The OTHER propositions on the NYS ballot

With all the attention on the potential Constitutional Convention on the ballot November 7, I was only dimly aware of the other two propositions that New Yorkers must consider. OK, SHOULD consider, since they’re on the flip side of he ballot.

The proposed amendment… would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties.

The number of corrupt government officials is arguably higher in the Empire State than any other. I assume some judge would decide whether, and how, the crime relates to their official duties.

The problem in this state is that those convictions can be overturned, as they were, just in the past four months, in the cases of former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos. If this proposal had been in place, the pensions of the pols whose convictions were vacated could, and I suppose should, be reinstated.

Still, I support this amendment as a step in the right direction.

The proposed amendment will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages, and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns; as a substitute for the land removed from the forest preserve, another 250 acres of land, subject to legislative approval, will be added to the forest preserve. The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of highways that traverse the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation.

This is largely a land swap, with the State acquiring the same amount of land, “subject to approval by the Legislature, to incorporate into the forest preserve to replace the land placed in the health and safety land account.” This has a lot of precedent, and I’m willing to support this.

I’ve already noted my opposition to the “convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same.” Interestingly, if it were to pass, I’d want to run as a delegate if I thought I had a scintilla of a chance of winning.

The propositions are the most interesting items on the ballot because the candidate races were all but settled in the primaries, at least in the city of Albany. The one surprise for me was that Bryan Jimenez is the Green Party candidate for mayor. After the election, Dan Plaat had a 17-15 lead from the machines, but Jimenez got some absentee or other paper ballot votes.

This is unconfirmed rumor, but I was told by someone in the know that the Greens wanted a primary so they could show up on the stage with the Democrats at candidate talks, not ignored like other minor party candidates.

Advertisements

New York Needs a Constitutional Convention?

There’s an article from the Rockefeller Institute of Government called Why New York Needs a Constitutional Convention, which notes:

“Every 20 years, New Yorkers have the chance to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention (known as a ConCon). The next vote will be held this November. If the voters approve a convention, delegates will be elected in November 2018, and the convention will open in April 2019.”

Here’s the odd thing: I agree with almost everything the writers are saying about a need for a ConCon. Yet I disagree about actually conducting one.

On the affirmative side:
Are you satisfied with the way the state is governed? Surely not.

“New York:
“Has a persistent culture of corruption. Albany thrives on a pay-to-play culture that has seen: four temporary presidents of the Senate since 2008 charged with (and three convicted of) some form of public corruption; the convictions on corruption charges of one of those temporary presidents, Dean Skelos, and the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, within weeks of each other.” The fact that Silver and Joe Bruno’s convictions were overturned barely mitigates this mess.

“Has close to a 90 percent incumbency rate for members of the state Assembly and Senate. More legislators leave office under indictment, conviction, retirement, or death than by losing elections! District lines are drawn in ways that not only favor one party or the other, but insulate most incumbents from primary challenges as well.

“Does anybody really believe that a legislature benefiting from the current power structure and anxious to retain that power would adopt, or even seriously consider, institutional reforms such as…
an independent redistricting commission that would end political gerrymandering…;
an independent Moreland/Ethics Commission?”

On the other hand:

“…the political insiders and lobbyists… view the convention as a great opportunity to rewrite the current Constitution to their own benefit, while making a huge profit in the process. The constitutional convention takes place over several years—while the taxpayers… are footing the bill for the delegates’ election and salary—at an estimated cost of $200 million…

“Any approved amendments will not take effect until at least 2020 and beyond. Delegates will be paid a salary of $80,000 a year (in addition to their other income). Because delegates are elected to their positions, many will be elected officials or politically savvy insiders who are familiar with the techniques and demands of the political process, such as fundraising and campaigning.” That’s what happened the last time, in 1967.

“The argument that the convention provides an opportunity for ‘fresh eyes’ and ‘outsiders’ to participate in government is not the reality. Instead, the reality is that a constitutional convention would be controlled by well-funded special interests, such as… career politicians, and it will put the ‘”foxes in the hen house.'”

There’s a BIG problem in New York, but the solution might well be worse than the disease.

The Constitution is difficult to amend, and deliberately so

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillNothing is more fundamental in our democracy than our right to vote. “We are witnesses today to attacks on that hard-won right… Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP… reminded us that our votes were paid for with blood.” So, of all the Supreme Court decisions in the last couple years, the one gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was among the most troubling. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You.

Therefore, I was slack-jawed when some guy wrote Continue reading

Waste of time and money: dividing California

California6I read, from Evanier, but also elsewhere, that some joker has promoted a ballot initiative to split the Golden State into six states. Even if the ballot initiative somehow won in November – and I have relatives there (sister, niece – Don’t Vote for This Nonsense!) – it still wouldn’t go into effect. Evanier noted, in a conversation about whether Texas, which had been its own country briefly, and would theoretically have the right to splinter:

“You have to consider Article IV, Section 3 of a little document called the United States Constitution. That particular section says…”

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

If you are a US Senator from a small state, populationwise, such as Delaware or Alaska, would you want there to be 12 US Senators from CA when there were two? And if you were from a large state, say Florida or Illinois, why would you want them to have many more Senators than your state?

BTW, Chuck Miller, my fellow blogger with the Times Union, came up with what a divided up New York State might look like. It was a highlighted blog for that day.

Given the disdain with which most of the American people see Congress, creating MORE members, with the requisite expense, does not seem like a winning scenario.

Church and state: Francis I

I found this graphic really interesting. The Socialist US Senator is embracing the Pope’s condemnation of “doctrinaire capitalism, ‘deified markets,” trickle-down economics, and the finance industry. He decried the growing gap between the rich and the poor, tax evasion by the wealthy, and characterized ruthless free-market economics as a killer that was inherently sinful.” I assume this will mean that the Pope will be painted as a socialist.

Francis, moreover Continue reading

Constitutional allies

It’s Constitution Day!

Earlier in the year, I was inclined to agree with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show that most of the Constitution seems to be under attack, except that the Second Amendment right to bear arms seemed to be sacrosanct. For instance, the Supreme Court has chipped away at the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Worse, it felt that only a relative handful of people were concerned. That has visibly changed, and the opposition to governmental overreach is bipartisan.

Item from Newsmax:

“The American Civil Liberties Union is joining tea party activists in opposing the use of armed drones and other counterterrorism operations to kill suspected terrorists, even American citizens.
Continue reading

Yassin Aref: a matter of (in)justice

picture from the projectsalam.org webpage

It was local front page news, of course, back in 2006: two Muslims convicted of material support for TERRORISM, in Albany, New York! But even a casual reading of the news reports running up to the conviction of Yassin Aref, an Albany iman, and Mohammed Hossain, a pizzeria owner, didn’t add up. The clips of them with the FBI “informant” did NOT indicate the hate-filled speech I was told to expect.

Read about Yassin Aref’s arrest, conviction and incarceration in this 2011 article for New York magazine. It discusses the government’s “controversial policy of preemptive prosecution—taking down those thought to possibly become terrorists in the future.”

Now Aref’s lawyers will file papers Continue reading

ARA: The way my mind works

CHRIS: Ooo, what does the infinity symbol symbolize?

Gee, I thought it was a sidewards eight.

Good on your with the presidents thing. The three presidents in one year has happened twice and three in two years but more than one year happened once (by my count using http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States), none of which I knew before the discussion came up.

Three in one year was 1841 and 1881, that’s correct. Hadn’t thought about three in two years, but that would be 1849-1850, with Polk, Taylor and Fillmore.

Which brings me to my next question: how do you learn so many random things? Did you, for example, set out to memorize all the presidents and the years? Or does your brain do that “naturally”?

After minutes of self-psychoanalysis, this is what I’ve concluded Continue reading

R is for Roger, redux

As I’ve undoubtedly noted, the name Roger comes from the Germanic roots meaning spear bearer, specifically “famous with the spear.”

When you think of the first name Roger, who are the first people you think of? (I mean besides me, of course.) That was the question in this segment of the TV show Family Feud; I’m sorry it is incomplete.

Here’s a list of celebrities whose first names are Roger. The ones that immediately came to mind are some Continue reading

Disney/Marvel, SONY and copyright overreach

I’ve long been concerned about the expanding length and reach of copyright protection in the United States, and elsewhere in the world. The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, empowers Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” [Emphasis mine.]

These ever increasing terms have the effect that media conglomerates have developed a sense of entitlement towards intellectual property, even when it’s not warranted.

Back in the 1980s, when I used to buy and sell comic books, Marvel Comics had this lovely line called EPIC. It was a place that creator-owned work, comic art NOT owned by Marvel Comics, as well as selected other items, could be published. Continue reading