The Sept. 9 Democratic primary is coming up fast. There was supposed to have been a debate this past Tuesday between Gov. Cuomo and his primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout. Cuomo chickened out but Teachout showed up, and she had some very interesting points to make. You can watch this informative one-person debate here.
A breath of political fresh air rolled into Woodstock last night, as Zephyr Teachout and her Whistleblower Tour bus pulled up around 9 PM to address supporters waiting at the funky/charming Havana Club Bar & Grill at the Woodstock Lodge. She’d been slated to appear at 8:30 but was running late from an address across the river in Columbia County. The Havana Club’s patrons didn’t mind—Zephyr was worth the wait.
Zephyr Teachout at the Havana Club. Photo: Tom Pletcher.
Ms. Teachout was nearing the end of her second full day of the Whistleblower Tour, which kicked off in midtown Manhattan Wednesday at One57, the billionaires’ residence built by Extell. The theme of the tour is endemic corruption in New York State, and the way ordinary people have been ignored in the current political process. Economic inequality and lack of opportunity are among the inevitable results, which Teachout vows to address in her bottom-up underdog campaign.
She was absolutely terrific, despite having spent a long day on the tour: sincere, engaging and compelling. And she’s got some strong momentum going, too: the New York Times declined to endorse her opponent, Cuomo the Lesser, and urged people to vote for Zephyr instead, in order to “send a message.” Yesterday the Times decided to endorse her running mate, Tim Wu, for Lt. Governor. Wu is vastly preferable to the conservative and hypocritical Kathy Hochul, just as Zephyr Teachout would be an enormous improvement over Mario Cuomo’s autocratic, unlikeable son.
Among her ideas to revitalize the upstate economy: big investments in 21st Century energy sources and modernized transportation systems. You’d have to dig deep into Cuomo’s idea bank to find any thoughts on improving things upstate, and what you’d come away with is casinos (a day late and a dollar short, as they say).
Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu deserve the support of every progressive New Yorker, and they need your support now, with only 11 days to go until the Sept. 9 primary. Please volunteer or donate as you can.
You’ve heard about the nine-year-old girl who accidentally killed her “shooting instructor” with an Uzi. The incident encapsulates so much of what is wrong with America today that no comment is really necessary. Except, perhaps, to suggest that those who cling to their Red State values consider starting their own country somewhere else.
November’s getting closer, and Sean Eldridge has just released two new TV spots in his bid to unseat Chris Gibson in the 19th Congressional District. One of them is embedded below, and you can view the other one here.
Both spots are upbeat and positive, and make the Eldridge case as well as it can be made in 30 seconds.
Andrew Cuomo, thwarted in his desire to avoid a Democratic primary next month and still smarting from criticism over his questionable handling of endemic state corruption, decided to take his first trip outside the country as governor.
He went to Israel, to voice his support for that country’s “right to defend itself.”
Tough guys: Cuomo Meets Netanyahu. Photo: Rina Castelnuovo for NY Times.
As the New York Times pointed out, Cuomo is just one of a number of U.S. politicians hastening to score political points back home by traveling to Israel to show support. Israel may increasingly be a pariah on the world stage, but a majority of Americans continue to support the country regardless of how many war crimes it commits.
Did I say “war crimes?” Indeed I did. Indiscriminate slaughter of civilians qualifies, and Israel has done nothing but ratchet up its disproportionate use of force as the years go by. Yes, the country has a right to defend itself. But killing 1,900 Palestinians, nearly half of those civilians, while losing 60 soldiers (and 3 civilians) is not defense—it is a powerful, lopsided and unjustified offense. And the enormous number of Palestinian deaths is only part of Israel’s savagery; the widespread destruction of homes, property and facilities will cripple life in Gaza for a long time to come. Life that Israel’s “peacetime” policies already render exceedingly hard.
To say Israel’s actions can be blamed on Hamas (as Cuomo and Hillary Clinton have done) is to excuse the inexcusable. If Hamas has militants and equipment within a civilian population—a civilian population packed into a small sliver of land— does Israel then have the moral right to obliterate that civilian population? The U.N. and most of Europe do not think so, but America apparently still does.
You’re ever the diplomat, Andy.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York was at one time considered a likely Democratic candidate for president. But the excellent investigative report in today’s New York Times, written by Susanne Craig, William K. Rashbaum and Thomas Kaplan, will, with luck, end that prospect once and for all. The story details how Cuomo established the Moreland Commission with great fanfare last year, supposedly to fight endemic corruption in Albany, then crippled the commission’s efforts to examine any issues related to Cuomo himself before disbanding the commission altogether (it was supposed to run through the end of this year).
Not to be trusted. Photo: AP/Mike Groll.
The Times story amply demonstrates the bombastic, bullying and aggressive style of the governor and his staff and casts serious doubt on the governor’s personal integrity (disclaimer: I spent much of last year working as a technology consultant in one of the state offices serving the governor). As of late afternoon, the story had prompted well over 400 comments on the Times site, most of them condemning the governor’s actions and lack of principle.
Here’s a representative comment, from Michael S. of Wappingers Falls:
Albany has been hopelessly corrupt since before the Theodore Roosevelt administration and nobody has succeeded in reforming it. Some Governors have been principled men and fought corruption valiantly. Unfortunately Governor Cuomo is endlessly self-aggrandizing and stands for nothing more than his own political advancement. Hopefully this scandal might put a spike into his presidential ambitions.
And that was one of the milder comments.
Unfortunately, even if Cuomo’s arrogant sense of entitlement succeeds in removing him from the national stage—and it should—he is still a presence to be reckoned with in our state. It’s really too bad the election is so close at hand. With just a little more time, the actions of Cuomo and his team—their “my way or the highway” style, and their sneering disregard of ethical considerations—might be able to get someone more qualified elected governor.
Addendum: I’ve just learned that Lawrence Lessig has started a petition which demands that Cuomo resign immediately. You can sign it here.
Here in upstate New York, bad telecommunications service is taken for granted. Many areas lack wireless service. Most areas lack adequate broadband. And—something I hadn’t known—it turns out that New York State ranks third in the number of people with no telephone service whatsoever.
Can we improve NY’s telecom infrastructure? Photo: Wikipedia.
Now someone is finally trying to do something about the state’s lagging telecommunications infrastructure. Last week, the Communications Workers of America, along with 16 other organizations including AARP, Common Cause, Consumers Union, Citizen Action, the Working Families Party and the NYS AFL-CIO,
filed a petition to the New York State Public Service Commission requesting a formal investigation of the state of the telecommunications industry.
The new Connect New York Coalition was joined by approximately 75 elected officials, including the Mayors of Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Kingston and Poughkeepsie and many state assembly members and senators (though not Pete Lopez—no surprise there— or Cecilia Tkaczyk, which is a surprise).
The petition seeks to address these concerns:
- The state’s unacceptably high ranking in the number of people with no phone service
- A 500% increase in basic telephone service rates
- Corporate plans—especially Verizon’s—to starve and abandon legacy landline service
- The refusal of telecoms to expand broadband service to rural areas and many upstate cities
- The steady deterioration in service quality and telecommunications infrastructure
This is very important stuff, and addressing it is long overdue. The quality of New York State’s telecommunications service has a direct impact on each individual citizen as well as the state’s overall economic well-being. The Connect New York Coalition’s petition to the Public Service Commission is a necessary first step toward improving telecom quality.
Last Thursday, June 19, the indefatigable Doreen Davis, Chair of the Greene County Democratic Committee, pulled together a “Meet ’n Greet” for three candidates on the ticket this fall: Sean Eldridge, running for the U.S. Congress in the 19th District, Cecilia Tkaczyk, running for reelection as state senator in the 46th District, and Paul Salvino, running for county district attorney.
Ms. Tkacyyk had a conflicting commitment, but both Eldridge and Salvino addressed Democratic supporters in the spacious courtyard at the home of Jon Phillips and Ginnie Gardiner in Catskill.
Sean Eldridge Speaking in Catskill. Photo: Beth Schneck Photography.
I’ll focus on Mr. Eldridge in this brief summary. He was very much on his game Thursday, and reminded me of the favorable impression I reported last January. More to the point, Eldridge expressed confidence about this November’s election, even in the midst of lavish PAC spending by his opponent.
The Eldridge campaign, which got off to a rocky start, seems to be purring along nicely now. Case in point: the recent launch of The Real Chris Gibson website—a site which sharply outlines the many hypocrisies of “nice guy” Gibson, who constantly tries to cast himself as more moderate than he actually is.
That’s not to say that Eldridge vs. Gibson won’t be close—it likely will be—or that Eldridge doesn’t need your support (he does). But as Eldridge pointed out Thursday, Gibson is a prominent member of the least productive Congress in U.S. history. There is absolutely no rational reason to reelect him—particularly when Sean Eldridge is far more reflective of most voters’ values in our congressional district.
Visit the Eldridge campaign site for more information, and watch for opportunities to hear him in person yourself.
After a flurry of last-minute negotiating last weekend, Andrew Cuomo has managed to win a place on the Working Families Party ticket this fall. This goes against the wishes of a large number of Working Family members, who would have preferred Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout—or anyone else, really—to Cuomo. For years now, the governor has been seen as too centrist, too compromising and too untrustworthy by the more progressive Working Families Party.
Governor Cuomo Wins Again. Photo: Mike Groll/AP.
To achieve his place on the Working Families line, Cuomo—helped by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom Cuomo tries to keep under his thumb—had to make some concessions. He agreed to support a Democratic takeover of the State Senate leadership, something he’s previously resisted. He also agreed to pursue campaign finance reform, a chimera that remains ever elusive (much like eliminating state political corruption, which the Moreland Commission was supposed to do until Cuomo shut it down), a higher state minimum wage and passage of the Dream Act, which would permit college students in the country illegally who meet certain criteria to access state financial aid.
Who knows whether Cuomo will follow through on any of this—rank-and-file Working Families Party members don’t trust him, and neither do I. (Disclaimer: I spent much of last year working as a technology consultant in one of the state offices serving the governor.) He rules his staff by fear and intimidation, and is inconsistent at best when it comes to standing on principle. The consensus opinion is that Cuomo places his own political ambitions above all else and will cross any line he needs to in order to win.
The governor wants a landslide victory this November, to demonstrate what an attractive candidate he is for national office. If the Working Families Party had opposed him, his victory margin would have been significantly reduced. And yet, as long as Hillary Clinton remains the front runner for 2016, what difference does this make? There is no way Cuomo can successfully challenge Clinton in the primaries. Is he angling for the number two spot on the 2016 ticket? That seems unlikely, given Cuomo’s stupendous ego. But what a potent, Machiavellian, House of Cards-style ticket that would make!
The mass shooting near UC Santa Barbara last Friday evening was but the latest in an seemingly endless stream of mediagenic gun tragedies. (Most gun-related deaths, murders and suicides alike, go unnoticed.) Once again we had a disturbed young perpetrator attacking his own frustrations by taking the lives of others, and then his own. Once again, we had candlelight vigils and pious expressions of sympathy. Once again, pundits attributed the latest slaughter to inadequate mental health procedures … to the culture at large, particularly misogyny … and to lax gun “controls,” even in a state with more “controls” than most.
But this time, we also had something different: we had a father of one of the victims putting the blame for this latest outrage where it belongs, with “craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.” Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher was among Friday’s victims, spoke with courage and spoke the truth. Watch him here.
Martinez calls on everyone to tell their elected officials “Not One More”. It’s a heartfelt and media-savvy slogan, but of course without legislative and/or judicial action it will go nowhere. The United States is so in thrall to the gun lobby that it can’t even produce minimal, common sense gun “controls,” such as universal background checks. And even if we could, it wouldn’t be enough. As gun fanatics love to point out, there are already some 300 million guns in private hands out there.
The heart of the matter lies with the Second Amendment, and the Second Amendment, as presently interpeted, lies. For more than 200 years, federal courts interpreted the Second Amendment quite narrowly—the phrase “well regulated Militia” limited the scope of the amendment, it was felt. It was not a freestanding right to own guns, as interpreted today.
The National Rifle Association, more than any other group, helped to change this historical interpretation—Mr. Martinez is right on target there. In response to their efforts to change the Second Amendment’s historical meaning, former Chief Justice Warren Burger (a conservative appointed by President Nixon) said this represented “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud’, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”*
Nevertheless, the N.R.A. succeeded. In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, a majority of the Supreme Court accepted the view that Burger regarded as fraudulent.
Now another former member of the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, has issued a call to reverse this flagrant misjudgment and its tragic consequences. In his book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution (Little, Brown, 177 pp.), Stevens proposes the Second Amendment be modified to specify that it applies only to those who keep and bear arms “when serving in the Militia”.
Now that would be gun control. And that is what it would take to end or, at a minimum, strikingly reduce the number of mass shootings America contends with today. New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik points out that similarly tough restrictions have proved effective in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and other countries. And he too salutes the honesty and courage of Richard Martinez.
Do I believe the Second Amendment is likely to be modified anytime soon? No, I do not—not when assholes like those belonging to the “Brunswick Sportsmans Club” hold events like this one a scant four days after the killings in California. BTW, our own Congressman Chris Gibson of the 19th District is listed as a keynote speaker. Talk about craven, irresponsible politicians. Gibson deserves to be voted out of office in November for this alone.
No matter how high the odds against change, if the truth remains unspoken then the situation is truly hopeless. Richard Martinez’s courage counts for a lot. Those of us who acknowledge he speaks the truth must join him in speaking out. It’s the only way we can begin to counter the N.R.A. and its distortion of the Second Amendment.
* See The New York Review, June 5, 2014, page 8.
This blog normally publishes comments. However, today’s post is likely to bring out the usual frothing N.R.A. apologists and trolls—those comments will not be published or acknowledged. Genuinely thoughtful responses will be posted, however.