Thursday, January 05, 2006

Off For a Few Days

UPDATE: I wasn't rushed to the hospital, but apparently my Internet service was hammered by the bad weather we've been having. I'm in a cafe now, so I won't be posting the whole story until early next week, I'm sure. I'm waiting for results from my doctor, and then will probably take a long weekend off.

I'm going to be off-line for the most part for the next few days to take care of some health issues. Nothing serious.

I hope. I'll let you know, but I'll be at the doctor's for the rest of the day here. Ought to make for some fun blogtales later.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2006: Strange Bedfellows

Quinn to be first female, openly gay Council speaker


January 3, 2006

The city will have its first female and openly gay City Council speaker, with enough backers lining up behind Councilwoman Christine Quinn that she's expected to get the nod at Wednesday's official vote.

Quinn (D-Manhattan), edged out her closest rival, Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), for the influential position. The balance swung in her favor when the powerful Queens delegation, with 13 Democrats, decided to back Quinn.
And this little item:
A play to preside over the powerful


January 3, 2006

In an unprecedented move fueled by money, power and ambition, two Democratic lawmakers in Nassau are expected to join with the Republican minority today to select the top leadership posts in the county legislature.

The political play by Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) and Legis. Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck) would oust current Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), leader of the 10-9 Democratic majority, in defiance of their party leaders.

If successful, Corbin would obtain the powerful presiding officer post he has long coveted. Altmann, as his new deputy, would command a $23,000 raise and leverage in her bid to succeed Thomas Suozzi as Nassau County executive.

Republicans would get consideration of their legislation and a board member on the Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp. Corbin called it "good government," but other Democrats said the takeover was about greed.

"It's a naked political power move, and using good government as an excuse to increase their political power and their paychecks," said Legis. David Mejias (D-North Massapequa).
One progressive move, one regressive move.

While it's clear that a gay woman Council Speaker (think House Speaker, and you'll get an idea of how powerful this position is in the city, with caveats I'll cover in a bit) is a progressive political gain, the fact that the Long Island Democrats are fracturing at this critical juncture is something New Yorkers should be alarmed at. Eliot Spitzer, the gubenatorial candidate-apparent for the Democratic party, must maintain strong support in the suburbs of New York City (Long Island, as well as Westchester and Rockland counties) in order to offset the strong Republican persuasions of the hinterlands of the state.

Give the Long Island Republican chair, Joe Mondello, credit: He's heading out on a high note, of sorts
With a wink and a nod, Republican sources said, Mondello has helped to create dissension among the Democrats by urging Republican lawmakers to back Democrat Roger H. Corbin today in an effort to unseat incumbent Presiding Officer Judy G. Jacobs of Woodbury.

But last Nov. 8 was the clearest evidence yet that the GOP is stumbling, and even Mondello has discussed handing over the party leadership.
Not nearly as satisfying as beating back the Suozzi machine in November, but the GOP on Long Island is running a similar defense that Democrats are running at the Federal level. Take what victories you can, and try to refocus and rebuild.

The Council Speaker race was an intriguing bit of political theatre in the city, however. There were nine possible candidates bandied about, and Quinn is a bit of a dark horse, not least of which for gender and orientation. More to the point, tho, no one knew who the heck she was (unless you lived on the Upper West Side).

Term limits forced the former Council Speaker, Gifford Miller, to leave the post, which created perhaps the single most embarassing repudiation of a politician in New York. Miller didn't even place second in the citywide Democratic primary, despite having name recognition second only to Fernando Ferrer. Ferrer clobbered him. Anthony Wiener, a populist Brooklyn congressman, placed second in the race and positioned himself as the clear front runner for mayor in 2009, should he want it.

Term limits. What an idiotic concept.

tags technorati :

Monday, January 02, 2006

WalMart And Bush

Fascinating study conducted by a student at UHawaii, which serves to confirm a few anecdotal observations I've made about red states in the past: if you're fat, uneducated and lower-middle class, you vote for the uberwealthy white guys who make you slave at your job earning less than your worth.

Makes a lot of sense to me *rolling eyes*

(Hat tip to the link lady, Miss Cellania)

"I Only Put It In A Little Ways, Your Honor, So It's Not Rape!"

Bush defends eavesdropping amid calls for testimony

By Tabassum Zakaria Sun Jan 1, 6:25 PM ET
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush defended domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency on Sunday after a newspaper report about a Justice Department official's resistance to the program prompted new calls for a Senate inquiry.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that James Comey, a deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, was concerned about the legality of the NSA program and refused to extend it in 2004. White House aides then turned to Ashcroft while the attorney general was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the Times said.

"This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America," Bush said after visiting wounded troops at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

The NSA program "listens to a few numbers called from the outside of the United States and of known al Qaeda or affiliate people," he said.

"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why," Bush said.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy later said that while the president focused on calls being made from abroad, the eavesdropping program was also conducted on communications originating from inside the United States.

"We're at war," Bush said. "I've got to use the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people. And that's what we're doing."
(emphasis added) You mean, despite the fact that the DoJ refused to sanction it, you STILL felt it was within the law???

The bullheadedness of this administration in defending their crimes is flabbergasting.

History will make a bigger deal over Bush's failures and frauds than our media ever will, with the possible exception of Blogtopia©.

There are days I wake up and wonder where my country went to: the nation that promised all of us freedom from tyranny and oppression. The nation that told me that I could do anything or be anybody I wanted to be.

Now, it's "all that, but be careful: we're watching, and if we so much as suspect you of having any evil intent, it's off to the hoosegow with you!"

A New Kind Of "Cold" War

This is pretty fasincating stuff: wait until the dead of the winter heating season in what's predicted to be the worst winter in Europe in a decade and then stop providing gas to an unruly child, with the collateral damage of hurting the organization that had such trouble with you all those years ago, the EU:
Europe suffers gas import cuts after Russia move

By Meg Clothier

MOSCOW (Reuters) - European countries were enduring reduced gas supplies at the height of winter on Monday after Russia halted its deliveries to Ukraine, stirring fears about the use of energy as a political weapon.

Russia, taking over the G8 chairmanship for the first time this month and aiming to promote itself as a reliable energy source, cut its neighbor's gas supplies on Sunday after Kiev refused Moscow's demand for a fourfold price rise.

Moscow said it had no choice but to act after Kiev refused to sign a new contract that would have ended the preferential price treatment of the Soviet era.

Washington stepped into the row, the State Department saying it regretted Russia's move.

"Such an abrupt step creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.
Ya mean like war for oil, Mr. McCormack?

But here's the interesting stuff in this story:
The Russian state monopoly, Gazprom, said enough gas was still being piped via Ukraine to meet its commitments to other countries, and if they were not getting all their gas, Ukraine must be diverting it.

The Austrian oil and gas group OMV said Russian gas supplies had dropped overnight and were now down by about one third, but that it could use reserves to cover the loss.

Hungary's gas wholesaler MOL said its Russian deliveries via Ukraine had fallen by more than 40 percent. It had already told big consumers to switch to oil where possible and said it would cut deliveries to Serbia and Bosnia by more than 40 percent. Poland said its supplies were down by 14 percent.

Germany's largest gas supplier, E.ON-Ruhrgas, warned there could be problems for big wholesale customers if the dispute dragged on.


Western-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is trying to take his state into the EU and NATO. This annoys Moscow, which does not like the idea that its influence over the former Soviet Union might be waning.
So what will the EU do? Will they fight for the Ukraine or abandon its bid for entry into both the EU and NATO?

What this story missed (I'm not speculating as to why) is the Ukraine counterclaim that Russia is stealing gas from Turkmenistan, which has about as much validity as the Russia claim about the Ukraine siphoning gas off the pipeline to Europe illegally.

The Ukraine's main energy source is natural gas (understandable, as it has nearby sources in former allies Russia and Turkmenistan, which has so far refused to make up the shortfall, probably as a nod to Russia).

Keep in mind that Russia only turned down the tap and hasn't turned it off. Russia holds about 25 percent of Europe's natural gas supplies. Should this situation worsen, watch out for YOUR energy bills here at home. As it is, you're likely to see prices jump a bit uncomfortably.

I always figured that drop is gas prices after the boost by Katrina, Rita and Wilma was a sop to the voters and shoppers. I think the bill may be coming due.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Donald Trump To Run For New York Governor?

Trump's Next Building: NYS Governor's Mansion?

Greg Levine, 12.30.05, 2:03 PM ET

NEW YORK - Trump Tower, Trump Taj Mahal... Trump Governor's mansion?

According to a report, the master deal maker may want to tack his name onto New York State's highest office: The New York Daily News said Friday that Donald Trump is eyeing a run for governor on the Republican ticket.

That would place the billionaire businessman square against that bĂȘte noire of big--and sometimes corrupt--business, Eliot Spitzer. The NYS attorney general will throw his leather-tough hat into the ring as a Democrat.
He could win governor of New York.

Social conservatives have very little influence with the electorate, altho they do seem to wield unusual power in the legislature.

With his money, excuse me, access to bank loans, I should say, he'd build a formidable campaign war chest.

He did make a half-hearted attempt to put together a presidential run, but that was shortly after his image revitalization attempt after his first bankruptcy. No one took him seriously.

He also made noise in 2001 about running for New York City mayor, but Bloomberg obviously twisted his arm (plus, after 9-11, I think he figured the job would be more work than it was worth)

Would he run for governor? Not likely, but he could and could seriously contend for the GOP nomination, as Joe Bruno is apparently behind this push.

Trump despises Eliot Spitzer, I should point out, which would bring another interesting dynamic to this race: Donald Trump AND Eliot Spitzer are both on good terms with Don Imus, the popular radio talk show host.

The last time Imus got involved in a statewide New York race, it was the Senate contest between Al D'Amato and Robert Abrams, when he hosted a debate and actually managed to get Abrams to call D'Amato a "fascist", which raised the spectre of D'Amato's ethnic heritage (nevermind that Abrams was correct, D'Amato played the "race card" as an Italian-American).

Now If He Was Only As Generous To The "Thugs"...

Bloomberg gives his campaign helpers lots of extra jingle


December 31, 2005

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spreading lots of holiday cheer among his inner circle this year, handing out bonuses of up to $400,000 from his personal funds to top campaign staff.

Kevin Sheekey got the largest holiday present - $400,000 for managing the effort, while Patricia Harris, Bloomberg's longtime deputy, got $350,000, according to Bloomberg sources. She joined the campaign later in the season.

Both, who have served stints on Bloomberg's public payroll, will hold the rank of deputy mayor in the new administration. As a current deputy mayor, Harris, who took leave to join the campaign in the summer, has been paid just over $180,000 annually by the city. Sheekey is expected to be paid that rate when he becomes the new deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs next week.

A whopping $1.55 million in bonus checks was mailed out Friday, the sources said.
No knock on Bloomberg for this story, those folks created an enormous mandate in an election that could just as easily have seen unparalleled voter apathy.

Still, you wonder how this plays with the unions that Bloomberg has had to and will have to deal with over the next four years. For example, the firefighters union went three years without a contract, which they have just ratified, with ten months' left to go on it.

Think they're connecting the dots...Bloomberg hands out (admittedly his personal funds) millions for overachieving, but makes us snuffle for the scraps off the city's dining table...and then calls us "thuggish" to boot.

Is Putin Crazy?

Russia starts cutting off gas to Ukraine

By Christian Lowe 16 minutes ago

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia began cutting off gas to Ukraine in a dispute that could hit deliveries to a wintry Europe on the very day that Moscow began its first term as chairman of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

The Russian state-owned supplier, Gazprom, said it had begun reducing pressure in the pipeline supplying Ukraine on Sunday after Kiev refused to pay the increased price Moscow was demanding.

"In this situation, which is the fault of the Ukrainian side, we have been forced to start reducing pressure in the pipeline to Ukraine," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told a news briefing.

Gazprom supplies 25 percent of western Europe's gas -- most via Ukraine. It insisted deliveries to western Europe would not be affected but Italy's gas importer said Gazprom had warned it that disruption was possible.

Though Russia says it is purely a business dispute, the gas cut-off has fed concern from Washington to Berlin that the Kremlin is prepared to use its control over its massive energy resources as a political weapon.

Ukraine's Western-leaning president, Viktor Yushchenko, has irked many in Moscow by trying to take his ex-Soviet state on Russia's western border into NATO and the European Union.

That, say Ukrainian officials, is why the Kremlin is punishing Ukraine with such a huge price increase while letting more Moscow-friendly ex-Soviet states such as Belarus go on paying far less for Russian gas.
Apparently, Putin has been taking notes on the Bush administration, punishing allies and even dependent countries to keep them in line with his policies. What's more, like Bush, Putin doesn't seem to mind that he will endanger (or at least inconvenience) other European allies, including G8 members.

Which ought to scare us all. Part of the dynamic behind the Cold War was the palpable hubris of the United States and Soviet Unions, a dynamic that included fear, statism, and a form of economic terrorism on both sides. As oil becomes more dear and supplies begin to dwindle, if the world has not been given an alternative energy source that can replace oil, Russia will gain enormous power in the world, far exceeding OPEC, as Russia has the military might to dictate terms. It would not surprise me to see Russia take a lead with OPEC in dictating terms of oil production and distribution, thus ultimately winning the Cold War.