Netflix has just released War Machine onto the streaming media waters. This movie fits into the long tradition of American media mostly puffing up our military exploits or turning them into light tragi-comedy. Brad Pitt, applying the acting style of a trimmed down George Clooney, portrays the fictional General Glen McMahon. Broadly and obviously based on the story of the real General Stanley McChrystal who took over the War in Afghanistan in June 2009 only to be ousted in June 2010 after a profile appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine revealed much foolishness and derogatory comments about President Obama and VP Biden. The movie has its comedic moments and the very broadly played General MaMahon is bound to either really annoy those enamored of the US military or fulfill the image of buffoonish generals that others may prefer.
Today I received an email from my Congressman, John Faso, concerning the proposed American Health Care Act. It included a link to a Republican website that speaks to their proposed legislation and a link to the the actual legislation. Asking me to read the legislation is insulting because though I am fairly literate it is well known that the language of legislation is a swamp of references to other pieces of legislation frequently calling for comprehensive knowledge of the topic to even begin understanding its implications.
The site also spends a lot of time bad-mouthing Obamacare. I get it. Republicans don’t like Obamacare. The question is how will they improve upon it??
Today I received an email from Congressman Faso’s campaign committee. It read in part:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) today released a memo claiming Democrats are “starting the 2018 election cycle on offense.” This is an alarming statement on many levels. For one, they really do see the future of our nation as nothing more than a political game. They are also choosing to completely ignore the American people by not acknowledging the sweeping Republican victories from just two months ago.
The most worrisome item in the memo is that the DCCC listed my seat as a “Round One Target.” I was sworn in less than a month ago and already the Washington Establishment is targeting my district as one to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into in order to install the liberal candidate of their choice.
The email then went on asking me to donate to his re-election campaign!
Here is my reply:
In the current moment much of the concern about privacy online and otherwise has been overwhelmed by Trump, inequality, racism and other matters. The NSA and other spies, government and corporate, are not taking a vacation. I wrote earlier about this in “The Uses of Metadata – an experiment you can conduct with your own life’s metadata” in July, 2013.
Recently I revisited Immersion: a people-centric view of your email life, the MIT project to visualize a tiny portion of the metadata1 of our lives, our emails.
- metadata = a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In the case of email this includes date and time; to, cc, bcc recipients; and subject line. [↩]
Amidst all of the hand wringing about the Presidential election, both its process and outcome, we can note that Hudson conducted a little experiment in democratic direct action that at the local level will likely produce interesting positive results in the future.
The recent report1 by law students from Hofstra that addresses in part the weighted voting system in use for the city’s Common Council has engendered considerable discussion. The Register Star’s John Mason offered up, “Report questions city’s weighted-vote system”2. Our local radio station WGXC held a discussion between Victor Mendolia and Common Council President Don Moore on the topic3
.Much of the discussion has focused on the somewhat abstract questions of the constitutionality of a system that appears to violate the “one person one vote” principle. The issues become crystal clear once you put numbers into play and see how this creates a pernicious environment for governing the city.
Hudson Population by Ward (2010)
First Ward: 770
Second Ward: 1,281.
Third Ward: 1,142.
Fourth Ward: 725.
Fifth Ward: 2,485
Weighted Voting Power by Alderman
President, Common Council – Don Moore – 190
Alderman, 1st Ward – David Marston – 95
Alderman, 1st Ward – Nicholas Haddad – 95
Alderman, 2nd Ward – Abdus S. Miah – 185
Alderman, 2nd Ward – Tiffany Garriga – 185
Alderman, 3rd Ward – John K. Friedman – 180
Alderman, 3rd Ward – Henry A. Haddad – 180
Alderman, 4th Ward – Alexis Keith – 95
Alderman, 4th Ward – Ohrine Stewart – 95
Alderman, 5th Ward – Robert J. Donahue, Sr. – 364
Alderman, 5th Ward – Bartholomew F. Delaney Jr. – 364
Total votes = 2,028. A simple majority is 1,015.4
The votes of Donahue and Delaney constitute 72% of a simple majority, yet they are only 18% of the membership of the council.
A Little Role Play
Now just imagine yourself as an Alderman sitting in the room with the ten other members of the Common Council. How much attention would you pay to the opinions of a person with 95 votes compared to a person with 185 or 364 votes knowing that you need 1,015 votes for simple majority? It is obvious that the opinions of Donahue and Delaney are far more important in the practical matter of passing legislation than Marston, Haddad, Keith, or Stewart. In fact, Delaney, Donahue, and any two of the Alderman from 2nd or 3rd Wards or the Common Council President can pass legislation. In a very real way the collective opinions of Donahue and Delaney on any matter pretty much set a boundary for what policies might get approved.5
This makes a mockery of the rules we presume when we enter a democratic institution. This is why one person one vote is important.
- http://goo.gl/r5XGyj accessed 09252014 4:20pm [↩]
- http://goo.gl/e4QDXw accessed 09232014 8:31pm [↩]
- The weighted voting system is arcane in the extreme. There are actually three different panels of weighted voting dependent on whether a simple, 2/3, or 3/4 majority is required to pass a motion. And there are more details about what constitutes a quorum under varying conditions. Here is the source: http://goo.gl/rvgp7y accessed 09252014 4:04pm [↩]
As an aside, applying this logic to the county, where the weighted system legitimately rules, it is obvious that the citizens of Hudson would be better served by having a single Supervisor who would have a very large block of votes rather than distributed across five Supervisors. [↩]
With the recent revelations of the NSA vacuum cleaner collecting metadata about every aspect of our lives1 we have been subjected to calming incantations, “We are only collecting metadata, we aren’t looking at the content”. As I (and many others) have pointed out earlier, this is complete nonsense.
- We are forced to assume that they are collecting everything, emails, telephone calls, financial transactions, text messages, anything digital which is virtually every aspect of life unless you took to the woods before 2000 and have been subsisting in an entirely cash economy without any communications that re not face to face. The tangle of lies by every government offocial involved will not support any other sensible interpretation. [↩]
- source: http://m.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/10/chart-says-war-drugs-isnt-working/57913/ – this graphic came to my attemtion via the Colbert Report http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/425397/april-11-2013/america-s-pot-astrophe [↩]
This morning I was scanning through Zite and found this article claiming that some guy had definitively crushed the “hoax” that men landing on the moon in 1969 was shot on the back lots of Hollywood.
The omnipresent and frequently useful Sam Pratt has a great introduction to our New York state Freedom of Information Law. Don’t miss it it on his eponymous blog
I am going to try it out to get the current contract between the city and Mid-Hudson Cable. Got to get a head start on rousing people to the barricades before the city gives away the store again when the contract comes up for renewal.