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This Modern World – Junior Militiaman Anti-Government Playset

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All in the (Howard) Family

Sheriff Tim Howard has hired his wife to be on “Scientific Staff Reserve”. I have feelers out to see what background she has in law enforcement, and whether Howard created the position for her, or if she filled an existing one. 

Via Facebook


Via Facebook

 


Blizzard Things

The blizzard of 2014 showed that government can work. The way in which the county in particular handled the storm, public affairs, and its response was impressive. County leadership, led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, used social media in particular in one of the most effective ways I’ve seen any local elected use it. Poloncarz was tweeting live updates from the county’s command center day and night during the storm, and was answering people’s questions and otherwise keeping us informed about conditions.

City government, however, was attempting to maintain a “business as usual” mode, not declaring driving bans while surrounded by them, and with Mayor Brown silent on social media. It led to a short-lived #whereisByron hashtag on Tuesday night, as people wondered where the Mayor was (answer: trying to get to Albany for a pre-state-of-the-state fundraiser. He didn’t make it.) 

With that said, in light of the State of the State Address on Wednesday, where Andrew Cuomo again pointed to “too many governments” as the main reason why taxes are so high, there is no reason why we need to maintain a county government as a separate deliberative taxing authority. Since almost all of its tasks are ministerial in nature – mandates from Albany amounting to imperatives like, “feed the hungry”, “heat the homes of the poor”, “administer Medicaid”, “administer [insert state program here]”, and “plow the roads”, we don’t need a separate legislature and all of its ancillary costs in order to accomplish these basic tasks.

Speaking of the State of the State, Cuomo indicated that Buffalo will get a $100 million to research genome therapy. This is huge – the ability to treat disease by replacing defective genes is the next frontier in medical research. 


Medicare for All

Filed under: Health Care
Tags: , ,

nhs_0_108664While our most dysfunctional Congress continues to debate whether we should repeal Obamacare or not, every single other industrialized nation in the contemporary, modern world goes about its merry way having long ago settled the question, “should all our citizens have access to quality health care on demand, regardless of ability to pay?” The American inability or unwillingness to answer that question in the affirmative with some semblance of unanimity is a failure. 

Obamacare is by no means perfect – neither ideal nor, perhaps, even wanted. But it is the great liberal compromise, adopting a conservative way to health insurance reform as its own. Indeed, it seems to be the only way Democrats seem to win lately on national issues – adopt the conservative thinking, and wait for the conservatives to pounce with furious indignation disguised as opposition. 

The very poor and children receive health insurance through Medicaid. The old receive health insurance through the wildly efficient and popular Medicare program. The rest of us, the ones in the middle, are seeing coverage dwindle and cost go up, and we’re told by smugRepublicans that it’s Obamacare’s fault despite it being a year away from full implementation. 

CNN looked at the perpetual American political crisis over healthcare and one conclusion is that we manage disease instead of preventing it. But suggest that people should eat healthier, and you’ll be denigrated as the soda police, as New York Mayor Bloomberg has. 

The issues are cost and access. Medicare is extremely efficient and popular. It is a single-payer health insurance scheme that one pays into throughout their work life and is an “entitlement” insofar as you’ve paid for it, like Social Security. Expansion of Medicare to all Americans is the easiest, most rational way to ensure universal coverage for not only managing disease, but also preventing it. Canadians have liberty, too – liberty from medical bills for routine health care, and the myths that Canadians die while queueing up for services are just that – myths. Canada’s systemis not perfect, either, but it is more perfect than what we have. The British system would be less of a political headache, because it allows for private physician and clinic alternatives – something Canada forbids. 

So, given that every industrialized pluralist democracy in the world offers its citizens some form of universal health care access – as many different models as there are nation-states – why is it that we as Americans move in baby-steps into some sort of conservative plan involving health insurers and mandates? Why not just expand Medicare to all persons of every age, and make health insurance become something truly private and competitive, where you can buy enhanced coverage of some sort on an open market? In other words, if you need cancer treatments that would otherwise cost millions of dollars, you’ll never see a bill. If you want your hospital room to have a spa in it, you can pay extra for that. 

Our revolution was fought to replace a colonial feudalism with bourgeois meritocracy. Expanding health care to all Americans, including the middle class, is something we’ve discussed as a country since the end of World War II. People still, however, go bankrupt from medical bills in what is billed as the greatest superpower in Christendom. It is that – not the notion of “socialized medicine” – which is the disgrace. 

 


A Question

Filed under: Miscellany
Tags: , , ,

Which is Buffalo and WNY’s bigger problem?

The poor quality of substantive policy decisions, or the process and its utter lack of meaningful merit or transparency? Or is it simply that the process is the direct and intended result of poor policy, thus making the whole thing an interconnected, overcomplicated mess that help keeps government acts and omissions from adequate public review and scrutiny? 

 


How to Be Horrible at Government

A tipster directed me to the Facebook page for Assemblyman David DiPietro, to review this:

 

I realize that anti-toll activist, perennial candidate, and Paladino chauffeur/flunky Rus Thompson wrote the text shown above, ignoring as it does science and logic to suggest that first and second graders – 6 and 7 year olds – have some need for contraception, despite being half a decade out from puberty. But he gets other details wrong, too – it doesn’t allow under-17s to get the morning after pill over the counter.

When I took a look at the bill, I saw that it amended a current law to allow doctors, midwives, and nurse practitioners to prescribe Plan B – the “morning after pill” – to girls who are not their patients and are, in effect, victims of statutory rape and sexual abuse. In fact, if one’s aim is to reduce the number of abortions, this law would be ideal – because Plan B’s efficacy is dependent on the speed with which it is administered, girls under the age of consent who become pregnant through statutory rape and abuse need quick access to this high-dose contraceptive. Plan B is not an abortifacient, and the age of consent in New York is 17.

Why would Assemblyman DiPietro want to limit victims’ access to a drug that would avoid pregnancy and possible abortion?

Assemblyman David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora) has come out against legislation, Assembly Bill 420, known as the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act. The legislation would allow minors, including those in elementary and middle school, to obtain morning after contraception in an effort to avoid pregnancy without consulting their parents or physicians. Instead, the assemblyman is pushing for adoption to be promoted instead of morning after contraceptives.

“A minor should not be making the life-altering decision of terminating the potential for human life, let alone be making that decision without parental or medical consultation. I find this piece of legislation to be without merit,” said DiPietro. “These children have to be made aware of their actions, their repercussions and the full spectrum of their options. Adoption is an underutilized service in New York State and the country in general.”

Statutory rape is a construct of the law, which deems that girls under a certain age are not capable of consent to sexual activity – just like you’re not capable of entering into a contract before the age of 18. If a girl under the age of consent gets pregnant due to a criminal act, discretion and compassion are of primary importance – worry about the 15 year-old child, not the possibly fertilized egg cell.

It’s never a good idea for middle-aged men to be legislating how girls and young women protect themselves from the physical and emotional after-effects of sex abuse.

He also opposes a law that would educate the children of “illegal immigrants” living in New York. Because, you know, ignorant and uneducated undocumented aliens are somehow better for the society than educated, productive ones.

If only “no” votes could be given catchy names, like the bills being voted on. DiPietro’s vote could be the “Statutory Rape and Sexual Abuse Pregnancy Protection Vote”.


Governing and War

Filed under: News
Tags: , ,

Two things: 

1. A decade ago, our mass media mostly parroted the notion that Iraq was such an imminent threat that a “pre-emptive” invasion and occupation was justified. 

Back in 2002, America was still reeling from 9/11, and Iraq was subjected to myriad UN sanctions, inspection schemes, no-fly zones, and other restrictions stemming from its invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat a decade before. Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a brutal dictator whose Ba’athist Arabic-unity, socialist ideology had been perverted into nothing more than an Arabic construct of fascism. His rule was corrupt and murderous, and he had started two expansionist wars during his reign, neither of which worked out well for his country. He, on the other hand, lived like a king.

But there are lots of bad actors running horribly brutal dictatorships around the world. We can’t invade them all. Nor, if you ask most Republicans when they’re being honest, should we. Just ask most Republican commentators when President Clinton got NATO militarily involved in Bosnia and Serbia.

Turning back to 2002, the UN had implemented a new set of sanctions based on what turned out to be incorrect intelligence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. The UN – never one to rush into war – sent neutral inspectors into Iraq to look for these WMDs. Hans Blix’s team of inspectors went everywhere the US government told them to look. Spy satellites, after all, don’t lie.

UNMOVIC inspectors under Hans Blix were in Iraq for 111 days, and they didn’t find the WMDs they were looking for.

United States troops were in Iraq for 2,724 days, and they didn’t find them either, instead merely stockpiles of old WMDs that the Saddam regime had in its possession, and which it had used against Iran, Kuwait, and the Kurds. The US did not find any evidence of any new production or ramp-ups towards same. We know Saddam had used gas in Kuwait and on Kurds. But that’s not what we were sold in 2003 when Powell addressed the Security Council.

…the facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction…

…A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers.

A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars.

Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier….

The war was based on either poor information or lies. Neither one will resurrect a fallen American or innocent Iraqi civilian.

And the neoconservatives’ follow-up “rationales”? Hamas and Israel continue to murder each other. What a fundamental waste of lives, money, and dignity.

That was the legal basis on which we invaded Iraq – that they had deliberately violated UN sanctions regarding WMDs. There was no other legal rationale. What the Bush Administration’s neoconservative hawks did was just shift the objective to eliminating Ba’athism, regime change, stopping Iraq’s support for terror, help Israel in its efforts against terrorism, etc. After 7 years of battles, death, destruction, we gave Iraq its democracy, but the other regional goals have never been met. Instead, Iraq became flypaper for every disaffected, pimpled Arab teen who wanted to kill Americans. Once Saddam was gone, we had Zarqawi to deal with. Thousands of American men and women died.

So, to my mind, it’s not time to navel-gaze about whether the surge worked and whether Obama was wrong about it, and whether he is sufficiently remorseful or introspective about how wrong he was. Instead, we should re-evaluate why we invaded Iraq in the first place, further destabilizing an already unstable region; subjecting an oppressed people to 7+ years of war, terrorism, and occupation.

To my mind, it’s time to re-examine the so-called “Powell Doctrine”, which was completely disregarded in March 2003 by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and his bosses.

  • Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  • Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  • Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  • Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  • Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  • Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  • Is the action supported by the American people?
  • Do we have genuine broad international support?

Now? This same band is trying to get payback through words such as “Benghazi” and “drones”. Payback for being wrong? 

2. If you haven’t yet, please do read this report from the Economist, which explains that the Nordic countries that are usually – ignorantly and anachronistically – so derided as socialist hellholes, are economically outperforming the US and the rest of Europe. There is a remarkably high public trust in government institutions, and these countries have done much to reform without damaging the social safety net for which they’re known. If you deride the Democrats or Obama for wanting to turn the US into Sweden, it beats the Republicans’ efforts to turn the country into the Sudan. 


The Antoine Thompson Hire: Look on the Bright Side

The Buffalo Employment and Training Center (BETC) is a Buffalo city agency that exists to help people find jobs. It works with applicants to try and match them with prospective employers, and has a roster of companies and agencies with which it works. It would make sense that the person whom the city retains to operate BETC would have some significant and meaningful experience in the field of hiring, human resources, or recruiting. 

Antoine Thompson spent his political adolescence being groomed by the Grassroots political club to be the next Byron Brown.  His ambition often seems to be in adverse proportion to his abilities; he started out in the Common Council as Brown’s appointed replacement, and within just 4 years was sniffing around Louise Slaughter’s congressional seat because he was upset that the party leaders had not picked him to replace then Mayor-elect Brown in the senate. Thompson eventually made it to the senate in 2006 when, with the support of Brown and Grassroots, he defeated Marc Coppola. It should come as no surprise that the Thompson/Coppola battle of 2006 forms the genesis of the hostility between the Lenihan and Brown political factions. Thompson then defeated then-Democrat Mark Grisanti in a primary race for the 60th Senate District seat in 2008. Grisanti ran as a Republican in 2010 and defeated Thompson that year. 

Since leaving government, Thompson has worked on the periphery of politics, nominally a real estate agent but also operating a newspaper and writing web pieces for former Joe Illuzzi associate Glenn Gramigna.

Actual ad on BlackWNY.com

 Throughout his short walk in the wilderness, Thompson has been seen at so many fundraisers and political gatherings that it was merely a matter of time before he jumped back into the life. In recent months, Thompson and Grassroots had been estranged from Byron Brown and his city hall political faction. Apparently, there’s been a rapprochement. 

This week, Mayor Brown appointed Mr. Thompson to become the head of BETC. The job pays almost $80,000 – more than what a state senator makes, exclusive of per diems and lulus – and Thompson’s experience in the private sector amounts to the last two years during which he’s been working as a real estate agent. Investigative Post’s Jim Heaney surmises that this hire gives Brown some cover against charges that his administration is overwhelmingly Caucasian. Perhaps, but this also placates Thompson and effectively removes him from politics, and therefore as a threat to Brown. It releases a pressure valve that would have conceivably seen Thompson challenge the Mayor in 2013, or one of the mayor’s allies in some other race. 

What can’t be forgotten in this instance is that Antoine Thompson’s tenure in the state senate was pockmarked with scandal. There was the bizarre  junket to Jamaica, where Thompson claimed to be on a trade mission, paid for with campaign funds. During the short-lived and wildly corrupt Democratic leadership of the state senate, Thompson’s behavior became brazen and strange. He got his staff to lie for him, had been accused of accepting money in exchange for influence on Racino management, and developed a reputation for being thought of as a statewide laughingstock.  He stiffed groups that relied on his member item handouts.  In his own life, Thompson stiffed his creditors to the tune of $5,700.  Thompson gave $1000 to the legal defense fund for convicted fraudster and woman-slasher Hiram Monseratte.

Thompson arranged for a $400,000 subsidy to Howard Milstein’s Niagara Falls Redevelopment, an outfit run by a billionaire chairman of the Thruway Authority that has redeveloped absolutely nothing. When Thompson suffered a minor pulled-muscle injury in a car crash and discovered that he wasn’t hurt enough to meet the tort threshold and file a personal injury suit, he tried to change the law

Then there was this

They claimed to have nobody on staff called John Taylor. They said the Albany staffer is Shawn Curry, a recent hire as a legislative assistant.

So who is John Taylor? That’s what we wanted to know. So we called him up.

The Post: “Hi, is this John Taylor?”

“Yes”

The Post: ” But isn’t your name really Shawn Curry? And if so why are you giving out a fake name from the Senator’s office?”

“Could you hold please . . .[in the same voice] This is Shawn Curry.”

The Post: “Why are you using a fake name from the Senator’s office, Shawn?”

“I am very busy, I have business to attend to, I can’t answer your question.”

Just the strangest.  

Antoine Thompson’s qualifications to run BETC are non-existent. Given his track record in elected office, I am at a loss to explain what position he may be qualified to hold in any arena. This is clearly a patronage hire, and a lucrative one, at that. But it’s the mayor’s position to fill, and he can select whomever he pleases. If Thompson’s track record of ineptitude continues, it will be Buffalo job-seekers who will be victimized by it. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those patronage scandals where a new position is created out of whole cloth in order to placate or reward a political associate; he is being hired to fill an existing position. 

Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps containing Antoine Thompson is the best way to limit the damage that he can do. Think of it this way – while this hire may be simply horrible for people who turn to BETC for help, it may be good for the community at-large. With Antoine Thompson running a city agency for a decent salary, he has been effectively removed from the world of elected office. That means that we won’t have him running around trying to position himself for a return to the state senate or some other representative office.  Micro loss, macro win. 

There’s much more about Mr. Thompson’s past performance at our archives. Back in 2009, when asked why we need a state senate, Mr. Thompson gave this answer: 

 Maybe we collectively dodged a bullet here, folks. 




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