businesses and jobs to the new green campus. 

Jim Heaney’s Investigative Post analyzes the deal, and declares it to be “progress”, although not a “game changer”. However, one selling point is that it may lead to 5,000 new, well-paying jobs over the next decade. Not a bad day, even if it’s only half as successful as that. 

 

Shorter Esmonde

1 Jul

Shorter Esmonde? 

On Friday, Cuomo is pretty awesome, and he pulled out of this argument with the Canadians just at the right time, because he’s pretty awesome. 

On Sunday, Cuomo is an obstructionist punk who is horrible, and he caused a big fight with the Canadians, because he’s an obstructionist punk. 

Shorter Esmonde’s week in Cuomoland? 

When it comes to Peace Bridge and plaza expansion, I will feign interest in its progress, because my own positions on these topics swing around more than a drunken octogenarian driving the wrong way on the I-190 in the middle of the night. 

The Root of Cynicism is Cynicism

17 Apr

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Mark Tuesday as a pivotal day – the day that New York’s own Machiavellian governor announced an effort to clean up New York’s election laws. The Malcolm Smith arrest for allegedly bribing Republican party bosses in exchange for a Wilson-Pakula electoral fusion cross-endorsement has, at long last, shined a spotlight on the transactional horribleness of New York’s legalized electoral racketeering. 

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that he wants an independent monitor at the state Board of Elections to root out corruption and campaign finance fraud. 

Ending Wilson-Pakula would be a significant blow to the clout of the leadership of the state’s influential minor parties who grant the waivers for candidates of major parties to run on their ballot lines. Cuomo said he does not support ending cross-party endorsements, meaning major party candidates could still have fusion ballot lines in a general election.

This isn’t a perfect solution, as it still permits candidates to circulate petitions to get on a minor party line. It does, however, greatly reduce the clout that minor party bosses have, and this is a desired result. Why should the boss of a party with a single-digit enrollment percentage have any clout at all? The Daily News describes the law thusly

Wilson Pakula law, which gives party bosses the power to decide if candidates not registered in their parties can run on their lines. Cuomo said the setup encourages ballot lines to be traded for campaign donations.

Of course, Sheldon Silver – champion of awful – opposes eliminating a point of electoral fraud

“I don’t think we should preclude people from running on more than one line,” Silver said at a news conference today. “They’re only allowed to registered in one party. There has to be a mechanism for us — for people — to gain dual endorsements or more.”

It’s no surprise that certain Democrats remain almost childishly butthurt over the election of Jeremy Zellner as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.  Typically, there’s litigation pending to underscore the factionalism, most of which has to do with who controls the paltry number of patronage jobs. The Erie County Independence Party barely exists in anything but name only, and the state committee is almost exclusively backing Republicans nowadays. The Erie County Conservative Party is run cynically by Ralph Lorigo, who will only endorse candidates who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and gun control, except when convenient for him and his own self-interest. The Republicans, as one would expect, oppose Democrats uniformly. That’s how it’s supposed to work, after all. Except in judicial races. 

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone united in interest against the Democratic committee apparatus would attend a fundraiser for its chief opponent – another Democrat from neighboring Cheektowaga. If people like Ralph Lorigo can help defeat Democrats in a general election, Zellner gets blamed and the Max/Pigeon people can argue that they should take over the party, and people like Lorigo get to control a few jobs here and there, thus solidifying their positions. But if you take away Lorigo’s ability to control his party’s line, that could significantly affect outcomes. 

Because none of this has anything to do with Democratic ideas or principles. It all has to do with transactional petty nonsense like who gets to hire whom for some no-show job at some city, town, or county authority. 

Abolishing Wilson-Pakula is a great first step. Abolishing electoral fusion and cross-endorsements altogether would be a fantastic second step, as it would eliminate the number of hands in the government cookie jar. 

But if you sit there wondering why people want nothing to do with western New York’s political system, and why we have a hard time getting people to run for office, you have to realize that it has a lot to do with the fact that even the smallest, least significant elected office in this area is fraught with awfulness. 

Ranidaphobic Clarence Man Writes Blog

9 Apr

Hi there. 

1. Did you know that, thanks to a petition that more than 3,000 people signed, and thanks to a big turnout and lively speakers at last night’s Amherst Town Board meeting, the town’s ridiculously restrictive proposed food truck regulation has been scrapped and the town is going back to the drawing board. It’s something of a pyrrhic victory because while Amherst’s lawmakers go back to make their sausage, the food trucks will continue to operate under the anachronistic peddling law that’s on the books now. 

While imperfect in many ways, the Buffalo food truck ordinance should be a template. Perhaps different circumstances may require certain towns to make minor tweaks, and perhaps some more business-friendly communities might introduce much smaller licensing fees, but this isn’t brain surgery. From the News’ report,

Board members said they agreed that changes were necessary but were concerned at the timetable required to make changes. Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said it would take at least two months to make the needed changes.

Supervisor Barry Weinstein said he doubts the matter will be resolved so quickly.

“Two months is excessively optimistic,” Weinstein said.

 Hm. And here I thought two months is excessively pessimistic.

2. Someone in Governor Cuomo’s office trial ballooned a story to the New York Post’s Fred Dicker about ousting Sheldon Silver as Assembly Speaker. In the wake of new, electoral fusion-related indictments, metaphorically cleaning up Albany has become something of a priority. Not surprisingly, Assembly Democrats wouldn’t dare go on the record to bash Silver. It would be political suicide at this point – you (again, metaphorically) throw Shelly under the bus when the bus is moving.  Dicker writes

Silver’s possible ouster comes as Cuomo — who campaigned for governor in 2010 promising to end “pay-to-play” in Albany — plans to announce broad ethics reforms.

“This is a rare moment for sweeping change,” Cuomo told his aides this weekend.

The overhaul could include a Moreland Act Commission that would put influential lobbyists under oath to testify on how the system of corruption works.

Also under consideration is a ban on the “cross endorsement” of candidates of one political party by another party.

Cuomo is also eyeing a repeal of the “Wilson-Pakula” law, which allows candidates from one party to run on another party’s ticket.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith planned to run for mayor on the GOP ticket but was busted by the feds last week for paying off Republican county chairmen in exchange for endorsements.

There you have it. Wilson-Pakula, electoral fusion, and the open market for cross-endorsements in New York are the manure that fertilizes New York State’s culture of corruption. It is a culture that keeps government bloated, dishonest, and opaque – lawmakers acting in their own best interests, rather than those of their constituents. This corrupt fusion system enables tiny political “parties” and their bosses to wield incredible power and clout. As for the “Independence Party”, it isn’t, and it should be banned simply for the confusion it creates for people who intend to register as “unenrolled” voters. Abolition of electoral fusion and cross-endorsements is the first, critical step to disinfecting Albany. 

3. Monday’s Buffalo News carried a big headline declaring that a “Clarence man with frog phobia wins $1.6 million verdict“. I saw plenty of Tweets and Facebook posts ridiculing the idea that someone could win so much money because he was afraid of frogs, or something. Upon reading the article, however, I discovered that the story was really about a Clarence man, Paul Marinaccio, whose property was rendered unmarketable because an adjacent development diverted water runoff onto it.

The issue of Mr. Marinaccio’s fear of frogs was perhaps a humorous anecdote, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the case that he won. He won because a developer and the town destroyed his land. This was quite an important result and victory in an area that all but deifies developers. The Buffalo News’ headline was misleading and turned an important issue into a joke. It also falsely left the impression that a ridiculous lawsuit with an outrageous outcome had taken place, and that the legal system is out of control and scumbag lawyers and litigious society, etc. 

Bias in the Newsroom

4 Mar

Next time you listen to a newscast – a purportedly straight newscast reported-on by Steve Cichon or Dave Debo, or anchored by John Zach and Susan Rose – remember that this banner is now hanging in that station’s newsroom: 

That’s after the station spent all day last Thursday “covering” this anti-gun rally in Albany, joining with Carl Paladino to sponsor a bus caravan of WBEN listeners to the rally. 

The funny thing is that protests in Albany are a dime a dozen, and the only novelty about this one is that it was populated by underemployed conservatives who are not used to activism that goes beyond stating their name and location for a call screener. 

WBEN’s blatant anti-SAFE Act propaganda and agitation are all well and good, I suppose, but the station should no longer masquerade as a straight news outlet. It has crossed the line into issue-based PAC and should register with the Board of Elections. Thursday’s newscast and subsequent talk shows were nothing more than an infomercial for people who think that limiting magazine capacity from 10 to 7 rounds is “tyranny”.