Archive for the 'New York' Category

The slippery slope to fascism

Our esteemed State Senator, Fred Akshar, has just introduced into the New York Senate a truly frightening piece of legislation. If enacted it would make an attack on a law enforcement officer a hate crime. Not only is this entirely unnecessary, it is an affront to the US Constitution. The very basis of our polity is that we, the people, are the government. Setting police aside in a special protected class is a large step toward fascism and a police state. Furthermore, because Senator Akshar is himself a law enforcement officer himself, he has a conflict of interest and should recuse himself in any case.

For the record, I do not hate police and I believe that those who attack them should be aggressively prosecuted.

I urge everyone to contact Senator Akshar and tell him to withdraw this misguided, fascist legislation.

Police state

This morning I was bullied by a New York State Trooper named David A. Kemp on behalf of a biker friend of his who objected to my non-threatening email telling him to stop harassing me on Facebook. (See my earlier post Resist and the emails in question below.)  Not only was the trooper was rude but he lied by saying that what I had done was illegal. At one point, he pushed his way into our house and shouted at me. And without my permission, he went to the back of my house to record our car license plates.

This is what Trump’s police state looks like. In fairness, the state police sergeant to whom I complained was fairly conciliatory but this incident should never have happened. I have sent a message to my state assembly representative advising her of this abuse of police power. I urge anyone else subject to this sort of right wing harassment to so likewise.

 

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Millennials and Public Ethics

The millennial generation, those born since about 1990, generally eschew marriage preferring to bear illegitimate children and cohabitate. That is certainly their choice, however troublesome it may turn out to be for them in the long run. But there is another side to this: its impact on public ethics. If one were a public official, say Director of Public Works for a small Village in Upstate NY, hiring one’s son-in-law would raise ethical, if not legal, issues. But if that official’s daughter were simply cohabiting there is nothing to prevent him from hiring her consort. But what is the difference between the two situations? Nothing. The young man may not legally be his son-in-law, but he certainly benefits from his familial connections. How can we know whether a more qualified person was not passed over in favor of this young man? We cannot, because ethics laws do not apply. Is it not time to update our ethics laws to reflect the reality of today’s lifestyles? Public employment should never be a perquisite extended to family members whether those family ties are legally recognized or simply de facto.

A New York state of spying

We New Yorkers like to think of our state as rather progressive and in many ways it is. However, when it comes to surveillance, especially electronic surveillance, the Empire State is stuck in the era of rotary-dial phones and black-and-white photography. While it is illegal to intercept a phone call or other conversation between two parties not including yourself, you can record communications between yourself and another person without that person’s knowledge or permission. The matter of video surveillance is even more egregious. Your neighbor, or anyone else for that matter, can position overt or hidden cameras to image your property, even the inside of your house, so long as they do not look into areas where you have “an expectation of privacy”—rather narrowly defined as your bathroom or bedroom. In other words, think twice about going around your living room naked because someone could—entirely legally—be recording you doing so. And, short of outright blackmail, there are few restrictions on what they can do with that recording. Ok, so perhaps not many people go to the trouble and expense of targeting someone for surveillance. But what about your paranoid neighbor whose house and yard bristle with infrared cameras? What if those cameras just happen to image your property? Too bad. There is no law in New York State that says that such systems must be installed to view only the owner’s property. In fact, your neighbor can sit in his yard and look into your windows with binoculars and be entirely within the law.  

If, like me, you think that this is outrageous, I urge you to write to your State Senator and Assembly Representative. Demand that they introduce legislation to protect the privacy of New Yorkers from deliberate and incidental invasion by the ubiquitous panoply of electronic surveillance devices. If you do not know who your representatives are, contact me at ljcotnoir@stny.rr.com and I will provide you with that information. Stopping illegal surveillance by the government is not enough; we need laws protecting us from freelance spying as well.

Put children’s lives before profits

Early this morning two pre-school aged children died in an apartment house fire a couple blocks from here. Local officials are investigating the possibility that arson was the cause of the fire. They should also be considering that cause of the deaths was a lack of adequate fire codes and inspections. The story of this building is typical of the sort of neglect that leads to such tragedies.

The building in question, 145 Floral Avenue in Johnson City, New York, is owned by K&L Estate Corporation of Monroe, New York located in Orange County just north of New York City. That corporation is in turn owned by 33-year old Usher Kahan, the son of Yudel Kahan who is the head of Churchill Corporation Services which describes itself as the largest owner of furnished apartments in the New York City and Northern New Jersey area. The younger Mr. Kahan bought the property in 2014 for $70,000 at which time its tax classification was changed from 411-apartment to 400-commercial. (I am awaiting an answer from the County as to the impact of that change.)

Built in 1960, the building has seven apartments: some two bedroom renting for $550 a month plus utilities, some three bedroom renting for $635 a month. The total number of bedrooms is 15 suggesting that total the monthly rental income is around $3,500 a month. Although current tax information on the property is not listed on the Broome County web site (why not?) the real estate listing when the property was sold says that they are about $3,700 a year. That means that Mr. Kahan is realizing a 55% return on his investment every year—before he depreciates it for tax purposes. So why is he not required to install sprinklers in the building?

The answer, quite simply, is that local officials have not seen fit to require them. The answer to why they have not is harder to understand. Rents in the Binghamton area are very high compared to the cost of apartment buildings making the sort of investment returns enjoyed by Mr. Kahan the rule rather than the exception. It is time that some of those profits go into providing safe housing for our citizens. Any time a multiple-family building is sold, it should be required to be brought up to current fire code as is the case in many communities across the country. And those fire codes should be updated to require sprinklers and to mandate annual inspections of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms—reports are that the alarms at 145 Floral Avenue did not function.

An arsonist may well have set the fire that damaged this building and left several families homeless. But it is corporate greed and governmental neglect that caused the deaths of these two innocent children. Our citizen deserve better.

No more games

The State of New York, in the person of Governor Andrew Cuomo, seems to have decided that its poor, struggling upstate regions are children to be controlled through a series of games. The latest, dubbed “The Hunger Games,” offers $1.5B to be divided among three winner out of the seven regions of the state. This is insane for a number of reasons.

First of all, since when is Albany all-knowing about what is best for the various regions in the state? The state capital is closer to Boston than to the western part of the state. Basically this is a matter of the half of the state that lives in the New York City area treating the rest of us as ignorant yokels.

Second, what happens to the four “losers” in this competition? Are their residents not citizens of the state like those in the winning regions? What gives Albany the right to put some of its citizens ahead of others? Is our state to have three classes: New York City, upstate winners, and upstate losers?

Third, let us not forget that much of the economic trouble of upstate NY can be laid at the feet of the downstate financial community. Would the Southern Tier need help if IBM had not decamped for Westchester County? How many jobs were lost at Endicott Johnson when Citigroup bought the company and sucked the remaining life from it? What about the venture capitalists who killed Link? Or the NYC-based Random House that shut down its Kirkwood distribution center?

Finally, this sort of phony competition pits neighbor against neighbor to the detriment of all. If Albany wants to stimulate recovery upstate, how about removing the state sales tax in upstate counties? How about eliminating state corporate income taxes in those counties? And then how about running workshops to train local officials in economic development?

Casinos will not restore economic vitality to upstate NY and neither will stupid state-run games. Stop treating us like an amusement, Albany, and get out of our way.

The coronation of Fred Akshar

There is allegedly a campaign underway to fill the New York State Senate seat left vacant by the conviction and resignation of Tom Libous. But to characterize what is happening as an election is to fail to appreciate the reality of the situation. No, this is a coronation. The Warren Anderson Baton of Pork and Corruption is being passed to a third generation handpicked by power brokers in Albany. To see how this is being done one need only follow the money.

Our local media have made much of the fact that the Fred Akshar campaign has out raised Fiala’s by 20:1. The facts are a bit more subtle. According to the New York State Board of Elections Akshar has a war chest of $429,548.49 compared to $164,881.13 for Barbara Fiala. Without question, Akshar has drawn far more in donations from corporations and PACs, $101,603.49 to $16,250.00, and individuals, $115,241 to $700, than has Fiala. But the real story is in the support of the Republican and Democratic Parties for their respective candidates. Akshar has received $208,200 from the Republican Party and in let-over funds from other Republican candidates. Fiala has received no funding whatsoever from the Democratic Party. In fact, 88% of her financing is left over from her previous campaign for County Executive. The message is clear: Fiala was asked by Governor Cuomo to run as a sacrificial lamb to give the illusion that this was really an election.

Now perhaps this is prudent on the part of Democrats in as much as Mr. Akshar will need to run again in 2016. It is hard to see how he will be able to raise yet another $115,000 in individual contributions in less than a year. However, he will be running as an incumbent which is always an advantage even though he will have had little chance to accomplish anything during the ten months he will have been in office. On the other hand, the Democratic Party has been singularly inept at fielding winning candidates in the Southern Tier. That Party’s candidates for County Executive and Binghamton City mayor were pathetic at best. Unless that changes, Mr. Akshar will follow in the tradition of becoming a millionaire while larding the state budget with goodies for his friends. Perhaps he will even inherit Libous’s lakefront house. Meanwhile, another nail is driven into the coffin of democracy in upstate NY.

Pot meet kettle, Facebook edition

8/5, 8:38pm

 Bob Kingsley

 Mr. Cotnoir:

Appreciate your comments on my article. After scanning your Facebook wall, it seems you’re no stranger to enjoying a bit of name calling, especially when it is a topic or individual of your objections. If all you could find was that single comment about calling King Andrew exactly what he pretends to be, given his want to flaunt the law, protocol and rules of the legislative process, then I guess I did a pretty good job quieting the liberal left you clearly represent. I only pray that next on Preet’s list is King Andy himself. Stay tuned and thanks again for reading.

 

8/6, 12:52pm

 Leo Cotnoir

Although I am a Democrat I am not a particular fan of Governor Cuomo. I voted for him because he was by far the better choice in the last election. Personally, I think that the DoJ should roll a few buses into Albany and haul the whole crowd to jail. But referring to the governor as "King Andy" does nothing to advance the dialog. And thanks for replying to my comment.

 

9/30, 4:57pm

 Bob Kingsley

Try putting some original thought out there instead of sniping.

 

9/30, 5:01pm

 Leo Cotnoir

If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it.

 

Today, 11:21am

 Bob Kingsley

Like I said, try original thought instead of sniping. All you do is criticize. Any A-hole can do that Leo, lets hear some ORIGINAL THOUGHT if you’re so freakin enlightened.

 

10/1, 11:23am

 Leo Cotnoir

Read my blog: moosemorsels.wordpress.com

 

10/1, 12:33pm

 Bob Kingsley

You use PressConnects to snipe, use it to express your ORIGINAL THOUGHTS. I’ll bet you can’t get it published because it lacks quality…..

 

10/1, 12:42pm

 Leo Cotnoir

I use Press Connects to correct right wing lies. That does not take an extended essay.

 

Today, 1:27pm

 Bob Kingsley

but I’m guessing your ORIGINAL WORK is unpublishable which means its only life is in your blog, right?

 

10/1, 3:16pm

 Leo Cotnoir

I’m guessing that you are an asshole sticking his nose into my business. In fact I have had letters published in the Press & Sun-Bulletin several times, in The New Yorker (twice), in The Washington Post, and in Aviation Week and Space technology (twice). I have also published in the Journal of the Optical Society of America, Laser Focus World, Applied Optics, Physics Review Letters, and several more. I anxiously await your bibliography.

 

10/1, 5:13pm

 Bob Kingsley

you lost me at asshole asshole, go fuck yourself I was civil until you brought it down so fuck off

 

 <blocks me, no loss>

The Horse is Dead Already….

When he ran for County Executive, I put up a lawn sign supporting Tarik Abdelazim. I have since come to regret doing so despite the incompetence of his opponent. His campaign against Binghamton Mayor Rich David’s attempt to convert an urban wasteland into a useful attractive, space is simply gratuitous politics. But that is of a piece with the unnecessary, divisive stunts he, I understand, talked former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan into—the infamous war clock among them. It is not that we need not be aware of the cost of war but that it is not a city issue and certainly not worth the ill-will it generated. It is time for us Democrats to develop potential candidates who are willing to compromise and refrain from picking stupid fights. Mr. Abdelazim needs to be put on the shelf.

You can read Mr. Abdelazim’s latest temper tantrum at:

http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2015/08/27/guest-viewpoint-parking-project/71275000/

He stoops to pander

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, accompanied by assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, state senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and several well-heeled hangers-on, left today on a “unity trip” to Israel. Even under normal circumstances this would be a questionable state incursion into foreign affairs, but these are not normal circumstances: Israel is in the midst of a war with Hamas in the Israeli-occupied Gaza strip. While Hamas certainly has been a bad actor, the brutality of the Israeli incursion is completely disproportionate. Israeli forces have killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians. Only three Israel civilians have lost their lives and they were actually working with the military. Cuomo’s trip is, basically, an endorsement of these atrocities. Furthermore, he and his delegation pointedly declined an invitation to meet with representatives of the people of Gaza. The trip is funded, it is claimed, by Cuomo’s reelection campaign. However, the fact that these worthies are flying El Al and not a US airline suggests that the real sponsor is the Israeli government.

I have no doubt that I will be accused of anti-Semitism for objecting to this blatant display of pandering to wealthy downstate Jewish campaign contributors, some of whom are almost certainly laundering illegal Israeli government money. But it must be said that the governor of New York should be tending to the affairs of the State of New York, not involving himself in international relations. The one-sided nature of this trip will only serve to further inflame the situation in Gaza. Mr. Cuomo will be returning from this entirely inappropriate junket with the blood of Palestinian children on his hands—and, of course, thirty pieces of silver in his pocket.