Sunday, May 16, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Look On The Bright Side Edition

This column has been nothing but doom and gloom and demanding apologies and giving them for the past couple of weeks. This is not at all what I intended...and subsequently readership has fallen.

Friends, it's time to rememdy this lot.

My most popular post was a look at how a certain British sketch comedy troupe of yore could still be relevant to politics as well as tickle your Sunday funny bones in between bouts of talking heads.

Dear readers, I may be slow, but by popular demand (and out of spiritual necessity), this week on Soundpolitic Sundays, I'm going get back to looking on the the bright side:

Below the fold, more Python videos than should probably be allowed, coupled with some tidbits on their relevance to satisfy the political junkie in us all...

(Cross-posted on DailyKos and The Albany Project)

As with my last Python themed post, I feel a bit of background information is an order for those poor souls not yet privy to the fully Monty. The last blog has a bit. Wikipedia has a smidge more with regard to today relevant film, Life of Brian:

Monty Python's Life of Brian, also known as Life of Brian, is a 1979 comedy film written, directed and largely performed by the Monty Python comedy team. It tells the story of Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman), a young Jewish man who is born on the same day as and next door to Jesus Christ, and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.
The film was a box-office success, grossing fourth-highest of any film in the UK in 1979 and highest of any British film in the United States that year. It has remained popular since then, receiving positive reviews and being named 'Greatest British comedy film of all time' by several magazines and television networks.

As you can guess, the film is soaked through with satire, both religious and political. Our last subject, Holy Grail is also the same, but is traditionally more popular here in the States. Brian, as you just read, is often cited as the best British comedy ever made. After another viewing, I've determined that we Americans may have things backwards...

...but that doesn't mean several of the best clips from Life of Brian can't be Americanized! Indeed, the best political satire is timeless precisely because political history often repeats itself, no matter what country you're in.

Take, for example, this country's recent dealings with Hot Beverage Parties: The Tea Party is now a force to be -reckoned- heckled with in conservative Republican circles, and the Coffee Party is it's progressive -counterpart- opposite. Both come under scrutiny from both sides for undermining the goals of the "real" parties, Republican or Democrat. But really, folks, have you not read the Federalist Number 10 and Madison's words of wisdom regarding factionalism? And wasn't there a Democratic-Republican party at one point in time? And what about...

...fiddlesticks. This bit explains it all so much more elquontely:


That's right! You're all splitters! Just like the only people the Tea Partiers hate more than us liberal communist socialis Democrats are the not-conservative-and-libertarian-and-fascist-enough Republicans they're splitting from. And just like some of us Kossacks hate the Republicans...but not as much as those Democrats in Name Only, that's for bleedin' sure!

That's not meant as criticism, of course. But it does go to show that such cinematic silliness can be quite thought provoking. If the Tea Partiers had any capacity for thought or reason, they >might realize that some of their revolutionary positions really don't make sense. Remember those "Keep Your Government Hands of My Medicare" signs at their rallies? Tell me that doesn't remind you of this meeting of the People's Front of Judea:


And that's the way it goes. All those women at the Tea Parties who plan to vote their representatives out of office might have been progressive suffragettes a century ago. And all those protesters who marched on Washington (all fifty million of them, or so they claim) had quite the easy time getting there thanks to all those interstate highways, didn't they? The list goes on and on...

Ah, but try talking reason to those types and your excercisng your futility muscles. Why is it we can't seem to get them behind the idea that collective government action is useful...especially when they're so excited about the fact that their own collective action can be used to "take back" their country? Maybe they need a leader for their "individual rights" movement. Maybe they should take a page from the man himself: Brian, mistaken for the Messiah:


Of course, in the interst of being "fair and balanced," a Tea Party fool might get just as much enjoyment by reading into that scene a little bit differently. Is this an allegory for Dems and progressive chanting "Yes We Can!" at another Barack Obama speech (as opposed to Repukes and 'baggers chanting "Drill Baby Drill" in front of a Sarah Palin New Orleans)?

No. It's exactly what it is. We are all individuals and we shouldn't allow ourselves to be lead as such, no matter what side of the aisle we are on. The difference that Obama brings to the table is that he, too, encouraged us to think for ourselves. Now if he could just get the rest of our leaders to think for themselves instead of just thinking about the next re-election battle, we might get somewhere. Of if we didn't have all sorts of whackjob conservative reactionism to his Presidency we might get somewhere.

Y'know, I feel sorry for those Tea Party types sometimes. For one thing, they happen to be stuck being compared to sweaty testicles being shoved in your face by your college roomate after a night of hard drinking. This is something that I don't approve of (but am tired of scolding y'all about, so carry on if you wish). They might have caught a lucky break if somebody might have warned them about the phrase, though. Brian got a little help from his enemies, and learned a little bit about Latin verb conjugation in the process:


Ahh, the powers and the pitfalls of civil disobedience. All of us might do well to study a non-English form of verb conjugation, by the way. With all the new Americans of Hispanic descent that came (have come? are coming?) to American by the day, we might do well to start thinking of ours as a bilingual nation. I'm told that Spanish might have a little bit to do with Latin...

Blasphemy! Says the neofascist nationalist Limbaugh-Hannity-Savage crowd! This is America! We speak American here, dammit! How soon until those Arizona folks declare English the official language of the state and makes any human being suspected of not being able to conjugate (or define) the word "is" to prove their American grammatical abilities?

I wonder what the penalty would be for such blasphemy? The Right would probably prefer the harshest punishment possible. In the interest of saving the best for last, here it is: by far the funniest clip from Life of Brian, the Stoning Scene!

Ouch. And they say Joe Biden is gaffe prone! See that? No matter what side your on, if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time in front of the wrong crowd, your entirel political career is on the rocks. But only because the rest of the country is completely off its...

Before I end up saying something I shouldn't have and paying the ultimate price for it, I'm going to have to wrap this up by encouraging you all to do a few things:

First, check out Life of Brian if you haven't already. There's plenty more in the film where all this came from, and much, if not all, of it relates to todays current political culture. Commenters, feel free to suggest snippets I may have overlooked.

Second, I'm hoping to lead by example here. I've been rather stressed out by both my joblessness and by the political dysfunction here in New York in the past couple weeks (months...years) and it's very easy to get cynical, angry, depressed, and you can get really close to just throwing your arms up and giving up the ghost sometimes.

But life's a piece of shit when you look at it, anyway, or so goes the wisdom of Python. So if that's all you've got to look forward to, then you might as well just jump back face-first into the manure and try to get something to grow out of it, right?

Right. Third: Always look on the bright side of life.

So concludes this weeks' edition of Soundpolitic Sundays. Thanks for reading and tune in next week for...erm...whatever strikes me as irreverant, musical, and political all at once next Saturday night.

By the way...I feel better already. So...may all beings be free from suffering, too.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SD-46: Breslin Votes For Furloughs...Before Voting Against Them?

Though I may be a day or two late on this, Senator Breslin appears to be playing a dual role in the ongoing furlough fiasco.

As we know, all of our wonderful Democratic Senators voted for Governor Paterson's budget extender on Monday, which contained language to furlough about 100,000 hard-working state employees. Then, on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that a restraining order on this measure was an order when considering a lawsuit filed by PEF.

AS it turns out, Breslin authored a resolution condemning the furloughs around the same time he voted for them. The Times Union reported this yesterday:

Cutting sting of furlough vote

Sen. Neil Breslin inserts poison pill cited in order delaying governor's plan

ALBANY -- Sen. Neil Breslin voted to furlough 100,000 state workers, including thousands who live in his Albany County district.

But Breslin, a Bethlehem Democrat, also got the Senate to pass a poison pill.

A resolution passed unanimously by the 62-member chamber Monday deemed the furloughs "contrary to the law and public policy of this state" and that "this legislative body believes it is not reasonable or fiscally necessary to impose furloughs on unionized state employees in violation of their existing collective bargaining agreements."

It was classic political defense for a legislator stuck between a rock and a hard place[...]


But will it serve as a political shield? Breslin denied politics entered into his calculations, but it seems he was working closely with PEF all along. Officials on both sides acknowledged they spoke continuously throughout the process, and when asked by Breslin was not attending a rally of over 2,000 state workers yelling at legislators about to vote for a furlough, PEF President Kenneth Brynien jumped to Breslin's defense.

"Neil said he's working right now to put together a resolution to send to the governor to stop the furloughs," said Brynien. "So, we gave him an out because he's working on our behalf. That's more important than standing in the crowd."

In addition, Breslin is facing two primary challengers who are attacking his stance on the furloughs.

Emphasis mine - SP

Below the fold, Breslin's defensive press statement and a bit of analysis...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Breslin explained his rapid about-face in a press release Monday, available on the Senator's official website:

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2010
Kelly Conboy | | 518-455-2225 518-455-2225

(Albany, NY)-“It is not reasonable or fiscally necessary to impose furloughs on unionized state employees in order to address the budget crisis.

Today, I submitted a resolution on the floor requesting that the Governor resubmit the emergency legislation for the period of April 1, 2010 through May 19, 2010 without including language that authorizes him to impose furloughs.

Unfortunately, in order to avoid shutting down many of the state's essential services, the Legislature has little choice but to vote for the provisions in the current emergency bill.”


Sounds pretty agreeable, doesn't it?

But really, this is just another one of those non-binding, feel-good resolutions that really doesn't get anything done. The judge did cite it in his ruling, but according to the Times Union, it was likely to take place anyway. So what's really going on here, in my own humble opinion?

I think the important point to remember is that Breslin is facing two primary challengers, Luke Martland and Tim Carney. Couple that with the fact that the Senator from Albany County most likely represents far more state employees than any other Senator, and it makes sense that he would be the one to craft such language, not for the purpose of actually getting anything binding passed...

...but for the purpose of political damage control.

Of the two challengers, it is Luke Martland who's been hitting Breslin the hardest, on furloughs specifically as well as on ethics, generally. So it's only natural that the Senator would find a way to squirm his way out of that "rock and a hard place," as the TU described it. Frequent commenters on the TU Local Politics blog, including myself, took this as the most important issue and the most obvious flip-flop during the weekly wrap-up.

I'll allow my re-posted comment to stand on it's own to express my opinion:

10.The Breslin furloughs fiasco presents an obvious non-quandry.

Any legislator could have “voted against furloughs” before voting for them. But it’s clear as to why it was agreed that Breslin offer up this flip-flop of epic proportions:

He’s facing two primary challenges in a tough anti-incumbent year. One of these campaigns (Luke Martland) is well organized and has been hitting Breslin hard week after week. As the Senator who represents probably more state workers than any of his colleagues, it makes sense that the Senate Democrats let Breslin take “credit” for this little stunt. In fact, this was almost as bad as Tim Carney’s little fake campaign announcement earlier this week.

Bottom line: If a measure is illegal, then don’t vote for it. That’s called principle.

It’s time we had a State Senator who we can be proud of so we can be proud to be Democrats once again. Check out Luke Martland for that opportunity

That's my opinion, and I'll stick to it unless I hear something really compelling.

As for shutting down state government...well...just how much of a change would that be? Nothing seems to be working with this batch of constantly re-elected goons anyway. And perhaps a full shutdown is just the thing needed to get their chaps back in the saddle again. Yes, it would be disastrous...

...but aren't they already a disaster?

Of course they are. And they are because nobody in their home districts hold their own two-faced "progressive" representatives to account.

I really hope that changes this September.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SD-46: Show Me The Money!

Luke Martland Continues to Demand Full Disclosure of Unresponsive Sen. Breslin

More than a week after State Senate candidate Luke Martland called on Senator Neil D. Breslin to fully disclose the amount of money he makes and who he represents at his second job at a union-busting and financial industry lobbying law firm, the Assistant Majority Leader has failed to respond.

Undeterred, Martland yesterday brought forth the issue again, and vowed to continue doing so until he succeeds in getting Albany County voters the full disclosure we deserve. One thing Martland's press releases never fail to do is hammer the secretive Senator while tying his attacks in with recent legislative events:

“Instead of caring about New York’s families that are suffering pay cuts and job losses, Breslin is more interested in hiding his pay increases and multiple side clients. If only working families were as important to him as his secret clients, maybe the state budget would get passed and the furloughs avoided.”

- Luke Martland, Democratic candidate for New York State Senate, 46th District

Breslin's response to last week's inquiry from Martland was to shrug it off entirely. One supposes he was too busy authoring a resolution condemning the very furloughs he himself voted for. Perhaps the Senator considers himself so untouchable that Martland and his press releases might simply go away...

...but that clearly isn't going to happen. Luke Martland has been good about backing up his request with evidence to thwart Breslin's bogus claim that such disclosures are unnecessary. He cites a January finding by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York which came to the following conclusion:

“...all lawmakers, including attorney-legislators, should be required to disclose information about their sources of outside income, including the identity of their clients, their fees and a clear description of the services rendered.”

Emphasis mine - SP

Not content to simply cite a Bar Association report, Martland follows the perennial "rule of three" to further bunker his demands. He cites last Friday's Times Union editorial which echoed his own opinion, saying that all Senators should "be subject to full disclosure of their sources of income and actual or potential conflicts...which they have for too long refused to do." Additionally, he reminds us of what U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe told disgraced former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno in court: “Why is anybody worried about disclosure? Disclosure gets rid of the entire problem of conflict. How can there be a conflict if you’ve disclosed? That’s the whole function of disclosure. Let the public know...And then they can make their own judgments.”

I find it refreshing to see a State Senate candidate leading by example, as Martland has already released all his tax and income information of his own volition. And I say three cheers to Luke Martland for reminding the entrenched Senator of the lessons all legislators should be taking away from the recent conviction and sentencing of Uncle Joe.

"I believe in leadership by example," Luke Martland told me the first time I met him. It's also what Luke Martland says directly to Senator Breslin in a letter dated May 6th, which was also released to the press yesterday.

Interested? The letter is quoted in full below the fold.

The ball is in Breslin's court on this one. Stay tuned to see if all he does is keep dribbling.

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Below is the full text of the letter Luke Martland sent to Sen. Breslin.

May 6, 2010

Senator Neil Breslin
Assistant Majority Leader on Conference Operations
502 Capitol Albany, New York 12247

Dear Assistant Majority Leader Breslin,

On Monday, May 3, 2010, I gave to the press copies of my state and federal income tax returns for 2009, my W-2, and a dividend form. The only information that I redacted from those forms was my social security number, my bank account number, and the street address of my home. I have also promised that, if elected, I will not have any outside job (in order to be completely free of any potential conflicts of interest) and to release my tax returns and W-2 every year.

I released my tax information because I believe that the voters have a right to know how much a candidate earns, and how he or she earned it. I believe that the voters have an equal right to know how much a Senator earns, and how he or she earned it. This includes a right to a full disclosure of any outside job(s) or sources of income, and any resulting potential conflicts of interest.

When I released my own tax information I requested that you do three things. First, follow my example and also release your 2009 tax returns and reveal your salary from your second job at the law firm Hiscock and Barclay. Second, reveal your client list so that the voters can know if there are any potential conflicts of interest. Third, reveal your time records so that the voters will know what general services you provided to these clients, and know when you are working at the law firm, as opposed to working on Senate duties.

Senator, you have so far not responded to any of these requests or released any of this information. As Assistant Majority Leader of the New York State Senate and Chairperson of the Senate Insurance Committee, you are one of the most powerful and influential people in State Government. Yet, you also work simultaneously at Hiscock and Barclay, and you have so far refused to reveal your specific salary or your clients. Without the release of your tax information and client list it is nearly impossible for the public to know if there are any potential conflicts of interest from the clients that you represent at Hiscock and Barclay.

As I am sure you know, this information is not covered by the attorney-client privilege. In January 2010 the Association of the Bar of the City of New York issued a report on “Reforming New York State’s Financial Disclosure Requirements for Attorney-Legislators.” In that report the Bar Association noted that under existing law the identity of an attorney’s clients and amount of income are not confidential and are subject to disclosure. The Bar Association also stated in its conclusion that “...all lawmakers, including attorney-legislators, should be required to disclose information about their sources of outside income, including the identity of their clients, their fees and a clear description of the services rendered.”

This is the exactly the same information that I am requesting that you release: 1) your outside income, including at your law firm, 2) the identity of your clients, and 3) time sheets or some other clear description of the services your provided to those clients. Not only do voters have a right to know this information, but, if there are no conflicts of interest then I fail to see how releasing this information would be a problem.

I want to make clear that I am only asking you to do what I have already done. I believe in leadership by example. As a result, I first released my tax returns and W-2, which reveal all of my sources of income for 2009 (which consisted of my state salary and approximately $40 in interest that I earned from one investment). I do not have, and did not have, any second job or outside source of income. I do not have, and did not have, any outside clients. Therefore, I have already released all of the information that I am requesting that you disclose. I look forward to your response.


Luke Martland

Since we're on the topic of "show me the money," I think it's time I started doing this:

Donate to Luke Martland for State Senate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SD-46: Carney Makes It "Official"

Announces Intent to Challenge Sen. Breslin in front of Albany County Legislature

And then there were three. Yesterday, Albany resident Tim Carney made a public comment to the members of the Albany County Legislature and citizens in attendance that he will be challenging Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Neil D. Breslin in the 46th district, which encompasses all of Albany County.

During his address, Carney summarized his listening tour of all county municipalities and proposed that school taxes transition from property-based to income-based before stating his intent to run for the seat. This received an objection from one Legislator, sustained by the Chairman only after another Legislator offered an on-the-spot endorsement.

If that's not what you were expecting, then you're in good company. This blogger was expecting something completely different, and in that sense I got exactly what was coming to me. Carney's prepared statement and a full account of the miniature legislative circus it inspired below the fold...
Carney used two online venues to announce his "announcement" last month and last week. First, there was his comment on the TU Local Politics blog that he would be "making a major announcement with many elected officials standing by my side." Second, there was a press release where Carney again informed members of the local press corps (and this blogger) that he “will be making a formal announcement to his intentions for this year's race for New York State Senate,” distributed last week.

When I arrived at the Albany County offices at 112 State Street, I hung around outside to see if anything had been set up. Nothing. So I went inside to find the Legislature preparing for its session. Carney entered as County Comptroller Mike Conners (who ran against Senator Breslin himself in 2004 on the Republican line) was giving his annual Fiscal State of the County address.

Once Conners was finished, I asked Carney if he would be making his announcement outside. He shook his head. It was then I realized, when Chairman of the Legislature Dan McCoy (also Chairman of the Albany County Democratic Party) announced that once a month the Albany County Legislature allows for citizens to sign up for five minutes of public comment on the floor.

At this, my brief conversation with Carney regarding the numbers he crunched after the 2008 primary in the 21st Congressional District ended and he signed up to speak. This was his campaign announcement.

Before I finish my thoughts on this, here is the prepared “bullet-point style” outline Carney used during his public comment, provided to me by the candidate himself:

Lifelong resident of the Capital Area

Moved to Albany 20 years ago

Raised Daughter - Graduated from U-Albany

Mother retired and moved in to downstairs Apt

Volunteer for St James Church/School Bazaar

Co-Founder DANA - 1st President

Ran for Albany County Legislature

City of Albany Charter Reform

Board member of Downtown Merchants Assoc

Helped with the formation of the Downtown BID

NFIB - Intro the Small Business works for America

ACDA - Property Manager - HUD/Home Store -GIS

Worked as Poll Watcher, Election Inspector, Committee Person, Campaign Worker & Manager,

4 years ago Upstate Co-Tom Suozzi for Governor

Last three years running Lester Freeman’s races

Over the past 4 months I have attended all the Board and Council meetings of the 19 Municipalities across

Albany County.
Village of Colonie is concerned about Landfill

Westerlo is buying a new town Hall needs funding

Voorheesville needs a new Fire Truck

Coeymans needs Rt 143 fixed

New Scotland wants to change it’s zoning

Watervliet is going to take a big hit in Tax sharing

This year most of them managed to tighten their belts, however they know there is going to be major budget problems. Change in Census Data and the sales tax distribution from the county worry many board and council members. They can’t raise property taxes any higher, the people don’t have it.

The three main subjects the average people are concerned about are:
Furloughs or layoffs - State Parks

Property Tax Reform

Albany County owned nursing home

Reform of state government
Property Tax reform = School Tax reform

Eliminate the way school taxes are collected through property valuation. All property owners who qualify for the STAR Tax program and their home qualifies for the Homestead provision they would not pay any school taxes. Homeowners and especially seniors would save on average $200-500 dollars every month. Most school taxes are 60% of someone’s monthly tax on their home.

Create an income based system to have a bigger and less intrusive and more fair system. The current system for commercial and land valuation would remain the same the balance of the school budget would be made up of an income tax based system. Similar systems are working in 5 states, including Ohio.
This would also jump start the Real Estate Industry.

I will be having a press conference on this soon with more details.

The city of Albany is not getting their fair share as the Capital of New Your State and in comparison to the other major cities in the state. We need our PILOT money increased or adopt a commuter tax to offset the city for services rendered.

The second biggest topic of discussion with county residents is the Albany County Nursing Home. Everyone see the benefits of a county owned nursing home.

I believe that we need a county owned nursing, however we need to take it a step further. I think we need a new idea like the Albany County Elder Care Center. At the Livingston School on Northern Boulvd is the land and the space needed to build a new Nursing home behind the school. Then build a new Assisted living home next to the nursing home and turn the school building in to a new senior services center. Move all the not for profit agencies that help our seniors into the school to create a one stop for our seniors to apply for benefits.

Emphasis added for readability – SP

After running through these points, Carney brought it all together and stated that, because of these issues, he would be running for State Senate in the 46th district.

At this, things got interesting when County Legislator Bryan Clenahan objected. "Is this the proper forum?" Clenahan asked the Chair. He continued, "This is the only time citizens have to address the Legislature and should not be used for making political statements."

Before Chairman McCoy could sustain the objection, another Legislator stood up. Known for his scruffy hair, blue jeans, and cowboy boots (among other things that make him less than reputable for holding public office), County Legislator Brian Scavo rose in Carney's defense.

"It takes a lot of guts," said Scavo of Carney's comments. Scavo then said he would support Carney's campaign, right there on the floor of the Albany County Legislature. Scavo had arrived to the session late, missing the Fiscal State of the County address, but was strangely just in time for the public comment period...

But Chairman Dan McCoy would have none of it. "Mr. Clenahan, you are correct. This is not the place to do that," said McCoy. The objection was sustained, so I'm assuming Carney's big announcement was stricken from the record. Or something. I asked Carney about this, and he didn't seem to care.

"I don't let that sort of thing bother me," said Carney. "I came to do what I said I would do." He maintained that Clenahan was a Breslin hack in the first place, and also worked for the New York State Senate in the second place, so it was he who was making the inappropriate political remarks.

I entertained that idea at the time, and I could continue to. But perhaps I cannot. I'm actually rather torn by it:

It makes a certain amount of sense to me that a Breslin ally in the Legislature would object to Tim Carney's public comment simply to inflict damage on an opposing candidate. It makes sense to me that the Chairman would sustain the objection because he, too, is a Breslin supporter: As Chairman of the Democratic Party in Albany County, McCoy made headlines last month when he publicly embraced and endorsed Senator Breslin when he made his bid for re-election official. This move came just days after the candidate review committee blew things wide open by not endorsing Breslin or either of his two challengers, the first major news item of the campaign.

Put it all together, and one could argue that the sustained objection to Carney's public comment proves that Albany County is firmly in the Breslin Machine's grasp. Carney didn't receive any such objection when he visited the town, village and city legislative bodies, that's certain. And he continues to make the excellent point that Senator Breslin has never made such rounds in his 15 years in office. But when Carney comes to the county level, suddenly there is resistance from Breslin supporters, who make an attempt to strike his existence from the record.

I do somewhat disagree with the objection on the following principle: that Tim Carney is a resident of Albany County and was commenting about ways to improve the situation in Albany County through his own action as a citizen running for public office.

Yet there is this one problem nagging at me as an Albany County voter and as a blogger. Carney's earlier statements about his planned announcement indicated to me something different than what actually occurred.

Again, his blog comments and amateurish presser told us he would be making a “formal announcement” as if it were an event entirely in and of itself all about him and his campaign...

What Carney actually did was make a public comment at an already scheduled public meeting that is supposed to be about the public.

That, and Carney earlier stated that he would make his big policy proposal "with many elected officials standing by my side" as if these were officials who would attend out of declared support for Carney...

In reality, Carney made his statement standing in front of an entire body of local elected officials who were required to attend for an entirely different reason.

In that sense, the objection does make sense to me. I can't craft any conspiracy theory that Carney's announcement was infiltrated by seedy pro-Breslin forces, because in fact it was Carney who had infiltrated, in a sense, a regularly scheduled session of the Albany County Legislature where many members and the chairman himself have already offered their support to the sitting Senator. So what did he expect?

I suppose Carney is correct in not letting this bother him. It does take guts and thick skin to do something like that.

But something bothers me about Carney leading me to believe I drove across the county to cover a formal campaign announcement and all I had to blog about when I got back home was a public comment period. If Legislator Clenahan hadn't objected and an accused sexual stalker hadn't objected to the objection, I wouldn't have had anything fun to write about, nor would there be any pertinent material to cover that took away from the substantive issues Carney raised.

The whole ordeal made it very difficult to focus on Carney's proposal, which I actually do like. Two years ago, Congressional candidate Darius Shahinfar proposed to stop using property taxes to pay for public education, instead using a Federal income tax to implement the federal education mandate. It's a proposal that I think really ought to be considered, and Carney does make excellent points about New York State's notoriously high property taxes. As Carney mentions, it seems to be working in Ohio, another large northeastern state...

...but it was still difficult to take seriously. And now that I think of it, his proposal regarding the Albany County Nursing Home is a county issue, not a state concern. And last I checked, Tim Carney was announcing his candidacy for State Senate, not for County Legislature...

...and when I last checked my materials to leave to cover the event, I was on my way to a formal campaign announcement, not a public comment period where I myself could have declared my candidacy for dog catcher. There was no media in attendance for the announcement, but, given this circumstance, how can one fault them?

I do respect Carney for having the guts to challenge a Senator whom I consider to have outstayed his welcome by underperforming for his district; I do think that looking for new solutions to the state and school fiscal crises is a worthy and timely endeavor; and I do think that a politician is still a citizen and therefore should be able to make a public comment unchallenged...

...but I'm starting to have second thoughts about Tim Carney as a serious candidate for the office of New York State Senate. Considering he's challenging one of the most entrenched names in the district, last night was probably a mistake in practice if not in principle.

Still, if he continues to run, I feel obligated to cover both challengers to Neil Breslin as this three-way primary develops.

I just reserve the right to make my own public comments about all three candidates’ remarks.

If anybody objects to these, then head on over to the challengers' websites

Tim Carney
Luke Martland

Otherwise...stay tuned for more news, commentary, and surprises in this fascinating race.

Monday, May 10, 2010

SD-46: Martland Proposes Solutions to Furlough Fiasco

Tonight, the State Legislature passed the state budget extension, including a furlough for state employees one day each week. Before the vote, Democratic State Senate candidate Luke Martland made his thoughts on this perfectly clear and offered solutions to the budget crisis. The full presser:


Governor and Legislature Should Begin Seven Days a Week Negotiations and Take Pay Cut Equal to Furlough

(Albany) – State Senate candidate Luke Martland today issued a list of solutions that could help solve the furlough crisis.

“The Governor’s threat to furlough state workers is wrong and demonstrates the dysfunction in our state government,” said Martland. “The furlough hurts hard working New Yorkers who deserve better. The effects of this furlough will be felt far beyond state workers. It will also affect every mom-and-pop business that caters to state workers and their families.”

“Both the Governor and leadership of the Senate, including Assistant Majority Leader Neil Breslin, have failed these working families. Sadly, over the last two weeks while family paychecks hung in the balance, the Senate has worked only three days each week, and then taken four day weekends. Not surprisingly there is still no state budget. It’s time for a new approach.”

Martland proposes the following solutions to break the gridlock:

1. The Governor submit, and the legislature immediately pass, a two week extender without any furloughs or lay offs,

2. The Governor, Senate and Assembly should remain in Albany and work seven days a week until a budget is passed,

3. The Governor, all Senators and Assembly members, and all executive and legislative staff should take an immediate pay cut equal to any potential furlough,

4. If a furlough is indeed necessary to avoid fiscal ruin for the State, that sacrifice must be shared by every State worker. That means that all State workers, including all consultants and both so-called “essential” and “non-essential” employees must participate in any pay cut or furlough,

5. Any sacrifice should be imposed on a sliding scale. A worker making $25,000 and struggling to feed a family cannot afford to lose a full day’s pay. Any furlough or pay cut should be imposed on a sliding scale so that lower paid workers sacrifice only a minimal amount and higher paying workers sacrifice progressively more.

“If the Governor and Legislature adopt these solutions and begin to show true leadership I believe a budget could be passed in short order,” said Martland.

Emphasis mine – SP

A few words on how this bill, and Martland’s statements, directly affect me below the fold…

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

I usually emphasize what I feel to be the most generally important points being made by a candidate based only on my own political opinions. Tonight, I emphasize portions of what Martland is saying because this furlough will profoundly affect me. As I’ve been out of work for well over a year, I’m lucky enough to have a mother generous enough to keep me out of the cold and fed while I continue my job search in this dastardly economy.

Just one problem: she’s a state worker. So without going into detail she’d rather me not go into, I can stand as a living example of how this ridiculous furlough will effect New Yorkers beyond just the low-level office workers and laborers who will now be forced to cut their already tight budgets immediately. For me, this issue hits home, and it hits home hard.

And let me tell you, it sucks. My family isn’t rich. We don’t get Wall Street bonuses. We don’t get our stock trading taxes back. And we certainly can’t ask the insurance and banking industry lobby to contribute to our continued campaign to keep our heads above water. But Senator Breslin can…

…and that’s why I think it’s time for a new approach. I encourage all true progressive Democrats to visit the websites of Breslin’s challengers, Luke Martland and Tim Carney, to put an end to this heartless assault on working families. None of this nonsense will change unless we change the names of those who are supposed to be representing us.

My Senator just voted to reduce my families budget 20% while he is over a month late getting his own budget passed. So this September, I’m voting him out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Mother's Day Party Edition

Good morning and a happy Mother's Day to all you Kossacks out there. Today is the day we pause to sing the flowery praises of the women who brought us into this world. Today we brunch and visit and put politics aside...

...well, for the purposes of this blog, that last part is not going to happen. Instead, I'd like to smash the Mommy Party myth. I'm quite frankly sick of the Democratic Party being referred to as the Mommy Party and being accused of trying to build a "Nanny State."


Because the reality is it's the other way around. For context, I'll need a little help from my friend Pink:

In this edition of Soundpolitic Sundays, I'll prove, below the fold, why this brick in the wall was put there by the Republicans.

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project and DailyKos)

For those who were unable to see the video and are unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Pink Floyd's song "Mother" from their 1979 double-LP masterpiece The Wall, here are the lyrics to the first half, prior to David Gilmour's soaring guitar solo:

Mother do you think they'll drop the bomb?
Mother do you think they'll like this song?
Mother do you think they'll try to break my balls?
Oooh ah, Mother should I build a wall?

Mother should I run for president?
Mother should I trust the government?
Mother will they put me in the firing line?
Oooh ah, is it just a waste of time?

Hush no baby, baby don't you cry.
Mama's gonna make all of your
Nightmares come true
Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama's gonna keep you right here
Under her wing
She won't let you fly
But she might let you sing
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm
Oooh Babe Oooh Babe Oooh Babe
Of course Mama's gonna help build the wall.

Now consider the two voices present in the lyrics. Your top stanzas are questions of the story's protagonist, a boy who apparently needs guidance in this crazed world. Below, you have the reassurance of the authority figure, the boy's mother, pledging to help him.

But does any of that seem reassuring to you? It doesn't to me. "Make all your nightmares come true? Put all her fears into you?" That wouldn't help me sleep at night, and it probably wouldn't help my sheets stay dry...

But all too often, that's exactly what the real Mommy Party, the Republican Party, has been doing for decades.

Think of it. The Republicans and their talk radio bullhorned buffoons constantly hammer that it is us Democrats treating our citizens like children, supposedly taking away our freedoms due to the government intrustion of keeping us all cozy and warm. You heard lots of this during the health care reform debate, certainly. But it's by no means new.

And by no means is it accurate.

We Democrats are more of the family party. This is more accurate when considering my situation. I refer to myself as a victim of the recession. I've been out of work and haven't been able to find a job since January of 2009. And if it weren't for my mother, I'd likely be out on the street, likely resorting to petit larcency to keep myself alive.

But because I'm blessed with a generous mother, I'm able to stay off the streets as I continue to search for employment. I'm not fearful for starvation or street criminals and what not. I'm safe because, even if it's not right a 26-year-old shouldn't be working, it's also not right for one's family to abandon their flesh and blood.

That's what we are as Americans. Flesh and blood.

We Democrats don't want a "Nanny State" where everyone is taken care of, head to toe. We simply want a society that operates in recognition that not every vessel sails smoothly and that there should be a port to pull into if seas get too stormy. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am this Mother's Day. Many who've lost their jobs in this recession may have lost their mother, or perhaps they haven't, but there's simply no room to take their son or daughter back in.

The worst case scenario for me is that there is room and finacnes to help a child who's down, but the mother refuses. This is the characterization I'd give the Mother in the Pink Floyd tune. Though she pledges to keep her son safe and under her wing, look at what else she promises, particularly her offer to help build "a wall" between him and his fears.

Which of the two parties puts fear into the heart of the electorate?

Which of the two parties would like to see our nightmares come true for their political advantage?

Which of the two parties want to build a wall down on the southern border?

Which of the two parties would tell their child not to trust the government?

And, for goodness sake, which of the two parties has been breaking our balls since Nixon?

You got it. The Republican Party. The real Mommy party. The bad Mommy party.

We Democrats want to see the nation function as an entire loving family, with both the mother and father balancing their roles to raise productive members of society and keep them protected even when times get tough. We want to instill people with dreams of what they can achieve and the hope that they will prevail when the dream seem to be dying.

The Republicans would have you believe that they will drop the bomb any second, that we are already in the firing line, and that all of our efforts to make this nation progressively better is a waste of time. They tell us that there's a wall of separation between the people and the state, and that the latter exists at the expense of the former, and not for better.

We know the truth. We know that there is no logical way to separate the people from the government in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is the path of reason, of no fear, of the freedom to choose and the opportunity to bounce back.

It's the path of the Democratic Party.

So this Mother's Day, I'm glad my Mommy is a Democrat. Don't forget to thank your mother for being a Democrat today...instead of a member of the Mother Should I Trust The Government Party!

That's all for this edition of Soundpolitic Sundays. Thanks for reading and tune in next week for more music and politics, and until then may you, and all beings, be free from suffering.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Tone It Down Edition

I'm usually very proud of my diaries and comments. Often my subject matter contains opinions which I’m quite passionate about. But pride, being a vice instead of virtue, can sometimes catch up with me.

This past week, with relation to both last weeks' edition and the week in reporting a local State Senate race, they did. Now I'm presented with a rare opportunity. Instead of blogging about how right I think I am, I now find it prudent to write about just how wrong I might be and how self-righteously foolish it made me sound.

In other words, I'm going to take this guy's advice:

In this week's edition of Soundpolitic Sundays, join me in one more cup coffee as I take a step back from last weeks' boiling points...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project and DailyKos)

I can boil what I do on the blogs to three major topics. I find they can end up complimenting each other rather well, but in some instances if I don't keep myself in check, they can serve as examples of what nonsense can result when the lines are blurred.

First, I continue what really got me going back in 2008, when my Congressional district, NY-21, experienced a wide-open Democratic primary for the first time in fifty years. It was back then that I openly declared support for one candidate while rounding up recent news. I was rather proud of how I was able to get more information out there than a brief newscast or newspaper article could fit in. I was also rather proud of some of the analytical points I made.

But what I am not proud of are some of the battles I waged in the comments sections of my diaries back then. I took my advocacy of a single candidate to levels that deepened the divide in the political discourse and debate of Democrats. That is, above the fold I held myself out as an unbiased reporter mixed with an advocating citizen-journalist. Yet in the comments below, I would come off as a shill, a loudmouth, a partisan of a single stripe.

So this year, when I decided to keep up this work by covering a New York State Senate primary, I resolved to myself that I wouldn't do that again. And that I would let another candidate actually use and abuse my advocacy on the blogs. See, by passionately advocating for one side of a mutli-tiered debate, it's very easy to let those passions get a hold of you and cloud your vision to the whole truth.

This week, I failed miserably in that respect. While my reporting is still, I feel, honest and accurate, in commenting on the story I revealed an incredible weakness. And I have the community of The Albany Project to thank for this. They snapped me out of my conspiracy theories pretty quickly. Without getting too specific, taking a step back and tempering my passionate viewpoints allowed me to see how foolish I was making myself look instead of making auto-assumptions about how right I was and how wrong anybody was to disagree with me.

So this week, I have a big "sorry" and "thank you" to say to the community of The Albany Project. By helping me realize my head was in the sand in the first place, I was able to notify myself to start digging out. I can now resolve to tone things down when it comes to coverage of political campaigns and developments with what I hope is a clean slate.

Why? Because while feeling right certainly does feel good, feeling like you have a right a wrong of your own doing is much stronger. You feel like you've learned something, and swallowing your pride as opposed to spewing it out grants my ego a more lasting and limiting impression.

This connects me with another things I do here on the blogs. When I heard about the formation of the Coffee Party two months ago, I jumped at the chance to both participate in this new movement and get the news of it's doings out there. It's the second subject I blog about, though it's been a while since I had to step down as an early organizer and even attend meetings thanks to sustained unemployment.

The theme of this movement is what draws me to it, and it's why my proud and prejudiced political coverage began to contrast with it so strongly. With the Coffee Party spreading a message of inclusiveness and civil discourse, my political reporting ended up looking all the more close-minded and confrontational. Perhaps it's been my absence from the Coffee Party meetings still taking place that has caused this flaw to appear.

Here's the main point. Politics is often seen as one big, never-ending conflict. Sides are chosen, then choices are justified, then the other side is demonized, then all hell tends to break lose. You could say this is exactly the process that the radical Tea Party movement is presently making an example of. Let me assure you: the Coffee Party is it's polar opposite in both ideology and approach. The members of the Coffee Party seek to break this radicalizing chain, the same chain that turns of so many of our fellow citizens to anything remotely related to politics...

...the same chain I followed when my reporting turned to bias and conspiracy theories. So I'll add to my resolution. Because now I have haven't only let TAP and DailyKos readers down with this massive contradiction, I've let down the Coffee Party. To bring them back up, I must keep their message of civil discourse and a more harmonious tone alive. It's time for less mischief and more meditation.

That's the third thing I do here, and you're in the middle of one right now. This Sunday column was my return to blogging after a year of depression from sustained unemployement. A theme developed as the column took a life of it's own. Holding myself to posting here on a weekly basis gave me a deadline to prepare for, a responsibility to hold myself to.

That said, most of what's here I try to make as fun as possible. I started the series as a spur-of-the-moment, box-of-chocolates deal where I didn't know what I was getting into and where, each week, you never know what you're gonna get. Hence, a tradition to post irreverent YouTube videos.

How often do you find yourself feeling like Forrest Gump? Because this week, I found myself wishing I was a little more like him. The Gump never proudly pontificated his political views, even when he was surrounded by the most pivotal of historic events. Through either his lack of intellect or his possession of a deeper wisdom, he took things as they came and didn't make too much of a big deal about much of anything. And true to form, he never really knew what life would hand out to it, and because of his balanced neutrality, he was able to take everything in stride no matter where his legs took him.

That's what I'd like to craft here each week, with a healthy dose of the same humor found in the film. Alas, I've now had two weeks that really are no laughing matter. And they are the result of me being an anti-Gump. Instead of recognizing the limits of my mind, I placed my own opinions above all others for such a foolish reason as to feel smart. Instead of playing the strong and silent type, I spouted off at the mouth and proved myself more a fool than a sage. And instead of taking things in stride, I latched on to my expectations and lashed out when they were not met.

This was a recipe for shrimp disaster.

So finally, I can resolve to return this column to its original purpose. Not as some misplaced confessional for just one blogger by focusing on my own trials and tribulations, but as a place for other bloggers to have something completely unexpected thrown at them for purposes of both entertainment and information.

I just had to get this out of the way first. Because to continue to move forward, as people and as a country, we must first admit where and when we were wrong. And then, we must act like we mean to do something about it to right those wrongs. Finally, we must resolve to not make the same mistakes by outlining a process for future progress. To skip these steps and just move on like nothing happens leaves no lessons learns, apologies left unsaid, and stone left unturned.

I hope this weeks' column has done that. I hope you will join me next week as Soundpolitic Sunday's gets back to the business of taking things down a notch. Until then, thanks for reading, keep up the good work, and may all beings be free from suffering.