Time to Put 2013 on a Shelf

Yes, the people who railed against a spy in our midst as evil and corrupt introduced a puppet, one who quietly recorded information about children in the privacy of their homes and reported it to a central division where that intel was documented for later use.

original2013 was a year of epic news stories. From the bombing at the Boston Marathon and New York’s Weiner/Spitzer political candidacy circus to Bradley Manning’s harsh sentencing and gender changeover to Chelsea, we were all glued to our televisions, smart phones, and Twitter newsfeeds. But the game changer, the story that broke and laid broken perceptions in its wake, were the revelations by Edward Snowden reported by then-Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald. My Facebook newsfeed was overtaken with articles opining about Snowden, statuses offering two-cents on Greenwald’s reporting, until the collective attention span was overridden with the next shiny object: Christmas.

The reactions to Snowden were as varied as the people reacting. Some christened him a hero while others dedicated their Facebook statuses to calling for his head. Some were blindsided by the insidious implications of the NSA spying program, so much broader than any of us dared to imagine, while some of us were nonplussed, having already figured that all that was private was ripe for plundering in the name of national security, and stating plainly that if you have nothing to hide, you had nothing to fear.

The reactions spanned the ideological fault lines. Liberals who had voiced loud opposition to the Patriot Act were largely silent as its expansion occurred on their beloved President’s watch and couldn’t be placed squarely on the shoulders of a one George W. Bush. California senator Dianne Feinstein was staunch in her anti-Snowden stance, calling for no clemency. And none other than Glen Beck tweeted, “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.” I think he meant for whom he has waited.  (I’m resolving to be less snarky about grammatical errors in 2014, but since it’s still ’13: for whom, for whom, for whom, Beck.)  The Republican Party, not usually constrained by pesky civil liberties, is torn between defending a spy program that promises the utmost in national security and pretend outrage because they don’t want to miss a chance at jumping on a perceived blunder by the president. There was little room for both views of Snowden under the same blanket of “patriotism.”

This argument about whether he was a whistle-blower or a spy was shifted aside by the friends who show up on the newsfeed of my social media info-blasts. The merging of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah into Thanksgivakkah interrupted the outrage and philosophical discussion. What came on its heels was a fairly recent tradition. An elf.

Upon a shelf.

elf-on-the-shelf-

Apparently, the day after Thanksgiving an elf appears in many (Christmas-celebrating) homes across America. Its job is to keep watch over the children and report any misdeeds to Santa, who would come down on them with swift punishment of the coal-bringing variety. The idea is that the children would adjust their behavior so that it would never get to that point. They would live in fear the five or so weeks before Christmas, well-behaved and docile, and then reap their rewards, American-style (bought on sale over the trampled bodies of the weak at Walmart.)

The pictures of the elf, moved nightly to show that he had flown to the North Pole and back after having a brief tete-a-tete with the Big Guy, became the staple of my Facebook newsfeed. He was often a trouble-maker, making messes all over the house, dutifully recorded by creative parents. Here he was in the bathroom, having squirted out all of the toothpaste. There’s a photo of the little guy TP-ing the Christmas tree! Now he’s in the kitchen where it looks like he’s shitting Hershey kisses onto thumbprint cookies.

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A welcome break from Snowden indeed.

Yes, the people who railed against a spy in our midst as evil and corrupt introduced a puppet, one who quietly recorded information about children in the privacy of their homes and reported it to a central division where that intel was documented for later use. Those who voiced support for Snowden as a heroic figure instrumental in bringing to task an overreaching NSA program whose methods defied the very Constitution it seeks to protect brought in an elf to listen in on private conversations. If our children don’t flinch at the building of a monstrous compound full of every phone call/email/ and social media comment ever uttered in their lives, might it be because they’ve been conditioned?

Instead of making idiotic arguments of a fictional Santa Claus’ racial integrity, why don’t we look into the political implications of the elf. Or we could just tell the kids that if they have nothing to hide, they’ve got nothing to fear.

But that elf looks pretty damn creepy to me.
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Cyber Monday War on Terror

By introducing drones as their premier method to deliver goods, Amazon.com has not only raised the bar on home delivery, but has unwittingly provided the solution and the end to what had prior seemed to be an endless War on Terror.

There’s no debate that the assassination of Osama Bin Laden struck a mighty blow into the heart of Al Qaida. It was a coup for the Obama administration and a much needed win for the Americans in the War on Terror.

But it ain’t over. Not by a long shot.

Before his forced resignation after the Rolling Stone article penned by Michael Hastings that shed light on covert and sometime insubordinate military operations, General Stanley McCrystal led surge tactics to bump up force on enemy combatants. We can argue about how successful he was, (Hastings, however, can no longer participate in this discussion) but what remains is that Al Qaida has regrouped and has grown in strength since. And that traditional methods of curbing their threats have stagnated.

So I say, change routes. The military industrial complex is overblown as it is. With the economy in tatters, it’s best to put our dollars in private business. Besides the refreshing lack of governmental bureaucracy, it’s the patriotic thing to do.

I’m not suggesting we reinvent the wheel here. Amazon.com has provided the template from which we can combine two of America’s most vested interests: military bloodshed and shopping. By introducing drones as their premier method to deliver goods, Amazon.com has not only raised the bar on home delivery, but has unwittingly provided the solution and an end to what had previously seemed to be an endless War on Terror.Amazon Drone

 

It works like this: The United States has a number of key enemies who have plotted against us. Now, all we have to do is make a small purchase (I think you might need to upgrade to Amazon Prime as well) and send it via drone to alleged terrorists.

For instance, by ordering a Hutzler Banana Slicer for Hassan Izz-Din, one of the terrorists responsible for the bombing of TWA Flight 847 who is living in Lebanon, we help to prop up the US economy, and eliminate one of America’s Most Wanted.

I would order a Bic Cristal for Her ballpoint pen for Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is at large for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

I’m buying a gallon of Tuscan whole milk for Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil who is wanted by the United States in connection with the June 25, 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia. Not because I know he likes milk, per se, but because the reviews on Amazon are hys-terical.

Besides a drone in his stocking, Ayman al-Zawahiri is getting Accoutrements Horse Head Mask because although I’m sure the Godfather reference will be lost on him, since he’ll be dead, I amuse myself. Again, the comments.

And finally, for Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, believed to be responsible for the 1998 US Embassy bombing, I will send Uranium Ore via drone. Because what could go wrong there?

By cutting out the US Postal service in this endeavor, we give a nod to private corporation. By cutting out the US military in favor of Amazon.com, we send a strong message to the US public: shop local, act global. This is what real patriotism looks like.

Conspiracy: It’s What’s for Dinner.

Through it all, Barack Obama has held tightly to his cool, unflappable persona, leading me to believe that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

I think it’s fair to say that in the wake of the government shutdown and the laughable antics of the Tea Party, the GOP had their asses effectively handed to them in this latest election. Tea partier Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia was summarily defeated. So too Dean Young of Alabama. New York City elected its first democratic mayor since the early nineties. Democracy reigned across the land, despite voter ID laws designed to keep minorities and Democrats from voting.

All of it: the shutdown, Ted Cruz’s filibuster, the obstruction led by Tea Party wing-nuts has badly shaken the President. Except – it hasn’t. Through it all, Barack Obama has held tightly to his cool, unflappable persona, leading me to believe that there’s more to it than meets the eye. As it stands, this fringe element of the GOP shouldn’t have nearly the voice or the power to sabotage the US government. Yet, thanks to redistricting and gerrymandering, they have infiltrated congress to wield their strange and horrible revenge.

obama-coolBut something about it doesn’t sit right in my stomach. I suspect the story goes deeper than we’ve all been led to believe and that maybe Obama’s calm exterior is the clue we need to put it all together. Remember Syria? That country somewhere across the water from us, in the middle of a whole bunch of other countries that I can’t pronounce/know who they are? Remember how they were going to throw us into a third foreign conflict that had conservatives beating the drum wars (have the ever stopped?) and liberals picketing, recycling our fathers’ protest-wear of the 1960s?

In short, it was a chess game, the likes of which none of us saw clearly until the hand was dealt in John Kerry’s “slip” that if Syria was willing to give up their chemical weaponry, we were going to launch the missiles that were aimed at Syrian targets. It sounded to the world like an offhand comment, an impossibility, and an excuse to pacify the itchy fingers at the helm. But Syria, with Russia’s support, surprised us. They agreed. And most of us let out a sigh of relief.

And it was only after the smoke cleared that the public was able to see why Obama was able to keep his cool in the face of another bloody war: he knew what he was doing. He saw three steps ahead of any of us and played it out. Nothing to get all nervous about folks. I got this.

And so when I see that coolness in the face of domestic conflict in Congress that has organized opposition to every single thing he has ever proposed, I wonder how he doesn’t snap. Just once. Just a bit. An eye-roll. A bitten lip. A shouted obscenity.

But no.

So let’s look deeper at the actual result of the Tea Party’s invasion of the GOP. They have hijacked a powerful political party and taken away their credo of fiscal responsibility and small government and replaced it with a religious dogma that would stump Jesus. Conspiracy theorists have only grown more staunch in their assertions that Obama is really a Muslim socialist intent on waging war against the very country he purports to love. They’re waiting for the axe to drop. They think it might have something to do with his healthcare reform, that there has to be a sinister element to his attempt to revamp a disastrous and corrupt system and put affordable provisions in for the less fortunate among us.

Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman haven’t stopped to take a breath in their campaigns to enlighten the people to his evil doings. Fox News, in their fair and balanced efforts, pauses naught in their anti-Obama “news,” and Mitch McConnell has vowed to never stop his wave of obstruction. It’s enough to make a leader flip the eff out.

But not this guy.

Consider for a moment how his calm exterior has been a Teflon cover to which none of their vitriol sticks. Consider how the Tea Party-led GOP has succeeded in defeating food stamps for the very poor in hard economic times while clinging to tax breaks for the very wealthy, how redistricting has made their racist motives apparent to the masses, and how they shut down the entire government just to stage a temper tantrum that served only to illustrate how contemptible their positions have grown. Finally, consider how the Tea Party has succeeded where no Democrat ever could: in dividing a once-powerful club whose power was unmatched by anything the world had ever seen. Consider Obama’s ability to play a long game. Consider his chess-playing acumen.

Then tell me that Obama isn’t the biggest sponsor of the Tea Party “patriots.”

(Slow clap, Mr. President. And don’t worry – I’ll keep this between you and me.)

America’s Exception to the Rule

What separates us from the third world and from the tyrants that run that world is not that we have weapons of mass destruction and that we are prepared to deploy them, but rather the opposite. We’re exceptional not for military might but for our restraint.

obama/putinKnow what’s funny? The conservative protest against a peaceful solution to the Syria conflict is absolutely consistent with the commonplace bloodlust of the party of “life.” And by funny, I mean disheartening. But I will give them this: unlike the flippity-floppity liberals, at least they have consistency on their side. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, the right come out en mass against gun control.

Let’s take a look at some of Obama’s changing positions. First, he says he won’t get involved unless they cross his self-imposed red line of use of chemical weaponry. Check. Then, he actually wants that threat to have teeth. He follows up like he said he would. And his position is this: unless Syria is willing to give up their chemical weapons, we’re going to start killing some people up in here. And then they agree. And Obama has the wherewithal nerve to agree. Punk.

The idea that John Kerry made a blustering mistake that “accidentally” led to a peaceful resolution is disingenuous. Say what you will about Kerry, ketchup, motorcycling photo ops with Assad, the man has put his time in. They don’t misspeak at that level, not with war at stake.

And to say that Obama was played for a fool by Putin says more about the “patriotic” right than it does about Obama’s intelligence level, which has never, through two elections and a near-constant six-year litany of insults, ever been called into question. But that’s okay. We need opposition to hold our leaders accountable. We need to question the motivations of our politicians, and we need to speak up when those questions meet with unsatisfactory answers. That’s the duty of the electorate.

In his Op-ed in the New York Times, Putin disparaged the United States in general and Barack Obama in particular for considering this country “exceptional.”  He asserted that this kind of attitude is dangerous and while it may seem unpatriotic to agree, I see his point. This kind of untouchable mindset, the kind that wallows in superiority, is a breeding ground for ignorance, which could be very dangerous indeed. And yet, America is exceptional. We are a country born of conflict and debate, and have built into our founding documents the elasticity to grow in fits and spurts. We foster disagreement here.  We might not like what people say about us. There is no way that Putin’s words appearing in a mainstream newspaper didn’t irk the shit out of a big portion of our populace. But find me a pissed off citizen who doesn’t equally believe in his right to say it. That’s our exception. It’s what makes us different.

What Putin actually meant, by throwing Obama’s words and those of the preamble back into our faces, is the word “superior.”  But that’s really beside the point, isn’t it? And the fact that Putin is wrong about us, doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is right. If you take a look at the people of Walmart, it’s hard to make a case for the hierarchy and evolution of humanity with America at the top of that food chain. But let’s take a look at Congress. They don’t make it easy either  – yet what separates us from the third world and from the tyrants that run that world is not that we have weapons of mass destruction and that we are prepared to deploy them, but rather the opposite. We’re exceptional not for military might but for our restraint. Putin said, “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.”  We can take this not as fact – commonplace? Really? But as food for thought. The times where the US has lived up to its place in the world have been when our leaders were thoughtful and analytical where others have been knee-jerk reactors. And this mindset carries down from a Constitution that promises thoughtful action into our legal system which tries to enforce that view.

Barack Obama has the dual obligation to be commander-in-chief and also to uphold and protect the Constitution. These should not be in conflict but as of late, they often are. Let’s take a look at the credo of United States to which Putin refers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This was a credo born in revolution, asserting that we, the underlings of the modern-day world, had the same inborn rights as those abroad. It was the cry of the vulnerable to the strong. The fact that we have risen up as one of the world’s superpowers absolutely suggests that we have a responsibility within that world. As we are now one of the biggest, that very credo allows that we need to offer our help to those in the position from whence we came: vulnerable, small, and un-equal. Exceptional, but not in a good way.

On a micro-scale, this is the way we need to address the growing problem of gun violence in this country. If the victims are the little guys, the gun manufacturers are the tyrants. And the inherited role of the United States is not to kowtow to the big guy, but to help the vulnerable. We have muscles upon muscles in this nation, and sometimes the smartest action is to flex them. The right would have us land a punch with every conflict. Or pull a trigger.

Yet, we might do well to remember our roots. And by doing so, become the exception.

 

The 4th Amendment, the 4th Estate, and the Slope upon which we Slip

If we’re to welcome truth and transparency as we say we do, why the urge to persecute a truth teller?

In our earliest Politics and Government courses, we learn about how the United States set up a system of checks and balances to keep one particular part of government from becoming too powerful and thus, tyrannical. And so the branches were separated into executive, legislative, and judicial – each with distinct responsibilities and powers that could reel in the other two. We decentralized power from the federal to the state to give more power to the people and then imposed voting restrictions to make sure the people didn’t amass too much direct power themselves.

 

Unwritten into the three branches of government, but included in the Bill of Rights, is a fourth that, when used in the manner in which it was conceived, provides a check to an out of balance government that has merged the three branches into an monster of our own creation. At least, that’s what Edward Snowden is counting on the Fourth Estate to provide. His life, and much more, depends on it.

 

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of fear, especially when we have the first hand experience of terrorism in our recent memory. Many of us in New York and Washington witnessed the assaults on 9/11 firsthand. I did. In the wake of fear, we forfeited certain rights in the name of safety. And that’s what this debate that the president keeps saying he’s open to having is really all about: how much of our civil liberties are we willing to sacrifice in the name of safety? The Patriot Act was born of a time where we, as a nation, felt vulnerable to violence. We allowed our legislators to loosen its grip on our search and seizure laws to intercept information from terrorists. It was for our safety, and because the image of three thousand corpses lay fresh in our minds, we gave a half-hearted protest. Because we weren’t really protesting it. Because it felt safe.

 

And yet.

 

The great James Madison, in his discussion of what we should include in this radical experiment of a country, considered the checks on government to be tantamount to its lasting success. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

 

And yet, in giving the powers that be the go ahead to mine personal data, to torture, to assassinate, to use drones, to hold prisoners indefinitely and to persecute those who risk all to tell us about it is exactly a government who has failed to control itself. The checks aren’t working. The balance has tipped. And the last ditch effort of a true government of, by, and for the people is to bring the truth to the people through the press and hope they haven’t become so insulated by streams of information that they can discern what is at stake. And act.

 

The Fourth Estate cuts both ways: it can exonerate, and it can convict in the court of public opinion which wields incredible power. And the smear campaign predictably begins, with journalists combing through Snowden’s teenage web presence to his girlfriend’s salacious job. Much has been made about his GED, which speaks more to elitism than Snowden’s capability.  It’s lazy, it misses the point, and it tarnishes the bad name that some liberals have already earned. It has prompted respected columnists like Rick Unger, political contributor to Forbes Magazine, to fabricate a quote and deride Snowden’s reputation and respectability based on it.

 

“Snowden declared, during a live chat with the Guardian on Monday, that he believes that “all spying is wrong.” And because it is Snowden’s personal judgment that all spying is wrong, he also believes it appropriate that he reveal our covert activities to affected foreign governments without a shed of concern for what the rest of his fellow Americans might think about this.”

 

Except nowhere in the transcript of Snowden’s live chatdid he voice that sentiment. It was a deliberate misquote and an example of shoddy journalism by a respected writer in a respectable publication. Why? The revelations that Snowden disclosed secrets about our spy programs to China and at the G20 summit in 2009 provide a welcome relief to those who only want to vilify. Yet if we’re to welcome truth and transparency as we say we do, why the urge to persecute a truth teller? Might it be because we want no part of the truth that’s coming to light, because it opens up a can of worms which, at its bottom, reveals that our president is not the liberal wet dream we hoped he would be? That even without Republican obstructionism lies a man whose political philosophy is more complex than the Aaron Sorkin screenplay we’ve written for him in our imaginations?

 

If we paint Snowden as a bad guy, does that make Obama good? Is this the dichotomy that we have to choose between? Yeah, I kind of think it is. Are we to vilify Snowden for making an awkward situation for the president at this year’s G8 summit? Or do we celebrate that a citizen is making our president take responsibility? That is the job of the populace, who cannot do so if they are not informed. That is the job of the Fourth Estate. It’s how we keep the powers that be in check.

 

Yet, the media has largely kept up with the hero/traitor narrative, with most concluding the latter. Much has been made of his self-extradition to Hong Kong (and now Russia) as traitorous and cowardly, when it’s really another form of information – it brings to attention the lengths this administration has gone to persecute whistle-blowers. They are not safe in America anymore, as they were when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. There have even been assertions that Glen Greenwald, Snowden’s (in)famous interviewer (parentheses are depending on the audience reading this), should face persecution himself for the act of journalism.

 

These signify a dramatic change in this country, not only in legislation, but in the mindset of the governed. We have moved from a representative democracy that rests on inalienable rights to secret courts, private subcontractors of the NSA compiling files of our personal digital correspondence and the “people” of the US calling for the head of the person who brought it to light. The big picture here is the loss of the American value system. It’s easy to promote freedom of the press and freedom of speech, due process, and search and seizure protections when you aren’t afraid and there is no direct threat, but it’s much harder when you are. But I think it’s the cornerstone of who we are supposed to be and if we lose that, we lose the identity that people died for, fought for, wrote, argued, and marched for. It’s the last shred of justified exceptionalism.

 

We can question why Snowden’s revelations have prompted outrage because he’s making us confront a truth we’d rather not consider: we like spying. We are okay with unwarranted phone tappings and the blurred lines of the 4th Amendment. Because it  gives us the illusion that we are safer from the bad guys. That illusion is worth its weight in gold – or blood.

Or conscience.

Breaking Up With the GOP. A White Boy’s Lament.

After the election we were determined to contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

After election season, sickened by the toxic atmosphere we soaked in during an endless campaign of lies and betrayal of our ideals, my friend Billy and I pondered over the demise of the Republican Party. Personally, I grew up a Republican, believing in the mythology of our two-party system and living under the illusion that American governance resembles democracy. There were Republicans all around and they seemed like lovely people, so I blithely went about my business believing that I was a Republican as well. Monkey see, monkey do.

Billy is far more cynical and savvy. A street smart kid from Brooklyn, he has a keen ability to read between the lines. He’s skilled at the art of pantomime, reading people like tarot cards and “calling bullshit” frequently. I’m more philosophical, and am skilled at the art of politics. I believe that politics is indeed a bloodsport and I’m game to play all day, every day. Billy believes life is bloodsport and he too is game. He indulges my ramblings on the death of empire, the evils of inequality and importance of civil rights and he makes me listen to the Afghan Whigs and Mos Def.

After the dust settled from the election we were determined to collaborate on an important political project. To contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered either privately, or aloud, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

So we recorded what you kids would call a “rap.”

(My wife wrote and performed the chorus. She has regretted it ever since.)

Lyrics:

I’m a white man. I’m your prime demographic.
Used to vote “R” down the line, just out of habit.
But I started listening, then I started thinking.
How did we get so far from the party of Lincoln.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT! Rolling in his grave.
He’d be very disappointed in the way that you behave.
You pushed me away more than you realize,
Voted for Obama (TWICE!) cuz I’m disenfranchised.

You wanna bring together your church and my state?
When your church says deliver even in the case of rape?
Legitimate rape? There’s a difference?
Go sell your hate somewhere else and focus on your own sins.

Chorus:
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.

This republic can overcome Republicans
who say the rights of a women ain’t equal to a man.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH! IT’S THE FREEDOM TO TEACH!
To reach out and speak out these truths that we seek.

And these truths? They’re self evident.
Two hundred thirty years now we got a black president.
THAT’S CALLED PROGRESS, SON. Overcoming race.
Content of character, not color of face.

Cash from the Koch Brothers, Citizens United
Yeah we one nation, NOW WE DIVIDED
Footsie with Monsanto, taking care of Big Oil
Loopholes and tax breaks on the backs of the poor. COME ON!

Chorus

White upper middle class Republican.
But now these feelings come to pass.
And Occupy she’s got a sexy ass
So now I’m looking down a different path
It’s time for me to let my old earth go
I grab my thoughts and then I’m out the door
My heart pump truth and needs to keep it real
With a party that cares how people feel
So one last time before I walk on out
Silent middle finger I don’t need to shout

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL. Tyrannosaurus roamed the earth.
There was life on the planet before Jesus’ birth.
Locking up Latinos, yell “Illegal Immigration”
And conveniently forget this was an Indian nation. WE STOLE IT.

NOTHING GRAND ABOUT THIS PARTY
Yo, rescind my invitation.
I’ll take Elizabeth Warren.
Ya’ll can keep Sarah Palin.

 

 

 

Stimulate My Package

shorehamAnd now for a tremendous over-simplification about the stimulus package. But first – a rant.

 

According to The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a U.S. based non-profit organization, the US Department of Agriculture considered 36.2 million people in the United States to be “food insecure” in 2007. Food insecurity is defined as “recurring and involuntary lack of access to food.” Of these 35.2 million Americans, 12.4 million are children.

 

One of W’s last acts in 2008 to preserve the banking system was to sign a $700billion stimulus package to save the banking industry. President Obama has already pushed through in 2009 an additional $787billion package to fix everything else.

 

Where was all this money when American children were going hungry in 2007? Oh, that’s right. China. We are borrowing all of this money from a country that routinely allows its massive rural population to go hungry because they have saved their pennies more wisely from selling crap to the United States for the past twenty five years.

 

I think we need to realign our priorities where emergency funding is concerned. Now, on to the stimulus package.

 

So the United States has managed to print/steal/borrow $787billion and is going to shower Americans with dollar bills like strippers in the topless nightclub rotunda of Congress. Cool. As much as I would like to “get me some of that” money raining down from the heavens I have an idea of how we can really kioli this package and ask for what is fair.

 

Twenty years ago environmental and energy advocates on Long Island successfully shuttered the Shoreham Nuclear Energy plant yet we have been living with this albatross ever since. Every year the Long Island Power Authority services the debt on the six billion dollars it took to build Shoreham. We cannot get ahead of it. Every one that moves here receives a little slice of nuclear debt like a finance charge on a parking ticket we all got in the 80’s.

 

Whatever your opinion of the larger-than-life Richie Kessel, he was responsible for transforming LIPA into a forward thinking enterprise and implemented ambitious efficiency programs. There were gaffs along the way and sometimes it appeared to be more about Richie than LIPA but he was an effective leader and persuasive communicator. His demon was the debt left over from the Shoreham debacle; ironically a project he was instrumental in shutting down.

 

Enter Kevin Law. Brilliant, affable and well-connected. Law has assembled an enviable team of professionals that are equally suited to run either county (and have). His team is bent on transforming and streamlining LIPA, but they too are strangled by the Shoreham debt that casts a shadow over us all.

 

This debt has left us with the highest energy rates in the nation. Many businesses can barely afford to stay here and we have little shot of attracting new, major companies who offer significant employment opportunities. Developers struggle too with creating new affordable homes for our young people, in large due to the high cost of energy production on the island. It affects every home owner, every landlord, every business and every municipality. The debt is crushing us and hampering LIPA’s ability to transform the way we think about energy and conservation on Long Island.

 

As awful and backwards as this sounds, LIPA cannot afford to help Long Islanders conserve too much energy because it simply costs too much to be LIPA. Every time a Long Islander installs solar power in his or her home, the rest of us pick up the freight. In a time when the green movement and energy efficiency will provide the best opportunity for Long Island to transform itself as a region, it is the ultimate conundrum.

 

This is where our Congressional leaders can help. Gary, Carolyn, Pete, Steve and Tim… listen up. There are 303 million people in the United States. Congress is handing out $787 billion dollars. That’s $2,590 per person in the U.S. if we were to evenly allocate the money spent among our population. Long Island has approximately 2.7 million people, which means our fair share of the stimulus package should be around 6.9 billion dollars. See where I’m going with this yet?

 

Retire LIPA’s debt.

 

Put money back in everyone’s pocket.

Allow Kevin Law to freely implement conservation and efficiency programs on Long Island.

Make us more competitive in attracting new companies to Long Island and help preserve existing businesses.

 

Go do your jobs and get our money. We never asked for Shoreham. We never asked for this debt. It’s your responsibility to get us out of this mess and give this region a fighting shot to reinvent itself and stay competitive for years to come.