Archive for New York

Christie's Bridgegate Costing Taxpayers Millions

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Christie Bridgegate

The law firm hired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is billing $7.3 million for handling bridgegate, a tab the taxpayer will pay. Gibson Dunn billed the state $784,459 for May, June and July, NJ.com said. The firm had already been paid $6.52 million on the legal bills through April. Christie hired Gibson Dunn in January…

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I'm in a New York State of Mind

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NicoleSandlerHeadshotw202h202

gov. mario cuomo

NY Governor Mario Cuomo, a very young Nicole Sandler,
and WMCA Program Director Jeanne Straus - circa 1984

 

I was born in New York City, and lived in Queens until my family moved to Florida on the day I finished 6th grade. After graduating from the University of South Florida, I moved back to New York, working in radio there for five years (until a relationship brought me to Los Angeles- a story for another day).

I love New York, and will always consider it, in some sense, home.

I also adored Governor Mario Cuomo. The picture above was taken in 1984 or 1985, when I produced a monthly statewide "Ask the Governor" radio show. (Another aside: always sitting next to me in the control room while I screened the phone calls was Cuomo aide Tim Russert!)

Gov. Cuomo was not only a really great governor for the state of New York, he was a genuinely nice, caring person. He always remembered my name and would even comment on a haircut or something else that made me realize he actually paid attention to me (unlike his opponent in his first gubernatorial primary, then-Mayor Ed Koch who, although I had met him numerous times, always introduced himself as if it was our first time meeting).

My life could be very different now had I accepted Gov. Cuomo's job offer back then. Unfortunately, he wanted me to work in his Albany press office. I may love New York, but it was New York City, not Albany where I wanted to remain, so I turned it down!

That said, to quote Howie Klein,

Don't ever mix Andrew Cuomo up with his dad.

Howie explained why in a post titled, "Andrew Cuomo -- The Richard M. Nixon of the Democratic Party?".

Over the past week or so, we've learned that the younger Cuomo is embroiled in an ethics scandal, nothing new for New York politics, but something he had promised to stamp out. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

Thankfully, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and her name is Zephyr Teachout,

Zephyr Teachout, a constitutional law professor and former national Director of the anti-corruption group the Sunlight Foundation, running as the progressive alternative to Cuomo.

I first spoke with Zephyr back in my Air America days, and was thrilled to see her name emerge in June as a potential Working Families Party challenger to Gov. Cuomo. We spoke back then, after politics got in the way, and she was still deciding whether or not to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic Party primary. Thankfully, she decided to do just that, and she chose a great running mate too!

Her selection for Lt. Governor, Tim Wu, is is a law professor at Columbia University and is most well-known for being the father of Net Neutrality. He's also the son of two immigrants.... Zephyr framed the differences between Hochul and Wu very succinctly: "In the Hochul-Wu contest, Hochul represents conservative and fear-based politics, and Wu represents progressive and democracy-based politics."

The primary is just a month away, so visit TeachoutWu.com and help if you can!

Today happens to be the 69th anniversary of the US dropping a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. You'd think the world would learn from our mistakes...  It's worth remembering what we did on that day.

Sadly, as I discussed with Susie Madrak in the first hour of the show today, it won't take something as drastic as another atomic bomb to devastate life on the planet. We're killing ourselves a little bit more each day, as she tells us in this article about recent revelations of methane leaking from the Arctic.

Tomorrow, if we're still standing, I'll be back with a busy show- Congressman Alan Grayson, economist Stephanie Kelton, cultural HERstorian Amy Simon and the No-More-Bullshit man himself, Stephen Goldstein. Talk to you then, Radio or Not!

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"Bridge Over Troubled Water" cut at 9/11 ceremony but nearly performed after #Christie speech

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chris christie bridgegate over troubled water 9-11 ceremony

First things first. The song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was cut from the 9/11 museum ceremony because Idina Menzel got sick and had to cancel, not because of the political implications. However, had she been able to attend, she would have sung the song right after Chris "Bridgegate" Christie's speech.

That would have been awkward.

At the last minute, 9/11 widow and Broadway singer LaChanze was added to the line-up, and she sang “Amazing Grace” instead. If you saw her performance, you'll agree that it was exquisite. And inadvertently more tasteful.

But not nearly as ironic.

Can you even imagine the clips that would have aired 24/7 on every cable news talk show had Menzel been able to do her thing as planned?

For the sake of those who have been so tragically impacted directly (and indirectly), it's fortunate that "Bridge" wasn't part of the program. Had it been under different circumstances-- appropriate circumstances-- it would have made quite an impact for all the right reasons.

But this, of course, was not the time or place, so it all turned out for the best.

The Hill:

Organizers for the 9/11 memorial museum dedication ceremony on Thursday had to tweak the original program, which would have included a speech by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), followed by a performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

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Investigation #3 for Team Christie: Manhattan district attorney is said to investigate Port Authority

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chris christie schultz i know nothing Manhattan district attorney

Watch out Chris Christie and Co., the Manhattan district attorney is now sniffing around, because apparently they too believe something stinks.

police dog sniffing around animated GIFYes, a third-- count 'em, three!-- team of "seasoned corruption investigators who are most likely focused in large measure on a different set of corruption allegations" is now looking into possible state crimes, as opposed to federal ones.

That's a whole lot of allegations and/or suspicion of corruption, and a whole lot of probes. Call me crazy, but it appears that prosecutors and lawmakers are convinced that something is rotten in Joisey.

Via the New York Times:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has subpoenaed documents from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey concerning a range of the troubled agency’s major construction projects, including several that have come under scrutiny as a result of the politically charged George Washington Bridge lane closings, a person with knowledge of the matter said Saturday. [...]

This new criminal inquiry opens what is in essence a third investigative front focused on the actions of Mr. Christie and his appointees...

ruh roh smallerIf I were Christie and his pals, I'd be just a tad nervous right now. And by "just a tad" I mean I'd be quaking in my sleazy little boots.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand - "What Is She Thinking?"

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is truly an enigma. She's a strong political voice in the battle against cuts to SNAP (food stamps - the farm bill),  advocate for women's reproductive rights, and for tackling the issues of the out-of-control sexual assaults in the military. That might lead conservatives to ask, "what is she thinking?"

Ms. Kirsten was a guest recently on All In with Chris Hayes, MSNBC.

The Senator's visit and discussion with Hayes have left me, a progressive, asking myself the same question as the conservatives:  "What is she thinking?"

Hayes quizzes her about international issues -- Iran specifically. She signed onto a controversial proposed bill that would add sanctions against Iran after nearly 40 years of no formal relations with that country.  We're in the midst of high ranking discussions to monitor the Iranian nuclear program. Gillibrand and Congress knows damn well that increased sanctions during the talks could lead to a shutting down of the negotiations. Perhaps even worse -- a potential war. Frankly, this move is insane. And she backed it.  What is she thinking?

She admits that sanctions have worked in the past ("Sanctions are better than war.  Sanctions got us to the peace table" she admits.) But Hayes points out that the people most hurt by sanctions are the woman and children of Iran, not the politicians who have some say. So why more sanctions and why now despite the White House saying increased sanctions at this point are unhelpful and will break up these historic talks?  What is she thinking?

The NY senator deflects addressing that by somehow equating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stated desire to wipe Israel off the face of the earth as a motivation for wanting to step up pressure on Iran. Only problem with that is Ahmadinejad was voted out of office and there are now formalized talks going on with an entirely different leader (Leader Hassan Rouhani) and an entirely different cabinet. What is she thinking?

Follow that with a very composed senator G. saying she wants to find a way to prevent going to war with Iran. Yet her backing the increased sanctions bill right now, despite the President's warning of the incendiary outcome of this move at this time would possibly lead us into war. And she still backed it. What is she thinking?

When Chris Hayes challenges her on whether Iran with a nuclear weapon would make Israel or the U.S. a first strike target, she affirms that belief, citing, "At some point you have to take Iran at its word."

Whose word? The former leader or the current leader, who's shown olive branches to both Israel - calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wish Israel Happy New Year on Rosh Hashana and the U.S. by putting out the word of his willingness to open negotiations on nuclear talks after 40 years of icy non-recognition?  What is she thinking?

I come back to Gillibrand saying in the clip below,  "At some point you have to believe what they say. You have to take them at their word." I agree with her there. Then why isn't that time now? They're joining us at the peace table discussing a ceasing of the Iranian nuclear program. You can't have it both ways. Either you're going to take them at their word at the peace table or you're not. What is she thinking?

Watch the video interview below and ask yourself the same thing. Here's a bright, articulate elected official with some very precise attitudes. After watching this, see if you too are left scratching your head and asking yourself, as you would with Michele Bachmann, What is she thinking?

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Blue Cross Blue Shield health care disaster: Man with brain tumor needs care STAT, not a death panel.

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Lolly Jean Twitter profile health care

One of my longtime Twitter pals, @Lolly_Jean, is desperately trying to raise the profile of what health care insurance companies are doing in the employer provided field; maybe shaming Blue Cross into allowing her husband to continue the care they have already approved, the care her husband was receiving until he became sick, will help.

She has tried tweeting to news and cable outlets to no avail. Any suggestions anyone might have to help her raise the profile of this devastating issue--for her husband and the others in employer-provided health care policies that will likely follow-- would be greatly appreciated.

Here is her story in her own words (bolding is mine):

My husband has a brain tumor and has been under care of Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan, and receives his radiation treatment from Memorial Sloan Kettering in Commack, Long Island, New York. He became ill from side effects, was taken to our local hospital on January 28th, where he remains today.

We have been fighting Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield for the past 2.5 weeks, as they refuse to allow him to be transferred to Memorial Sloan in Manhattan (MSK) for acute care and resumption of his remaining radiation treatments to the brain. We receive our insurance through my husband's employer, and we pay an additionally for Direct Point of Service care, which allows us choice of doctors and facilities. To note, my husband has been under the care of Memorial Sloan Kettering for the prior 4 years.

Blue Cross, at first, wanted to transfer my husband to a hospice facility with a standing DNR (do not resuscitate) order. My husband is not in end stages of his illness.

They fought us for a precious week of treatment time until they agreed that my husband did not warrant end of life care. They still refuse to allow us to take him to MSK, where his doctors know him, have knowledge of the rare form of tumor he has, and where until 5 weeks ago, he was receiving his treatment.

As I mentioned, this is employer-provided health care. My husband's employer is advocating he be moved to MSK for the remainder of his treatment, and has been very helpful in contacting Blue Cross in advocacy of his case.

MSK is 'in network' on our plan. They accept the negotiated payment as per their contract with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. And as I stated, we do have a Direct POS plan which allows us to go outside of network, should we choose.

To force us to change our doctors at this stage is unconscionable, immoral and dangerous.

To force us to go to a facility that cannot provide the same level of cancer care would not allow for the outcome that MSK feels my husband's condition should have.

And the more time we fight Blue Cross, my husband becomes weaker. This truly is a death panel, one run by the actuaries in Empire Blue Cross.

Please, help us by lending your voice by advocating for my husband.

By the way, here's the @AskAnthem Twitter profile. Notice the link they provide at the bottom:

Anthem on Twitter health care

Here's what you see when you follow the "customer support" link they provide, because, you know, they CARE:

anthem support health care under maintenance

I'm sure Anthem's "improving your online experience" and apologizing for "any inconvenience" are a huge comfort to Lolly Jean and her ailing husband.

You can get the ball rolling by tweeting this post to @empirebcbs (Sally Kweskin, their PR director in New York) and @askAnthem.

I don't know about you, but I'm not letting up until we get more action than a pleasant, solicitous response.

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Hillary Clinton Left Sucking Elizabeth Warren's Fumes

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While Hillary plays, Warren soars. That's something that is quite interesting and intriguing to consider. We know what Hillary Clinton has done in the past and her wealth of experience. But lately there's a new kid on the block who's pushing some very strong changes in Washington. They're being met with a good amount of skepticism on the right, as would be any change. But on the left and in the all important center, she's scoring some major points.

Here's what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has been up to lately -- in no order of intended importance.

  1. She's been fighting for lower cost educational  student loans, which happened.
  2. She's been leading the way for the new Dodd-Frank banking regulations bill. It's moving through committee as we speak.
  3. She's proposed INCREASING Social Security payments, not decreasing them, allowing seniors more buying power. That's gaining great attention among the lawmakers.
  4. She's stood up to President Obama on his judicial nominations, pointing out that too many of them come from Wall Street banking and not enough from tort and criminal law. She's against too much big business influence on laws and regulations.
  5. She's been fighting and gaining traction against the too big to fail excuse. She's pushing for jail terms for the banking execs who have lead their investors into huge, risky and in some cases, scandalous investments.
  6. She's leading the move to help the post office support itself by giving it more financial services it can perform like check cashing.  Details here
  7. She proposing changing student loans to be more like house or car loans -- renegotiable if the rates go down.

According to The Daily Beast:

Elizabeth Warren4

 Unlike a loan to pay for a house, a vehicle, or just about anything else your heart desires, you can’t refinance a student loan. The result is that student loans have become a rare way for the federal government to generate revenue, making $66 billion in profits off them between 2007-2012.  Warren told The Daily Beast that she is discussing legislation with colleagues that would allow students to refinance their federal loans at rates currently offered to new borrowers. 

Perhaps the presumptive front runner on the Democratic side Hillary C., might want to get off her recliner and start making a little more noise and taking stands on some issues. Senator Warren has the pulpit right now, with her current upper house seat. But Ms. Clinton better get a move on before the the party starts looking at a fresher, younger and quite vibrant up and comer. 

If not, come 2016, the Dems might just go with a fresh face and some strong ideas -- consumer protections might be more important that 22 trips to Benghazi.

Take a look at this short ad that Ms. Warren put out when running for the Senate. She's made her goals known, and she's making great headway toward them.

Important for Hillary to consider: The longer you stand on the sidelines and let others define you, the harder it is to later define yourself.

The Democrats might just have a primary race yet, and if Joe Biden jumps in, all eyes might just move to Elizabeth Warren. She says she's not interested, but we've all heard that denial before.

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