Opinion: Love it or leave it

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week the political rhetoric from the President of the United States sunk to a new low, awash with disturbing invective.

Donald Trump attacked four members of Congress who happen to be women of color and have been very critical of Trump’s immigration policies and his efforts to ban Muslims from entering this country. Trump said of the four that they should “go back to the crime infested countries that they came from.” But each are United States citizens, three of whom were born here.

So “go back to the country that they came from?” Say what?

It was not lost on anyone that the women singled out by Trump were either of Muslim heritage or whose family ties include relatives from Central American countries. To state the obvious, Trump’s comments are as factually wrong as they are repugnant and bigoted.

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Opinion: From Oswald to Hodgkinson

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Although separated by 54 years, the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and James T. Hodgkinson is all too familiar.

They both possessed a legally acquired rifle, and for reasons only known to them fired shots at the government of the United States with devastating consequences.

In the case of Oswald, he bought his rifle through an ordinary mail order transaction and Hodgkinson legally purchased his weapon as well… no questions asked.

Oswald fired shots at the president of the United States and Hodgkinson fired dozens of shots at members of Congress last week. Both shooters were killed before they could answer questions or to stand trial for their actions.

But the most telling similarity of these shootings is that after more than a half century and over 1.5 million shooting deaths of famous and anonymous Americans, the government of this country is still unwilling to come to grips with the plague of ever more lethal firearms in the hands of ever more people.

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Opinion: Planet Albany

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

I taught a class in politics at City College some years ago. Fortunately, I never had to explain what is going on at all levels of government these days, especially in Albany. From grade school we are instructed that in a democracy, the majority rules. In other words, if you get the most votes, you get to govern. In Albany that is not a given.

There is no need to rehash what happened in the Presidential election. As we know, the candidate with the most votes was not declared the winner.

Notwithstanding Donald Trump’s insistence that he was cheated out of millions of votes, he actually lost the popular vote. But in Presidential elections, the winner is the one who gets a majority of the Electoral College vote, which Trump did. That is a fact, whether we like it or not.

However, consider the curious case of Albany. Like at the federal level, there is a chief executive in the person of the governor. And like Congress, there is a bi-cameral Legislature, the State Assembly and the State Senate.  And that is where the intrigue begins. After the November elections, the Assembly continues to be dominated by the Democratic Party occupying over two thirds of the seats. In the Senate, Democrats also outnumber Republicans, albeit very narrowly by 32 to 31. Governor Cuomo is also a Democrat. So one would think that this could be the golden age for Democrats and their policies…right? Nope.

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Mayor, pols ask for $1.9B in Zika funding

Aug18 Mayor Maloney Kavanagh

Mayor de Blasio holding a letter to the leaders of the Congress and U.S. Senate, with State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett at the city’s public health lab (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

As the threat of the Zika virus spreads, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials called on Congress on Tuesday to authorize $1.9 billion in funding for research and prevention efforts.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was at the announcement with the mayor at the city’s public health lab in Bedpan Alley, said the problem was that Congress, specifically Republicans, were only willing to fund $1.1 billion. In February, President Obama had asked for Congress to allocate $1.9 billion.

Additionally, Maloney said, the debate in the house over funding has led to Republicans including a rider that would ban funding to Planned Parenthood, limiting access to abortions and contraceptives to women here and abroad. Meanwhile, Zika, Maloney argued, is known to cause serious birth defects so New York City’s health department has been actively advising safe sex for people traveling to Zika-impacting areas.

“They added a poison pill,” said Maloney, who argued that the immediate health threat posed by Zika shouldn’t be turned into “ideological crusades.”

With Congress deadlocked on the issue, money to fund Zika efforts has been taken from other existing health initiatives, including $589 million in Ebola funding. “They’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul and it’s not a good way to solve a crisis,” Maloney said.

De Blasio noted how the city had launched a $21 million Zika offensive effort in April that includes the spraying of larvacide in different areas and outreach to warn people, especially those who travel to impacted regions, about the disease which has at last official count infected 530 New York State residents. Of those, 438 are city residents. The latter figure includes 49 pregnant women, with all of the cases being travel related except four that were sexually transmitted. One baby in New York City has been born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect caused by Zika that causes the baby to be born with a small head, a sloped back forehead and mental challenges due to a smaller brain.

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Opinion: Cowards in Congress

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It’s not as if they are stupid. It’s not as if they do not read the newspapers. But a significant number of powerful members of Congress have proven to be utterly unresponsive and impotent in the face of the gun carnage going on in American cities almost every week. Worse than that, they are craven.

They proved it again last week.

Repeated mass murders are being committed by deranged individuals with military grade assault weapons.

They are perpetrating these atrocities out of some twisted ideology, warped personal grudges, or delusions. And our leaders of Congress are nowhere to be found. They are AWOL. They denounce the criminals, pray for the victims and walk away. Then it’s back to business as usual, which means bowing to the self-serving gun lobby and its supporters who are making a fortune from the sale of firearms.

Last week more than a dozen innocent bystanders were gunned down in a San Bernadino office building for the disabled. They were male, female, black, white, Asian and Hispanic. Hundreds of bullets fired into a crowd in a matter of seconds do not discriminate. The week before, three persons were shot to death in a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. These massacres are accomplished with easily and legally bought high powered assault weapons, again and again!

And if there are evildoers coming into this country with the intent of committing murder and mayhem, why would we not want to prevent them from accessing the means to carry out these despicable acts of violence?

In the face of that question, the United States Senate just days ago voted down a proposed ban on the sale of weapons to persons on the FBI terrorist watch list. The NRA is cheering that action while more families are burying their dead.

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Politics & Tidbits: Nine lives

Steven Sanders

Steven Sanders

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In previous columns I wrote that massacres with guns would continue until the U.S. Congress found the courage and intelligence to enact meaningful gun ownership restrictions.

So who can be surprised that a college campus in Oregon was yet the latest site of a mass murder?

The person who committed that heinous crime last week did so with legally purchased weapons. This time nine lives were lost to another deranged gunman. Nine more young people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nine families shattered, nine more funerals and countless more expressions of sorrow and sympathy from our leaders in Congress… and then nothing more, just a little road bump in the life of Congress.

It seems that the gun zealots and the misguided Second Amendment purists have the proverbial “nine lives.” Nothing seems to be horrific enough to kill off their ambitions to see even more guns proliferate our streets and communities and with no regulations.

If they were not moved to action three years ago when twenty toddlers were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, what hope is there that this latest tragedy or the next one or the one after that will cause a change of heart or spur our weak-kneed Congress to finally act?

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Senate Democrats push ethics reforms

State Senator Brad Hoylman (at podium) discusses his legislation in Albany.

State Senator Brad Hoylman (at podium) discusses his legislation in Albany.

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst growing interest from the media about state lawmakers’ outside incomes and last week’s quick replacement of the longtime leader of the Assembly, Senate Democrats have introduced a package of legislative reforms aimed at cleaning up the Capitol.

Mainly, the new bills, which were introduced on Monday afternoon at an Albany press conference, are aimed at capping politicians’ outside incomes, making it illegal for officials to use campaign cash for any criminal defense fees they incur and stripping corrupt officials of their pensions.

So far, the Democrats have said the Republican majority has blocked its efforts for ethics reform.

However, with the spotlight being firmly planted on state legislators’ outside activities and U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara’s warning the public to “stay tuned,” some Democrats, like Brad Hoylman, are hopeful this might change.

“This is a great Watergate moment for the state legislature,” said Hoylman, “and by that I mean that public confidence is at an all-time low. And it is up to both parties to usher in some reform, much like the Congress did in 1974. We should look at that example.”

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Letters to the Editor, Mar. 28

The American public is fed up with banks

Never mind the gridlock in Congress, a body that “we the people” put in place, which if truth be told seems to be all about I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, or My, My, My…this potential revolution that I am starting here, has to do with banking.

Banks were saved by the American taxpayer! Having had everything to do with their potential failures, the exalted top figures proceeded to give themselves bonuses as soon as our dollars made the banks stronger.

Let me give you a few examples of what seems to me criminal behavior, which used to be called usury.
Shop around and see what interest banks are offering on your money (CDs, money market, checking) that should not be at risk. Pathetic!

Open a credit card at Saks Fifth Avenue or Lord &Taylor, for example, cards which banks manage, and you will find an offer to “lend you money” for purchases at starting rates of 23.99 percent and 25.49 percent!

On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to have an American Express Card and you charge and pay back over a certain amount, you get back 5 percent on certain purchases. (Charging pays more than saving!)

Things are upside down. The examples I have given are just forthe American public to start thinking about. I have been told of people missing one credit card payment and their interest rate going up to 29.9 percent! And then have heard payment rates being as high as over 30 percent!

Why are banks regulated by the Fed to keep rates so low, causing customers who support the banks to get royally ripped off (to put it nicely, but you know what I mean) and then Congress allowing banks to charge these outrageous usury rates to people, using our money?

Now banks want you to put money at risk and charge you a fee when that is not the intent of most of their customers. “Certain” moneys need to not be at risk and that is what banks were intended to protect. Because of their incompetence (and greed) “they” are trying to change the real purpose for their being.

If banks cannot figure out how to make a bigger profit with our money, not rip people off on both ends – 1) the ones who are saving and being offered ridiculously low rates, the lowest ever, and then 2) ripping off the public who can least afford it, with these usury rates (up to 30 percent) – we need more competent bankers and laws need to be changed! Fair laws would be a start.

We the people are allowing this! I want a revolution in banking to benefit the people! And better bankers!

Kay Vota, ST

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