Sunday, September 28, 2014

Khorasan, Tooth Fairy and Slender Man Plotting Imminent Attacks On Homeland!

Late last week, Associated Press' Ken Dilanian – the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September – published a new story explaining that just days after bombing "Khorasan" targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an "imminent" threat from the group. Headlined "U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat," it noted that "several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen." But now: Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants. James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . . Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, "I don't know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don't think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes." Regarding claims that an attack was "imminent," Comey said: "I don't know exactly what that word means…'imminent'" — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place. Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual "Khorasan Group" was to some degree an invention of the American government. NBC's Engel, the day after he reported on the U.S. Government's claims about the group for Nightly News, seemed to have serious second thoughts about the group's existence, tweeting:

Lied to once again, with the eager assistance of the U.S. media. And can we stop using this nonsense word "homeland"?  Enough with the bullshit, "folks". 

Shared from the Digg iPhone app:
Late last week, Associated Press' Ken Dilanian – the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September – published a new story explaining that just days after bombing "Khorasan" targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an "imminent" threat from the group. Headlined "U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat," it noted that "several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen." But now: Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants. James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . . Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, "I don't know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don't think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes." Regarding claims that an attack was "imminent," Comey said: "I don't know exactly what that word means…'imminent'" — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place. Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual "Khorasan Group" was to some degree an invention of the American government. NBC's Engel, the day after he reported on the U.S. Government's claims about the group for Nightly News, seemed to have serious second thoughts about the group's existence, tweeting:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/28/u-s-officials-invented-terror-group-justify-bombing-syria/



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Real Reason for The School Reform "Movement"

Applying Monsanto's tactics to educating children by @BloggersRUs

Money and control.  Take the money, break the union, take more money. Profit!
"Writing for the Nation Investigative Fund, Lee Fang details how venture capitalists and firms such as K12 Inc. view it as their mission to disrupt traditional public schools through vouchers applied to private schools, expanded charter schools, and the "next breakthrough in education technology.""

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/applying-monsantos-tactics-to-educating.html

- - -
Shared from the Digg iPhone app
Want more stories like this? Check out Digg Reader →



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Regulatory Capture: NY Fed Edition

The reporter, Jake Bernstein, has obtained 46 hours of tape recordings, made secretly by a Federal Reserve employee, of conversations within the Fed, and between the Fed and Goldman Sachs. The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived. First, a bit of background -- which you might get equally well from today's broadcast as well as from this article by ProPublica. After the 2008 financial crisis, the New York Fed, now the chief U.S. bank regulator, commissioned a study of itself. This study, which the Fed also intended to keep to itself, set out to understand why the Fed hadn't spotted the insane and destructive behavior inside the big banks, and stopped it before it got out of control. The "discussion draft" of the Fed's internal study, led by a Columbia Business School professor and former banker named David Beim, was sent to the Fed on Aug. 18, 2009. It's an extraordinary document. There is not space here to do it justice, but the gist is this: The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them.

It's always been obvious to interested observers.  But as the Ray Rice incident has shown, tape can force people to acknowledge what they didn't want to see. 

Shared from the Digg iPhone app:
The reporter, Jake Bernstein, has obtained 46 hours of tape recordings, made secretly by a Federal Reserve employee, of conversations within the Fed, and between the Fed and Goldman Sachs. The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived. First, a bit of background -- which you might get equally well from today's broadcast as well as from this article by ProPublica. After the 2008 financial crisis, the New York Fed, now the chief U.S. bank regulator, commissioned a study of itself. This study, which the Fed also intended to keep to itself, set out to understand why the Fed hadn't spotted the insane and destructive behavior inside the big banks, and stopped it before it got out of control. The "discussion draft" of the Fed's internal study, led by a Columbia Business School professor and former banker named David Beim, was sent to the Fed on Aug. 18, 2009. It's an extraordinary document. There is not space here to do it justice, but the gist is this: The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-26/the-secret-goldman-sachs-tapes



Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Velazquez Demands Red Hook Post Office Intervention

In an odd bit of timing, I saw this letter from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez after I tweeted about my own frustration with the postal service in 11231.  Yesterday I received a pile of mail from August, including time sensitive material such as checks, cards, and credit cards, and even unwanted time-sensitive material in the form of primary election mailers.  I called the bank two weeks ago to complain about a missing card.  It showed up yesterday - and it wasn't the bank's fault.

Our current mail carrier jams what he can into the box indiscriminately . . . including, frequently, mail for our neighbors.  And sometimes it's just left empty.  It's become clear that the culture of the Clinton Street Post Office is not conducive to good service.  It's bad enough that we don't have convenient access to a post office in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill; to compound that with an "I don't give a shit" level of service is beyond the pale.  So I was happy to see a formal complaint raised by our Congresswoman. Something's got to give.

The full text of the letter:

September 24, 2014
The Honorable David Williams
Inspector General
United States Postal Service
1735 North Lynn Street
Arlington, VA 22209-2020
Dear Inspector General Williams:
I am writing you regarding the Red Hook Post Office located at 615 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, New York, which provides postal service to residents of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Waterfront District.  Given recent problems at this location, I am asking that your office conduct an audit of the accuracy and timeliness of the mail delivery process at the Red Hook Post Office. 
Local residents have recently brought to my attention instances of inadequate service and unprofessional conduct, which when taken together denote a troubling pattern.  This includes mail delivered to wrong addresses, missing packages, parcels that were damaged and/or missing items, and weekdays without any mail delivery at all.  Often, consumers have faced challenges in seeking redress for these occurrences, which have only compounded these problems.  Reports of unprofessional treatment by staff have caused many residents to rely on other privately-operated delivery services.  Our residents need – and deserve – better from the United States Postal Service.
The excessive frequency and sheer volume of complaints regarding mail delivery related to the Red Hook Post Office dictate that immediate intervention is warranted.  Without such action, residents of Red Hook will be left without access to essential postal services as specified under federal law.  To this point, federal law (39 U.S.C. 403(b)(3)) states that “[i]t shall be the responsibility of the Postal Service to establish and maintain postal facilities of such character and in such locations, that postal patrons throughout the Nation will, consistent with reasonable economies of postal operations, have ready access to essential postal services.”  Under current conditions, many Red Hook residents do not have access to these services as required by law.  It is further (39 U.S.C. 403(b)(1)) stipulated that the Postal Service “maintain an efficient system of collection, sorting, and delivery of the mail nationwide.”  Given the widespread reports of mail delivery difficulties, it appears that the Red Hook Post Office is not operating efficiently.
Given these challenges, I am requesting that your office conduct an audit of the accuracy and timeliness of the mail delivery process at the Red Hook Post Office.  The Postal Service – and the Red Hook Post Office in particular – remain vital to our local residents and businesses.  With your assistance it can be restored as an asset to our community.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about this matter.
Sincerely,
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The F Express Back In The News (Recently)

I'm a little late to comment on this amNewYork piece, although I did speak with Dan Rivoli while he was drafting the article earlier this month.  This time a round a group of 14 elected officials has signed a joint letter calling on the MTA to add limited F express service in addition to current service levels.
The MTA is studying the issue and has said any express F service, last seen in 1987, would have to wait until rehabilitation and track work on the Culver Viaduct at the Smith-9th Street station is complete. That project is coming to a close, though the MTA did not have an expected end date as crews continue work on the 80-year-old structure spanning the Gowanus Canal.
"We think now is the time to rally around making sure that the F starts the process of representing fast service and not failed opportunity," Adams told amNewYork.
Officials said riders in the southern part of the line would get a faster ride to downtown and Manhattan, while people who use the popular local stops in DUMBO and Brownstone Brooklyn would see fewer delays and less crowding.
"I grew up on a local stop," Adams said. "I tell you, nothing is more troublesome than having to watch the trains go by when they're too full."
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said there are operational challenges in implementing express service. For instance, there is less track space for trains between the Bergen and Jay street stops where the rails merge, he said.
"It's not as simple as just throwing on extra trains, because they all have to end up merging together," Lisberg said.
Another part of the study is to look at the demographics to find out how many riders would benefit from express F service and how riders at crowded local stops would be affected.
"The largest volumes are getting on at some of the stations closer in anyway," Lisberg said. "How much savings is there really? That's why we're doing the study, to find out."
This, of course, is something we've been asking for for many years.  Longtime readers will remember my petition to bring back the F Express from those distant days of 2007 when we still shared the sixth avenue trunk with the V train.  Of course, times have changed a bit.  The V has been replaced with a re-routed M train, and the G train has been extended out to Church Avenue.   As a local stop user myself (Carroll Street), I'll second what BP Adams said about the frustration of waiting for a packed train that you can't access.

There are legitimate questions about the implementation of express service, given the sharing of tracks with other lines, as well as the need to address potential noise and vibration issues related to the express tracks in Windsor Terrace.  So I eagerly await the feasibility study from the MTA.  

And definitely appreciate the renewed attention the F line has received from both elected officials and press interested in potential transit improvements. (Including the Bensonhurst Bean, which picked up the amNY story).  Pending study results from the MTA, perhaps the biggest obstacle to an F Express is money.  Which will bring us to our next post on the giant hole in the MTA's capital plan, and what's to be done about it.

Spying and Lying, For Freedom

This is disconcerting on multiple levels:

The FBI requires state and local police to keep quiet about the capabilities of a controversial type of surveillance gear that allows law enforcement to eavesdrop on cellphone calls and track individual people based on the signals emitted by their mobile devices, according to a bureau document released recently under a Freedom of Information Act request. 
. . . . 
The FCC last month began investigating reports of illegal use of IMSI catchers, by foreign intelligence services and criminals but has said it does not oversee the use of the surveillance gear by federal government agencies. Last week, the marketers of a device that’s designed to detect IMSI catchers reported finding 18 in the Washington area over two days of searching.
The locations, said the marketer of the GSMK CryptoPhone, included areas around the White House, the Capitol, the Russian Embassy and the cluster of defense contractors near Dulles International Airport. The CryptoPhone was not able to determine whether the IMSI catchers were being used by the federal government, local police or some other entity.
E-mails collected through a separate Freedom of Information Act request, by the ACLU, showed in June that the U.S. Marshals Service had asked police in Florida to not reveal that they had used IMSI catchers in determining the locations of criminal suspects. Instead, the police were instructed to say that they had learned the whereabouts of suspects using “a confidential source.”
Foreign countries know that we have this technology.  Criminals likely presume we do.  Once again the people who are deprived of this information are the voting public.  Because freedom!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

History Has A Well Known Liberal Bias

So the conservatives and tea-baggers would prefer that we serve up lies and omissions to students instead.  It's pathological.
Slavery?  What are you talking about?  Never happened.  Union busting?  McCarthyism?  COINTELPRO?  Segregation?  Japanese internment?  Criminalization of homosexuality?  Discrimination against women?  The Trail of Tears?  Iran-Contra?  Watergate?  Torture?  Domestic spying?  The School of the Americas?  Why you're talking gibberish, man.  Rubbish!

You know what?  You don't grow and improve as a country, or as a person by sweeping your faults under a rug and pretending they never existed.  We could stand to have a little more introspection and to have an honest and open conversation about both our history and our present.

Via Billmon's Twitter feed:

US DOT Getting Real On Street Safety


U.S. DOT to Publish Its Own Manual on Protected Bike Lanes
This is highly encouraging news.  State's DOTS have been retrograde in their actions while cities have been making good progress.  A more progressive approach from the Feds will help turn the tide nationwide.
"Now, with a secretary at the helm who's determined to make bike and pedestrian safety his signature issue, the agency is going further. First, the next edition of the MUTCD (expected to be released in 2016 or 2017) will have a slew of new signage and markings recommendations for bicycling. FHWA's Dan Goodman told an audience at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike earlier this month that the updated MUTCD is expected to have everything from signage indicating how bikes should make two-stage turns using bike boxes to stripes extending bike lanes through intersections — and, of course, guidance on buffered and protected bike lanes.  
But perhaps more important than the changes to the MUTCD is the fact that FHWA is publishing its own manual dedicated to the design of protected bike lanes. (Despite the fact that the guide will deal exclusively with bike lanes that are protected from traffic with some kind of vertical barrier — not just paint — they still insist on calling the designs "separated" but not "protected" bike lanes, out of recognition of the fact that even what passes for "protection" in the U.S. these days — like flexible plastic bollards — don't offer much protection against a moving car. Streetsblog calls these lanes "protected," however, as a way to distinguish them from regular painted lanes, which are also "separated" from traffic.) 
And FHWA is collaborating with exactly the right people on the project. Carl Sundstrom from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and Ryan Russo of NYC DOT, who presented alongside Goodman at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike, are both consulting on the new guidelines. Sam Schwartz Engineering and Kittelson & Associates, Inc. — firms which have developed specializations in protected bike lanes — are on the consultant team. NACTO and ITE are on the technical work group along with the League of American Bicyclists' Equity Initiative and some forward-looking state DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies."

That last part is key.  These are people who know what they're doing and won't blindly stick to the AASHTO mentality.

Syrian Sales Pitch: New Product!

I continue to be amazed at how most US news media serve as a greek chorus to hype whatever the latest bogeyman is.  Sarin!  ISIS!  Khorosan!  One way or another we're going to be sold on bombing someone.  Funny how that's our go-to foreign policy tool these days, "kinetic action".  Also funny, but not ha-ha funny, is that our allies in the region are arguably (1) worse than Iraq or Syria or Libya or whomever it is we're bombing next and (2) are directly involved with the financing and training of our bogeymen du jour.
The threat of Ibrahim al-Asiri –who with one bomb that could not have worked and several more claimed attacks identified by double agents in Saudi employ not only created the excuse for millions of dollars in TSA scanner profits, but also the ability to label Yemen an “imminent” threat and therefore bomb it — has moved to Syria.
Label the country an “imminent” threat. Then bomb.
In Obama’s statement, he emphasized the Khorasan tie.
Some questions smart people have been asking:
Micah Zenko: If Khorasan group was truly an imminent threat, why would the US delay bombing them just so they could bomb ISIS simultaneously?
Gregory Johnsen: Are people asking why a group calling itself “khurasan” is basing itself in Syria? Or is this just a USG name for a cell?
Spencer Ackerman: Why did a senior official say, just yesterday, that Khorasan was not an imminent threat.
Also:  Why was Asiri claimed to be helping ISIS back in July?
The sources on which this latest justification relies seem to be people — James Clapper and Mike Rogers are two — who have a somewhat strained relationship with the truth and a very cozy relationship with disinformation. Moreover, Congress still hasn’t been briefed on the covert ops (which both Clapper and Rogers do know about) that the CIA has been working, with their Saudi partner, in Syria.
But we’ve got some claim to “imminent” now, so it’s all good.
For longer than I've been alive we've been in bed with arguably the worst country in the entire world, Saudi Arabia.  No good has come of it, and no good will come of it.  Just more of the same awful shit, year after year until we have an honest national conversation about our middle east policies.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Conservative Bait and Switch, or, Government By Cliche

A huge part of the Conservative Movement has been to simply shift the funding of government from progressive taxation to exorbitant fines and fees for traffic violations, parking tickets, misdemeanors of other sorts, property forfeitures of large amounts of money or homes or cars, home foreclosures and forfeiture of the entire proceeds from the sale of the home for failure to pay a small property tax bill (including if you didn't know that it was due or was not paid). This is all part of freedom! Liberty! The private contractors for government services and operations, and the police and judges whose conflict of interest ensures the more-than-adequacy of this method of government funding, have to be paid, y'know.
Excellent post at Angry Bear on an important topic I hold dear: Republican bullshit, and the consequences of failing to call it out.  [EDIT: Looks like the link didn't work. Now fixed.]
A huge part of the Conservative Movement has been to simply shift the funding of government from progressive taxation to exorbitant fines and fees for traffic violations, parking tickets, misdemeanors of other sorts, property forfeitures of large amounts of money or homes or cars, home foreclosures and forfeiture of the entire proceeds from the sale of the home for failure to pay a small property tax bill (including if you didn't know that it was due or was not paid). This is all part of freedom! Liberty! The private contractors for government services and operations, and the police and judges whose conflict of interest ensures the more-than-adequacy of this method of government funding, have to be paid, y'know.
Anything and everything to push the tax burden down the income scale, and to loot whatever valuable assets that generations of Americans built together remaining in the public sphere.

Hey! If we sell our most productive assets to rich people at fire sale prices, we can help keep marginal income tax rates on those seem rich people down.  A two-fer!  It's a no-brainer, by which I mean you must have no brain to be taken in by these charlatans.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The NSA Gives Private Communications Of Americans To Israel

How is this possibly acceptable?  I'm grateful to Edward Snowden for all that he has exposed.  Our police state is running amok - and spying on our own citizens for a foreign power.  I don't care if that foreign power is your favorite country in the world, it is still a foreign power.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.
Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.
Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
This is just sickening.  And don't doubt that the same kind of extortionate behavior (blackmail, etc.) can and will be brought to bear on people in the United States.  Anyone parroting the line that Edward Snowden should have "gone through the proper channels" instead of leaking is a fool or worse.

Friday, September 12, 2014

23 Years Of American Military Involvement In Iraq

The 23 year long war
Fortunately, there were no better uses for the money, oil prices plunged as a result, and there have been zero repercussions.
The 23 year long war by digby 1991: 1998: 2003: 2014: I'm getting some blowback for suggesting that this argument about congressional authorization is a dodge, but I honestly believe that it's i…

Right?

Give That Man A Nobel Prize!


Obama Widens Endless War
Via Greg Mitchell, Philip Gourevitch has a lengthy reaction to Obama's ISIS speech at the New Yorker.  At least he remembers Libya (beyond Benghazi!!1!) and how great that has turned out.
The President never mentioned Libya. That was the last time he attempted to wage a war on the spur of the moment, getting into it, at first, as a rescue mission to prevent a predicted massacre, then escalating fast and hard—but remaining always in the air—in support of rebel ground forces whom we barely knew, and whom we understood even less, with no clear end but total regime change, and with no commitment whatever beyond the first rush of the revolution. That war then spilled over into Mali, and turned inward in Libya, so that today the country is an absolute catastrophe—far worse off than when NATO joined its troubles, with Tripoli in the hands of forces much like ISIS.
We never seem to be short of money for bombs or training killers.  Why are schools, trains, and sewers so hard to pay for?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

OMG Bomb Syria 2.0

"Let's Bomb Syria" Version 2 Is Working; Why Did Version 1 Fail?
If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Last year it was dubious sarin attacks. This year ISIS is coming to kill us all in our beds. And once again the media is complicit in hyping a threat and amplifying the war drums. 

Unfortunately, this time Anericans seem to be buying it.  We never learn, do we?
Polls taken almost exactly one year apart show a remarkable reversal in US opinion regarding the prospect of air strikes on Syria. Last year, in a poll conducted September 6-8, (pdf) there were a number of questions regarding action in Syria. By a margin of 59% to 39%, Americans overwhelmingly said they thought Congress should not pass the then pending resolution authorizing "military action for 60 to 90 days" that also banned use of US troops in a combat role. Further, 55% of those polled stated that even if Congress passed the resolution, they opposed US air strikes in Syria while only 43% favored them. In the hypothetical of no Congressional authorization, opposition to the air strikes rose to 71% with only 27% favoring them. Just one year later, those numbers have reversed. In a poll conducted September 4-7, 65% of Americans now say they support expanding US air strikes against the Sunni insurgents into Syria, while only 28% oppose them. Checking the crosstabs, support for the strikes jumps to 74% for Republicans but still is 60% for Democrats.

Jo Anne Simon Wins Assembly District 52 (That's Us) Primary

Congratulations to Jo Anne Simon (and campaign manager Paul Nelson) on last night's victory after a hard fought campaign.

Jo Anne will be a terrific advocate for our neighborhoods in Albany and continue to provide the sort of constituent attention we've come to expect from our retiring Assemblywoman Joan Millman and Eileen Dugan before her.

I also want to congratulate Pete Sikora for running a campaign on issues that are near to my heart like income inequality, early childhood education and livable streets.  This was a race where we had two excellent candidates to choose from.

At the state level, I'm glad we were able to send Governor Cuomo a message.  Teachout/Wu ran a shoestring campaign and still picked up more than 35% of the vote.  In AD52, Teachout trounced Governor Cuomo by 6,629 to 3,587 (hat tip to Gatemouth).

Primary season is now history.  I will gladly vote for Jo Anne Simon in November, and grudgingly cast a vote for Cuomo/Hochul as well.  Let's hope that Governor Cuomo takes the right lesson from this primary.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Democratic Primary Endorsements!

A reminder to vote today in the NY democratic primary! I'll be voting for Pete Sikora for Assembly and the Teachout/Wu ticket for statewide office. I hope you'll join me. See the link below for a longer version including links to candidate websites.


http://firstandcourt.blogspot.com/2014/09/democratic-primary-endorsements.html?m=1


Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks - NYTimes.com

Here's a crazy thought. How about enforcing the law?
"The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments' lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research."
My favorite trick is when the hawks in Congress appropriate money to foreign groups, such as the Iraqi National Congress, or shady opposition groups in Iran, who then funnel the money back into lobbying the US government and propagandizing in the US.  Like a perpetual motion machine for foreign adventurism.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Clinton Street: New Paint Going In

Intersection of 1st Place and Clinton received highly visible crosswalks this morning.
I've read a lot of complaints about the slow pace or road re-striping after recent milling and paving operations.  Clinton Street of course is one of them, and today we saw evidence that the process is moving along.  New thermoplast at 1st and Clinton was installed sometime between 9:00 and 12:00 today.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Democratic Primary Endorsements!

If it's a year that ends in a number, we have democratic primaries (September 9th is our second one of 2014!).  One of these was easy.   The other was a harder choice, but a choice still must be made.

Governor/Lt. Governor:  Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu
This was the easy choice.  Governor Cuomo has had plenty of opportunity to embrace the leftward shift of the Democratic party and has not.  He is ultimately responsible for the SUNY's outrageous bad faith behavior and mismanagement of Long Island College Hospital.  We might still have a full hospital if we had a negotiating partner in Albany.  Unfortunately, Cuomo stood by while his appointees repeatedly acted in bad faith over the course of 2013 and 2014.  Cuomo has repeatedly raided dedicated transit funds to artificially depress marginal income tax rates.  He summarily stripped transit provisions from the Tappan Zee Bridge after years of work . . . and has attempted to raid environmental cleanup funds to help pay for it.  Cuomo single-handedly killed the millionaire's tax that would have provided reliable funding for universal pre-k . . . while embracing elements of the charter school "movement" that seek to undermine public education and destroy teacher's unions.  His decision not to hold special elections has left many Brooklynites without representation in Albany.

I'm willing to take a chance that two very, very smart professors can do better.  At the very least, Governor Cuomo needs a wake-up call from Democrats in NYC.  I'll be voting Teachout-Wu on Tuesday.

Assembly District 52:  Pete Sikora
This was the tougher choice, as we have two well-qualified candidates for the position, and I've known both candidates for at least six years.  I was as surprised as anyone when Joan Millman's retirement was announced just a few months ago, and I assumed I would support Jo Anne Simon, who announced her candidacy almost immediately.  But then another friend, Pete Sikora, announced his candidacy.  I decided to sit out the campaign as best I could for the summer, and I told both candidates that was my intention.

But there comes a time when you actually have to pull the lever, and that time is almost upon us.  I've been following the campaign, of course, and over time Pete has persuaded me that he is the best candidate for the job.  I first met Pete when we were both working to elect progressive candidates in 2008 and I was impressed by his energetic and engaging approach to voters.  I was even more impressed by Pete's creative efforts to persuade a recalcitrant Cuomo administration to keep our hospital open.  As it turns out, Cuomo and his SUNY people had no interest in working with anybody.  But a lot of people worked very hard to make him see the light, and Pete in particular played a central role in that effort.  Pete has an extensive history as an advocate for progressive causes and after a couple of good conversations on transportation and economic issues, I am convinced Pete is the best candidate for the job.  Pete Sikora is someone who will make waves in Albany, and  I will be casting my vote for him on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Parade Enters 21st Century Next Year

Better late than never!  Excellent news and kudos to Mayor de Blasio and the city council for doing the right thing.   It looks like Guinness and NBC added pressure after the pols took a stand this year, and in a couple of years even the opponents will wonder why the hell gays were ever excluded in the first place.
Since 1762, the Irish in New York have gathered on March 17 to celebrate their heritage and maybe drink some beer. Not welcome in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Fifth Avenue, however, were groups identifying as gay, because Catholics aren’t traditionally into that kind of thing. But following Bill de Blasio’s decision to sit out the parade this year — the first mayor to do so in two decades — to protest the organizers’ exclusionary practices, the next parade will finally enter the 21st century, allowing an LGBT group to march. It’s a step forward, sure, but it also appears to be about the money. Isn’t it always?
It's great day for for everybody, even spittle-flecked outrage machine Bill Donohue.

More Street Carnage Yesterday

A woman had her legs crushed on Court Street at Atlantic yesterdsay:
A livery cab driver jumped a curb and smashed into a woman on the sidewalk before careening into the side of a Court Street building on Tuesday afternoon, according to police and an eyewitness.
The cabbie was heading down Court Street towards Carroll Gardens at 12:46 pm and was attempting to turn right onto Atlantic Avenue when he hopped the curb and took out a light pole, then slammed into the 29-year-old pedestrian and, subsequently, a building, cops said. A witness said the victim was “broken from the waist down.”
I'm still not clear on the role of the semi truck; I have seen two different descriptions of the collision: one where the truck struck the cab from the rear, and another where the truck was making a right turn from the left lane (as tractor trailers must do at most intersections) and the black car failed to yield.  I thought everyone knew that you don't ever want to pass a turning truck on the right.  Interestingly enough, there were also two separate tractor-trailer-on-car collisions snarling traffic on the Gowanus yesterday morning.  In each of those cases the tractor and car had collided during an attempted merge or lane change.  It was difficult to tell who was at fault in those crashes.

And this is just mind-boggling:
The unlicensed teen driver who fatally mowed down 4-year-old Ariel Russo while fleeing police last year was busted Sunday for allegedly dragging a cop 100 feet and nearly striking a pedestrian while driving illegally, the Daily News has learned.
Franklin Reyes, 18, was back on the road and once again trying to evade capture in Washington Heights after being stopped at W. 181st St. and Amsterdam Ave. [by] cops, who instructed the defiant accused killer to place the car in park, according to Reyes’ criminal complaint.
NYC is making strides with the Vision Zero program - and there is very clearly a lot more work to be done, both in the area of design and enforcement.  NYPD and TLC have big roles to play, and I hope they will continue to up their game to match the great work that DOT has been doing.  We've got to change the culture of our streets, and it will take a broad inter-disciplinary approach to do it.

NYPD Needs More Training On Basic Civil Rights

I was surprised to see that the mother in this story was someone I had met: Chaumtoli Huq, who as General Counsel for Public Advocate Tish James worked with us on the LICH litigation after the mayoral transition.  If the allegations here are true, whatever happened to Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect?
A mother and former top government lawyer waiting for her husband and kids to use the bathroom at a Times Square restaurant was arrested for blocking the sidewalk, in what she calls an attempt by the NYPD to target her for being Muslim, according to a pending lawsuit.
Chaumtoli Huq, 42, a human rights lawyer and former general counsel for Public Advocate Letitia James, said she had just left a pro-Palestinian rally in Times Square on July 19 with her husband and two young children when they stopped to use the bathroom at Ruby Tuesday at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue.
I personally know a lot of police officers who are consummate professionals.  But as we've seen repeatedly in NYC and elsewhere, especially with various types of 1st Amendment activities (see, e.g., Occupy, 2004 GOP Convention, 2003 Iraq War protest) there are also some who like to throw their weight around.  And that is not acceptable.