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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

March 26, 2008


The Double Standard

There is no doubt that what Elliot Spitzer did should have resulted in his fall from power. It isn't so much that he cheated on his wife with a very expensive hooker, but that he claimed the moral high ground while tramping in his golden gutter. If we were to replace every politician who screwed around, we'd be left with maybe a couple dozen leaders only. However, like Senator Larry Craig, Rep. Mark Foley and Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who all claimed a moral high ground, their hypocritical falls should be just as hard.

After all, Americans hate hypocrites.

David Paterson and his wife have both admitted to infidelities in their marriage, what should be a private matter. However, the main stream media has decided that Paterson should still field questions about trips taken on behalf of Hillary Clinton's campaign because his ex-lover, another Clinton supporter, was also on those same trips. Paterson's aides have said that the affair ended in 2002 and haven't changed that story.

Lila Kirton, the former Paterson staffer and his ex-lover, had traveled with the former Lieutenant, and now present New York State Governor, as did many other staffers. It would be hard to prove that she was there solely as his "date" and didn't do her day job. Of course, that won't stop the innuendo and it won't stop the New York Post, owned by Fox News' Newscorp (Rupert Murdoch) from keeping the rumor-mill going. All one has to do is tune in to Fox News on New York City's Channel Five to see that.

As was reported just last week, a Newark, New Jersey woman who worked in Paterson's office was paid one-thousand dollars for her work. Immediately the media jumped on it accusing both the woman and the Governor. She had to appear on television to tell the drooling media that the reason she was paid as a temp worker was because she, as a New jersey resident, could only work that way because she didn't reside in the Empire State. To the best of my knowledge, no one has offered her or Governor Paterson an apology.

But what really irked me is the way they're treating Paterson in other areas. Paterson, during an interview, and not wanting to appear to be hiding his past, was asked about drug use. In response to a reporter's never-ending questions he admitted to using marijuana and cocaine when he was in his early twenties. It should be noted that, to his credit, he actually answered those questions.

But the question is why was Governor Paterson asked that? Why was a black man from Harlem, a Columbia University graduate, asked about his drug use when others from his generation would no be asked those questions? And if a reporter had asked them those same questions, they would claim foul play, call the interviewer "A Liberal", seek to get him (or her) fired and act (and it would be an act) indignantly.

Could Paterson have said to the interviewer, "Why ask me that question? Would you - could you have ask George Bush that in 2000? Did you?"

We know about George Bush's drug and alcohol use and abuse. We know that "Daddy" had "Junior" Bush's records "changed" to not show at least one of his DUI arrests while in Connecticut. We also know that the guy who shot his friend in the face with "only one beer" in his system, Vice President Dick Cheney, had five - that's right, five - DUI's while a resident of his native Wyoming. And we also know about First Lady Laura Bush's accident which had killed her boyfriend when she was a teenage youth in Texas. Yet all of these "youthful indiscretions" are off limits to the media should they be inquisitive.


Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe it's okay to ask a black man from New York City's Harlem about any drug use from his past. After all, he is a black man, isn't he? The New York Post must think that way. If it wasn't okay to ask Governor George W. Bush of Texas about his shadowy past including drug abuse and his alcoholism, then why is it okay to ask Paterson? If the answer is just because he's a black man, that won't cut it.

And why was it okay for President Bush to tell us all that he made some mistakes in his youth, even though he was a man of some thirty-two years when he made those mistakes?

It's not for me to tell the black community if and when to be outraged. As a Jew, I was plenty ticked off when former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson made the Jews-and-money statement last year. And I was just as mad when Jesse Jackson used his "Hymie-town" definition of New York City some years before. Individuals have to decide what is offensive to them, not have the likes of me decide it for them. But the double-standard isn't lost on me.

And it isn't okay.

A friend of mine who is, shall we say, quasi-close to New York's new Governor David Paterson explained to me why his then-candidacy for the Empire State's Lieutenant Governor's seat was a step down. Although being the number two executive in a large and important state such as New York seems like a great gig for just about any politician, Paterson, as a State Senator, was the lead Democrat in that house and thus was the Senate Minority Leader.

My friend, who does have a good sense of New York State and New York City politics told me that Paterson was being groomed out of power, not the other way around.

The district in New York City which he represented is also located in the US Congressional District which Democrat Charles Rangel represents. It seemed that when Rangel no longer is able to fill his seat in DC that Paterson would have been the logical choice to replace him. He would have been, as my friend suggested, in a fight for that spot with Adam Clayton Powell IV. Of course, with Powell's recent drunk driving charge, his chances might be a little dimmer (although it didn't seem to hurt Dick Cheney).

Paterson's fortunes have changed. He is, as my friend suggested, a good guy and a fair man who might make a great leader. However, it appears that the Republicans who are waiting in the wings want to circumvent the electoral process and put their man, Senate majority Leader Frank Bruno, in the Governor's mansion.

After all, if you can't win it, steal it. It's the new Republican mantra.

-Noah Greenberg

Fixing Problems With The Problem Makers

I don't generally write about the Democratic candidates in the primary race but this story really bothers me. David Sirota reports:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton called on President Bush on Monday to appoint "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to recommend new ways to confront the nation's housing finance troubles. The New York senator said the panel should be led by financial experts such as Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary in her husband's administration, and former Federal Reserve chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker. http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/insiders-who-created-financial-crisis-should-be-trusted-fix-it

I have some questions for Hillary Clinton:

) Why would you recommend the same people who created the problem in the first place?
2) Why would you call on Bush to create this working group?
3) Can't Congress handle this situation? Are you really counting on a lame duck President to get something done?

Along these lines, I have a question for both candidates and indeed all of the politicians:

Where is the morality and justice in lenders imposing conditions of usury on the borrower (now that individuals can't use Chapter 11 bankruptcy) when taxes taken from the borrower is used to bail out the lender?

And, by the way, it isn't just me that was perplexed by Clinton recommending Alan Greenspan for a working group to come up with ideas on the mortgage crisis.
Today, Paul Krugman (a Clinton supporter) writes:
OK, this is pretty dumb. Hillary Clinton wants a high-level commission to analyze ways to resolve the mortgage crisis - including Alan Greenspan.

Yes, I know people still listen when Greenspan speaks - and John McCain once joked about taking Greenspan's advice even if he's dead. But for those in the know, AG is a key villain in the whole affair.

I mean, why not add Charles Prince (Citigroup), Stanley O'Neal (GM, Merrill Lynch, Alcoa, etc), and Angelo Mozilo (CEO of mortgage offender Countrywide) to the commission?


-Robert Scardapane

In response to "Health Care - One Step at a Time", Dr. Richard N. Pierson Jr. MD, Prof of Clinical Medicine Columbia University responds:

Your comments about Single Payer are superb, both in detail and in flavor. As a speaker for Single Payer (Physicians for a National Health Program), I am getting a wave of positive responses, both from physicians (~25% of whom vote - 787,000 of them), from Nurses (8.4 million, >80% of whom vote), and largely because of Michael Moore, labor unions, Rotaries, church groups, AARP's, etc etc.

The subtle and powerful effects of K street - For profit Health Insurance (I was a Board member of Empire BC/BS for 13 years in its not-for-profit era, 1979-1992), and for-profit Pharm is huge, and must be made visible - you help.

(There are superb people in HI and Pharma industries, but the Return-on-Investment OWNERS set both the tone and the policies.)

On Health Care, Robert Scardapane writes:

As I see it, the good point in both Clinton and Obama health care plan is it creates coverage for people with pre-existing conditions by opening the Federal Pool where pre-existing conditions can not be used. I think this is a clumsy way to handle this situation. It would be simpler to just pass a Federal law prohibiting pre-existing conditions in insurance policies. There are 5 states with such provisions right now.

Either way, there will be a heck of a battle with the lobbyists. But isn't that the real tragedy here. We have come to the point where the corporate lobbyists actually matter more than the citizens! I even heard a business person talk about bailing out financial companies who made bad loans for the "corporate common good". I wondered - what in the heck is the "corporate common good"? Doesn't that sound a bit like neo-fascism?

SPUHC is not a dream. It can be done. But first we need a government that is not slaves of the corporations. It's as simple as that.

... and Robert continues:

Madman, what good is a mandate when the insurance company will NOT cover you because of pre-existing conditions OR will quadruple the cost of your policy? A mandate is not the answer and it won't lower cost; that is a dream. I am amazed that we are still proposing free market solutions when 60 years have shown it doesn't work.

With all that said, I support what Clinton and Obama are proposing for the reason that it provides coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
I'll let the Congress debate about mandates. My guess is that allowing access to the Federal Employee Insurance pool will be a major battle in itself. That is what John Kerry discovered in 2004. The insurers will not like having more people under mildly regulated conditions and not being able to take pre-existing conditions into account. If the policy makers insist on a mandate, it may become impossible to pass.

In the long run, the real battle is not the health care system. It's the structure of government we have right now. If our government continues to be for the corporations and by the corporations, America will go down the drain and we won't have to debate about health care because it will be impossible to find the money for decades.

In response to the racism vs. sexism debate begun last night, Dorothy Schwartz writes:

I really take issue with Victoria Brownworth. As someone involved with civil rights issues for over 40 years, and the mother of 3 black/white (i.e. mixed) children and 1 black child, all now adults, I assure her that we are much further away from eliminating racism than eliminating sexism. White women have profited from racism; blacks have suffered severe discrimination on all fronts. For Hillary to say she would have changed pastors is ridiculous and shows us where she is coming from -- Rev. Wright was simply telling it "like it is" to his congregation. And he and his church have worked hard in helping the surrounding community deal with institutional racism in its various manifestations.

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-Noah Greenberg