Vito is up the Sleazy River

And heading just plain up the river.

NYC newspapers like the NYT and the NYPost have had stories recently about Mr. Charm, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the center of a sexual harassment scandal, and the story even made its way into the Ithaca Journal.  Corruption, as well as all-around slimy behavior, is so endemic in NYS government it hardly causes a raised eyebrow:

And now the story has acquired legs outside of NYS...Jazz Shaw writing at Hot Air—such poetry:

We normally focus on political news at the national level here, but every once in a while a story congeals like scum on the surface of a state level pond which merits attention. Such is the case in New York State this summer. The tale actually began a while back, when an investigation into the , er… “affairs” of State Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) determined that he had sexually harassed two young, female staffers, leading to his censure on the Assembly floor. And if the story had stopped there it would hardly be unusual enough in Big Apple politics to merit a column.
But that event turned out to be the the pebble which started a series of ripples across the pond. Now we find out from the Wall Street Journal that more ethics investigations are underway, this time into the involvement of the Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver. It seems that Shelly didn’t want to bother the busy folks on the ethics committee when he first caught wind of this story and decided to settle things the old fashioned way.
In other words, with payoffs funded with taxpayer dollars.
...The National Organization for Women and Common Cause, a government transparency group, submitted the formal complaint, calling for a probe into Mr. Silver’s approval of a secret $100,000 taxpayer-funded payment to settle accusations by female employees against Assemblyman Vito Lopez...

...The Republicans traditionally control the state senate (by a razor thin margin) but it’s not “the Democrats” who control the Assembly… it’s Sheldon Silver. And he’s held that body in lock-down for nearly two decades. He’s the most powerful Democrat in the state – even more so than the Governor, according to many accounts...
...Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to wiggle out of any responsibility for the secret payout. That won’t be easy because an e-mail trail shows his office helped Silver craft the agreement and the confidentiality clause...
But wait, there's more.  You'd really have to suspend your disbelief to accept that state Comptroller DiNapoli isn't involved in all of this as well. In the NYPost:
...The two [AG Schneiderman & DiNapoli] swear that neither was personally involved and tried to shift any blame to subordinate staffers — saying the AG’s office was merely contacted “for an informal consultation” and DiNapoli’s general counsel was asked about “income tax implications” regarding “a pending legal settlement.”
Frankly, it defies belief that high-powered pols like Lopez and Silver could be negotiating a six-figure sexual-harassment payout without Schneiderman and DiNapoli being aware of every detail. Both officials come out of the Legislature, after all...
So there's Silver, Schneiderman, DiNapoli...can Mario's kid be far behind?
Meantime, in the midst of all this, Schneiderman and DiNapoli issued a joint communiqué about—surprise, surprise—more corruption, this time on the state Senate side:
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced a superseding indictment against New York State Senator Shirley Huntley for falsifying business records, conspiracy and tampering with their joint investigation of a scheme to steal taxpayer dollars using a sham not-for-profit that did not provide services to the public. In addition to Senator Huntley, the new indictment charges a close aide and her niece with stealing funds from a member item sponsored by the Senator, and a third individual with aiding the cover-up...
Nothing like a little misdirection to help take the heat off.  Pure as the driven snow.
So Vito may be heading up the river—he'd hardly be the first Assembly member to do so—but he really needs some company, don't you think?
...I also reiterate my request that Governor Cuomo send the Executive Order No. 41 proceeding "back to the drawing board" in order to make sure that the shale gas industry will be regulated without the taint of corruption...
Way to go, Babs!  If it's the stench of real and seemingly neverending corruption you're looking for, how about checking right under your nose first?

NYS tuition aid for illegal immigrants...

...what could possibly be bad about that?

We've posted about the NYS DREAM Act previously.  But as The Lonely Conservative points out

New York has a projected budget shortfall of $2 billion. The only state that’s worse is California. Rather than cutting spending, New York Democrats want to spend even more money.

And so we have this to look forward to:

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants would become eligible to receive government financial aid to attend college in New York under a bill that state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced Friday...

...The Senate's Democratic minority has supported a New York "Dream Act," which they are trying to make a campaign issue for the fall elections to regain the majority from Republicans.

"We commend the speaker for this legislation," said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. "This is something that we are extremely supportive of and I think it goes perfectly with our Dream Act legislation that we pushed this year, but was unfortunately blocked by the Senate Republicans."
There was no immediate comment from the Senate's Republican majority nor from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Under New York law, illegal immigrant students already pay the lower public college tuition for state residents, rather than the higher rate for those coming from outside New York...
...The bill could be considered in the regular session beginning in January, or in an expected special session after the November elections.
It would be nice if the Senate Republican conference had something to say about this...oh, never mind, they're busy running for re-election.

You didn't actually expect any of this to make sense now, did you?

If you're one of the few remaining subscribers to the Ithaca Journal, you may have noticed this headline at the top of the front page this morning:

N.Y. carbon emissions cap may drop

followed by this subhead:

Plan could aid areas like Lansing with closed coal power plants


If you're like me, you were wondering how an even-more stringent RGGI rule than is already in place would help the local economy.  

(On a related note: EPA regulators are poised to implement a "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT) rule, which is the most expensive ever written for power plants. NERA (National Economic Research Associates) estimates that implementation of the MACT rule will result in double-digit increases in the price of electricity in at least 30 states , a minimum of 183,000 jobs lost every year from 2012 through at least 2020, and loss of reliability in the national power grid, leading to rolling blackouts and brownouts. But never mind).

South of 5 and 20 wondered, too, in a post entitled "Democrats to pound another nail in Upstate's coffin":

Let's think about this for a moment.  If you're a struggling Finger Lakes homeowner, your second-highest-in-the-US electric rate will go up again.  If you're a swell who's invested in carbon credits, however, your net worth will increase...

Read the whole thing.  "Tortured logic," indeed.

House of cards

In the NYT:

A group closely allied with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo received $2 million from gambling interests last December as he developed a proposal to expand casino gambling in New York.
Mr. Cuomo’s support for expanded gambling, which he made a centerpiece of his State of the State address in January, had a profound impact. Within weeks, the Legislature endorsed a constitutional amendment that, if approved once more by lawmakers and then by voters, would allow for seven full-scale, privately owned casinos, potentially worth billions of dollars.
Genting, a subsidiary of Southeast Asia’s largest gambling company, made an additional contribution of approximately $400,000 to the group allied with Mr. Cuomo during 2011. The New York Gaming Association, a trade group founded by Genting and other companies that operate racetracks and electronic slot machines, chipped in the $2 million.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, strongly disputed any suggestion that he was influenced by money from the gambling industry...
And, as we all know,
But wait—there's more:
“To try to suggest an improper relationship between the governor and gaming interests is to distort the facts in a malicious or reckless manner,” Richard Bamberger, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said in an e-mail...
That's us—malicious and reckless all over.
The contributions went to the Committee to Save New York, a business and labor coalition that raised $17 million and spent nearly $12 million in 2011, much of it on campaign-style television and radio advertisements praising Mr. Cuomo and supporting his proposals to cap property taxes and slash state spending.
Founded by real estate developers and business executives at Mr. Cuomo’s urging shortly after he was elected governor, the committee has rapidly become the biggest spender on lobbying in Albany, providing not only critical backing for Mr. Cuomo but also a counterweight to the labor unions whose money and political muscle have traditionally dominated the Capitol.
What supposedly hugely influential lobbying group isn't even mentioned here?  There'll be a quiz at the end.
...An official with the association said that it had contributed $1.5 million to the Committee to Save New York on Dec. 1 and $500,000 on Dec. 6. Around the same time, Mr. Cuomo unambiguously took the gambling industry’s side, writing a newspaper op-ed article on Dec. 4 saying that he favored expanded casino gambling in New York. Within days, the Committee to Save New York also adopted the issue, adding legalized gambling to its list of priorities for the 2011 legislative session.
In his State of the State speech in January, Mr. Cuomo raised the stakes further, calling for the constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling and proposing to transform Genting’s planned resort near Aqueduct into a destination casino resort that would include the nation’s largest convention center.
“This is not about chips and cards,” he said in the speech. “This is about the jobs that the casino industry generates.”...
Hmmmm...  Definitely read the whole article.
The column is clearly intended to be an exposé of the cozy relationship between Cuomo and the gambling industry—with the emphasis on how labor unions, presumably including public employee unions, are really not all that influential any more in state politics.
But in their efforts to make those points, the authors left out a couple of other crucial pieces of information.
Gambling tends to come with its own ABCs: addiction, bankruptcy, crime, and suicide.  Doubt that last one?
In a 1995 report from the Maryland Attorney General entitled, “The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming Is a Bad Idea,” it was reported that in Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides skyrocketed 213 percent in the first two years after the casino opened there, and in Biloxi, they jumped a staggering 1,000 percent in the first four years after the casino opened.
Casino gambling in NYS...what could possibly go wrong?
Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting a different result?
And now we come to the other missing piece of information and the promised pop quiz...isn't there some other lobbying group in NYS besides the Committee to Save New York and the labor unions that supposedly has a huge influence on policy-making in Albany but that went unmentioned in the NYT piece?
Wait, it's on the tip of my tongue...oh, yeah—the natural gas industry!
You know—the one that former PA Governor Ed Rendell just wrote would "foster an economic, environmental, and security revitalization for our country and our state." The one that could bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. The one that DEC Commissioner Joe Martens inanely said might be permitted in parts of NYS where there is "less resistance and less opposition and there is not a local land-use plan in place..." 
Who needs to tap the resource we need and use and that's right under our feet? And who would want to encourage manufacturing jobs when we could be...blackjack dealers?
It's a house of cards.
h/t Jim

Dead last

We might not be if only there were 57 states.



See Rich States, Poor States, by Art Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams. 


What's the outlook for NYS? (click the image to embiggen)

And according to the NYTorch, the state's past "overall Economic Performance rank came in at 40th, due to a last-place ranking for domestic migration."

Yep, it's a going concern all right—people keep going.

And how's that "NYS is open for business" thing workin' for ya?

Thought so.


David v. Goliath and the tyranny of the majority

From Andy Leahy at NYShaleGasNow, a great update to—no, a very informative expansion on—the Chump Change post below. Read and learn:

...NYC hasn't purchased all, or even most, of this misleadingly green-shaded land — either outright in fee, or by easement against development.  It's true NYC owns rights to all the land that it long ago flooded, or built upon, to create its water system.  And it's true the city Water Department has made some additional purchases since.  But not much of what lies upstream.  In fact, former DEC Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis used to give speeches in which he pointedly noted that some 70 percent of this upstream land remains privately owned...

...In these drinking water watershed situations (On this phrasing, here's a reminder to Earth Science-impaired media representatives:  All land lays in a watershed), the state's drill/no-drill regulatory distinctions have been unsatisfactorily explained as being not so much about the realistic risk of surface spills, or the unrealistic risk of uncontrolled returns from depth, of spent or unspent frack water.  Instead, it's been explained as being more about the risk of much less spectacular sediment runoff from drillsite and access road construction.  Sediment.  Or, more to the point, it's really more about the regulatory risk that the federal EPA will view such surface disturbances as a reason to strip NYC and Syracuse of their money-saving filtration waivers — regardless of whether there's much actually foreseeable impact from drilling, and regardless of whether there are any public health benefits to be gained from filtering the water supplies already...

...Leaving aside the highly questionable risk-assessment validity of these ever-expanding no-drill takings, as put forth by NYC, a question of fairness remains:  Should the many urban, water-drinking, peaceful-of-mind beneficiaries of these regulatory "protections" compensate the many fewer private landowners for their lost economic opportunities?  

Or is it okay for the majority to economically oppress the minority, just because it's politically stronger?  Going all the way back to the days of King George, and to the drafting of the American Bill of Rights, isn't the system of free, private ownership of land intended to set limits upon this kind of oppression?  And should we be careful what we wish for, when we conspire in silence to excuse such blatant exceptions?

Delaware County's resolution says, in all fairness, reparations must be made — and this document is the latest salvo in an Upstate-Downstate dispute which long pre-dates the much younger Shale Gas Debates...

There's much more—definitely read the whole thing.  Thanks, Andy.

$5M theft in Dryden? Chump change

In fact (click on the image to listen)

At The Mountain Eagle:

MARGARETVILLE - As the state puts the finishing touches on new regulations for gas exploration in New York, elected officials in Delaware County are unhappy the proposed regulations could prevent the county from extracting much of the gas that lies deep beneath the ground. It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of the gas in the county could be off-limits if the proposed regulations become law. And if the proposed regulations go through as currently written, county officials want to be compensated for the lost revenue.
It was announced at the February meeting of the Coalition of Watershed Towns tthe Delaware County Board of Supervisors plans to vote on a resolution that seeks compensation for the value of the gas, estimated to exceed $81 billion in gross sales...
...According to Dean Frasier of the Delaware County Office of Watershed Affairs, the Board of Supervisors will be discussing a resolution that calls for New York City compensating it for the lost revenue should NYC succeed in having watershed lands off-limits to gas exploration....
And this isn't some evil, greedy gas company who would be suing—it'd be a NYS county suing NYS as well as NYC.
We here at Redneck Mansion at first read the dateline on this story as
Those folks in Delaware County could import their own sand to relax on while they sit 'n sip drinks with little umbrellas in them.
This stuff's not going away, people.

Checks nix

Constitutional concerns...fancy that. At the Times-Union:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is defending language in his proposed budget that has been criticized by legislators, saying it will allow him to consolidate "back-office" functions across state agencies.
The governor suggested his critics, including top legislators, were simply seeking to keep the status quo. His proposal would allow budgeters on his staff to move money among agencies outside the state's normal budget process.
"The Legislature has one role, the executive has another role. I'm trying to manage this government. I'm trying to find efficiency," Cuomo said Tuesday. "How can I manage if I have to tell you in advance every dollar — (lawmakers) aren't even here half the time. That is a normal and usual tension, and you manage the tension."
"It sounds ominous, but this is an essential management alignment of back-office overhead," he continued...
...Some legislators remain leery of Cuomo's actions, which they said are an intrusion on their constitutionally prescribed role.
...At the Cabinet meeting, Cuomo indicated some willingness to negotiate, as part of what he described as "healthy tension" between himself and legislators. But the relevant language is written into bills that legislators cannot easily change.
There's a reason for separation of powers and checks and balances.  Being wary of creating a dictatorship in Albany, however benevolent it might appear at the moment, is just prudent.

Liberty or tyranny?

I've raised that question before in previous posts.

When you hear the term "home rule" is this what comes to mind?

The reality is quite different.  From contributor Henry Kramer:  

Home Rule is Undemocratic
“Home Rule.”  Sound good and close to the people?  But local governments, the beneficiaries of “home rule,” do not conform to basic American constitutional principles.
At all levels of a representative republic, representatives are elected, represent an appropriate majority, and are equally “legitimate.” But majorities vary at different levels and a local majority may be a state minority.  Local majorities often seek “home rule” simply because they cannot prevail otherwise.
Local governments lack the separation of powers and checks and balances that our founders wrote into our constitution to prevent abuse of power.  Local governments enjoy both executive and legislative power.  Once a local activist majority forms, there is no separation of powers to check and balance it, no diffusion of power from a two-house legislature or executive veto.  Certainly not the minority protection provided by U.S. Senate rules, including the super majority to limit debate.
Without checks and balances, activists who capture local governments can create a tyrannical power, including claiming a right to override state and federal law.  Faced with activist local governments that exceed their powers, our only recourses are litigation or relocation.  Neither pulling up roots nor justice comes free. Without the resources to litigate, rights end up trampled with impunity.
Activist local governments often lack expertise regarding subject matter on which they legislate. Ignorance in complex and highly technical areas is no sound basis for legislation.  Traditionally, local governments concerned themselves with purely local concerns and accepted their role as sub-divisions of state government, entirely subject to state supervision.  Reasonable zoning was acceptable but local action on state, national, and international matters, and rejection of state preemption, was not acceptable.  
Imagine trying to control the nation’s air traffic or airwaves at local level.  The U.S. constitutes a single national market.  Although states are sometimes granted concurrent jurisdiction to act on their concerns, the Supreme Court has protected national markets from local regulation.  “Home rule” simply does not work in economic matters.
Local interests are, by definition, local.  We elect state and federal officials to deal with matters whose scope exceeds traditional local issues such as roads and local public safety.
Today, local “progressives” shun progress and try to “preserve and protect” against growth and change. Local governments with “home rule” can be very undemocratic, allowing a group possessing a mere local majority to impose extreme values, rendering minorities powerless as they are stripped of rights and freedoms.
Americans are mobile and our country is wide and varied.  As Americans, we must remember to keep a national perspective.  Local “home rule” can undercut state, national, and international policies. Should local governments be able to use “home rule” to undermine goals important to the country as a whole?  That way leads to patchwork quilt regulation and chaos.
Lord Acton wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Local governments that ignore self-restraint on the limits of power are corrupt, undemocratic, and outside U.S. constitutional principles.


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