12/30/2014 archive

John Oliver: New Year’s Eve

In a New Year’s Eve message, Jon Oliver pops in with a youtube “greeting,” explaining why New Year’s is the worst and how to get our of any party you may have the misfortune to have been invited.

Happy New Year from all of us at The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma.

The End of the Grimm Affair

Finally accepting his untenable position to remain in office, tough guy, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY11) has decided to resign his House seat sparing the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn the embarrassment of having a convicted felon representing them. Mr. Grimm spoke yesterday with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) who obviously laid out the grim options (pardon the pun).

House rules dictate that a member convicted of a crime for which a prison sentence of two years or more may be imposed should not participate in committee meetings or vote on the floor until winning re-election. The stricture could have left Mr. Grimm’s 11th district effectively disenfranchised until 2016.

After sources leaked the news of the resignation to The New York Daily News early Monday, Mr. Grimm released a statement at midnight that he had changed his mind and would not stay in Congress, stating that he would resign on January 5th.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will set a date for a special election.

The judge should throw the book at him for deceiving the voters and using his office as a bargaining chip for a lighter sentence, as expalained by Blake Zeff at Salon:

It will take some time, specifically until the announcement of his criminal sentence, to fully appreciate the snow job Michael Grimm just pulled on Staten Island voters. But we already know plenty enough to call it a criminal’s virtuoso parting heist.

Grimm, you’ll recall, ran for reelection last month as a two-term GOP incumbent in socially conservative Staten Island, with a 20-count indictment on his back. The charges, largely misunderstood by the voters (and media, for that matter), essentially amounted to this: He ran a restaurant some years back, and in an effort to skirt payroll taxes, paid workers under the table and submitted a fake payroll to the feds. He was then caught lying about it when a “real” payroll was discovered by prosecutors in his computer records.

This last part is important because it tells you what Grimm knew: he had lied to federal officers (a crime that never gets ignored), and they had the goods on him. In other words, he was very likely going to prison – and he knew it. [..]

The congressman was clearly never going to serve out his term, nor would he take his case to trial, as he had assured voters.

But he had a very good reason to convince voters otherwise.

If you’re headed to prison but want to cop a deal with the feds, you need a chip you can bargain in exchange for a lighter sentence. And for a politician, there are few chips more valuable than a seat you can resign. If Grimm lost his race last November, he’d have been a disgraced former congressman with no seat to give up and, likely, real prison time. If he won, he’d have the golden House seat to drop in exchange for – he hoped – leniency.

It is the NYT article best sums up the end of this sad affair:

Whoever takes Mr. Grimm’s seat will be unlikely to match his track record as a source of national fascination, or satire. A tough-talking politician with a clenched jaw and an intense stare, a fondness for dark-tailored suits and Brooklyn wine bars, Mr. Grimm brought with him a reputation for controversy, including the time – back in his law enforcement days – when he reportedly waved a gun around a Queens nightclub. He carried himself with a bravado that was on display until the end.

Mr. Grimm knew this was coming when he was indicted for tax evasion last April. Instead of admitting it then and withdrawing from the race, he decided to arrogantly stand his ground and lie about his guilt, bringing unwanted attention to Staten Island and, now, costing NY tax payers millions for a special election. Never mind the money that his supporters donated to his campaign, they should have seen the handwriting on the wall. The IRS and FBI do not bring these charges unless they can win. Remember Al Capone?

But too many Staten Island voters still love the tough guy image and swagger, hopefully this time they will make a better choice.

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Resolutions

It’s that time again! You know, I never used to make any New Year’s resolutions, I thought they were stupid. Now I love ’em. I make a big list every year. Oh, I still think they’re stupid, but it amuses the hell out of me, so here goes.

1. I’m really going to try to stop being a one hit wonder with my projects. I know how to make a lot of stuff, and I’ll make one of something. It will turn out great, I’ll be happy as all hell with it. Then I’ll start another one….um, I don’t finish. Or, I have the stuff to make more, but I don’t. What is wrong with me? I need to stop the madness.

2. People like to resolve to eat healthier, lol! I already do eat pretty healthy, seriously, I do. Not that it helps much. I tell myself–look, think of how much worse things could be if you ate junk constantly. Yeah, that shit is cold comfort, but I say it anyway. But, being one who tries not to eat much processed food or simple carbs, I’ve tried some things, and this year I will not be eating any quinoa. Yes, I’ve rinsed, I’ve swirled, I’ve done all of that stuff, and still–blech! Quinoa, on my “fuck that” list.

3. Several years back I resolved to stop hogging the Sunday crossword. Care to know how that turned out for me? I get the leavings, the answers Cleetus does not know, okay–fine. But… now the man has begun to encroach upon my crostic! Give them an inch, man. My only satisfaction there comes when he messes up, which he does at least once a week. Once he puts a wrong letter in, he’s sunk. He cannot backtrack and fix it. I’m down to the hard crossword clues and fixing crostics gone wrong. This year all bets are off. I’m taking back some puzzle, damn it.

4. This year I resolve to reduce the stress. I know what you’re thinking, my situation is quite stressful, and no, that’s not going to change. But–I’ve told the various crazymakers around here they better start letting the little shit go. Oh, I know, poor babies, they’re irritated, boo-fucking-hoo, shut up. I am not the receiver of the grievances.

5. Finally, I resolve to waste more time this coming year. I’m going to waste it playing with my kids, watching movies with Cleetus, playing poker on Saturday nights, making art, doing crafts, reading about things that interest me, and just whatever strikes my fancy. See, the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. That’s a quote generally attributed to either Bertrand Russell or John Lennon, when it was actually neither of them who was the responsible party. The phrase first appeared in a book by Marthe Troly-Curtin and then was reprinted without attribution in various newspapers as a thought for the day. I won’t waste time being miserable. That’s truly a waste.

Life is short, and while I don’t have much, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy as much of it as possible, and I plan to.

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

New York Times Editorial: Police Respect Squandered in Attacks on de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent weeks expressing his respect and admiration for the New York Police Department, while calling for unity in these difficult days, but the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in. [..]

The New York Police Department is going through a terrible time, and the assassinations of those officers only underscore the dreadful dangers that rank-and-file cops face every day. And, in truth, there is some thanklessness to being a cop. Officers often feel beleaguered, jerked around by supervisors and politicians, obligated to follow rules and policies that can be misguided, held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not, exposed to frequent ridicule and hostility from the people they are sworn to serve. It has always been that way with cops.

But none of those grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood that seems to be motivating the anti-de Blasio campaign – the belief that the department is never wrong, that it never needs redirection or reform, only reverence. This is the view peddled by union officials like Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association – that cops are an ethically impeccable force with their own priorities and codes of behavior, accountable only to themselves, and whose reflexive defiance in the face of valid criticism is somehow normal.

It’s not normal. Not for a professional class of highly trained civil servants, which New York’s Finest profess to be. The police can rightly expect, even insist upon, the respect of the public. But respect is a finite resource. It cannot be wasted. Sometimes it has to be renewed.

Peter Dreier: Focus on the NRA, Not Mayor de Blasio, for Deaths of NYC Cops

In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani urged current Mayor Bill de Blasio to apologize to the New York Police Department for “[giving] the police the impression that he’s on the other side” – in other words, that he’s siding with the protesters over law enforcement during recent protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.   Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has been grabbing headlines by blaming de Blasio for creating an anti-police atmosphere that may have encouraged Brinsley to target the two police officers, gunned down while they sat in their squad car outside a Brooklyn housing project. Some NYPD officers even turned their backs on de Blasio during  Ramos’ funeral on Saturday. [..]

If Giuliani and Lynch want to point the finger of blame for policies that put police in harm’s way, they should focus on the NRA, not de Blasio.  For decades, the NRA has fought every effort to get Congress and states to adopt reasonable laws that would make it much less likely that people like Brinsley would be able to obtain a gun.  The NRA even  defends the right of Americans to carry concealed weapons in bars, churches, schools, universities, and elsewhere.  This poses a huge threat to police and civilians alike. [..]

Every American grieves for the families and friends of the two police officers killed in New York City on December 20.  But until we tame the power of the NRA, we can expect more killings like this – a part of the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry gun-toting people whose “freedom” to own weapons of mass destruction the NRA defends.

David Cay Johnston: The success of Obamanomics

What’s not to like about the economic record of this president?

By a host of measures, the U.S. economy has done exceptionally well under President Barack Obama. So why does he receive such poor approval ratings, especially from the most prosperous and economically conservative Americans? [..]

So what’s not to like about the economic record of this president?

What most people know is that they are working hard and getting nowhere and that even if they perform well, their jobs can evaporate in an instant.

Median household income was $59,139 last year, about $4,500 below 2007 but up all of $189 from 2012. As I showed in a previous column, the median wage last year was at its lowest level since 1998, and the average wage remains below its 2007 peak.

Therein lies a key to understanding dissatisfaction with Obama’s economic policies.  While about 10 million jobs have been added since the low point a year into his first term, wages have stagnated. [..]

Had congressional Republicans cooperated with the president, our economy would be larger by 3 percent, or about $529 billion, the St. Louis Federal Reserve and other researchers estimate. Unrealized economic output is a terrible waste, especially when it results from petty political animus.

Now that the economy is expanding at the fastest rate we’ve seen in more than a decade, public perception about Obama’s economic policies is beginning to improve. But whatever Americans ultimately conclude about Obama, they should view his economic policies in a light that balances his broad successes and failures with the declared determination of Republican congressional leaders to oppose Obama’s policies at all costs.

David Dayen: The Super Bowl doesn’t need terrorism insurance. Here’s why

In its final week, the 113th US Congress managed to pass a spending bill loaded with policy giveaways to special interests, and a year-long extension of mostly corporate tax breaks.

But they couldn’t finish off the lobbyist Triple Crown. There was one task Congress couldn’t tackle: approve an extension of the Terrorist Risk Insurance Act, known as TRIA. The bill provides lucrative government bailout protection for the insurance industry in case of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or, as Hollywood has feared, retribution for American entertainment choices by North Korea. [..]

But perhaps the expiration of TRIA can shed some light on its necessity.

Supporters claim new real estate development will collapse without affordable terrorism coverage; let’s see if that’s the case. They argue that the economy will suffer; we can certainly find out. They claim that no other solution but a government guarantee exists; we can test that theory.

In fact, we already have some evidence that the industry caterwauling is overblown: the NFL has said they will not need to cancel the Super Bowl in the wake of the failure to pass TRIA, despite news reports to that effect.

Congress rarely gets the chance to run a natural experiment on whether the policies they enact make sense in the real world. The bungling of TRIA provides that opportunity. It’s up to them whether or not they seize it.

John Nichols: Bill de Blasio Is Not the First New York City Mayor to Clash With Police Unions

The leaflet was meant to highlight anger on the part of police officers with the mayor of New York. It encouraged officers to fill their names in on a document that read, “I, . . ., a New York City police officer, want all of my family and brother officers who read this to know [that] in the event of my death [the mayor and his police commissioner should] be denied attendance of any memorial service in my honor as their attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory.”

That’s how deep the divisions ran.

Yes, “ran.”

The leaflet mentioned above was distributed in 1997. The mayor in question was Rudolph Giuliani, and The New York Times reported on rank-and-file members of the powerful Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association urging fellow officers to sign the documents. Though the union did not officially sanction the jab at the mayor, its circulation among officers “demonstrates the depths of their discontent,” reported the Times in an article on a contract dispute in which Giuliani was taking a hard line against pay increases. [..]

In his eulogy for Officer Ramos, Mayor de Blasio preached a gospel of reconciliation that sought to reduce the current animosity, describing how police officers “help make a place that otherwise would be torn with strife a place of peace.” The mayoral olive branch was not accepted Saturday, just as previous efforts by previous mayors to ease tensions with the PBA have hit rough spots. This is a part of the story of big-city policing and politics. But it is not the whole story. The whole story tells us that it is possible for a strong mayor to get through hard times that include clashes with a strong police union, to propose and implement reforms that the mayor, many police officers and most citizens know to be necessary, and to survive politically. This is the historical reality, as opposed to the media-frenzy spin of the moment. And it is this reality that Mayor de Blasio would do well to keep in mind through the weeks and months to come.

Eugene Robinson: Economic Facts Get in the Way of Presidential Ambitions

Uh-oh. Now that the economy is doing well, what are Republicans-especially those running for president-going to complain about? And what are Democrats willing to celebrate?

Last week’s announcement that the economy grew at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter of 2014-following 4.6 percent second-quarter growth-was the clearest and least debatable indication to date that sustained recovery is no longer a promise, it’s a fact. [..]

GOP candidates face a dilemma. To win in the primaries, where the influence of the far-right activist base is magnified, it may be necessary to continue the give-no-quarter attacks on Obama’s record, regardless of what the facts might say. But in the general election, against a capable Democratic candidate-someone like Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run-pretending that up is down won’t cut it. [..]

Likewise, Elizabeth Warren charges that the administration’s coziness with Wall Street helps ensure that the deck remains stacked against the middle class. Warren says she isn’t running for president but wants to influence the debate. She has. Clinton’s speeches have begun sounding more populist, in spite of her long-standing Wall Street ties.

You know the old saying about how there’s no arguing with success? Our politicians are about to prove it wrong.

The Breakfast Club (A Toast to Innocence)

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. 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.

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This Day in History

Saddam Hussein is executed; Fire in Chicago kills 600 people; Vladimir Lenin proclaims the establishment of the Soviet Union; The United Auto Workers union stage their first “sit-down” strike; Musician Bo Diddley is born.

Breakfast Tunes

On This Day In History December 30

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.

December 30 is the 364th day of the year (365th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There is one day remaining until the end of the year.

Today history was made in in Parson’s Kansas where the last roll of Kodachrome was processed at Dwayne’s Photo Shop, the only Kodak certified processor of Kodachrome film in the world as of 2010. The final roll of 36-frame Kodachrome to be manufactured was tracked by National Geographic; it was shot by photographer Steve McCurry.

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas By A. G. Sulzberger

PARSONS, Kan. – An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

A Color-Saturated Sun Sets on Kodachrome

I have fond memories of my 35mm Yashika and Canon cameras.