Spitzer Unloaded, No One Exploded

“Jail” FINAL :30 from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Right? Wow.

This is the perfect distillation of a desperate campaign looking to get some attention. Frankly, this reboot of the Daisy ad is perfect in its utter stupidity. Now, I know that Cuomo has been hitting Astorino hard on some nonsense lawsuit down in Westchester, but I thought that the “soup is nice” ad was pretty damn effective. (Dentures are an optional Medicaid coverage that New York State offers, and that Astorino wants to eliminate). The ad resonates because it reminds people that Republicans love to cut, cut, cut things that help actual New Yorkers. True, paying for seniors’ oral care won’t benefit the extremely wealthy, like Carl Paladino and indictee Rick Perry, both of whom can feasibly pay for their own dentures and dental work, but it will do much for seniors for whom budgets are often tighter. 

Astorino’s suggestion that Cuomo could go to jail is pure hyperbole – there’s absolutely zero chance of that happening. Secondly, by bringing that up, it reminds me – hey, isn’t Astorino up to some shady shenanigans, too? Thirdly, if Cuomo went to jail, there would not be a catastrophic nuclear holocaust; there would, instead, be an orderly substitution of Kathy Hochul. Remember Spitzer? Spitzer unloaded, but no one exploded.

 

Albany in the Weeds

People throw the term “nanny state” around a lot, especially in New York.  People have used the term to describe everything from seat belt laws to motorcycle helmet laws to anti-smoking regulations. 

But to just chalk it all up to the “state” just wanting to make life less fun or free is silly. 

I think that, in most cases, lawmakers who pass these sorts of laws balance the equities and err on the side of the public good. You might not like to wear a seatbelt, but it might save your life. Same with a helmet. You can’t smoke indoors because it’s offensive and harmful to non-smokers. 

But when it comes to medical marijuana, I don’t think that balance is taking place. 

I don’t smoke marijuana, nor do I think it’s a great idea for people to do all the time, just like I don’t smoke cigarettes or think they’re a particularly healthy choice. I don’t ride motorcycles, either. But I do drink alcohol, and even that is unreasonably regulated – you can’t get a brunch mimosa before noon in New York? 

But just because I don’t partake in a certain activity, or think it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it should be banned altogether. 

Other states have over a decade’s worth of experience not only with medical marijuana, but two western states have gone ahead and legalized pot altogether. Colorado is making a killing on pot sales taxes, and the only people getting hurt are the Mexican drug cartels, who have seen the cost of pot plummet. If Washington is too rainy and Colorado too snowy, pot is now legal in Portugal and Paraguay. 

It’s one thing to regulate a harmful drug like cocaine or crystal meth – things that have to be carefully synthesized in a lab – and it’s another to regulate a plant that grows naturally, and is then dried and cured. 

Furthermore, marijuana has distinct and real medicinal purposes. It reduces nausea and enhances appetite for people undergoing chemotherapy, and for anorexics. It reduces eye pressure in glaucoma patients. It can reduce pain, stress, anxiety, and seizures. It is also most effective and fast-acting when smoked. 

But for some reason that I can’t adequately explain, Governor Cuomo is insisting that New York’s medical marijuana laws be restrictive to the point of pointlessness. 22 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws, but City & State explains

New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana program will incorporate three unusual components: a sunset clause, a kill switch and a prohibition on smoking the drug.

All three were included at the insistence of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who demanded a smoking ban during negotiations and repeatedly emphasized the potential risks of legalizing marijuana for patients struggling with severe illnesses. The governor said that the compromise bill “strikes the right balance” between helping those in pain and preventing abuse.

“We also have a fail-safe in the bill, which gives me a great deal of comfort, which basically says the governor can suspend the program at any time on recommendation of either the State Police superintendent or the commissioner of health, if there is a risk to the public health and the public safety,” Cuomo said at a Capitol press conference to announce the agreement.  

I mean, why not require a state Department of Health employee physically to administer the drug each time, while you’re at it? 

New York’s program would cover nearly a dozen diseases—relatively few compared to some states—including cancer, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Huntington’s disease. The drug could also be used to treat severe or chronic pain, severe nausea and severe or persistent muscle spasms.

State Senator Diane Savino, who pushed for a medical marijuana bill, is willing to compromise because something is better than nothing. (Here is a breakdown of each state’s program). She has a point, I suppose, but I agree with Ray Walter

Republican Assemblyman Raymond Walter, who once opposed the bill and is now one of its co-sponsors, said the bill had taken on an ungainly shape with Cuomo’s involvement.

“There’s an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee. I think we have a little bit of a camel at this point,” Walter said. “Well, the governor thinks it’s a better horse,” Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the bill’s sponsor, replied. 

This is a cautious, overly restrictive bill that places New York about 20 years behind the curve – while an improvement over the status quo of being 40 years behind, some accuse the state of being run by communard progressive, and this bill is none of that. 

Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol – many argue that it’s much less harmful. Its ridiculous reputation as a “gateway drug” becomes somewhat less acute when legalized

What the state has is a need for new sources of revenue, and cost savings. Full legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults is the way to go, and I think it will happen in New York in the next decade.  Just like the last century’s Volstead Act, the enforcement and prosecution of anti-marijuana laws is a massive waste of public money and resources, and simply empowers criminal gangs and cartels.  According to an article in Forbes, Colorado will pull in $40 million in taxes from legal marijuana sales in 2014. That doesn’t factor in the savings from no longer having to enforce and prosecute marijuana prohibition laws. Instead, you might get a ticket for smoking in public. 

You would think that a government like New York’s would find the taxes, fees, and licenses downright addictive. 

Albany’s Culture of Corruption & Fusion

In your real day-to-day life, does last week’s Zephyr Teachout / Working Families Party brinksmanship with Governor Cuomo matter to you? 

Mr. Langworthy hits on a key point of New York’s fundamentally corrupt electoral fusion system – all of this chasing of third, fourth, and fifth lines involves extortion and bribery.  All of it. Every single one.

The system is dirty because the system is set up to be dirty. 

You want to be angry about Cuomo dismantling the Moreland Commission on public corruption literally overnight to cut a budget deal? I’m angry, too, and hope the US Attorney in Manhattan truly does pursue what scraps he’s been able to gather. Asking Albany to clean house reminds me of Jesse Pinkman, the young henchman from Breaking Bad, attending group drug counseling so he can sell meth to other attendees. 

 But the system itself can’t be reformed as long as fusion is permitted to be legal. You can bet that just about very time a politico chases a minor party fusion line, there’s some degree of corruption afoot. The “Independence Party” is the worst, but they’re all cut from the same cloth. 

It really doesn’t get any simpler. If you want to end Albany’s culture of corruption, you have to end Albany’s culture of corruption. Just. Do. It. 

If you’re like I am, do you draw any comfort or satisfaction from the fact that Cuomo is equally reviled on both the hard left and hard right? 

High Speed Rail to New York

Google Maps says it’s 408 miles from Niagara Falls to New York City. It should take about 6.5 hours to drive. Unfortunately, taking the train takes 9 hours – if you’re lucky. Amtrak shares almost all of the railway west of Albany with freight operators, and freight has the right-of-way, so it’s not uncommon for passengers to spend an interminable wait outside of Rome, for instance. 

Paris to Marseilles is 480 miles, and is about a 7 hr drive. The TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) takes 3 hrs 15 minutes. 

The Acela corridor connecting Washington, New York, and Boston is the only nominally high speed rail line in North America, and only parts of the track are capable of accommodating real high speeds. 

The New York State Department of Transportation is planning a high-speed rail corridor between New York and Niagara Falls, called the “Empire Corridor”. There had been a public comment period that no one knew about, so it’s been extended until April 30th. There are several alternatives being considered: 

Base Alternative – Improvements to the existing right-of-way, new and redeveloped train stations, high-level boarding platforms, and 20 miles of new track, signals, and track improvements, such as grade crossings to enhance safety, security, and convenience.

Alternative 90A – New train sets, locomotives and coaches, and 20 more capacity and station improvement projects in the existing right-of-way.

Alternative 90B – All Alternative 90A features plus station improvements and construction of more than 300 miles of track dedicated to passenger rail.

Alternative 110 – All Alternative 90A features and 325 miles of new dedicated passenger rail track.

Alternative 125 – Entirely new 247-mile corridor connecting Albany and Buffalo, requiring construction of a separate right-of-way for passenger rail service and sections of elevated track to bring passengers to stations or freight to customers and freight yards. New service would stop in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, where travelers could change to local trains.

By my way of thinking, if you’re going to do something, do it right. I would prefer 125 or 110 and ensure that passenger rail is efficient and reliable. Alternative 125 would allow for about 15 – 20 trains per day reaching average speeds of 77 MPH and a top speed of 125 MPH. The current top speed is 79 MPH, and that’s what the base alternative would maintain.  Under alternative 110, the travel time would be about 7 hours and would cost about $6.25 billion. Under alternative 125, the time would be 6:02 and would cost $14 billion. 

There had been an earlier alternative that would have allowed average speeds of 120 MPH and top speeds of 220 MPH – TGV speeds – but implementation would have been $40 billion. 

The form to comment is located here

Sacha Testifies

As you already know from this week’s print edition of Artvoice, former Erie County D.A. Mark Sacha gave testimony before the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption which is charged with, among other things, investigating chronic and widespread violations of the election law and corruption in political campaigns. Sacha is speaking truth to power, and if anyone should be paying close attention, it’s this particular commission with respect to this particular problem. 

I am here to advise the public and the voting citizens of New York of the “elephant in the room”, the hypocrisy which has not yet been addressed before this Commission. Election fraud and public corruption are not prosecuted properly, not because of a lack of laws in this State, but by a lack of will. The sad reality is that District Attorneys are political. Many have horrible conflicts of interest, which affect their ability to act. In order to reach their position, they make alliances, accept money and cut political deals with other politicians. They reach their goals through these people.

The public has the right to know the truth based on my own personal experience. In 2008, I conducted an investigation that uncovered widespread criminal election law violations by a number of individuals, including Steven Pigeon, a person who has close political ties to Pedro Espada, Governor Cuomo, former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark, and present District Attorney Frank Sedita, who is also a member of this panel. I personally handed Mr. Sedita a 53 page memo outlining the facts surrounding my 2008 investigation.

As a result of my attempt to do the right thing and hold Mr. Pigeon accountable, I was retaliated against by his friend, Frank Sedita. When I informed the public of Mr. Sedita’s hypocrisy and misconduct, I was fired.

Now four years later, the same pattern of misconduct is occurring in Erie County. The September 22, 2013 edition of the Buffalo News contained a lengthy article detailing new allegations of illegal conduct by Pigeon. Current election campaigns are wrought with allegations of false filings, straw donors and donations which exceed contribution limits. This Commission has received a complaint about Mr. Pigeon. These allegations of corruption in Erie County have gone on for years.

Prosecuting the powerless is easy. The real test is when you are asked to investigate the powerful. District Attorney Sedita has failed the test.

Chronic, widespread illegality that no one investigates or prosecutes. Ever. This is the stuff of banana republics. The only things missing are the gold cars and epaulets. 

Cuomo to Pigeon: Stay out of My Way in Niagara Falls

Last weekend, Governor Cuomo attended the Bills game at the Ralph – the first home game under the new 10 year lease agreement. It was an open event, and lots of people came to see the governor, maybe get a picture, some grub, you know – hobnob. 

One of the hobnobbers who came up to Governor Cuomo was notorious political shit-stirrer Steve Pigeon. 

The Pigeon/Max/Mazurek “Mark Hamister is a con man” lit debacle in support of Sam Fruscione had just hit the news, and the copious volume of resultant stirred shit was actively hitting the fan by about September 6th – the Friday before that Bills game. It got so bad that Hamister had a press conference scheduled for that Friday to announce that the deal was dead, but an 11th-hour intervention by Governor Cuomo gave the hotel project a temporary reprieve. Whatever Cuomo said to the city council, Fruscione was claiming now to be in favor of the Hamister hotel – that he was just “asking questions”. 

Fruscione is one of a very special troika of city councilmembers in Niagara Falls who simply detest Mayor Paul Dyster. For example, in March of this year, they famously rejected a proposal that Niagara Falls join a binational, interstate consortium of Great Lakes cities with money donated by a Buffalo-based philanthropic foundation. Fruscione explained that the city is on a river, not on a Great Lake, ignoring the fact that the river connects two of them. 

So, on Sunday, Steve Pigeon – the man who set up and funded the PAC that sent out the “Hamister is a con man” mailer – went up to Governor Cuomo. I have heard from four sources who overheard the exchange that Pigeon approached Cuomo and apologized – I’m really sorry – to the governor for that mailer up in Niagara Falls. Cuomo shook Pigeon’s hand and shot daggers out of his eyes at Pigeon, and calmly but forcefully told him, “I just want that hotel built – stay out of my way.” 

A correspondent snapped the exact moment this happened. 

pigeon begs for forgiveness

 

Long Live Cuomoism and our People’s Socialist Government!

Here is what the New York commentariat considers to be a “hard left turn” for Governor Cuomo

Equal pay for equal work for females. Clearly, the notion that female labor be subject to the same remuneration as male labor is a wild socialist plot that will soon see the Bolsheviks come for your land and goats. 

Tax breaks for startups and money for high-tech clusters. Entreprenueriat of the world, unite! 

Confiscation of guns possessed by the mentally infirm. Stalin. Hitler*

Three upstate casinos. Under a proper socialist regime, those casinos would only be able to be patronized by foreigners in order for the regime to earn some needed hard currency. At last check, New Yorkers will not only be permitted, but encouraged, to hit the tables and slots. 

Expanding school years or days. Socialist indoctrination takes time. 

$1.50 hike in minimum wage to $8.75. Else the red banner be raised and the Spartacists take to the streets of Albany. 

Pairing community colleges with employers. Smash the kolkhozniki

“Civilian Emergency Response Corps” to help with natural disasters. AKA “Komsomol“. 

A “bar exam” for teachers to pass before certification. Comrade teacher, you will educate the vanguard of the entreprenueriat. 

Longer prison sentences for gun crimes. The upstate gulag archipelago demands warm bodies. 

Reforming & liberalizing marijuana possession laws. Pot is the opiate of the masses. 

I, for one, welcome our new communard overlords. 

 

 

*I add Hitler to be extra-facetious.  Despite what ignoramuses may tell you, Hitler was by no means a “socialist” despite the presence of that word within “National Socialism”. Naziism is about as far removed from Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism as a political ideology can be. 

Is It Illegal To Instagram Your Completed Ballot?

@MarkPoloncarz on Twitter

This seems to be the burning question this afternoon on Twitter, as people post images of their ballots with Obama or Romney ovals completed as instructed. Gizmodo and others are on it, and our local journalists are smelling a story. After all, the County Executive Tweeted a picture of part of his ballot. 

The law everyone is citing is Election Law section 17-130(10). It reads: 

Any person who…[s]hows his ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents, or solicits a voter to show the same…is guilty of a misdemeanor. 

First of all, no one is prosecuted under this section. In my review of the times in which this statute has been cited by New York State Courts, the only such case dates from 1979 where a person’s provisional ballot was invalidated because he put his name on it; (that violates subsection 11 of the statute). That’s it. 

The reason why the law exists? To prevent people from selling their votes; offering to vote a particular way, and having to show the completed ballot to the payor as proof before payment is made. It also exists to prevent intimidation of voters or otherwise violating the secrecy of the vote. However, the statute has not been updated to make it a misdemeanor to photograph one’s ballot for any purpose, or to show the photograph – only to show the ballot itself. 

So, Instagram the shit out of your ballot, and don’t worry about it being invalidated or about you being arrested. After all, political speech is offered the highest protection of all speech, and what’s more political than Tweeting a picture of your ballot. I’d wish the authorities good luck in overcoming the 1st Amendment challenge to that misdemeanor charge. 

Also, the New York State Board of Elections issued a statement today indicating that it’s perfectly legal. So, there’s that. 

14 Gerrymanders

During the 2010 election, one of the main themes had to do with reforming state government. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch spearheaded an effort to promote independent redistricting, and sought to hold lawmakers accountable. With NY Uprising’s list of “heroes” and “enemies” of reform, Koch’s group managed to bring the issue to the forefront. 

Yesterday, the State Senate’s proposed districts were released, and there’s nothing independent  about the way they were drawn. Koch is predictably incensed, accusing lawmakers of breaking their pledges, and calling the process, “disgraceful” and accused lawmakers who broke their pledge of losing all “credibility”.  For his part, Governor Cuomo has already said he may veto the entire effort.  Here’s how the LATFOR redistricting task force was created: 

The Task Force consists of six members, including four legislators and two non-legislators. The Temporary President of the Senate appoints one legislator, Michael F. Nozzolio (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Welquis R. Lopez. The Speaker of the Assembly also appoints one legislator, Assemblyman John J. McEneny (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Roman Hedges. The Minority Leaders of the Assembly and the Senate each appoint one legislator: Assemblyman Robert Oaks and Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

Let’s take a look at the current and proposed Senate and Assembly Districts covering WNY. 

Grisanti’s district is to be entirely in Erie County, while Maziarz absorbs Niagara Falls. Ranzenhofer gets his first urban area way out in Monroe County, while Kennedy gets most of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, and Lackawanna. Gallivan’s district remains largely rural, except it doesn’t reach as far east as before, and he has suburbs such as West Seneca, Lancaster, and Henrietta. The careful line-drawing protects incumbents – little more.  Just look at how carefully districts 60 and 63 carve through Buffalo’s west side: 

Street by Street

 Assembly lines aren’t much better. 

Street-by-Street

(Giglio (A-149), Burling (A-147), and Goodell (A-150), whose current districts cover counties in the Southern Tier, rural counties further east and south, are omitted). It would appear in the Assembly that Smardz may lose his district, and it should be noted that Congressional lines have yet to be drawn or proposed. 

If the system is a broken one, this is the process that is in most need of repair. Despite several years’ worth of guarantees and promises concerning apolitical independence, we’re right back to square one, and it’s wholly unacceptable. A veto is the only thing Governor Cuomo can do to send a message to the citizens of the state – and their legislature – that the status quo is unacceptable.