Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kirsten Gillibrand's Pork Problem

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand understands how to get re-elected in the traditional Washington, D.C. way: Buy people and institutions off with federal tax dollars.

Congressional Republicans, my former employers for five years, presided over an explosion in pork barrel spending, also known as earmarks, while they held the majority from 1995-2007. It was a disgrace. Especially watching it up close as a Capitol Hill press secretary and communications director.

Earmarks were part of the reason why Democrats defeated Republicans to take the majority in the House and Senate two years ago. Fiscal conservatives grew increasingly disgusted with the unaccountable and out-of-control process. And rightly blamed Republicans.

President Reagan vetoed the 1987 transportation authorization bill because it contained 152 earmarks. In May, 2007 Gillibrand announced that she requested funding for an astounding 188 earmarks totaling $297 million. The following December she issued a news release noting that 32 earmarks for "local projects" totaling $19 million would be funded by an omnibus spending bill.

Of the 32 projects, Congresswoman Gillibrand "won" $122,500 for the Hudson Opera House Community and Arts Center for "renovations to the building." And another $750,000 went to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum to "complete infrastructure modernization projects."

While Congresswoman Gillibrand succeeded in delighting Figaro fans, she earned the wrath of the Washington, D.C. taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. In a "pork alert" the group ridiculed Gillibrand's Roosevelt library earmark as "among the most egregious examples of pork-barreling" in the House.

"I think investing in the library is very important for the economy of Dutchess County," Gillibrand said, ludicrously.

From Day One in office, Congresswoman Gillibrand has eagerly joined the ranks of House members who simply can't control themselves. It's obvious what The Gillibrand Pork Doctrine is: Say Yes To Everything. No individual or group is seemingly off-limits.

It's impossible for Congresswoman Gillibrand to reach an informed decision on the merits of every earmark request she makes. Equally dubious is how personally instrumental she is in obtaining the funding she obsessively announces. From reading the news releases her office distributes, one could easily conclude she's the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee rather than a typical freshman.

Both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress have a near-pathological inability to say no to their constituents when the "project" is a complete waste of federal money. A fellow press secretary for a House member once told me her boss requested funding for a constituent group researching UFOs. Yes, tax dollars in search of little green people.

Congresswoman Gillibrand is part of this intractable problem in Washington, D.C. She possesses a pork barrel ideology that puts the average pork-laden Member of Congress to shame. If all 535 Members asked for her 188 earmarks it would amount to 100,580 requests draining the federal treasury of billions.

In fiscal year 2008, Congress approved 11,610 earmarks worth $17.2 billion. That was a 337 percent increase over the 2,658 projects in fiscal year 2007, and a 30 percent increase over the $13.2 billion total in fiscal year 2007.

Fortunately, there are principled Members of Congress who don't request earmarks because they are repulsed by the unseemly nature of the process. Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, for example.

And there are the Kirsten Gillibrands, who not only refuse to follow the Flake standard but relish the vote-buying potential in pork. She has the UFO-mentality and can't say no to anyone who bangs on her door with a tin cup.

Gillibrand understands local governments are not going to turn down one penny from Congress, even when they have no need for it. For example, homeland security bills routinely send tax dollars to small fire departments in rural counties nationwide. The Congresswoman has issued news release after news release hailing the funding acquired by those fire departments in her district.

What Congresswoman Gillibrand will never tell upstate fire department chiefs is the truth. That al-Qaeda is not targeting them. Ever. And up goes the pork tab for taxpayers.

Congresswoman Gillibrand defends her earmarks by claiming she makes them public. So what. She reminds me of the character Matthew Lesko in the late-night infomercial who runs around Capitol Hill in a ridiculous suit covered with dollar signs screaming about how to extract money from the federal government.

If Congresswoman Gillibrand wins a second term this Tuesday part of the reason will be her successful raiding of the federal treasury. She's become a princess of pork, and given the fiscal crisis we're mired in right now that's not an admirable quality for any Member of Congress.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Silence Of Excellence In Broadcasting

Who is afraid of President George W. Bush?

Rush Limbaugh.

The legendary talk radio host with the largest audience in America can't bring himself to direct criticism toward our 43rd president. Not a syllable. Not a peep.

George W. Bush is not a conservative. He's not even a "moderate." He's a liberal.

Not only is he a liberal, President Bush will go down in history as a failed, apathetic president. He is the Jimmy Carter of the Republican party. If our president leaves office with an approval rating above 30 percent, it'll be a polling miracle.

President Bush has helped destroy the conservative movement. The movement doesn't exist anymore. It has been relegated to the ash heap of history.

Limbaugh is fond of declaring America is a "conservative country." We're not. It's a joke to even make such a declaration. And one of the reasons why that's a stark truth is because of George W. Bush.

Across conservative talk radio we hear Senator Barack Obama is a socialist, and a marauding Big Government left-winger for supporting the Wall Street bailout bill (he is). Limbaugh has gleefully and rightly lampooned Obama for it. But who proposed and signed the bailout monstrosity into law? President Bush.

Yet, day after day, in his monologues, Limbaugh never mentions President Bush. When he takes phone calls, there is also no discussion of the soon-to-be former president. The topic is off-limits.

For El Rushbo, George W. Bush is The Invisible President.

It's a daily broadcast embarrassment that has gone largely unnoticed. How can the most listened-to radio talk show host in the country pretend we don't have a president of the United States?

Limbaugh expresses an opinion on everything. From politics to sports to relationships to whatever floats into his mind at any given moment. Good. That's compelling talk radio, and he is the undisputed master of the medium.

Yet, it's amusing as well as disturbing to hear not a word from Limbaugh regarding the feckless leadership of the most powerful man on the planet.

Why? We don't know.

But I have a hunch. Because President Bush understands the art of media manipulation.

Limbaugh has been seduced by the president and his family with praise publicly and, undoubtedly, privately. The Bush family showering him with slavish compliments makes him think twice about cutting loose on the Oval Office occupant for willful deviations from conservatism.

Limbaugh has been effectively intimidated. Intimidated by a liberal president who can't leave public life fast enough.

Limbaugh knows what he's doing, of course. He's given other Republican politicians a total pass on his show while they were in the midst of stomping on conservative principles. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, for example.

One of the few times Limbaugh has come close to addressing sell-out, counterfeit conservatives occurred in the days after Republicans lost their Congressional majority two years ago. He proclaimed he was done "carrying water" for the party's leaders.

It was a momentary flash of honesty. That didn't last.

Unfortunately, Limbaugh is still carrying water for an exhausted president. Buckets of it. And he is not alone. Leading conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin also cravenly ignore President Bush on their shows.

Yes, I'm a conservative, and I love Limbaugh's show. I have since I first heard it on WABC in 1988. The man has no equal now, or ever.

But how is it possible that the president of the United States is blatantly omitted from any discussion about American politics from a program that has 20 million listeners? It's outrageous. It's gutless.

If Al Gore won election in 2000 and compiled the exact same record as President Bush, Limbaugh would have mocked and ridiculed a President Gore relentlessly. Monologue after monologue and musical parody after musical parody.

Limbaugh will, however, finally be able to recognize we do have a president of the United States. Soon. After Barack Obama easily defeats John McCain.

A major reason why President Obama looms is because of the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps Limbaugh may address that fact after Election Day. He won't. We'll hear the sounds of silence.

Rep. Gillibrand's Pet Bigot

Who sits down to write a letter to the Times Union defending Adolf Hitler as a non-atheist?

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand's district representative, Lisa Manzi.

In a 300-word letter published July 16, 2004 by the Times Union, Ms. Manzi began:

"Mark Harness' recent letter falsely claims that Hitler was an atheist. There is much evidence to the contrary."

I'm not going to post the full text of Ms. Manzi's letter because I'd have to fight physical illness getting near my laptop. She quoted Hitler's Mein Kampf and a 1922 speech where he proclaims his Christianity.

While preparing to be the most repulsive and destructive human being of the 20th Century, here we have Congresswoman Gillibrand's district representative taking Adolf Hitler's word for it. That he was a Christian.

Matthew said:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them."

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Congressman Gillibrand's employment of Ms. Manzi is nothing short of disgusting. Her staffer is incapable of recognizing a ferocious wolf. And believes the wolf of the 20th Century was truly a Christian.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rep. Gillibrand Hires Jane Fonda

Help Wanted: Member of Congress seeks extremist to serve as district representative. Must be punctual, enthusiastic and willing to mock religion, patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance and our National Anthem. Should also be prepared to make frequent use of the word "retarded."

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand has attempted to portray herself as a "moderate" in order to reflect the values and ideals of the New Yorkers she represents. It's what she must do since there are 80,000 more Republicans than Democrats in her district.

Meet Lisa Manzi.

Ms. Manzi is Congresswoman Gillibrand's Glens Falls-based regional representative. If you're a constituent and seek to communicate with the freshman Congresswoman, it has to be done through Ms. Manzi. That's the protocol in a Congressional office because it's impossible for the Member to converse one-on-one with concerned constituents.

It turns out that Ms. Manzi has expressed numerous opinions. And they're not normal. Far from it.

But Congresswoman Gillibrand's constituents likely won't hear what Ms. Manzi has to say about certain sensitive issues. With good reason.

In letters to the editor and on her personal blog, which is now offline (and you'll understand why momentarily), she writes her heart out.

On religion:

"I like to tease the Religious Wrong and tell them that the intelligent designer is probably gay" - April 9, 2006.

"I propose that all of the right wing religious zealots ban together and start lobbying congress [sic] for a constitutional amendment requiring everyone in America to say 'Merry Christmas' to everyone they make eye contact with between Thanksgiving and Christmas . . . Those who don't follow the script will be sent to Syria for why they hate the baby Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, he sent me an email the other day that said: Don't these people know I was Jewish?" - December 15, 2005.

On The Pledge of Allegiance:

"Why can't we pledge to the flag in a secular manner, as we did before the phrase 'under God' was inserted into our national pledge in 1954? In a nation that was founded on the notion of liberty and justice 'for all,' it seems our pledge should not exclude citizens who would prefer to say 'under Allah' or 'the Great Mother Earth' or 'Buddha.'" - October 23, 2003.

On the National Anthem:

"Why was [Condoleezza Rice] holding her hand over her heart when they were singing The Star Spangled Banner? Did she get that confused with the Pledge of Allegiance? Is there some rule about this song that I don't know about?" - February 5, 2006.

On the media:

"CNN's Sunday morning show had me wondering if CNN stands for Christ News Network. - March 5, 2006.

On social conservatives and banning the "morning after" pill:

"First they'll pass this law, and then they'll pass a law that says if you are a woman and you are menstruating, you go to jail. Why? Cause that means you are not pregnant! You should be barefoot and pregnant at all times. Don't you read The Bible? That is ten more years added to your sentence, heathen! The taliban would approve." - September 27, 2005.

On Senator Hillary Clinton being an "angry" candidate:

"Given the choice between an angry president and a retarded one, I'll choose angry hands down." - March 16, 2006.

Did Congresswoman Gillibrand take the time to read this kook's infantile writings before she hired her? Ms. Manzi possesses an incredible hostility toward people of faith and our country's noble traditions.

She questions why Americans hold our hands over our hearts while The Star-Spangled Banner is played? This is up for debate? I wonder what the veterans Congresswoman Gillibrand represents are going to think about that pathetic musing. And our fighting men and women overseas, as well.

If you oppose the legality of the RU-486 "morning after" abortion pill, Ms. Manzi compares you to the Taliban, a cult of evil that has few rivals. I'm sure my fellow Catholics in the Congresswoman's district will be thrilled with such demagoguery.

And she is fine with substituting a ludicrous phrase such as "Great Mother Earth" for "under God" in our Pledge?

What a complete embarrassment. Ms. Manzi's "writing" is what we expect from a SUNY Albany student interning with the Star Wars bar scene crowd at Metroland. Not someone charged with the honor of representing a Member of Congress.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rep. Gillibrand's Dr. Strangelove Goodfella

Henry Hill: Just ... ya know ... you're funny.

Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this, cause ya know maybe it's me, cause I'm a little ------ up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to ------ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?

Henry Hill: Just ... you know, how you tell the story, what?

Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don't know, you said it. How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the ---- am I funny, what the ---- is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny! - Goodfellas.

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand believes her career is funny. A laugh riot.

Because during last night's debate when Sandy Treadwell raised, factually, the issue of her long work for Philip Morris she laughed. She scoffed at it. Like it was a ludicrous accusation. The Congresswoman's reaction can be viewed here.

Well, how funny is this reality: When Congresswoman Gillibrand was a $305.00 an hour lawyer for Philip Morris she interviewed Dr. Max Hausermann, the corporation's former vice president of research and development, in preparation for possible litigation.

What was Dr. Hausermann doing while at Philip Morris? Among the studies he supervised was a report that asserted:

"It is important to know as much as possible about teen-age smoking patterns and attitudes. Today's teen-ager is tomorrow's potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens."

That report was titled "Young Smokers - Prevalence, Trends, Implications and Related Demographic Trends."

So here we have the laughing Congresswoman involved with a Dr. Strangelove scientist whose job it was to research how best to hook teenagers on cigarettes.

Capital District moms and dads are sure to find that fall-down funny. Since Kirsten does.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Everlasting Mets

"There's a fly ball out to left. Waiting is Jones. The Mets are the World Champions! Jerry Koosman is being mobbed! Look at this scene!" - Curt Gowdy World Series call, 1969.

They are a team forever covered in glory.

When New York Mets left fielder Cleon Jones caught the final out, with his knee to the ground, in prayer, to win the 1969 World Series on October 16, 1969 at Shea Stadium in my birthplace Flushing, Queens, it became the greatest and most improbable upset in World Series history.

The New York Mets, an expansion team that was a Major League Baseball laughingstock for its modern day record of futility, lost 120 games just seven years before in its 1962 debut season. Yet they not only defeated, but dominated the seemingly invincible Baltimore Orioles four games to one.

Those Orioles are likely still numb from what the Mets did to them.

The Mets won with a combination of incredible defensive plays by Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda, stellar pitching from Jerry Koosman and clutch home runs by true home run hitters and hitters who barely hit their weight. Their manager, Brooklyn's own Gil Hodges, proved a dugout genius.

No one thought it possible. No one at all.

Tonight, as Game One of the World Series begins, the Tampa Bay Rays are poised to become another miracle championship team. But if they defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, it won't compare to what the Mets achieved 39 years ago. Not even close.

The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies? This is not a team feared throughout baseball. No players perform a deer-in-the-headlights with the thought of facing the Phillies. The Mets even won the season series against them before their inevitable, heartbreaking collapse.

The Baltimore Orioles won 109 games in 1969. They had three future Hall of Famers in third baseman Brooks Robinson, right fielder Frank Robinson and pitcher Jim Palmer. Their manager, Earl Weaver, was also destined for enshrinement at Cooperstown.

It featured Orioles who had typical All Star years.

First baseman Boog Powell, the intimidating first baseman who looked like he could hit the pitcher along with the ball over the right field fence at Shea, batted .304, with 37 home runs and 121 RBIs. Shortstop Mark Belanger, "The Blade," won the Gold Glove, his first of eight.

Pitcher Mike Cuellar won 23 games against 11 losses with a 2.38 earned run average, and was the co-Cy Young Award winner. Center fielder Paul Blair, scored 102 runs and won the Gold Glove. And second baseman Davey Johnson, who would go on to manage a Miracle Mets team, was yet another Gold Glove winner and a critical part of the team's success.

The Orioles could do everything on the field, offensively and defensively.

Along slink the lowly Mets. They had never finished higher than 9th place in the ten-team National League. The team was lampooned for their ineptitude, which was personified by "Marvelous" Marv Thronberry.

They couldn't hit.

They couldn't pitch

They couldn't field.

What they could do, was lose. Spectacularly.

"Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?" asked Jimmy Breslin in his book about the team.

Until 1969.

The Mets, predictably, began their 1969 season with a defeat, 11-10 to the expansion Montreal Expos. After 41 games, their record stood at 18 and 23. It appeared to be another dreadful last place finish in-the-making.

And it began. The team won 11 straight games. Beginning with that fateful 42nd game, the Mets finished the season 82-39, for a .678 winning percentage.

Despite their late-blooming outstanding play, and the key acquisition of Donn Clendenon from the Pirates, the Mets were sill mired in third place by mid-August, 9 1/2 games back.

Again, they did not relent. They didn't give up.

The Mets won 37 of their last 48 games to win the National League Eastern Division, comfortably by 8 games over the Chicago Cubs (with an assist from a black cat Flushing resident). They swept the Hank Aaron-led Atlanta Braves 3-0 in the first-ever National League Championship Series.

The only upset in major professional sports history that surpasses the Mets' 1969 World Series triumph is the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" victory by our United States hockey team at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

But the Mets remain the gold-standard of underdogs in baseball. If there is a World Series championship team that achieved a more stunning upset, I want to know. I really want to know.

"Come on down, come on down, baby" is what Cleon Jones said to himself while the final out came flying into his glove off Davey Johnson's bat. It's still a thrill to watch that emotional, amazing out.

And no matter what happens in this Phillies-Rays World Series, the 1969 New York Mets will retain their rightful place in baseball history as the Kings of the impossible victory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ya Gotta Believe Kirsten

I believe you, Congresswoman Gillibrand.

I believe you aren't purposely hiding your extensive legal work on behalf of cigarette-dealer Philip Morris.

I believe you never went to great lengths to help Big Tobacco conceal its research on the dangers of smoking.

I believe you did not help Philip Morris perpetuate a fraud on the American people using attorney-client privilege for five years.

I believe the moms and dads you represent will have no problem with your service to Philip Morris executives who denied tobacco is addictive before a Congressional committee.

I believe there were clients at Davis Polk & Wardwell you represented other than Big Tobacco.

I believe your claim that you have proudly and openly talked about your work for Philip Morris with reporters.

I believe you have a good reason for accepting major campaign contributions from Altria, the Philip Morris parent company.

I believe it's an honor for Altria to consider you a legislator they support.

I believe your long association with Altria is perfectly consistent with your current positions on children's health care.

I believe the reason you refuse to release your income taxes is because you have no financial interest in Altria.

I believe you did no legal work for Altria, or Philip Morris USA, while you were at Boies Schiller & Flexner from 2001 to 2006.

I believe it's perfectly understandable why there are no quotes in the public record from you recommending young people and minors not smoke.

I believe it presents no conflict of interest for you to accept campaign contributions from firms your super lobbyist father represents.

I believe your claim to the Times Union that you never talk to Big Daddy about his clients "at all."

I believe your work at the secret Dr. Strangelove German lab used by Philip Morris to skirt United States federal laws were four innocent European vacations.

I believe you possess high ethical standards and would refuse to represent clients you consider morally objectionable.

I believe you should never feel guilty about helping "America's most reviled company."

I believe you, Congresswoman.

* Michael Kelly, RIP.

Gov. Paterson Hires The New York Times

If there is a stark example for why New York continues to head toward economic oblivion, it happened on October 15th.

Governor Paterson approved a $1.25 million state subsidy for The New York Times. For what purpose? We don't know. His Empire State Development Corporation listed the "grant" in a news release with no explanation from the board that approved it.

ESDC didn't give a reason because its bureaucrats knew they'd break the laugh meter. The release can be read here.

Why does The New York Times deserve one penny from New Yorkers? Especially while we're in a fiscal abyss?

The paper's parent, The New York Times Company, owns 24 other newspapers, employs 10,000 people and has annual revenues of $3.2 billion.

But they need $1.25 million in monopoly money from the wallets of New Yorkers.

It makes you want to scream.

And with the The New York Times on Governor Paterson's payroll, we won't be reading any sanctimonious editorials describing a conflict of interest. Or any smug columns on such a conflict by Gail Collins, the paper's editorial page editor, who specializes in smugness.

This is not the first time the Times received a hand out from New York taxpayers. It certainly won't be the last. The Times will come calling again, and Governor Paterson will fail to simply tell them: No.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"America's Most Reviled Company"

I have no problem with smoking or people who smoke, which I wrote about last month before Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand's Big Tobacco past was exposed.

I don't smoke. Never have.

I don't cast dirty looks at smokers in public places if their smoke floats into my personal space, either. Or lecture friends and family about the dangers of smoking. People who behave that way annoy the hell out of me.

Cigarettes are a legal product. So is alcohol and the 1,500 calorie hamburger. If you decide to lead a life where you acquire blood type Cheez Doodles Crunchy (which are extra yummie), that's your decision. It's your free will. Have at it.

The revelations about Congresswoman Gillibrand's Big Tobacco past don't concern adults with the ability to make their own decisions, however. Her problem is hypocrisy, deceit and secrecy, which this blog has documented.

Kirsten Gillibrand sits in Congress partly because the people who voted for her in 2006 are nanny Democrats, health obsessives and meddlesome liberals. It's her political base in the 20th Congressional District. She needs these voters.

The Gillibrand base constantly condemned Philip Morris during the 1990's. She recognizes a severe political liability that must be handled. And concealed.

The Congresswoman told the Times Union she became an expert in attorney-client privilege defending Philip Morris. Good. Every attorney should strive to perfect Constitutional rights for a client. Even when the client is the Enron of the 1990's.

"PHILIP MORRIS: What It's Like To Work At America's Most Reviled Company."

That was the title of a 1999 Business Week cover story, which can be read here. It chronicles lie after lie after lie told by Philip Morris executives, including the laughable smoking-is-not-addictive claim they made before a Congressional committee under oath. How they escaped perjury charges is mystifying.

And who was serving the smoking-is-not-addictive crowd? Protecting them? Kirsten Gillibrand.

The Congresswoman had been working for Philip Morris for four years when Business Week published its story. I wonder what she thought about the sleazy details. Like so much about Kirsten Gillibrand's experience with Philip Morris, we'll never know.

Times Union Flogs Rep. Gillibrand

So, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand's work for cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, and the campaign contributions she accepted from the corporation's parent, should be dismissed as a non-issue? Right. Today's Times Union:

"The money has all the trappings of an investment in a congresswoman the tobacco industry seems to think still might come around. Yet here's Ms. Gillibrand, trying to dismiss Philip Morris as one more of her 10,000 campaign contributors.

"How many of those contributors have an interest in pending or future legislation? How many are associated with an industry so heavily regulated by government?

"It's hard to gauge what's more troubling — that Ms. Gillibrand says she don't know she was getting money from Philip Morris, or that she doesn't seem to care. There are responsibilities, in either case, that come with raising all that money — more than $3.95 million and counting."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Disappearing Congresswoman

Two years ago Kirsten Gillibrand, an unknown New York City lawyer with barely any public service, was headed toward unseating Congressman John Sweeney. Her win had nothing to do with the issues. She won for one simple reason: I'm Not John Sweeney.

Now there is an issue. A legitimate issue. Congresswoman Gillibrand represented tobacco giant Philip Morris. Not for six months. Not for a year. For five years.

Yet, Congresswoman Gillibrand has expunged those five years from her life. Her House of Representatives and campaign biographies purposely exclude her experience. Poof! Just like that, five years of Kirsten's professional career disappeared. They don't exist. Officially.

I've written the official biographies of my employers while a Capitol Hill staffer. The responsibility is an important one because Hill press secretarys and communication directors are called upon to explain, promote and defend the boss' prior experience to the media.

To go over a draft official biography with a Member of Congress is a painstaking process. The Members pay meticulous attention to their careers, and the overwhelming majority are proud of the work that took them to the halls of Congress.

Not Kirsten Gillibrand.

It's convenient how she has forgotten five years of her career. You'd think she fell asleep in 1995, woke up in 2006 and decided to run for Congress.

As this blog was the first to report, Congresswoman Gillibrand runs away from her career for a serious reason. She well remembers the political environment she was working in during the 1990's. The attacks on her client Big Tobacco were neverending. We heard they're nicotine pushers. Purveyors of death. Liars. Thugs. Frauds. Hustlers.

Who would want to be associated with that gang? Not a Member of Congress, for sure.

And so yesterday it was no surprise to see Congresswoman Gillibrand's response when her opponent Sandy Treadwell unveiled a new ad highlighting her smokey past. It was near-hysterical.

Congresswoman Gillibrand can become as indignant as she wants, and it remains a fact that for five years she was a counsel to Philip Morris. Despite her efforts to pull a page out of 1984 and delete years of her life, her constituents are now more familiar with her record than they were in 2006. After all, this is the same woman who constantly reminds us how she believes in "transparency."

Well, Kirsten, you're transparent now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

ESPN, Please Fire This Man

Last night during the ESPN radio broadcast of the ALCS Joe Morgan achieved his usual level of incoherence. In discussing Phillie pitcher Cole Hamels, the MVP of the NLCS, Morgan told partner Jon Miller he disagreed with the selection. His choice: Manny Ramirez. Because he was the "best player."

If the Series had gone to seven games perhaps his argument for Ramirez could have some merit. But in a four games to one blowout, Ramirez provided the Dodgers with no value whatsoever. Zippo.

ESPN's employment of an "analyst" who doesn't understand the simple concept of a Most Valuable Player award, among other deficiencies, is a testament to broadcast mediocrity and Howard Cosell's jockocracy.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Philip Morris Brands)


Congresswoman Gillibrand on her father's work for Philip Morris in today's Times Union:

"I don't talk to my dad about his clients at all."

At all.

She must be kidding with that nonsense. Kirsten Gillibrand owes her seat in Congress to Big Daddy super lobbyist.

Successful political families talk about everything and everyone. It's why they achieve success.

Going Up In Smoke

The Times Union followed up yesterday's exclusive post reporting Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand's shady ties to tobacco giant Philip Morris.

It's a brutal 1,150 word story by James M. Odato.

* Fellow Democratic Congressman Michael McNulty on Gillibrand accepting Big Tobacco contributions, and why he once returned a $500.00 Philip Morris check:

"I didn't want to take money from a tobacco company.''

* Bill Corr, Gillibrand supporter and executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, on the Congresswoman's representation of Philip Morris:

"I did not know that."

* Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco, dismissing Gillibrand's I-Was-Just-Following-Orders-Because-I-Was-A-Mere-Associate excuse:

"I think it's highly relevant because she was an active advocate in one of the world's biggest tobacco companies against claims that they were manipulating the nicotine delivery in cigarettes . . . "

"These are very important things she was doing for them. I think this is definitely newsworthy. If she had done this 10 years ago and hadn't gotten a nickle from them, then I'd say, 'well, she was just a junior member of the law firm.' But they consider her their pal."

* Michael Cummings of the Buffalo-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Gillibrand's legal ethics.

"Big law firms have other clients. You could work for somebody else."

Just a wild guess, but Congresswoman Josephine Camel and her campaign staff are not having a good day.

McNulty didn't hesitate to throw her under the bus. Anti-tobacco activists were in the dark about her Big Tobacco past. A professor of medicine from California unloaded on her. And the prestigious Roswell Park Cancer Institute was one step removed from calling her a shyster lawyer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Congresswoman Josephine Camel

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand has been endorsed for re-election by the American Cancer Society.

Despite the endorsement, the Society's officials likely do not know the full extent of the freshman's legal representation on behalf of Philip Morris during the 1990's. Yes, that Philip Morris, or "Big Tobacco" as the corporation's detractors in the cancer community and the media relentlessly describe it.

The Invisible Law Firms

From 1995 to 2000 Congresswoman Gillibrand was an associate at the international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, headquartered in New York City. But New Yorkers wouldn't know she was employed at Davis, Polk & Wardwell for five years because her campaign website does not mention the fact. This experience is also omitted from her official U.S. House of Representatives website biography.

Also curiously cast aside from both her Congressional and campaign biographies is her partnership at Boies Schiller & Flexner, a national firm specializing in unpopular clients. She was employed by the firm from 2001 to 2006. It was her last position before running for the House.

Why would a Member of Congress running for re-election purposely omit a legal career spanning ten years with two major firms? For a good reason. A reason that is still disturbingly vague.

The Settlement

In November, 1998 the disgust many Americans directed at the serial deception of Philip Morris and other cigarette-peddlers culminated with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. It was signed by Philip Morris, and representatives of all 50 states. The provisions required Philip Morris to compensate states for the cost of providing health care for persons with smoking-related illnesses.

A critical component of the Agreement would eventually make available to the public hundreds of millions of privileged documents. The documents have exposed the decision-making process the tobacco companies and their attorneys followed to defend themselves throughout decades of deceit.

The University of California at San Francisco is home to The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL). According to its website:

"LTDL holdings updated as of Sunday, September 28, 2008. It contains 51,440,321 pages in 9,925,621 documents."

Congresswoman Gillibrand has a starring role in the LTDL archives. Using her maiden name "Rutnik" in the search engine, New Yorkers will discover an astounding 1,175 documents that include her advocacy on behalf of Philip Morris and organized smoking. But 400 of those documents still remain privileged, and shield from public scrutiny the totality of Gillibrand's work.

Thank You For Smoking

Rep. Gillibrand's Philip Morris representation includes:

* An August 31, 1995 Davis, Polk & Wardell accounting document that includes Gillibrand as one of 63 employees paid "with regard to legal advice concerning civil lawsuits that have been filed making claims relating to alleged injuries from cigarette smoking, nicotine addiction, second hand smoke . . . " She earned $305.00 per hour. The document can be viewed here.

I wonder what mothers across the Capital District will think about Kirsten Gillibrand earning $305.00 an hour on behalf of Philip Morris. We're not talking about a teacher looking the other way at Emma Willard if a few girls sneak a smoke behind the bleachers. She was doing serious legal work for one of the most reviled corporations of the 1990's. Reviled because of her Democratic party.

* In preparation to defend Philip Morris, Rep. Gillibrand helped manage and interview two Dr. Strangeloves of Big Tobacco: Dr. Wolf Reininghaus and Dr. Max Hausermann.

Reininghaus and Hausermann were employed by Philip Morris. Reininghaus at a highly secretive German "research facility" called INBIFO, and Hauserman as a vice president where he was charged with supervising all 600 of the corporation's scientists in the 1980's. Both were, in fact, responsible for justifying the "science" behind the lies Philip Morris told the public.

According to the March 20, 1996 edition of ABC News Primetime Live:

"Philip Morris needed INBIFO because there were certain research projects that, clearly, the company did not want to have done on United States soil. These projects involved cancer-producing agents. These projects involved ways to manipulate components of cigarette smoke."

Documents show Gillibrand traveled to Germany at least four times. On January 31, 1996 Gillibrand personally interviewed Dr. Reininghaus and on September 5, 1997 she furnished a Philip Morris Associate General Counsel with a memoranda summarizing two previous interviews with Dr. Hausermann. We'll likely never know what Gillibrand said to Reininghaus and Hausermann, but she certainly wasn't in contact with them to provide whistleblower protection counsel.

The Campaign Money Trail

Rep. Gillibrand's Big Tobacco-enabling efforts did not go unrewarded by her former employers. She has been showered with their campaign contributions.

According to the website Open Secrets, Davis, Polk & Wardell contributed $48,300 to Gillibrand during her 2006 race for Congress against incumbent John Sweeney. It was the third highest contribution she received.

Then-candidate Gillibrand's top contributor in 2006 was Boies, Schiller & Flexner at $117,810. The Boies is David Boies of Bush v. Gore recount fame. Boies and his firm have been described by the National Law Journal as “unafraid to venture into controversial” and “high risk” matters.

During the 1990's Philip Morris was the very definition of a "high risk" legal matter. The corporation retained Boies to help contain its ever-escalating public relations nightmare. And Kirsten Gillibrand was there nearly every step of the way cashing paychecks for a paper trail that looks like a protection racket.

Who Are You?

Congresswoman Gillibrand has enjoyed a comfortable first term, with local media outlets fawning over her. Several reporters and editors may as well be on her payroll because of their inability to hide their unprofessional bias.

But what is troubling about Rep. Gillibrand since she first entered public life are recurring questions: Is she truly who she purports to be as either a 2006 candidate or incumbent Member of Congress? Or is she a phony?

No one pretends ten years of a professional life doesn't exist if there is nothing deeply embarrassing or shameful to hide. Gillibrand clearly wants no discussion of her ensnarement by Big Tobacco, which is understandable. She helped defend a fraud. It's a stain not easily forgotten, or erased.

And stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The PEF Politburo Responds To Chichester

Arlea Igoe, the secretary-treasurer of the Public Employees Federation responded to my Sunday Gazette op-ed on the state budget here. It's always amusing when PEF hits the roof, especially given their destructive influence in state government. And these perpetual grumps probably have no sense of humor about the hammer and sickle image.

The text:

Don’t blame unions for state’s fiscal problems

Christopher Chichester’s Oct. 5 Viewpoint [“Governor, leaders too afraid of unions to cut state spending”] on cutting state spending is factually incorrect and lacks a basic understanding of the issues facing New York state.

An article lamenting the power of public employee unions without knowing the size of the state work force is inexcusable. Mr. Chichester would have you believe the state work force accounts for a substantial amount of the state budget when in reality it accounts for less than 13 percent of the budget. He should know better. The governor he worked for trimmed the state work force considerably during his term in office.

New York state’s budget problems are not spending problems. We did not wake up one day to discover spending had gone through the roof. We had a balanced budget based on projections of expenditures and revenues. Simply put, revenues are not meeting those projections. New York has been overly reliant on the so-called FIRE (Financial and Real Estate) sectors for too long. When those sectors suffer, New York suffers disproportionately. Now is the time to fix that problem.

We need tax policy that is fair and just. Corporate loopholes should be closed and the wealthiest New Yorkers should pay their fair share. We need to end corporate welfare by refusing to continue wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on costly consultants and instead bring those jobs back in-house. We have proven this saves money, which is why the Legislature and the governor have agreed with us. Not because we are all powerful, because we are right.

Discourse is important, but misguided opinions offer no real solutions. The Public Employees Federation union remains willing to discuss real solutions to our budget problems.

Arlea Igoe

The writer is the secretary-treasurer of the Public Employees Federation union.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Congresswoman Code Pink, Wrong Again

"We can not continue to send our troops to fight in the middle of a religious civil war. Our commitment to the Iraqis can not be endless and we need to start redeploying our troops out of Iraq by March of next year."

Dear Congresswoman Gillibrand,

That's what you said on March 19, 2007.

You didn't want to "redeploy" our troops. It's a typically bankrupt, focus-group word politicians use when they're too afraid to use accurate language.

You wanted to surrender. To retreat. To cut and run.

If it were up to you, the United States of America would be seen by al-Qaeda and the Taliban as gutless. As craven.

If it were up to you, Islamofascists worldwide would have pursued another September 11th with an even higher degree of fanaticism.

If it were up to you, our soldiers would have returned home cloaked in humiliation and defeat.

But it was not up to you.

Thank God.

I'd like to break the news to you: Our soldiers have been kicking ass, Congresswoman. They're killing terrorists. They are showing the world that the United States military is the most ferocious force on earth.

And where were you when the surge began? Where were you when our soldiers began the path to victory? You were sticking daisies in their M-16's like a tie-dyed Woodstock hippie.

Throughout your re-election campaign against Sandy Treadwell, you barely even mention the war. Well, now, I wonder why.

If you're so proud of your March 19, 2007 statement, you should run television and radio ads citing it. Remind your constituents.

I'm sure they'll be crazy-go-nuts for it. Especially given the 80,000 vote Republican registration advantage in your district.

I noticed you were endorsed by the National Rifle Association this week. So what.

You can acquire all the N.R.A. endorsements the organization has to offer. I don't give a damn. And neither should the New Yorkers you represent. Because you didn't support the most important rifles on earth being fired in our epic global struggle against evil.

- Chris

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Numbers? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Numbers

Major League Baseball teams retire numbers faster than a Tom Seaver fastball.

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan's number 30 was retired by the Texas Rangers after his five seasons of mediocrity, finishing with a record of 51-39. The Tampa Bay Rays retired Wade Boggs' number 12, even though he played only two seasons for the team and had a mere 727 at bats.

Steve Garvey, the famed Los Angeles Dodger, had his number retired by the San Diego Padres for five seasons of play. Garvey played 15 seasons with the Dodgers, and the team has not retired his number 6.

The Houston Astros, a 1962 expansion team that has never won the World Series, have retired nine numbers. It's three more numbers than the storied Boston Red Sox, founded 61 years earlier than the Astros.

But one Houston Astro number is particularly touching, and fitting, for the thoughtfulness of the team's ownership. Pitcher Jim Umbricht died of lymphoma at the age of 33 in 1964. His number 32 was immediately retired. Umbricht won 9 games and lost 5 for the Astros.

And those facts lead to my New York Mets. Thoughtfulness and retired numbers are alien concepts to Fred and Jeff Wilpon, the father and son who own the team. Their refusal to properly recognize the players who have provided Mets fans with unrelenting joy over the years is a continuing disgrace. The last time a number was retired was 20 years ago.

The Mets have retired only three numbers: Tom Seaver's 41, Gil Hodges' 14 and Casey Stengel's 37.

The time has come for the Wilpon family to add three more: number 36 Jerry Koosman, number 17 Keith Hernandez and number 31 Mike Piazza.

Jerry Koosman is the best big game pitcher in the 46-year history of the Mets. It's quite a feat given The Franchise, Seaver, is enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Koosman was the pitching star of the Miracle Mets' glorious triumph over the 109-win Baltimore Orioles juggernaut in the 1969 World Series. After Seaver was defeated in Game One, Koosman pitched six innings of no-hit ball in Game Two, and went 8 2/3 innings to give the Mets a critical 2-1 win.

In Game Five, the unflappable Koosman pitched a complete game victory to close out the Orioles for the most improbable win in World Series history. The images of Koosman embracing catcher Jerry Grote after the final out was caught by left fielder Cleon Jones, and dashing off the field, are iconic.

In Game Three of the 1973 National League Championship Series, against another seemingly unstoppable team, the Cincinnati Reds, Koosman pitched a 9-2 complete game victory to put the Mets up two games to one. Koosman was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1989 after finishing his career third in franchise wins (140), second in innings pitched (2,544.2), fourth in Earned Run Average (3.09) and third in strikeouts (1,799).

The transformation of the Mets from a late 1970's Major League Baseball laughingstock to 1986 World Series champions began on June 15, 1983. That's the day the team acquired Hernandez from the St. Louis Cardinals. He became the undisputed leader of the clubhouse, and was named the team's first captain in 1987.

Hernandez is the greatest fielding First Baseman of all time. He won eleven consecutive Gold Gloves, including six for the Mets. To attempt a bunt against Hernandez is "driving the lane against Bill Russell," said Pete Rose.

And he excelled with the bat, as well. In 3,164 plate appearances "Mex" hit .297, which is the third highest average for a Mets player.

In Most Valuable Player voting, Hernandez finished second in 1984, eighth in 1985, and fourth in 1986. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1997. Hernandez is perhaps the most glaring example of the callous ways of the Wilpons because he's still with the team as a superb broadcaster.

Mike Piazza. Does the Wilpon family need an explanation other than the mere mention of his name for why number 31 should be retired? His career statistics don't have to be cited because they're brilliant.

"He was one of those hitters who could change the game with one swing. He was certainly the greatest-hitting catcher of our time, and arguably of all time," said Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, Piazza's former Met teammate.

When Piazza announced his retirement he said:

"I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world. One of the hardest moments of my career, was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful."

It's obvious from Piazza's words that he loved being a Met throughout his eight seasons in New York. His performance on the field and deep affection for the organization should be rewarded. As soon as possible.

Opening Day at Citi Field next year is the opportunity for Fred and Jeff Wilpon to show class and gratitude by honoring Koosman, Hernandez and Piazza . Just like Seaver, Hodges and Stengel, they are everlasting Mets and should be recognized for their years of dedication to the team.