Daily Archive: 07/25/2014

Jul 25 2014

Andrew Cuomo’s Saturday Night Massacre

Last year, after the New York State legislature failed to pass campaign finance and a year riddled with corruption scandals, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo empaneled an “independent” commission to pursue misconduct among public officials and make recommendations to changes to the state’s election and campaign fund-raising laws. The 25 member Moreland Commission was created last July to restore public trust in government. But nine months later, Gov. Cuomo shut it down. The governor claimed that with “the passage of new tougher laws on bribery and  corruption, and improved enforcement of election law”, the commission was no longer needed.

That didn’t satisfy government watch dogs or some lawmakers. Nor did it satisfy Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose investigations had led to the commissions formation. According to the New York Times, Mr. Bharara contacted two of the commission’s three chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick and Milton L. Williams Jr. His suspicion was that Gov. Cuomo had shut down the commission for political expediency and because the commission’s investigation was getting to close to his office. It now appears that Mr. Bharara has really good instincts.

This week the New York Times broke with this extensive report:

Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission

With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

Despite Gov, Cuomo’s denial and protestations that it was his commission to dismiss, Mr Bharara is taking over where the commission’s investigations. The lengthy article is a must read.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow roasted Gov. Cuomo in an extended segment that included an interview with Thomas Kaplan one of the three authors who wrote the NYT’s article.

The governor’s travails also caught the attention of The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart

Gov. Cuomo’s Democratic Primary opponent Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout has called for the governor to resign should these allegations prove true.

Also complicating his headaches, Gov. Cuomo had some of the commission members sworn in as deputy state attorneys general by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that calls into question his assertions that he had a right to interfere with the commission. Quite similar to late President Richard M. Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre when he ordered the independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired after Mr. Cox issued subpoenas asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office and authorized by Nixon as evidence.

Gov. Cuomo does have a lot of questions to answer and so far his answers have fallen very short.

Jul 25 2014

The Death Penalty: When Do We End State Sponsored Barbarism?

In the barbaric custom of using secret drugs to execute prisoners, the state of Arizona botched another state sponsored murder taking nearly two hours for convicted murder Joseph R. Wood III to die.

In another unexpectedly prolonged execution using disputed lethal injection drugs, a condemned Arizona prisoner on Wednesday repeatedly gasped for one hour and 40 minutes, according to witnesses, before dying at an Arizona state prison.

At 1:52 p.m. Wednesday, one day after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution granted by a federal appeals court last Saturday, the execution of Joseph R. Wood III commenced.

But what would normally be a 10- to 15-minute procedure dragged on for nearly two hours, as Mr. Wood appeared repeatedly to gasp, according to witnesses including reporters and one of his federal defenders, Dale Baich. [..]

Arizona officials said they were using the same sedative that was used in Oklahoma, midazolam, together with a different second drug, hydromorphone, a combination that has been used previously in Ohio. Similar problems were reported in the execution in Ohio in January of Dennis McGuire, using the same two drugs. He reportedly gasped as the procedure took longer than expected.

Capital punishment by lethal injection has been thrown into turmoil as the supplies of traditionally used barbiturates have dried up, in part because companies are unwilling to manufacture and sell them for this purpose.

A court order was issued to preserve Mr. Wood’s body and anything that was used during the execution. The medical examiner was also ordered to take blood and tissue samples by 11 PM last night but he refused to comply with the deadline.

While Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has ordered the State Department of Corrections to review the execution, Mr. Wood’s attorneys have called for an independent inquiry:

“There has to be a thorough and independent review of what happened here and the Arizona execution protocol,” Dale Baich, a member of Wood’s legal team, told the Guardian.

Wood’s death reignites controversies about state secrecy and the suitability of drugs used to execute prisoners. It was the third time this year that a lethal injection procedure has gone wrong, following problems in Ohio and Oklahoma.  [..]

“We were concerned that the mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone had only been used in one prior execution and that did not turn out well, so we were very concerned about that and that’s why we asked as one of our requests: how did the state come up with the formula that it was using?” Baich said.

This is an experiment by people who have no clue about what they are doing and is barbaric. It just needs to stop.

Jul 25 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Left Coast Rising

The states, Justice Brandeis famously pointed out, are the laboratories of democracy. And it’s still true. For example, one reason we knew or should have known that Obamacare was workable was the post-2006 success of Romneycare in Massachusetts. More recently, Kansas went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent in the belief that this would spark a huge boom; the boom didn’t happen, but the budget deficit exploded, offering an object lesson to those willing to learn from experience.

And there’s an even bigger if less drastic experiment under way in the opposite direction. California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Peter van Buren: Dead Is Dead: Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner. [..]

We have fallen from a high place. Dark things have been done. Imagine, pre-9/11, the uproar if we had learned that the first President Bush had directed the NSA to sweep up all America’s communications without warrant, or if Bill Clinton had created a secret framework to kill American citizens without trial. Yet such actions over the course of two administrations are now accepted as almost routine, and entangled in platitudes falsely framing the debate as one between “security” and “freedom.” I suspect that, if they could bring themselves to a moment of genuine honesty, the government officials involved in creating Post-Constitutional America would say that they really never imagined it would be so easy.

In one sense, America the Homeland has become the most significant battleground in the war on terror. No, not in the numbers of those killed or maimed, but in the broad totality of what has been lost to us for no gain. It is worth remembering that, in pre-Constitutional America, a powerful executive — the king — ruled with indifference to the people. With the Constitution, we became a nation, in spirit if not always in practice, based on a common set of values, our Bill of Rights. When you take that away, we here in Post-Constitutional America are just a trailer park of strangers.

Sam Malloy: Paul Ryan’s “insult” strategy: Why his anti-poverty contract is so grotesque

The good news in Paul Ryan’s newly released anti-poverty proposal is that, for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, Ryan is not advocating the wholesale destruction of the social safety net. His past budgets – including the most recent – have envisioned catastrophic cuts to social programs all in the service of boosting military spending and alleviating the tax burden on the wealthy. At least for now, he’s transitioned from “destroy the safety net” to “grudgingly accept its continued existence.” So hooray for progress!

The bad news is that Paul Ryan’s view of that safety net is still largely detached from reality. Also, his approach to curing poverty seems to be to treat the poor in as paternalistic and insulting a way as possible by proposing that they sign “contracts” to remain eligible for public assistance.

For real. “Contracts.” Under Ryan’s proposal, all the funding for a dozen or so federal poverty programs, like SNAP and housing assistance, would be consolidated into a single grant for the states – an “opportunity grant,” as Ryan calls it, in a fairly obvious message-tested attempt to move away from the term “block grant.” The organizations within the states tasked with dispensing benefits would “work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty.” One of the requirements under this scenario is “a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success,” complete with “sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract.”

Sanctions! Under the Paul Ryan poverty plan, the poor = Iran.

Heather Digby Parton: Texas gun nuts’ scary ritual: How hatred of a president turned profane

Three weeks before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a concerned citizen from Dallas named Mrs. Nelle M. Doyle wrote a letter to White House press secretary Pierre Salinger. She was worried about the president’s visit. [..]

Unfortunately, her prediction wasn’t alarmist enough as it turned out. [..]

So why bring this up today? That was a long time ago and we’ve moved on from those days, right?  The John Birch Society is a relic of another time.  Anti-communism is still a rallying cry on the right, but without the Soviet threat, it’s lost much of its power.

Unfortunately, the venom, the incoherent conspiracy-mongering, the visceral loathing still exist.  In fact, in one of the most obliviously obtuse acts of sacrilege imaginable, Dealey Plaza is now the regular site of open-carry demonstrations.  That’s right, a group of looney gun proliferation activists meet regularly on the site of one of the most notorious acts of gun violence in the nation’s history to spout right-wing conspiracy theories about the president while ostentatiously waving around deadly weapons.

Micheal Winship: Deep in the Tell-Tale Heart of the Texas GOP

Imagine the official presentation of a worldview concocted by conspiracy theorists and an assortment of cranks and grumpy people. Conjure a document written by scribes possessed of poison pens soaked in the inkpots of Ayn Rand and the Brothers Grimm, caught in the grip of a dark dystopian fantasy of dragons and specters, in which everyone’s wrong but thee and me and we’re not sure of thee.

No, this is not some Game of Thrones spinoff. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the official 2014 platform of the Republican Party of Texas, 40 pages of unrestrained, right-wing bluster against you name it — women, minorities, immigrants, Muslims, gays, Obamacare, the Internal Revenue Service, red light cameras, the EPA, the World Bank, vaccinations — well, you get the picture. In the spirit of the Alamo, this is a work straight out of the 19th century with no option for surrender.

David Sirota: Comcast’s worst nightmare: How Tennessee could save America’s Internet

Chattanooga’s public electric utility offers residents lightning-quick connections — much to big telecoms’ dismay

The business lobby often demands that government get out of the way of private corporations, so that competition can flourish and high-quality services can be efficiently delivered to as many consumers as possible. Yet, in an epic fight over telecommunications policy, the paradigm is now being flipped on its head, with corporate forces demanding the government squelch competition and halt the expansion of those high-quality services. Whether and how federal officials act may ultimately shape the future of America’s information economy.

The front line in this fight is Chattanooga, Tennessee, where officials at the city’s public electric utility, EPB, realized that smart-grid energy infrastructure could also provide consumers super-fast Internet speeds at competitive prices. [..]

For EPB, the good news is that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has repeatedly pledged that in the name of competition and broadband access, he will support preempting state laws like Tennessee’s. However, in a capital run by money, EPB may still be politically overpowered. After all, as a community-owned utility in a midsized city, EPB does not have the lobbyists and campaign cash to match those of behemoths like Comcast and AT&T. What the utility does have is a solid track record and a pro-consumer, pro-competition argument.

The question is: Will that be enough to prevent Wheeler from backing down or being blocked by Congress? The future of the Internet may be at stake in the answer.

Jul 25 2014

The Breakfast Club: 7-25-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jul 25 2014

When you’ve lost Tom Ricks…

Why Am I Moving Left?

By THOMAS E. RICKS, Politico

July 23, 2014

In my late 50s, at a time of life when most people are supposed to be drifting into a cautious conservatism, I am surprised to find myself moving steadily leftward.



I wonder whether others of my generation are similarly pausing, poking up their heads from their workplaces and wondering just what happened to this country over the last 15 years, and what do to about it.

The things that are pushed me leftward began with the experience of closely watching our national security establishment for decades. But they don’t end there. They are, in roughly chronological order:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks. I thought that invading Afghanistan was the right response to the 9/11 attacks, but I never expected the U.S. military leadership would be so inept in fighting there and in Iraq, running the wars in ways that made more enemies than were stopped. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, not only launched on false premises but also strategically foolish in that ultimately it has increased Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century.



How we fought. I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war.



Intelligence officials run amok. I think that American intelligence officials have shown a contempt for the way our democracy is supposed to work in turning a vast and unaccountable apparatus on the citizens it is supposed to be protecting.



Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties. Apparently income redistribution downward is dangerously radical, but redistribution upward is just business as usual. The middle class used at least to get lip service from the rich-“backbone of the country” and such. Now it is often treated like a bunch of saps not aware enough to evade their taxes.

Jul 25 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 19, Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour / Bergerac

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

And so we are virtually done except for the Youth competition and some podium positions that have yet to be decided.  Vincenzo Nibali’s first place finish on the slopes of Montée du Hautacam has created an insurmountable lead that will not change in the 2 days of actual racing left.

After about 2 km of climbing Nibali took the stage lead from Mikel Nieve who had led an early breakaway and after that it was mere jockying for position among the back markers.  Rafal Majka had the most to lose because if he finished worse than 6th Nibali would also grab the King of the Mountains title.  Thibaut Pinot, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and Tejay Van Garderen were looking for advantage headed into Saturday’s Time Trial.

On the stage it was  Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot (1:10), Rafal Majka (1:12), Jean-Christophe Péraud and Tejay Van Garderen tied at 1:15, Romain Bardet (1:53), Bauke Mollema and Leopold Konig tied at 1:57, and Haimar Zubeldia Agirre, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, and Laurens Ten Dam tied at 1:59.  Everyone else was over 3 and a half minutes behind.

In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot (7:10), Jean-Christophe Péraud (7:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (7:25), and Romain Bardet (9:27).  Everyone else is over 11 and a half minutes behind.  Unless there are notable external developments (crash, injury, sickness) the last stages will be a contest between Pinot, Péraud, and Valverde BelMonte for 2nd and 3rd positions.

For Points it is Peter Sagan (408), Bryan Coquard (253), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Vincenzo Nibali (169), Mark Renshaw (153), Greg Van Avermaet (147), and André Greipel (143).  Everyone else is 38 points behind.  Sagan has enough points to win without needing any more so this category is a duel between Coquard and Kristoff over who finishes 2nd and who finishes 3rd.

With only one Category 4 climb left King of the Mountains is decided.  There are not enough points left to change the results.  It is Rafal Majka (181), Vincenzo Nibali (168), and Joaquim Rodriguez (112).  Everyone else is 23 points behind.

In Team competition it is theoretically possible (but highly unlikely) for Belkin (28:33) to pass AG2R for the win.  Otherwise it is a contest for 3rd with the top contenders being Movistar (1:05:47) and BMC (1:12:25), and Europcar (1:26:50), Sky (1:32:46), and Astana (1:39:06) having a very slim chance indeed.  Everyone else is over 2 hours behind.

For the Young Rider Classification it’s still a 2 way race between Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet (2:17).  Michal Kwiatkowski (1:01:45) is a pretty sure 3rd since he has a 38 minute margin over Tom Dumoulin (1:40:19).

Today’s 129 and 2/3rds mile stage between Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour and Bergerac compared to the 3 Pyrenees stages is almost completely flat though there is a little Category 4 bump, Côte de Monbazillac, at the end which will give the riders a final descent boost.  It’s mostly a rolling rest day before tomorrow’s final Time Trial, but you might see some action from Pinot and Bardet (Young Rider still very much in contention), Coquard and Kristoff (for 2nd and 3rd in Points, the Sprint Checkpoint is 130.5 km in), and otherwise people who need to win a stage for pride as much as anything else.  Nibali should find it easy enough to maintain his margin going into the Time Trial and only disaster or idiocy will prevent him from doing that.

Jul 25 2014

On This Day In History July 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 25 is the 206th day of the year (207th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 159 days remaining until the end of the year.

 

On this day in 1788, Wolfgang Mozart completes his Symphony No. 40 in G minor.

The question of the Symphony’s premiere

There is no completely solid documentary evidence that the premiere of the 40th Symphony took place in Mozart’s lifetime. However, as Zaslaw (1983) points out, the circumstantial evidence that it was performed is very strong. On several occasions between the composition of the symphony and the composer’s death, symphony concerts were given featuring Mozart’s music, including concerts in which the program has survived, including a symphony, unidentified by date or key.

Most important is the fact that Mozart revised his symphony (the manuscripts of both versions still exist). As Zaslaw says, this “demonstrates that [the symphony] was performed, for Mozart would hardly have gone to the trouble of adding the clarinets and rewriting the flutes and oboes to accommodate them, had he not had a specific performance in view.” The orchestra for the 1791 Vienna concert included the clarinetist brothers Anton and Johann Stadler; which, as Zaslaw points out, limits the possibilities to just the 39th and 40th symphonies.

Zaslaw adds: “The version without clarinets must also have been performed, for the reorchestrated version of two passages in the slow movement, which exists in Mozart’s hand, must have resulted from his having heard the work and discovered an aspect needing improvement.”

Concerning the concerts for which the Symphony was originally (1788) intended, Otto Erich Deutsch suggests that Mozart was preparing to hold a series of three “Concerts in the Casino”, in a new casino in the Spiegelgasse owned by Philipp Otto. Mozart even sent a pair of tickets for this series to his friend Michael Puchberg. But it seems impossible to determine whether the concert series was held, or was cancelled for lack of interest. Zaslaw suggests that only the first of the three concerts was actually held.

Jul 25 2014

TDS/TCR (Driving Around Milford)

TDS TCR

Professional Courtesy

Being Rich Doesn’t Make You Smart

For next week’s guests and the real news join me below.

Jul 25 2014

Big Al. Really?

Well here it is, GBCW

http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

My comment:

So many Voices are so tired of the Barbara Streisand that goes on here and so many have been silenced or left.  We are a diminished community for each and every one.

I will truly miss you bro…

Of  course Raptivo just had to post the “Well..Bye” vid.  What a dick.

Oops. Sorry is that DBAD?  I don’t care.  He’s a dick.