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Really at this point, the idea of New York Governor David Patterson suspending his campaign should be anything but news.  I mean, for the last few weeks the New York Times has been beating on him like he owed them money, with the news that he helped to suppress a sexual assault beef with one of his top aides just being the most egregious of the revelations.  However, somehow this is news because, well, it’s David Patterson, and he doesn’t seem to live in a world that is ruled by the same laws of reality that the rest of us are.

While there never was the one big bombshell that the times had promised (I was expecting nothing short of drugs, dead hookers, embezzled campaign funds, and maybe a male mistress), the cumulative damage ultimately proved to be more than enough to finally bring the Governor’s reelection campaign screeching to a halt.   Although, it is worth noting that there are those in political world and the media who are calling for a little more drastic action than just that and actually resigning before his term expires.  However, all indicators would point to the Governor serving out the remainder of his term and not seeking reelection.

The following comes from today’s New York Times article on the matter;

Mr. Paterson is expected to make the announcement Friday afternoon. It would end his campaign less than a week after it officially began, with an angry speech at Hofstra University on Long Island.

As he prepared for the announcement, some newspaper editorial writers were demanding something more than an end to his campaign: they were calling for his resignation. That only added to the increasing sense that it would be nearly impossible for him to run the state and the campaign with the abuse case in the background.

Even though I don’t doubt that the thread on the Governor’s abuses of power will continue to be pulled in coming months, it looks like a bizarre chapter in New York’s political history is going to soon be drawing to a close.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, everything that we thought Patterson was going to say has been said.  As expected, he vowed to finish his term.

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Over at CNN it has been projected that Republican Senator Scott Brown has won the election for the seat previously held by Ted Kennedy.  While there are some surefire implications of this change in seating (most notably for the President’s Health Care agenda), there are some things that you can be sure to expect to hear. Republicans are going to tell you that this upset is reflective of the country’s indictment of Democrat’s failures. Democrats will tell you that it’s a disappointment, but ultimately no big deal.  The major news media outlets will either tell you that this is a ray of light beaming down on America, or that the sky is falling (depending on what your outlet of choice is).  Finally, Lucifer in the disguise of Matt Drudge will gloat and come up with some childish and obnoxious headline that is supposed to pass for conservative wit.

Brown’s victory made real the once unthinkable prospect of a Republican filling the seat held by Kennedy, known as the liberal lion, for almost 47 years until his death from brain cancer in August.

Voters across Massachusetts braved winter cold and snow for an election with high stakes — the domestic agenda of President Obama, including his priority of health care reform.

Brown’s victory strips Democrats of the 60-seat Senate supermajority needed to overcome GOP filibusters against future Senate action on a broad range of White House priorities. Senate Democrats needed all 60 votes in their caucus to pass the health care bill, and the loss of one seat imperils generating that support again for a compromise measure worked out with the House.

Now, am I disappointed that Teddy Kennedy’s seat has been taken by a Republican?  Of course.  Do I think it’s a blow that the Democrats have lost their magic 60 in the Senate?  Absolutely.  Do I think that Massachusetts voters have made a mistake?  Of course.  But make no mistake, this isn’t the end of the world.  Health care reform was tricky with 60 and it will be even more so with 59, but that doesn’t make it impossible.  Additionally, as much as I don’t like the fact that the seat tipped toward the Republicans, I still think it’s way to early to attribute this upset to any real national trend to the right, we just don’t have the data to support that thesis.  Basically, at this point I am taking my political lumps and hoping for the best.

I was watching Rachel Maddow a little earlier this evening and did think it was interesting when she pointed out Massachusetts’ poor record when it comes to supporting female candidates for major elected offices.  I’m not sure that had a whole ton to do with the vote in Massachusetts tonight, but it is interesting to ponder where exactly somebody like Martha Coakley fits in post-Obama America, and how much has really changed in the eyes of voters.  Frankly, I’m unsure what makes me more uncomfortable, that voters dismissed Coakley because she was a woman, or that they actually understood and preferred Brown’s ideas. Distressing stuff either way, but as they say, the sun will come out tomorrow.

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Some Words On Haiti

I haven’t posted about the situation in Haiti yet.  This is mostly due to the fact that it’s so unbelievably staggering, that I just have had absolutely no idea what it is that I could say.  The death toll is astronomical, the country is in a state of near-chaos, and so far the global community has been unable to provide the kind of aid that is needed.  In short, it is one of the single worst disasters that has occurred in my lifetime, and in the aftermath is a nation that is teetering on the edge.

I am not on the ground in Haiti.  I have never been to Haiti.  I cannot paint an accurate picture of what is going on in the country right now, or what needs to be done.  This being the case, here is the picture as painted by some sources with much more authority and expertise than I would ever claim to have.

From The Los Angeles Times:

For residents, the shortages of food, water and fuel carried the prospect of increased hardship in a nation with a volatile history. Chaotic lines formed at gas stations, though it was unclear whether any gasoline would be pumped. Those with enough fuel created a noisy traffic jam on one main boulevard heading out of the capital.

People scavenged for water, carrying empty canisters in the street.

One elderly man, who wanted to be identified by only his first name, Milton, said Haitians were hoping that U.S. Marines, who have been deployed during times of political upheaval, would come again.

“When the U.S. occupation is good and big, it creates work, builds roads, helps people,” he said. Not only that, Milton added, Marines tended to toss the remains of their meals into the city’s omnipresent mountains of garbage.

From The New York Times:

For rescuers and those buried, every hour that passed was the enemy.

“The time window is ever shrinking,” said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Residents interviewed through the city said that the cries that they heard emanating from many collapsed buildings in the initial hours after the quake had begun to soften, if not quiet completely.

“There’s no more life here,” said a grandmother Thursday, who nonetheless rapped a broom against concrete in hopes that her four missing relatives believed to be buried inside might somehow respond.

From CNN:

“If help doesn’t come quickly, it probably will [get worse],” Agnes Pierre-Louis, manager of her family-owned hotel, the Le Plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince. “We’re not hearing anything from the government. We’re not seeing any foreign aid yet.”

But Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said forces have not “seen a great deal of insecurity.” The priority now, he said, is cranking up rescue and relief efforts to stave off restiveness.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed that sentiment, saying that “other than some scavenging and minor looting, our understanding is the security situation is pretty good.”

“The key is to get the food and the water in there as quickly as possible so that people don’t, in their desperation, turn to violence or lead to the security situation deteriorating.”

From MSNBC:

The situation is especially dire for children, who make up an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of the Port-au-Prince population. They’re smaller and more vulnerable to injury than adults, but they also suffer faster from dehydration, blood loss and shock. Their immature immune systems also make it harder to fight back against illness and infection than adults, health experts said.

In the meantime, medical teams on the ground will continue to grapple with the aftermath of early triage, which postponed treatment for those whose injuries may have been serious, but not life-threatening.

Victims with arm or leg fractures, for instance, wouldn’t have been a top priority, Cummings said. But the untended wounded remain ripe for infections and shock and they’re more vulnerable to other illness.

It’s a no-win choice for health workers who have to make hard decisions about who gets care — and who doesn’t.

From the BBC:

Most of the bodies are covered in white bed sheets or rolled inside carpets, but others have been left exposed to the hot sun and the stench of rotting bodies has begun to fill the air.

Families who are desperately searching for their loved ones are gingerly uncovering the sheets that cover the corpses in the hope they can at least identify family members.

But even if bodies are identified there is nowhere for them to be laid to rest.

Mass graves are now appearing across the city.

The mood for the past 24 hours has been one of patience and solidarity, but there is now a sense of anger and frustration that could change the atmosphere here drastically.

From The Washington Post:

All day Thursday, it was mainly the people of this shattered city, working with bare hands and simple tools, who clawed at the rubble and pulled at slabs of concrete and blocks of debris to get at those still trapped.

The dead and injured were pushed through the streets in wheelbarrows. At the overwhelmed central hospital, anguished patients lay in a weedy parking lot on gurneys fashioned from wooden doors. Calls for help went unanswered, and no doctors were in sight.

Refugees in tent cities sang hymns far into the night, and a chilling series of strong aftershocks shook awake those who were sleeping.

There were scant signs of help from the Haitian government, itself scattered by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday evening. The streets were filled with beleaguered residents milling about, left with no jobs, no instructions on what to do, and no place to buy food or to take the injured. Many said they felt totally alone and saw no evidence that relief was on the way, as their mournful pleas began to give way to anger.

Some very sobering stuff to so the very least.  As all of these words certainly indicate, the situation is dire, and immediate action is vital.  If you feel compelled to donate, which I would certainly urge you to do, here are some places that you can go to safely do so;  Unicef, Direct Relief International, Yele Haiti. There are countless other excellent organizations that are accepting donations, but I would caution you to make sure that they are legitimate before you donate.

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Jay Reatard: 1980-2010

Wow.  I don’t usually find myself too affected by celebrity deaths, but I have to admit that this is really bothering me.  The New York Times is reporting that garage rocker Jay Reatard was found dead in his home today at the age of 29.  I realize that I am just about the last person in the world to post on this, but I really felt like I had to get something up.  There was just something so vital about Reatard and his music that made him feel so very full of life, making it all the more strange to me that he should pass away in his sleep  (as is being reported).  For such a spirited and talented musician to pass away at such a young age is really tragic.  It’s one of those moments where I don’t have anything eloquent to say, as I don’t think that it would truly do the man justice.  Given what I have read and seen of Reatard, though, I think he would support this crude and base reaction; holy shit.  Below is a more fitting tribute than I can muster, Reatard’s video for “Ain’t Gonnna Save Me” (one of my favorite songs of 2009 off of one of my favorite albums) — music fans the world over will miss him.

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Anybody Hiring in 2010?

If the American workforce wasn’t already beaten-down and gun-shy, it’s looking like things are going to be even tougher at the beginning of the new year.  John Nichols over at The Nation reports that close to 85,000 jobs were lost in December, ten times what most analysts had been predicting, and he’s concerned that the folks in Washington aren’t paying these figures proper mind.  This is, at the very least, an extremely frightening prospect for the over four million unemployed Americans who lost their jobs in 2009.

So what gives?  As Nichols correctly points out that not only is lowering that unemployment rate good for the country, but it’s plain old good politics.  As voters find themselves without work, that will be the single largest driving factor behind what ballets they punch as they make their way towards voting booths in the coming months.  That alone should make jobs the most pressing issue for Democrats in the coming year;

Forget about the supposed accomplishments or failures of the administration and its “party-of-no” critics. The only accomplishment that could — or should — matter is a serious reduction in unemployment: a reduction that will only be achieved with new investments in infrastructure, a ramping up of green jobs initiatives, the creation of smarter incentives for hiring and retaining workers, and the abandonment of free-trade policies that cut U.S. manufacturing employment by more than half over the past decade.

No issue, no concern, is more likely to shift the sentiments of the electorate than mounting joblessness and economic instability. And there is no rhetorical flourish, no diversionary tactic, sufficient to win forgiveness from unemployment remains in double digits come election day – let alone if it is still rising.

Now, as much as I am inclined to agree with what Nichol suggests, I also do have to take issue with his singling out health care reform as being detrimental in that it’s the primary distraction for the President and the Democrats in Congress for not paying proper attention to the job market.  While I’m not quite prepared to suggest that health care is more important to the country than lowering the unemployment rate, I’m also less than eager to see it written off to coincide with voters whims.  The fact of the matter is that with Republicans and the insurance companies digging their heels into the dirt, the day may never arrive when it will be politically convenient to pursue substantial health care reform.  All that leaves Democrats with is the present, and many would suggest that the window is closing rapidly.

My own hand-wringing over health care aside, I’m also able to realize that what we’re examining here is not a zero sum game, and that greater attention could (and certainly should) be paid to the economy. Despite much of the media throwing up their hands in celebration at the supposed recovery that the country has experienced, people are still losing their jobs at alarming rates.  The only way that this is going to change is if the president and Congress make it a greater priority, and terrifying figures alone don’t seem to be enough to encourage that greater focus.  So if a little political strong arming is what it takes, then maybe that’s not the worse thing in the world.  I do know this though, as frustrating as it is to see the Democrats in Washington sitting on their proverbial hands, the image of Republicans lording over this recession once again is a far more harrowing for me to conjure.

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OK, welcome to 2010 everybody!  Sorry about the infrequency of posts lately, but I took the holidays off to an extent.  However, my millions (read: dozens) of readers can expect some return to normalcy now that the year is properly under way.

First on my plate of discussion for the new decade?  The aftermath of the botch terror attacks on Christmas Day.  People were upset and people were scared, and both were reasonable reactions.  But as the dust has settled, the fear and anger have given way to people trying to figure out who to blame.  In the days since the attack has occured, an Al Qaeda group in Yemen took responsability for the attack, and more importantly we have learned that the would be bomber, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, was actually on a watch list.  This is problematic because despite this, he was not on a no-fly list, which is why he was able to board a flight with an explosive device hidden in his underwear.

As you’ll find in this article on CNN, the President is putting on a face of outrage over the issue.  He admits that there were signs pointing to the fact that the man was dangerous, but that the pieces of the puzzle were not put properly together, and that such failures are unacceptable.  See the following;

U.S. intelligence had uncovered numerous “red flags” before the attack, Obama said at the White House, but failed to put the information together.

“The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the no-fly list,” Obama said.

“In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” the president said. “The information was there, agencies and analysts who needed it had access to it, and our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together.”

Obama said he could accept the imperfect nature of intelligence work, “but it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged,” he said, adding: “That’s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.”

Now, this is all well and good, the President should be fired up, it was a slip of monumental proportions.  In fact, were this not the king of all screw-ups, we would be instead talking about a whole bunch of groups Americans, and not a close call.  However, I can’t help but find this whole situation a bit reminiscent of reports that George W. Bush received about a certain Al Qaeda plot to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.  Believe me, that’s not a comparison that I want to make.  So why shouldn’t we say that this is Barack’s fault?  What makes this different from W’s dropping the ball?  Glad you asked, there are a couple of reasons.

The first factor is blind luck.  Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab couldn’t pull it off, so everybody on that plane, and yes, the President himself, got incredibly lucky.  We caught him and nobody was killed.  Like I said earlier, had that plane blown up or crashed, we would be having a very different conversation in this country.  Whether it’s fair or not, the fact that everybody is safe gives the President a bit of a pass when compared to the 2,000 people who died after the Bush oversight.

The second way in which President Obama can recover from this is by reacting in the right way.  Don’t bemoan the evil of our attackers, urinate on our civil rights, and then invade the wrong country.  Instead, President Obama needs to hold the proper people accountable and implement changes to our intelligence and security procedures.  The President may not be to blame for the lapses in intelligence, but the buck is ultimately going to stop with him, so he needs to get the response right.  So far he is saying the right things;

Obama said he ordered his national security team to complete preliminary reviews of the situation this week so that suggested reforms can be implemented right way.

“Time and again we’ve learned that quickly piecing together information and taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary,” Obama said. “So we have to do better, and we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line.”

Obama reiterated, however, his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda,” Obama said. “In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Something that I can gravitate to, in a positive way, is towards the end of that passage, where the President indicates that he has no intention of backing off his plans to close Guantanamo, because keeping it open would be morally wrong without making us any safer.  However, if I were advising him (and there’s no good reason that I would be) I would caution that swift action isn’t always effective action.  We have been trying to improve airport security for a long time, and have had limited success in doing so, at best.  Right now the President needs to exhibit the same resolve and determination to properly asses the situation that he has already shown he possesses.

Ultimately, while it’s a welcome break from what we had previously become accustomed to, simply not doing the wrong thing isn’t enough.  Americans also want to see President Obama make some changes that will actually make us safer.  I truly believe that he is capable of delivering.  But in order to see it happen, Americans need to hold him accountable in the same way that we would a certain former (and lessor) world leader.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this; Mr President, the ball’s in your court.

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Al Gore Is Fired Up

If you truck your merry self over to Slate than you will find their exclusive interview with former VP, one-time Nobel Prize winner, and general environmental do-gooder Al Gore.  Now, it’s a pretty long and comprehensive interview that covers a whole ton of relevant stuff regarding environmental topics, ranging from the meeting in Copenhagen to the potential for a CO2 tax, it’s all very interesting and you should definitely give it a comprehensive read.  This being said, the “sexy” subject right now is the emails that were leaked from the decade old research unit at East Angila University, which proponents of the idea that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon have been latching onto.  It’s specifically this section of the interview that caught my eye at the outset, as Gore seemed to get a bit agitated;

“These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it’s completely unchanged. What we’re seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It’s been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We’ve had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.”

Now, when I’m reading this it’s really Al Gore preaching to the converted (as it likely is for most people reading any interview with Al Gore) but the underlying tone of frustration in his answer really resonated with me because I often feel it myself.  The environment is literally decaying before our eyes, and when the situation would seem to warrant being extra-cautious when it comes to emissions standards and waste runoff and the like, we instead are becoming a culture of willful ignorance and a purveying belief that the whole thing is some liberal conspiracy to swindle companies out of their bottom lines.  It’s not only baffling to witness, but it could also end up costing us dearly.

For me, and apparently for Gore as well, these emails (while a bit embarrassing) change absolutely nothing in the overall debate on climate change.  The papers in question were such a small subsection of the research that has been going on that to place any real importance in the emails is to make a mountain out of a mere molehill.  If there’s anything that the meeting in Copenhagen and the press these emails have gotten indicates to me, it’s that we are constantly finding distractions to distract us from the real issues and make us forget what’s actually at stake, and it’s happening when we can afford such distractions the least.  I would like nothing more than to eloquently illustrate this point myself, but I’m afraid that Mr. Gore does it better than I could hope to;

“We’re already at the point where it’s stretching our capacity to reach an agreement that will solve the problem, but it’s still within our capacity. There are abundant reasons for hope that we will act in time. If you look at the difference between today and 10 years ago, there is a global consensus. More than 70 leaders from nations are gathering at Copenhagen. Many nations have taken action and the world is waiting for the natural leader, the United States to move on this.”

It’s important to keep this in mind, that what’s at stake is nothing less than the future of our planet, and by extension our very civilization.  But it’s good to leave things on a note of hopeful optimism, so that’s what I will close my rant with.  You, however, should definitely read the rest of the interview for yourself, as there’s lots of great stuff in there on a wide array of environmental issues.  Also, there’s a bit about Gore’s new book Our Choice, which is of course about climate change and the future of the planet (could it be the perfect stocking stuffer?).  I would suggest checking it all out regardless of which side of the issue you happen to all on.

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