Monday, March 31, 2014

Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm Needs More Money For His Legal Defense Fund


Neither Democrat running against Staten Island Mafia thug Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm deserves to be elected-- not even over one of the worst and most corrupt Members of Congress ever. Domenic Recchia is a typical Steve Israel-recruited mystery-meat hack who isn't fit to collect a civil servant check, and Erick Salgado, a hate-mongering bigot and right wing sociopath, is even worse. (If Salgado sounds vaguely familiar, it may be be cause he came in 6th-- after Anthony Weiner-- in the primary in the recent NYC mayor's race.) Last Sunday, though, we discussed how Grimm is one of the first two candidates in Bill Maher's Flip-A-District extravaganza.

Maher, who hasn't delved the depth of Grimm's criminal character yet, explained that "he’s a guy who thrust himself into the running this year by threatening to throw a reporter off the balcony of the Capitol. He seems to be all of Staten Island distilled in one man and there is a lot of enthusiasm out there for making him go away."

Grimm, who has virtually no positive case to make for reelection in the blue-trending district, was quick to grab at the attack by Maher as a lifeline-- and is already whining in fundraising e-mails that he's being picked on. He terms the Staten Island and Brooklyn congressional district as "My Congressional seat," rather than a seat that belongs to the unfortunate constituents who keep being told to pick between the lesser of two evils. This is from a letter he sent out over the weekend:
The liberals are coming and apparently, they want MY Congressional seat!  Bill Maher announced that he’s taking aim and wants to “Flip This District...”

What Maher doesn’t understand is that the voters in Staten Island and Brooklyn do not agree with his anti-Catholic, leftist propaganda. Bill Maher is hardly the spokesman for traditional American values, in fact-- he’s the opposite.

Maher not only offers advice to what districts need to be flipped, just this week he shared some words of wisdom to Democrat candidates on how to best “sell” Obamacare to the American people,  “Stand your ground. When a Tea Partier says, ‘Obamacare is a government takeover,’ say, ‘I wish’.”  …He also said, “We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion.  I do believe that.  I think religion stops people from thinking, I think it justified crazies.”

Like Bill Maher, the DCCC and Mayor de Blasio (aka the most progressive Mayor of New York City has ever seen) want this seat because it would make their lives much easier-- let’s face it, I am the only one standing between them and a liberal take over of NYC.

I am the only Republican Congressman who represents a borough within New York City, a city of 8.5 million people. THEY WANT ME GONE!

They want to unseat me because I’m an outspoken, conservative Republican.

They despise the fact that I am a United States Marine combat veteran and a former undercover FBI agent and that I continue to fight for the honor of this country.

The reality is the liberal left is destroying this great country.  They don’t share our values.
Not many people who have examined Michael Grimm's sleazy career, much of it steeped in criminal activities, look to him for a definition of reality. Widely considered the shadiest Member of Congress and a spokesperson in Washington for the Gambino Crime Family, Grimm never stops screaming how he was a Marine. So was Lee Harvey Oswald. So? He also says he was a former FBI agent but never explains that he's under investigation by the FBI for a wide range of offenses and never discusses how he left the FBI for a life in organized crime. And for all his wailing about Maher being "anti-Catholic," Grimm has raised thousands of dollars in suspect funds from pornographers. I wonder if the DCCC will ever allow a candidate worth voting for to run against Grimm.

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A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste Dept.: Fun with the "eraser challenge"


For once, I was able to embed the clip, but not without its starting automatically, and goodness knows we don't want that. So instead, you can view it here.

by Ken

Even when I was able to embed the clip I had mixed success with actually getting it to play. At first, for example, I was able to get audio, but for video just a couple of still pictures. At other times I wasn't able to get that much. If you can't get it to play, or don't want to bother trying, here's a text version of this Fox CT story:
Students Warned Of Danger Of 'Eraser Challenge'

by Mike Krafcik
WTIC | Hartford, CT

BETHEL -- Bethel Middle School is warning parents about a dangerous new game. It's called "The Eraser Challenge" and videos popping up on YouTube show the game being played by mostly teenagers.

To play the game, teens will use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and elbow while reciting the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter.

Once they reach the letter Z, the opponents will compare their wounds.

Bethel Middle School Principal Derek Muharem says a random collection of a dozen students in different games that are part of the challenge. Muharem said he first found out about the game after several students told the school's nurse they had marks on their arms after playing the game.

On Thursday, Muharem sent a letter to parents of every student at the school asking parents to talk to their kids about the challenge and explain the dangers. (Click here to read the  letter.)

Muharem is also concerned about injuries potentially caused by the game.

"What I found out was kids were sharing erasers, so as they broke the skin they were passing the eraser off to somebody else, body fluids being shared, and that's a concern of mine," said Muharem.

Bethel Middle sixth grader Alexandra Luhrs says she has seen many of her classmates play the game, mostly in the hallways. Luhrs says playing the game never appealed to her.

"They were like, oh it stings so bad, but they just kept going," said Luhrs.

Educators worry peer pressure is driving the trend.

Many parents we spoke to weren't aware of the game before they were notified and were puzzled by it.

"I don't understand why kids are mutilating themselves or doing things to hurt themselves," said John Luhrs, parent of a Bethel Middle School student.

"I just thought it was strange. Very strange things these children are doing," said Lara Fusara, a parent of a Bethel Middle School student.

The principal says no students will be reprimanded for their actions in the challenge. The goal is to make sure teenagers don't hurt themselves.
Now the currency this story is experiencing seems warranted. Apparently the videos are going viral, and there's no question that the "eraser challenge," even allowing for its potential boost to vocabulary building, is in a bunch of ways a really, really terrible idea, and one that communities have a powerful interest in warning their children against.


But what elevates the story in my mind to, well, something else, is the response I saw to AOL's posting of the video. Most of the comments seemed to be variations of this sort of thing: What are you, nuts? This isn't new. We were going it 30 years ago when I was a kid. I still got a scar from it. Like these:

[Click to enlarge]

Or these:

[Click to enlarge]

The comments were so consistent in content ("whaddaya mean, new?") and tone (how dare you?), suggesting that the only problem perceived here is that this isn't "news," that I wished AOL had attempted a follow-up. The commenters might have been asked questions like these:
(1) Since the days when you had all that fun with the eraser challenge, do you feel you have been helped by your interventions from the mental-health system?

(2) Would you say you vote:
-- frequently
-- occasionally, or
-- rarely or never?


(1) This is a trick question. Anyone who answers "I have not had any interventions from the mental-health system" or equivalent should be provided with appropriate mental-health referrals.

(2) If many people answer "frequently" or "occasionally," be afraid.


Marianne Williamson: "I Will Slam It!"


Is there any candidate for Congress anywhere like Marianne Williamson? Short answer: "No." Slightly longer answer, "Alas, no." I want to ask you to watch the remarkable video statement she just released explaining why she's running for Congress and what she expects to achieve if she gets there. That's why it's embedded on the top of the page. It's almost Grayson-like or Bernie Sanders-like in its scope.
We don't do that in America. No, no, no… we repudiated an aristocracy 200 years ago. And I have the sense that we need to repudiate it again… Both of [the parties] are beholden to the same monied interests. As long as this is the case, we will never be able to deal adequately with global climate change because fossil fuel companies continue to dominate the system. We will never be able to deal adequately with GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, and other ways that our food supply is being corrupted. Chemical companies and big agricultural companies dominate the system. And we will never have universal health care as long as health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies dominate the system.

We have shrinking civil liberties; we have expanding corporate influence; and we have domestic surveillance. This is a very toxic brew. This can put American democracy into a death spiral. We need a serious pattern interruption. It is not enough to just tweak it here and tweak it there. We're past that. We can't any longer just deal with the effects without dealing with the cause of all this. We can't any longer just deal deal with the symptoms without calling the disease what it is. There is a cancer that is eating our democracy. There is an issue that is underlying all these other issues-- and that is the issue of money in politics. That's why getting the money out of politics is the greatest moral challenge of our generation.
Do you think an opportunistic career hack like Wendy Greuel-- the Big Money Establishment favored candidate-- has even ever thought about the issues Marianne talks about? Greuel is the worst kind of business-as-usual exemplar of political dysfunction at the heart of everything that's wrong with the system Marianne wants to course correct. The primary in CA-33 is shaping up to be the most profound and most interesting House race anywhere in the country. And it isn't just a good (Marianne) vs evil (Greuel) contest. Greuel, a former Republican who stands for nothing whatsoever beyond her own ambitions, is certainly counting on other progressives in the race, particularly, state Senator Ted Lieu, to split the progressive vote and let her slip in through name recognition alone.

Over the weekend, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, posting at Truthout, talked the same language as Marianne:
We must build a mass movement that is independent of the two parties, especially the Democratic Party, because their agenda is too corrupted by the ‘rule of money.’ We recognize that what is considered to be politically acceptable does not challenge the current system and therefore fails to actually solve the problems we face.

We adopt the view of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who did not ally with either party. King said “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both-- not the servant or master of either.” Just as King faced two parties dominated by segregationists when he was fighting Jim Crow segregation, we face two parties dominated by mega-corporate power when we are fighting the domination of government by big business interests. Just as King made the immorality of racism unacceptable, we must take a moral stand against putting the interests of money before the necessities of the people.

The obscenity of tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations-- which has occurred at every level of government-- while cutting necessary public services is not just misplaced priorities, these are immoral decisions. A child going hungry while the already wealthy hoard more wealth is one of the many immoral outcomes of these decisions. We need to explain these choices and be the conscience of a political system that is off track and of elected officials who put increasing the wealth of their campaign donors ahead of the necessities of their constituents.

The rule of money has become so deep in US government that the menu at the political table is very limited. The real solutions to the multiple economic and environmental crises we face are supported by the majority of the public but are not allowed in the political discussion. It is not our job as activists to limit ourselves to the choices allowed by this corrupt system but to expand the choices. Occupy’s greatest impact was to put issues on the political agenda that were not on it.

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Are You A Marjorie Margolies Democrat Or Are You A Daylin Leach Democrat?


This morning, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed a Democrat running for a House seat in Pennsylvania. Senators don't often endorse in House races and almost never endorse in primaries in other states. Bernie is backing Daylin Leach because of his record of accomplishment in the Pennsylvania state legislature and because of the campaign he's running for Congress and for Daylin's unflinching focus on raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable, shrinking the gap between the rich and the poor and, most important in this particular race in PA-13, expanding Social Security benefits. "At a time when our country has more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth," said Bernie, "and when the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider-- it is imperative that we send candidates like Daylin Leach to the U.S. Congress."

Unfortunately, there aren't that many candidates like Daylin Leach. Pennsylvania's "liberal lion" is a lot like Sanders, motivated by standing up for ordinary working families. Probably the issue that has made him stand out the strongest is the difference between himself as the corporate media/Beltway pundit front-running, Clinton in-law and ex-Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies. Compact explanation: Daylin wants to expand Social Security; Marjorie wants to shrink it.

We've covered this dichotomy in the past. Back in February we pointed out a Phildadelphia Inquirer story from June, 1994, "Social Security Curbs Proposed Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky Is Touting Major Changes. Her GOP Foe, Jon Fox, Opposes The Plan." As we said then, Voters in PA-13 should read it carefully. This is a candidate who is eager to cut Social Security and other benefits for working families. She sounds like a garden variety Republican, although the Republican that beat her in 1994 was more a defender of Social Security than she was-- and the way she disappointed the Democratic base and kept voters away from the polls is why she was really defeated that year. Her proposal to cut back on Social Security for retired Americans was even too conservative for Bill Clinton, who pointedly told her that "we do not deal with a problem like the deficit by (creating) income stagnation among the elderly." Now her son is married to his daughter and he's selling out the American people by backing her campaign to get back into Congress. This candidate, of whom the Inquirer wrote "Calling it the first fruit of last year's conference on entitlement spending, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky announced legislation yesterday that would raise the retirement age for Social Security recipients and limit their cost-of-living adjustments… The current legislation, which Margolies-Mezvinsky is sponsoring with Minnesota Democrat Timothy J. Penny, would raise the retirement age to 70 by the year 2013-- beginning in 1999 and increasing the age by four months annually… The proposal would give only the bottom 20 percent of Social Security recipients the full cost-of-living adjustment, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index. Other recipients would receive a flat cost-of-living adjustment equal to that for recipients at the 20th percentile."

Predictably, Margolies has learned nothing from her electoral loss. Today she is still part of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and still pushing the Chained CPI scheme to reduce Social Security payments for retired Americans. Last December, Daylin, pushed back against the Paul Ryan/Marjorie Margolies Chained CPI plank: "Social Security has literally lifted entire generations of seniors out of poverty. But at a time when pensions are shrinking or going away and people are living longer, we must do better if Social Security is going to fulfill its promise of a reasonable life for retirees." This morning he told us that "Making the wealthy pay their fair share is the right way to reform Social Security. Cutting benefits is the wrong way, and a clear difference in my Congressional race… It is important to occassionally assess our policies in the context of what is actually happening in the real world. For example, we see a dramatic decline in the availability of and value of private pensions. Yet Social Security benefits continue to stagnate at best and atrophy at worst. Given how seniors are actually living their lives, it is time we boldly call for not only protecting Social Security, but expand it and increasing benefits. We need to remove the cap on the FICA tax and use that money not only to ensure the stability of Social Security, but to start employing E-COLA to ensure the cost of living adjustments reflect what seniors are actually spending, and to start making reasonable lump-sum payments to new retirees to enable them to settle bills and begin their retirement in a financially healthy position."

That's why Bernie Sanders has chimed in on his behalf. Last week, the highly regarded PoliticsPA interviewed Daylin and he sounded a little frustrated that Margolies' entire campaign is based on one thing-- that her son married Clinton's daughter. She has steadfastly refused to join the other candidates in debates and has tried as best she could to cover up her conservative record.
“Marjorie has a 20 year record of trying to dismantle Social Security; [she] introduced legislation that would cut cost of living adjustments and raise the retirement age,” Leach said. “And recently, when she was asked about the fiscal health of Social Security she said that we could ask wealthy people to voluntarily contribute more.”

But in this election, Leach claims that Margolies has been absent on substance.

“I’ve taken controversial positions, Marjorie has no issue that she’s spoken about at all,” he said. (Margolies has yet to attend a candidates forum with the rest of the challengers.)
May 20 is primary day in Pennsylvania. PA-13 is blue enough so that whoever wins the Democratic primary is sure to go to Congress. The PVI is D+13 and Obama beat Romney two to one-- 210,902 (66%) to 105,024 (33%), an even stronger margin than the one by which he beat McCain there 4 years earlier. PA-13 can be the next home of a brilliant and innovative Representative who stands up for working families-- or they can back a hopeless relic from the past who is from the Big Business/Wall Street wing of the party. I'm very happy that her son married their daughter… but that has absolutely nothing to do with what's good for the families in Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. If you'd like to help Daylin win this race, you can contribute to his campaign here.

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Worthy Candidates-- Realistic Goals


Blue America reached and surpassed our March goals for most of our candidates. Today's the last day of the month. We can make up for the contributions we didn't deliver next month. But, if you're inspired by all the spam from the DCCC and their dreadful candidates to give to candidates who would represent our values in Congress, these are the candidates we fell a little short on. Actually, first, these are the candidates where we hit the goals:
Alan Grayson (FL-09)- $13,000/ $13,694
Tom Guild (OK-05)- $3,500/ $3,734
Patrick Hope (VA-08)- $1,000/ $2,470
Daylin Leach (PA-13)- $6,500/ $7,048
Mike Obermueller (MN-02)- $1,200/ $1,202
Eloise Reyes (CA-31)- $5,000/ $5,339
Michael Wager (OH-14)- $500/ $547
Kelly Westlund (WI-07)- $500/ $646
Rob Zerban (WI-01)- $7,000/ $9,400
A lot of awe-inspiring over-achievement from Rob Zerban's, Daylin Leach's and Patrick Hope's teams. Here's where we've fallen a little short and where you can help out. The amounts are how much we're short of our goals:
Stanley Chang (HI-01)- $263
Paul Clements (MI-06)- $32
Greg Howard (OH-06)- $30
Pat Murphy (IA-01)- $80
Lee Rogers (CA-25)- $255
We know our candidates so well-- and write about them so frequently-- that sometimes we make the inaccurate assumption that everyone knows who they are and what they stand for. See that little white rectangular box in the upper left hand corner of this blog? That's a search box. If you were to type in, for example, "Greg Howard," all 8 mentions of Greg on DWT would pop up and you could read about all his positions. We're going to make it even easier this time, though. I asked each of the 5 candidates we haven't reached our goals for to give us a one sentence explanation about what they would like to accomplish in Congress. Perhaps their answers will help you decide which one or two you want to contribute to:

Lee Rogers: "I want to go to Congress to work with Members like Rep. Alan Grayson, Rep. Barbara Lee and Sen. Bernie Sanders to reorient spending towards building a strong, vibrant domestic economy that benefits hard-working American families."

Paul Clements: "I want to defeat the member of Congress the L.A. Times called 'one of the biggest threats to Planet Earth' and get Washington focused on real solutions to invest in education, infrastructure, and job creation while combatting climate change and income inequality."

Stanley Chang: "I'm running for Congress to enact a bold agenda for change that will set Hawaii and America on a path to prosperity by raising the minimum wage, reforming Wall Street, and fixing our broken immigration system."

Pat Murphy: "I will protect our seniors by increasing Social Security benefits and ensuring it is solvent for more than the next century, by working to raise the cap on the Social Security tax."

Greg Howard: "When elected to Congress, I will fight to reverse NAFTA, reducing the incentives for corporations to take jobs out of the United States and once again creating jobs for the working people."

If you'd like to chip in, there is no such thing as a contribution too small. Here's the place you'll find all of our House candidates.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not All Democrats In Hawaii Have Been On The Side Of The Angels In The Struggle For LGBT Equality


Last week, you may recall, Blue America did a end-of-the-quarter fundraiser for our House candidates. The name of one of the most generous contributors looked vaguely familiar, so I looked him up. Steven H. Levinson was a judge on the Hawaii Supreme Court and the reason why I had his name in my memory bank was because he authored the lead opinion in Baehr vs. Lewin, the first-ever court ruling to determine that denying marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory. That was 2 decades ago and that battle has come a long way-- in the face of bitter on-going opposition, not just from Republicans, but from conservative Democrats. Ironically many of those conservative Democrats who have voted against marriage equality-- like Donna Mercado Kim, Will Espero, and Mark Takai-- are now running for the Honolulu-based House seat left open by Colleen Hanabusa's campaign against Brian Schatz. (Schatz has been a full-on advocate for equality and Hanabusa has flipped and flopped on the issue, having held back progress while in the state Senate.) In any case, Judge Levinson made it clear that the candidate he's backing in the congressional race is Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang, an equality champion.
In my years of fighting for civil rights on behalf of Hawaii’s LGBT community, I have worked with public officials and community leaders to build grassroots support for a just cause. Some have always supported marriage equality, but others have “evolved” on the issue-- motivated by personal reflection, political considerations, or a combination of both.

There is reason to celebrate such conversions and welcome support from all quarters when building a coalition. But when choosing a leader, we want someone who has been on our side, fighting for our rights, from day one. That leader is Stanley Chang.

Stanley is serving with distinction on the Honolulu City Council and is running for U.S. Congress in Hawaii’s first district. He has never needed to “evolve”-- he has always been with us on full equality under the law for the LGBT community in Hawaii and in America.

In Congress, Stanley will be a strong advocate for enacting employment nondiscrimination protections. He will fight for treating our LGBT kupuna with the utmost respect and for repairing harm done to gay and lesbian veterans who were unfairly given dishonorable discharges under the former “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. Stanley understands the pressures faced by our keiki, who often experience bullying and harassment in schools just for being different.

Stanley’s command of the issues will make him a valuable representative for Hawaii in Washington. He’s with us not just on LGBT rights but on all of the key struggles, from raising the minimum wage to reforming Wall Street; from defending Social Security to protecting our environment. What Hawaii needs now is a progressive champion who will have our back.

Hawaii’s values don’t merely tolerate diversity; they celebrate it. We deserve a representative in Washington who will not only vote with us but will be a champion of our cause, leading the fight for the next generation. Stanley knows that our spirit of aloha does not deny full membership in the community to anyone based on whom they love.

Please join me in supporting Stanley Chang.
As you know, Blue America has also endorsed Stanley Chang for this House seat, not just because of the equality issue, but because of a record of across-the-board progressive leadership. Earlier today he explained-- in one sentence-- what he hoped to accomplish in Congress, telling us he wants to work with other Members "to enact a bold agenda for change that will set Hawaii and America on a path to prosperity by raising the minimum wage, reforming Wall Street, and fixing our broken immigration system."

Stanley is up against a gaggle of candidates from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. If you'd like to join Justice Levinson and Blue America to help make sure he wins the crowded primary, you can do that here on our ActBlue page.

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A Prop 8 supporter as the new guy in charge of Firefox -- is that OK?


Click to enlarge. Note that the live link to automatically sign the petition is here.

by Ken

I'm coming late to the controversy that erupted late this week about the choice of a new CEO for Mozilla, the company that produces Firefox, the country's second most popular Net browser. So I'm grateful for Credo Action's political director, Becky Bond, for bringing me up to speed. I'm not big on petition-signing, but the cause certainly seems worth airing.

Becky directs us to HuffPost's unbylined Thursday post "Mozilla's Appointment Of Brendan Eich As CEO Sparks Controversy After Prop 8 Donation News Re-Emerges," which included these responses from Brendan Eich and other people at Mozilla:
Eich addressed the controversy in a lengthy blog post, noting, "I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla."

He added, "I can only ask for your support to have the time to 'show, not tell'; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain ... I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mozilla released a statement in defense of Eich's appointment, saying the company was "deeply committed to honoring diversity in sexual orientation and beliefs within our staff and community."

"With thousands of people spanning many countries and cultures, diversity is core to who we are," the statement continued, "And we’re united in our mission to keep the Web open and accessible for everyone."

Similarly, Mozilla's Education Lead Christie Koehler, who is gay, also defended the company in a blog post, despite stressing that she was "disappointed" to learn that Eich had made donations in support of Prop 8.

"Certainly it would be problematic if Brendan’s behavior within Mozilla was explicitly discriminatory ... I haven’t personally seen this (although to be clear, I was not part of Brendan’s reporting structure until today)," she wrote. "To the contrary, over the years I have watched Brendan be an ally in many areas and bring clarity and leadership when needed."


That's the obvious question, and obviously a lot of people don't think it is good enough. Here are a couple of portions of Becky's open letter (there are footnotes on the Credo Action website):
Mozilla, maker of the world's second most popular browser Firefox, announced a leadership change this week. In a highly controversial move, Brendan Eich was named CEO despite his public support for the anti-gay Proposition 8 which ended the marriage equality for gays and lesbians in California until it was overturned by the Supreme Court last summer.

There is not a simply a public disagreement about an individual's personal beliefs, but rather a serious crisis involving a powerful global organization and a leader with a history of explicit advocacy to deny gays and lesbians equal rights under law.

Mozilla is an organization that has demonstrated a deep commitment to openness and equality. That's why it was so shocking that its board of directors named a CEO with a public record of anti-gay advocacy.

Tell Mozilla: Your brand should be identified with openness and equality -- not anti-gay hate. New CEO Brendan Eich must reverse his anti-gay stance, resign or be replaced. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Many people have evolved their views on equality as American attitudes on gay rights have shifted dramatically in recent years. It's time for Eich to join them. As the representative of a global brand that represents openness and is committed to equality and inclusiveness, Eich should make an unequivocal statement of support for marriage equality. If he cannot, he should resign. And if he will not, the board should fire Eich immediately. . . .

Tell Mozilla: If Brendan Eich doesn't make an unequivocal statement of support for marriage equality, he must resign. If he refuses to do so he should be fired. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Since announcing the selection of Eich as CEO, Mozilla has faced an incredible backlash. Some members of the broader Mozilla community have advocated for a boycott of the Firefox browsers. There are employees calling for Eich's resignation via Twitter. Eich himself released a statement that stopped far short of addressing his anti-gay advocacy but instead affirmed his commitment to enforcing Mozilla's strong anti-discrimination policies for its employees. And Mozilla’s board chair took pains to make clear her support for gay rights even as she defended the choice of Eich to lead the organization. Facing increasing pressure, Mozilla later released a second blog post on the matter underscoring the organization's commitment to "openness and equality for all people" and making an explicit statement in support of marriage equality.

But the board's decision to elevate Eich, whose history of anti-gay advocacy was public before he was hired, to the position of CEO is a forceful gesture that elevates an advocate of writing discrimination into our laws to the head of a global brand representing openness and equality. The people at Mozilla and their massive community of users deserve better than a leader that advocates for inequality and hate.

It’s not enough for Eich to pledge that he will enforce Mozilla's strong internal policies that ensure all employees are treated equal when he continues to refuse to renounce his advocacy for legislating hateful discrimination against gays and lesbians with constitutional amendments such as Proposition 8.

We hope for and would welcome a public statement from Eich of unequivocal support for equality not just within Mozilla but for all Americans. If he cannot do this he should resign or be fired.

Thank you for standing up for equal rights for all Americans.


The Teabaggers Will Be Denied… Again


Who will Sheldon & Miriam want to get into bed with?

Roland is in Las Vegas for the long weekend. So are some of the most venal characters in American politics-- Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Chris Christie, John Bolton, ex-Gov. Jeb Bush and Dick Cheney. The Republicans-- other than Cheney, who just shows up wherever evil is pulsing strongest on earth-- are there for the Sheldon and Miriam Adelson Primary where each presidential wanna-be is vetted in terms of how slavish they are to the national interests of Israel-- this is a strictly Israel-first/America-second confab-- and the gambling interests of the Adelson branch of the Mafia.

Although the government of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Adelsons have a lot of say in the decision of who will be the next Republican nominee, they don't get to decide all by themselves. The grassroots, of course, are ignored. They can suck air with their fervent intentions for winning the nomination for right-wing extremists like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. The serious people don't consider them any more serious than the German plutocrats considered Hitler in the early 1930s. The power brokers who laugh at the teabaggers and the religious right grassroots dredges, have pretty much settled on Jeb Bush now that Christie is damaged goods. If this sounds like it was written by a Jeb Bush press flack… well… how coy can one be when one is breaking sucking up to the detestable Adelsons in their garish Mafia haven?

Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy.

Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House.

Bush’s advisers insist that he is not actively exploring a candidacy and will not make a decision until at least the end of this year. But over the past few weeks, Bush has traveled the country delivering policy speeches, campaigning for Republicans ahead of the fall midterm elections, honing messages on income inequality and foreign policy, and cultivating ties with wealthy benefactors-- all signals that he is considering a run.

Many if not most of Mitt Romney’s major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, e-mails and invitations to meet, according to interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.

“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.”

But Bush would have serious vulnerabilities as a candidate. Out of public office for seven years, he has struggled in some appearances and has had difficulty navigating the Republican Party’s fault lines on immigration and other issues. A Bush candidacy also would test whether the nation still has a hangover from the George W. Bush administration.

On Thursday night, Bush was feted here at a VIP dinner held by Sheldon Adelson inside the billionaire casino magnate’s airplane hangar. When one donor told Bush, “I hope you run for president in 2016,” the crowd of about 60 guests burst into applause, said a donor in attendance.

Bush also met privately with Adelson. One person with knowledge of the conversation said that the former governor was “very laid back and comfortable” and that they did not discuss the 2016 campaign.

…He would enter a wide-open contest for the GOP nomination with other advantages, as well: deep ties to his party’s establishment and evangelical wings, and a reputation as a reform-minded policy wonk. Fluent in Spanish, Bush has credibility within the Hispanic community that could help broaden his coalition. He also has the gravitas many Republicans say is required to compete with former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats’ leading potential contender.

“Jeb has the capacity to bring the party together,” said [Nixon's Jew counter] Fred Malek, a top Republican official who said he has been in regular contact with Bush.

…Bush’s vocal support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards-- lightning-rod issues for tea party activists-- could dog him in the GOP primaries… In any campaign, Bush would have to grapple with the legacy of his brother George W. Bush and his unpopular wars. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that almost half of all Americans surveyed say they “definitely would not” vote for Jeb Bush for president.

“The ‘Bush fatigue’ question is always there,” said former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (R). “If his name was Jeb Brown instead of Jeb Bush, he’d be the front-runner.” … Strategists for other prospective candidates said they are growing nervous about Bush and fear that he could lock up the donor class. “He would take some of the oxygen out of the air,” said David Carney, an ally of Texas Gov. Rick Perry ®.
Paul Ryan may not have been there this weekend… but apparently someone grabbed his iPod to better entertain the fat cats:

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Apocalypse now: what's really happening in Crimea


Look out! The Messiah is coming!

"When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard."
-- "a closely guarded secret handed down from the 18th Century
Vilna Gaon through generations of revered rabbis"

by Ken

So here I've been thinking about a post about national-security interests in Crimea and Ukraine generally, goaded mostly by this hideous notion that that blustering lamebrain Willard Romney "was right," about Russia or anything else. As if a character like Putin would pay shiver in his shoes at the mindless ravings of a gutless thug like him. At least as he prepared to go to war with Russia -- or would it have been Iran? -- he could count on an army of six Fighting Romneys, as he and his brood of mililtary heroes returned to uniformed fighting fettle. Oh wait!

The post I wanted to cobble together would have asked, just what are our national-security interests in Crimea? As opposed, for example, to Russia's, which involve not just national security but intimate historic and ethnic ties. And pretty much the same question would apply to Ukraine generally?

Well, I'm not going to write that post just now, so instead I'll direct you to Ian Welsh's March 20 post, "Why is Crimea Such a Great Crisis? It Shouldn't Be."
Really, I don't understand why Crimea rejoining Russia is such a big deal. While the referendum is dubious, it does seem that the majority of the population generally prefers to be part of Russia. There have been almost zero casualties, and the Russian troops were mostly welcomed by the population.

Compare this to Kosovo, where there was ethnic cleansing on both sides, a major bombing campaign by the West which killed Serbs and so on. Or Iraq, or Libya, or Syria, or Chechnya, or South Sudan. In all of those places there was a pile of violence, a lot of people died, got tortured, raped and lost their homes. All of those, by any rational measure, are greater crises than Russia taking back a region which belonged to it for hundreds of years, whose population wants to go back.

Yes, yes, Munich, blah, blah. Russia is not strong enough to start a conventional WWIII and win. They are not insane enough to start a nuclear war.

The correct response to Crimea would be to say "well, it looks like they really do want to leave, they're yours."

If you don't want Western Ukraine to go, then send in a NATO force and/or discuss formal partition of the Ukraine with the Western part immediately joining NATO. If you're not willing to do that, then shut up.

This crisis is being made a crisis because of a hysterical over-reaction. The US and the EU thought they'd won this round, and moved the Ukraine back into their column. Putin didn't accept that, and the West is freaking out over behaviour that is less egregious and killing far fewer people than wars that the US has been involved in for over a decade, and which is a cleaner break-off than Kosovo was.

As for setting a precedent, the precedent has been set already: in Kosovo, in South Sudan, in Eritrea and so on. National borders are not inviolable if the population doesn't want to stay in them, and can make their point militarily or has an ally who can make the point militarily.
More recently, Ian has recommended the Consortium News post "The Danger of False Narrative by Robert Parry" as "perhaps the best article on what actually happened in the Ukraine and Crimea." ["The story is a little different than what you've been hearing on TV or reading in the newspapers, at least if you're in most of the West. The author does leave out some bits (like the Tatars boycotting the Crimean referendum), but overall it's accurate."] And he points out that in Ukraine, where "the new PM is imposing IMF austerity measures,"
like removing subsidies on Gas (50% increase) and cutting pensions (50%) cut. He says he's on a Kamikazee mission. That's because he's not elected, so he can do thing that an elected leader could never do.

Which is to say: there is a coup, backed by a popular uprising in the capital, which puts in place an unelected government, which does things that elected governments repeatedly refused to do. The East and South of the country, which voted in the last elected government, is unhappy with this.
Ian concludes:
If I were Crimean, I would have voted yes in the election. Russia's a corrupt oilarchy run by a near-dictator, but it has a stronger economy and better standard of living than the Ukraine, and that's before the IMF gets through with it.

I don't know what Putin's going to do. If NATO membership were truly off the table, he'd be best served by doing nothing more. Let the Ukrainian's destroy their own economy through IMF austerity, and in a few years, at least the eastern half of the country will be begging to join Russia.

However, if NATO membership is on the table, and it seems to be, Putin may feel he has no choice to invade. Problem is, after the West lied to Gorbachev about not expanding NATO, could Putin believe any Western promises if they were given?


It's not necessary, because thanks to this post by Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev, we know what Putin has really been up to in Crimea: bringing on the Apocalypse and summoning the Messiah. Okay, maybe bringing the Messiah back isn't what he had in mind, but isn't that what's happening?

FYI: Putin=Gog, Crimea=Magog, the apocalypse is here and the Messiah is coming

Not only Christian fans of Armageddon are buzzing: According to one rabbi, the Vilna Gaon himself predicted that when the Russians take Crimea, the steps of the Messiah will be heard.

By Chemi Shalev | Mar. 29, 2014 | 5:51 PM

The Allard Pierson archeological museum in Amsterdam is in a bind. Since February 7, it has exhibited "The Crimea, Gold and secrets from the Black Sea," which it originally billed as "Spectacular archeological finds from the Ukraine." Now it doesn't know whether to return the precious gold artifacts to Russia or to Ukraine or to just stay out of it and hold on to the exhibition for the time being.

The reason this report caught my eye is that most of the "Gold and secrets" of Crimea come from the Scythians. Originally from what is today southern Iran, the Scythians were a horse riding tribe that inhabited much of today's Georgia, Armenia and the southern parts of Ukraine and Russia for close to 1300 years, from the 7th century BC to the 4th century AD. The northern coast of the Black Sea was absolutely Scythian.

And what's so special about the Scythians? Well, it turns out that Josephus Flavius, the turncoat Jewish historian who chronicled the Masada saga, had an interesting theory about the Scythians and the lands in which they lived. He concluded that their land was the Magog, as in Gog and Magog, as in the war of Gog and Magog, as in the biblical prelude to the End of Days.

Which is one of the many reasons why recent events in the Ukraine have created a buzz among legions of apocalypse-anticipating true believers. This could be the real thing, they tell themselves, the big time, the major leagues, not the end of the beginning, to quote Winston Churchill in reverse, but the beginning of the end. And it is Vladimir Putin, aka Gog, aka King of the North, who has set things in motion.

You only have to read Ezekiel chapters 38-39, the widely accepted handbook and screenplay for the upcoming decimation. According to traditional translations of verse 2 of Chapter 38, Gog is the "chief prince of Meshech and Tuval", ancient kingdoms also near the Black Sea. But the term used for "chief prince" in Hebrew is "nesi rosh" (as in נשיא ראש משך ותבל): Nesi could also mean "ruler" or "president", and some scholars believe that "rosh" is not an adjective, at all, but a noun denoting the name of yet another nation that will enter the fray. So Gog is the prince of Rosh, or the President of Rosh, or, with a little bit of help, the President of Russia.

"Therefore, mortal, prophesy, and say to Gog: Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are living securely, you will rouse yourself and come from your place out of the remotest parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army;".

And who will ride with Gog? Why Persia, of course, as specified in verse 5. And possibly Syria, though it hardly seems capable these days. And why will they all gang up on Israel? The Internet site "RemantReport explains: 1. To acquire more territory (Ezekiel 38:8). 2. To plunder Israel's wealth (38:12). (Israel's newly-discovered vast reserves of natural in the Mediterranean, of course, CS). 3. To destroy the Jews (38:11, 16). And 4. To challenge the authority of the Antichrist who will temporarily be Israel's ally due to a treaty mentioned in Daniel 9:27 "That ruler will have a firm agreement with many people for seven years."

Of course, if Gog is Putin, then we all know who the natural candidate for the Antichrist is. But let's put that aside for now. In any case, there is a nuclear confrontation ("I will start a fire in the land of Magog and along all the seacoasts where people live undisturbed, and everyone will know that I am the Lord) and then a massive seven-month cleanup and a mass burial, somewhere in Jordan, it seems.

If you're a Christian, the fun is just beginning: An army of "200 million" men will come from the East, according the Book of Revelations, and there's only one country that can raise such an army. Then, in quick succession but in a sequence that is disputed by scholars, the End Times really get going: Armageddon, Desolation, Tribulation, Rapture, Redemption, the Second Coming - the works.

Jews, by the way, make do with just the war of Gog and Magog, after which messianic days are here and "swords are beaten into ploughshares" etc. Nonetheless, Christians aren't the only ones who are getting excited about the standoff in Eastern Europe. According to a report catching fire over the weekend in the haredi press in Israel, the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch told his disciples this week that the times of the Messiah are upon us. And who is the source for his amazing analysis? None other than one of the top Jewish sages of all time, the Vilna Gaon himself, the Gra, "the genius of Vilnius", the famously harsh critic of Hasidic Judaism.

According to said Shternbuch, he is privy to a closely guarded secret handed down from the 18th Century Vilna Gaon through generations of revered rabbis: "When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard. And when you hear that the Russians have reached the city of Constantinople (today's Istanbul), you should put on your Shabbat clothes and don't take them off, because it means that the Messiah is about to come any minute."

I don't know if Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan knows about Russian designs on Istanbul, but if I were you, I would take your Shabbat clothes to the cleaners, just in case.

Finally, from The husband tells the wife, "The Rabbi said that soon we will no longer suffer from the Cossacks, the Messiah is about to come and take us all to Israel." The wife thinks for a while and says, "Tell the Messiah to leave us alone. Let him take the Cossacks to Israel!"
So do you have your Apocalypse bag all packed and ready to go?

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Why Shenna… Why Maine?


Digby, John and I did not expect to send this note out today. We planned a sabbatical until after the first quarter rush was over Tuesday. But… we got an offer we couldn't refuse-- and one I hope you won't be able to either. As you probably already have figured out, we feel that Shenna Bellows, the 39 year old former executive director of Maine's ACLU, is our idea of a perfect candidate. Last night she told me that she wants to "go to the United States Senate to work with Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul to place checks and balances on the big banks and the NSA. We can restore economic opportunity and constitutional freedoms for all if we have the courage and the vision to try."

That came right on top of a generous offer by one of Blue America's most consistent backers to match, up to $1,000, all contributions to the Bellows campaign that are made through this page between now and midnight tomorrow (Monday night/Tuesday morning).

"I was originally attracted to the Maine contest ," he told us, "by its potential to send the loudest message, of any 2014 race, that voters are sufficiently shocked, by the NSA surveillance revelations, to turn strongly against NSA-apologist incumbents like Collins. But now Collins appears even more vulnerable because of this month's outbreak of open warfare between Senate Democrats and the CIA, over the torture report that Collins may be trying to help the CIA delay or suppress. The more closely I looked at Bellows, the more I saw not only policies I support and political experience, skills and tactics that I respect, but also great potential for proving to be the right person in the right place at the right time."

This week, the DSCC finally came on board and endorsed Shenna's campaign. So did There is great potential for Susan Collins’ "mile-wide" popularity to be proven "inch-deep," because people who disagree with Collins’ positions, especially on civil liberties, can be found not only among Maine’s plurality of Democrats but also its substantial contingents of Independents and Libertarians, with whom Bellows has strong rapport. Let's not leave this thousand dollar offer on the table. If Shenna wins in November, it will be the biggest victory for the progressive movement in America since we helped oust Wall Street favorite's senator, Scott Brown, in Massachusetts and elect Elizabeth Warren. If you give $10 it's like giving $20 today. And if you give $50, it's like a $100 contribution. This is what Shenna needs to get her message out across Maine. Here's the page; this offer ends tomorrow at midnight (ET).

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

How Corporate Democrats Are Wrecking The Party Brand-- From Michigan's Senate Race To California's Secretary Of State Campaign


Gary Peters, the Democratic candidate for the Michigan Senate seat Carl Levin is giving up, is a careerist and a New Dem with a mediocre and distinctly uncourageous record. Look as hard as you want at the Blue America Senate page but you will never find Gary Peters or anyone like him. That said, his likely GOP opponent, Koch puppet candidate Terri Lynn Land, is far worse. He's a nothing; she's a negative. She represents the Kochs and the selfish, greedy, venal interests of the plutocrats. He's... not as bad. The Democrats' Senate Majority PAC new ad (just below) is all about how bad she and how bad the Kochs are-- not a word, one way or the other, about their own feeble candidate.

Luckily for the Democrats, the "but the Republicans are worse" message still works for many voters. It's way garbage, cowardly candidates like Peters are plausible. The new Gallup poll, released yesterday, shows that young voters are still aligning themselves with Democratic Party messaging, in fact, more so than ever before-- or at least that they are more repulsed than every before by Republican Party messaging. Gallup found that "While young adults have generally been more likely to align themselves with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, they are now much more solidly Democratic than prior generations of young adults."

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%.

This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years.

…In recent years, young white adults, who previously aligned more with the Republican Party, have shifted Democratic. From 1995 to 2005, young whites consistently identified as or leaned Republican rather than Democratic, by an average of eight points. Since 2006, whites aged 18 to 29 have shown at least a slight Democratic preference in all but one year, with an average advantage of three points.

Young whites first shifted to a pro-Democratic position in 2006, perhaps because of frustration with George W. Bush and his policies. Barack Obama's presidential campaign also may have attracted younger whites, given the candidate's relative youth, particularly since Republicans nominated the much older John McCain as their presidential candidate. Young whites are not as high on the Democratic Party now as they were in 2008, but they remain more likely to prefer it to the Republican Party.
Earlier in the week, Bill Boyarsky penned a post forTruthDig that shows how easily the Democrats could blow this advantage. His theme is "the irrelevancy of party and ideological labels when it comes to helping big corporations," an Achilles heel for the Democratic party that we talked about this afternoon in regard to Wall Street Dems and the Senate race in South Carolina. And he isn't messing around with red or purple states, but goes right to the heart of one of the crucial blue bastions: California, where the politicians are every bit as corrupt and slimy as they are in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and even New Jersey. How do you think young voters will feel about this kind of thing?
A recent California law freeing much of the telephone business from state regulation-- and potentially depriving millions of phone users of long-standing consumer protections-- illustrates the irrelevancy of party and ideological labels when it comes to helping big corporations.

Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, described the measure as “the most anti-consumer bill ever introduced in California.”

Just how this bill became law points up the importance of state legislatures and local lawmaking bodies, those governmental entities that although increasingly ignored by the media, influence much of the quality of our lives.

That’s where American politics are really at work. If the loud political debate and much of the punditry is to be believed, deregulation is the domain of Republicans and other conservatives. Regulation and consumer protection are Democratic and liberal. But in many crucial cases, that’s not the way it is. Take, for example, mundane but all-important phone calls.

…The new California law, SB 1161, takes away the power of the California Public Utilities Commission to impose these and other regulations on companies that use the Internet for delivering phone service. A CPUC analysis said, “Because virtually all communications service providers use (the Internet) at some point in their networks, SB1161 could … strip the CPUC of jurisdiction over services it now actively regulates.”

Party and ideology didn’t mean a thing when it came to this measure.

It was introduced and steered through the legislature by state Sen. Alex Padilla, a liberal Democrat who represents a working-class area of the San Fernando Valley. Liberal, but business oriented, Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. …The law is similar to “model” legislation that emerged from the American Legislative Exchange Council, best known as ALEC, a conservative, industry-backed organization that sponsors anti-regulatory legislation in statehouses around the country. ALEC also produced the “stand your ground” law that protected the killer of Trayvon Martin in Florida, according to the Center for Media & Democracy. The center said stand your ground was a “model bill” pushed by ALEC in “dozens of other states. ... The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and was unanimously approved by an ALEC task force co-chaired by Wal-Mart.”

California’s phone legislation was strongly supported by Silicon Valley powers who are part of TechNet, an organization of technology CEOs, including top officials of Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft.

“I have never met with ALEC, been to their conferences or anything,” Padilla said.

Padilla is well connected to the club of lobbyists and influential lawmakers who run the California Legislature. The telecom industry is a major part of it, having donated $1,986,976 to legislators’ political campaigns from January 2011 through December 2012, according to political data firm MapLight. The industry gave Padilla $39,364 of his total $1,329,743 in campaign contributions from January 2009 through December 2012.

In addition, Padilla was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held by Kevin Sloat, a lobbyist whose clientele included telecom firms. Sloat was fined $133,500 for that fundraiser by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which said the liquor and cigars he gave the guests went beyond what the law allows a lobbyist to give. Derek Cressman, who is running against Padilla for secretary of state, called on Padilla to return money from the event. Rose Kapolczynski, a campaign consultant to Padilla, told the Los Angeles Times, “We take campaign finance laws very seriously and make it a practice to comply fully with both the letter and the spirit of the law. There is no indication from the FPPC that any of the contributions were improper and therefore we do not intend to return them.”

An opponent of the phone law, Sean McLaughlin, executive director of Access Humboldt, told me about attending legislative hearings on the bill.

“It was very interesting to me,” he said. “There were more than 50 well-heeled lobbyists [for the measure] and our ragtag group of public interest people.” Padilla and the other legislators greeted the telecom advocates as friends, McLaughlin said. “It was shocking how that played out,” he said. “To be in that room and see it was incredible. It was shocking to me, how much influence there was and how hard it was to even raise an issue.” He said the telecom lobbyists were not just witnesses for the bill, but “part of the presentation of the bill.” Speaking time for him and other opponents was limited, McLaughlin said.

“The thing that was discouraging to me was there was no media covering it,” he recalled. “There was this overflow crowd, the packed room was uncomfortable. Another dozen lobbyists in the hall. And they celebrated when the bill passed. I took out my little camera and they scattered.”
Will California Democratic voters even have the knowledge of Padilla's and the corporate Democrats' betrayal to nominate good government reformer Derek Cressman Secretary of State instead of Padilla? My bet is "no," although I'll be voting for him.

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"The Palisades, a treasured American landmark, are under threat," say four NJ ex-governors (two Dems and two R's)


A rendering of the proposed new look for the "ancient cliffs" of New Jersey's Palisades, overlooking the Hudson River -- "a treasured landmark," according to the authors of the NYT op-ed piece we're about to read

by Ken

For those who don't recognize the bylined names in the following New York Times op-ed piece published earlier this week, the biographical note at the end explains helpfully: "The authors are former governors of New Jersey." They are, for the record, two Republicans and two Democrats.

The Opinion Pages


The Threat to the Palisades


March 24, 2014

THE Palisades, a treasured American landmark, are under threat. The consumer electronics maker LG Electronics USA is preparing to construct a towering headquarters building along the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge, breaking the natural sweep of parkland and scenic vistas.

The project would set an unfortunate precedent for the construction of more high-rises along the ancient cliffs. But despite mounting public concern, this global manufacturer of TVs and appliances has refused to consider alternative designs that would preserve the historic setting.

The cliffs of the Palisades, which rise up from the Hudson as high as 500 feet, were formed 200 million years ago from molten rock fed by volcanic eruptions. More than a century ago, in the face of threats from builders and rock quarries, the states of New Jersey and New York created the Palisades Interstate Park to protect the scenic beauty of these ramparts.

Later, land atop the cliffs, extending 12 miles upriver in New Jersey from the George Washington Bridge, was also protected as parkland, a critical addition because protecting the cliffs alone was not enough. Despite the growth along the Palisades, none of the park's residential, commercial or industrial neighbors has built above the tree line.

As former governors of New Jersey, we fully recognize the importance of economic development. But we also strongly believe that there is a way for LG to have all of its desired office space and new jobs while protecting the Palisades. The company can achieve those goals by choosing a low-rise design for its 27-acre tract and building within a 35-foot height limit respected for decades by all other companies next to the park.

We wrote last June to LG's vice chairman and chief executive officer, Bon-Joon Koo, to propose just such a "win-win" alternative. While we received no response from the company's world headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, the president of LG Electronics USA at the time, Wayne Park, replied that our concern was mistaken, as the building "would barely peak above the tree line." In fact, the 143-foot-tall building, to be built in Englewood Cliffs, which approved this zoning variation for its longtime corporate resident, would rise approximately 80 feet above a thin row of trees and be starkly visible from all directions, including the adjacent Palisades Parkway. Mr. Park also dismissed our low-rise proposal -- even though LG's own architect, Kenneth Drucker, acknowledged at a hearing in Englewood Cliffs that the company had enough space on its site to "take the entire building and put it on its side."

But rather than build horizontally, LG decided to build a tower because "they wanted to take advantage of the beauty of the site, the views of the site," he said.

In other words, LG would take for its own private benefit the Palisades' natural beauty and unspoiled views -- which belong to the public.

We're not alone in calling for LG to choose a low-rise design.

The mayors of six nearby communities recently wrote to top LG executives deploring the planned construction, especially since there is a "simple and obvious solution of dropping the height to the tree line."

The regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Judith A. Enck, has compared LG's plan "to building an office tower on the rim of the Grand Canyon."

And the director of the National Park Service, Jonathan B. Jarvis, recently wrote to the planning board in Englewood Cliffs that LG's plan "threatens the nationally significant, historic scenic integrity of the Palisades in a major way" and would "introduce a massive incompatible feature that will be visible for miles along the river."

With the future of the Palisades -- a pride of New Jersey, an interstate park and a celebrated national landmark -- at stake, we remain hopeful that LG will do the right thing and redesign the building. The solution is clear: Build out rather than up. Generate jobs and economic stimulus while conserving the area's scenic beauty.

The building can be redesigned. The Palisades and the Hudson River cannot.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The authors are former governors of New Jersey.

The Cloisters, the medieval annex of NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art, looks out on the Palisades from the Manhattan side of the Hudson.

Awhile back I did a walking tour of the Cloisters with that peerless tour leader Justin Ferate. (See my January 2013 post, "") The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Fort Tryon Park, the treasured park that sits atop the far-northern-Manhattan bank of the Hudson River. Naturally Justin took pains to make sure we understood the history of both the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park. As this Wikipedia entry (loads o' links onsite) explains, they were basically both gifts of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Jr.
The 66.5-acre (26.9 ha) Fort Tryon Park was created by the oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller beginning in 1917, when he purchased the Billings Estate and other properties in the Fort Washington area and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of one of the designers of Central Park, and the Olmsted Brothers firm to create a park, which he then donated to New York City in 1935. As part of the overall project, Rockefeller also bought the extensive medieval art collection of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and collector, who had already established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington, and gave it to the Metropolitan along with a number of pieces from Rockefeller's own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. These became the core of the collection now housed at the Cloisters.

The museum and adjacent gardens within Fort Tryon Park, which incorporate 4 acres (1.6 ha), were created through grants and endorwments from Rockefeller, and were built from 1934-39. Rockefeller also bought and donated several hundred acres of the New Jersey Palisades to the State of New Jersey on the other side of the Hudson River to preserve the view for the museum. This land is now part of the Palisades Interstate Park. [Boldface emphasis added.]

The museum was designed by Charles Collens who incorporated parts from five cloistered abbeys of Catalan, Occitan and French origins. Buildings from Sant Miquel de Cuixà, Sant Guilhèm dau Desèrt, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigòrra, and Froville were disassembled stone-by-stone and shipped to New York City, where they were reconstructed and integrated by Collens into a cohesive whole by simplifying and merging the various medieval styles in his new buildings.
As the Wikipedia entry also explains, old John D. also did everything in his power to secure for all time the precious view of those "ancient cliffs" of the Palisades, on the opposite bank of the Hudson. For an amazingly long time the public interest in preserving the skyscape of the Palisades has been understood by the people who matter in the states of both New York and New Jersey.

Until now, that is. (There had to be an "until now," right? Or why would be talking about it?)

As I reported in my January 2013 post, Larry Rockefeller, a great-grandson of John D. and grandson of John D. Jr. who served for 27 years on the Palisades Interstate Park Commissions and is now a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "explained that his grandfather had made clear that the 700 acres he donated atop that 13-mile stretch of the Palisades was meant to be preserved," pointing out that "there were conditions in that gift which made that very clear."
In a letter to the Palisades Interstate Park commissioners John D. Rockefeller Jr. wrote at the time, "My primary purpose in acquiring this property was to preserve the land lying along the top of the Palisades from any use inconsistent with your ownership and protection of the Palisades themselves." As Robin Pogrebin wrote then in the NYT:
The lawsuits filed to protect the view include a joint one filed in November by Scenic Hudson, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs. The other suit was filed by two Englewood Cliffs residents.

"My grandfather was not alone in appreciating it and acting to preserve it," Mr. Rockefeller said. "There is a public trust that has been there over the decades to keep buildings below the tree line and preserve the unbroken ridgeline and landscape landmark view, which may be one of the most iconic in America."


You may have noticed that the above NYT op-ed piece was authored by those four former governors of New Jersey, with no reference to any current governor of the state. That person's absence from the discussion struck me as, well, striking enough that I undertook a quick search for "palisades LG christie." I found things like these:

• "Letter Urges Governor Christie to Stop LG's Tower Plan ..."
• "New York Officials Call on Governor Christie to Stop LG ..."
• "LG supporters looking for Gov. Christie's help in fight over ..."
• "Former N.J. Governors Join Fight To Save Palisades From LG ..."
• "Bergen County executive and Englewood Cliffs mayor ask ..."

Strangely, however, I found no mention of the involvement of the current governor. Hardly definitive, of course, but highly suggestive. It would be unkind to suggest that where there are large chunks of money changing hands, NJ Fats is most likely to be found serving as traffic cop to ensure that enough of that money is finding its way into the pockets of the right friends and cronies. He does, after all, have a storied interest in certain kinds of traffic -- sometimes obstructing, and sometimes facilitating, depending on who's in the path of that traffic.

I know I'm open to the accusation of beating up on NJ Fats. That's OK -- I think I can live with it.

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