A Walk in Greenwood–the man who founded CUNY and Opened Japan

I love walking in Greenwood Cemetery. I can thank Jacob’s 4th grade teacher for introducing me to it, even though I’d passed it hundreds of times. For those interested in history, it is a wonderful place. The monuments to the NYC heroes of the Revolution, the Civil War, the Mexican War, and WW I. Generations of famous names represented in clusters of graves.

And sometimes I learn something new. A grave caught my attention this morning. It was the grave of Townsend Harris (October 3, 1804 – February 25, 1878). It was unusual in that it had multiple plaques added, one by the 26th Head Priest of a Buddhist Temple in Japan, and one by the City University of New York.

Townsend Harris not only was the founder of CUNY, the system I now work for, but he also was the first United States Consul General to Japan after the opening by Admiral Perry, and negotiated the Harris Treated with Japan that opened official relations.

Here is Townsend’s grave at Greenwood, a picture from the Greenwood website showing students of a Japanese school visiting his grave:


Townsend Harris is the epitome of a dedicated American politician. He was head of the NY Board of Education before founding the Free Academy of the City of New York to educate working class New Yorkers. The Free Academy was the precursor of CUNY. It was the first tuition free college in the United States.

He then served in diplomatic roles in China and Siam before being sent to Japan to negotiate the formal treaty that initiated relations with Japan. Today he may be more remembered and honored in Japan than in the US.

Here’s a different view of the grave, showing the cherry tree planted by the Japanese in Townsend Harris’ honor: (not how I got to see it today)

You can learn more here: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3356

A Republican Official Thinks it’s “Sick” to Help the Elderly Vote

Yesterday I posted on Linkedin that I had spent a day with the Board of Elections helping residents of a nursing home vote by absentee ballot. This program has people going in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican, to residents at nursing homes who want to vote and reads them the ballot (if they need this help) and to mark their ballot. It is strictly nonpartisan and is very much appreciated by the residents of the nursing home who without it would be disenfranchised.

This is what an official with the GOP commented regarding my efforts (taken straight from Linkedin)


  • Jim Meyer


    Jim Meyer

    Secretary at 11th District NCGOP

    How sick, that any one would descend on a helpless group of citizens, many who are not alert, drugged, Alsheimer nor aware of what they are being asked and then trick them into supporting some political opportunists agenda.



So the Secretary of the 11th district NCGOP thinks it is “sick” to help the elderly vote? He apparently thinks residents of nursing homes should be disenfranchised. I wonder if the elderly voters of the 11th District in North Carolina know this is the official NCGOP position!

For those who think the elderly are NOT a “helpless group of citizens, many who are not alert” and think that the elderly should be allowed to vote despite residing in a nursing home, you might want to keep this GOP position in mind.

To be clear, I was working with NYC GOP members who certainly would NOT agree with Jim of the NCGOP. So it is NOT a universally held GOP position. But apparently in North Carolina disenfranchising the elderly has some official GOP sanction.


Getting out the vote…spending the day in a nursing home and learning some lessons

I spent most of yesterday working for the Board of Elections helping residents of nursing homes vote by absentee ballot. I did this during the primary as well, but my observations then are very different than now.

In both cases my job was to scrupulously present every candidate as equally as possible to the voter who couldn’t read the ballot him or herself, and to scrupulously record their preference. It was a wonderful chance to see the process while being completely nonpartisan.

Then everyone was a Democrat who was deciding among democratic candidates. What I observed was that women voted for women specifically because of the lack of representation of women in government. I also observed that the LAST name on the list of candidates was far more likely to get people’s votes, and that the simpler the name and easier it was on the ear, the more likely people would vote for the candidate.

My observations for the general were completely different.

First of all, I was careful to read off each party and each candidate. Interestingly, my Republican partner was the one who would suggest to people the option of voting straight Demcoratic. She knew that almost everyone would choose this and she gave them the option while I was carefully trying to give every party, even the stupidly branded “Sapient Party” a chance.

Every singe person with almost no exceptions chose straight Demcratic…the exceptions voted for Democratic candidates on other lines.

Despite my effort to present every candidate equally, the Sapient Party candidate got no votes.

What struck me most though was the reaction of voters to Proposal 1. Now at that time I was undecided on this proposal, not that it mattered since my job was only to read it to them. The response of the voters to this proposal, even in its simplified form on the ballot, was universal.

“I have no idea what they are trying to do.”

This is supposedly a reform measure to redistrict state level districts in a less corrupt way. Yet it is about as opaque and incomprehensible as can be.

Here is what I gathered from reading it to voters: This proposal sets up a committee of 10 to redistrict. 8 of those 10 are directly appointed by the four leaders of the state legislature (majority and minority leaders of Assembly and Senate). The remaing 2 members are appointed by those 8 appointees of the four leaders of the state legislature.

Why? How is this reform? Four people choose 8, and those 8 choose the remaining 2, and those 10 make the decision for the rest of us.

That is the proposal as presented on the ballot.

No one wanted it among the voters I talked to. In private, none of the people I was working with liked it either. It sucked at least as it was worded to the voters.

The other proposals appealed to the voters. They were PHRASED and NAMED in a way that appealed. Proposal 1 was phrased and named in a way that no one liked…was this intentional? I am guessing the legislature only put it forward as a front to CLAIM they are reforming the system, but it really is just incomprehensible junk. If that ISN’T what they wanted, then they need to fix it so people actually understand it and like it.

Voting in November in My District Will Suck

Okay…when faced with a so-called “Democrat” like Cuomo, I wish there was an alternative. Cuomo not only is a fairly corrupt, thuggish asshole, but his policies lean far more towards the Greedy Oil Party than I would like. He is NOT a progressive, reform Democrat. He is a sleaze. So wouldn’t it be nice to at least have a place for a protest vote even if there was no real EFFECTIVE vote I could have?

The Greens remain overly infected with the metastasis of Nader’s massive, tumorous ego, ruining their ability to see straight. I suspect the Nader tumor presses too much on their optic nerve and their higher reasoning centers. They may be liberal, but they have not shown the slightest sense of strategy, tactics, or intelligence for decades. I grew up with Nader as a hero and used to consider myself leaning Green. But I have seen the Greens do more damage to their own cause than help any kind of progress or reform in America. The Greens are arrogant as can be and tell me often how great they are on issues, but I have not seen any sign of effectiveness coming from them these days. They are not for me.

On the other hand, WFP has become such a whirlpool of corruption, developer money, white privilege, and violations of election finance laws that they make me even more nauseous than Nader. Though they and I sometimes agree on candidates (Note: DEMOCRATIC candidates) their overall strategy is short-sighted, brutish, and nasty and NOT in the slightest bit reform or progressive. Not to mention elitist. Of course since they endorsed the Fracking Thug Cuomo anyway, they rule themselves out as any kind of progressive or reform alternative this year… but despite their sweet words, they have ruled themselves out for me for years now.

Who else is there? Republicans lost their credibility when the unelected Bush came to power if not long before. I remain a Democrat, and there are plenty of Democrats to vote for…Jo Anne Simon in my district being the main one. But so-called Democrats are becoming hard to find in NYC these days.

Cuomo is a wannabe Repub on all too many issues. He is furthermore one of the nastiest and most out of touch politicians I have seen for years.

The WFP machine is a wannabe Vito Lopez machine and are making the Frank Seddio machine look almost decent. When I first moved to Brooklyn I voted WFP because I couldn’t stand the Vito Lopez machine. But over time I realized WFP was no better. They have enabled the Repbublicans, sided with Vito Lopez’s machine over reformers, sided with the IDC over reformers, sided with Cuomo over progressives, and have violated every campaign finance laws they thought they could get away with. They are the epitome of a corrupt, cynical machine.

Greens remain stuck in their Nader illness, refusing the chemotherapy they would require to become well again.

And then we have fools like Jesse Hamilton, who I reluctantly supported in the Primary only to see him slide towards the Republican-linked and power-hungry IDC, who I sometimes agree with, but overall see as a metastatic tumor of Jeff Klein’s ego much as the Greens have become a metastatic tumor of Ralph Nader’s ego.

So come November I will proudly vote for the one real progressive, liberal, reform DEMOCRAT on my ballot: Jo Anne Simon. I look forward to THAT vote. But other than that, I am not so sure what I will do.

I may not be able to vote for Jesse “Which Way Should I Go?” Hamilton any more than I can vote for Andrew “Frack You All” Cuomo. So in the end I may have to pick some creative write ins…Howard Graubard? Michael Bouldin? They would be far better than the choices I would actually have.

Commentary on Ebola from a Hazmat Expert

This is an interesting perspective from someone trained in handling Hazmat conditions. The key quote is this one:

“The truth is, in terms of virology, Ebola should not be a threat to American citizens. We have clean water. We have information. We have the means to educate ourselves, practice proper hand-washing procedures, protect ourselves with hazmat suits. The CDC Disease Detectives were dispatched to Dallas almost immediately to work on the front lines to identify those who might be at risk, who could have been exposed. We have the technology, and we certainly have the money to keep Ebola at bay. What we don’t have is communication. What we don’t have is a health care system that values preventative care. What we don’t have is an equal playing field between nurses and physicians and allied health professionals and patients. What we don’t have is a culture of health where we work symbiotically with one another and with the technology that was created specifically to bridge communication gaps, but has in so many ways failed. What we don’t have is the social culture of transparency, what we don’t have is a stopgap against mounting hysteria and hypochondria, what we don’t have is nation of health literate individuals. We don’t even have health-literate professionals. Most doctors are specialists and are well versed only in their field. Ask your orthopedist a general question about your health — see if they can comfortably answer it..”

Now if we can just get the radical right wing Republicans to stop using the Ebola outbreak to stir up useless hysteria for political gain, we might actually start focusing on fixing the healthcare system so it is better able to deal with things like this. Cue the Democrats, who have been proposing Healthcare Reform since Clinton (and before, actually).


The Sane Ebola News Roundup

It is astonishing how utterly irrational and hysterical the right wing media is when it comes to Ebola. Funny thing is, when Ebola was viewed as an AFRICAN disease, the Republicans didn’t want to do anything about it.


One wonders where Mr. Vitter wanted to spend the money. Perhaps on diapers and prostitutes, his favorite hobbies.

I guess no one had told the Republicans about “containment” back then…see, containing it would mean helping Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea handle their outbreak BEFORE it spread. But Republicans didn’t care because it was an African disease. Guess they didn’t realize airplanes make all things global.

Of course the Greedy Oil Party DID have a plan for Ebola…and it was WORSE than do nothing:


Now they are denying they wanted to cut CDC funding. And yet when we look at the ACTUAL NUMBERS as proposed by the Republican House vs. the Democratic President and the split/Democratic Senate, we see they are lying:


Then the Republicans claimed that the CDC messed up because they didn’t have Ebola guidelines in place. Which is absurd. The CDC has protocols for just about every know disease,  including Ebola, and they updated those Ebola guidelines in August when the situation was starting to get worse in Africa. Want proof? Here are the protocols as updated in August and distributed to hospitals:


See…guidelines for healthcare workers ALREADY IN PLACE. From what I have heard reported, the hospital failed to follow them and THAT is why the disease has spread even the small amount it has.

Now the big thing Republicans are demanding is a travel ban. Yet even George W. Bush’s HHS secretary thinks this is a bad idea:


Yep…today’s hysterical Republicans are even more out of touch than those of George W. Bush’s administration.

Now…you want some REAL sanity on the issue, here’s Dr. Arthur Calpan, head of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine, discussing the issue:

[SALON.COM]: It’s been a high-profile couple of weeks for the U.S. health system, with what’s being portrayed as some pretty major screw-ups: the Dallas hospital letting the Ebola patient go, two health care workers getting sick, and the CDC admitting it would have done things differently. Before we get to some of the more out-there political accusations, what can we say really has gone wrong, and how serious were those missteps?

[Dr. Caplan] You know, it’s still hard to say what went wrong. That things went wrong, we’re pretty sure — but why, I still don’t think we know [what], exactly. For example, I don’t know if someone took a porous history of the gentleman who came in with Ebola, I don’t know if there was a failure in the handoff from the nurse to the doctor, I don’t know if the electronic medical record didn’t let them enter in the right information, or flag it in a way that was important. I don’t even know if the guy was sent home because he didn’t have insurance, which is a problem in the U.S. health system still — in places like Texas particularly. So there could be many reasons for that single error that we haven’t heard. And I think we need to hear about it. I get a little angry when I hear people saying “privacy” — I think privacy, in an epidemic, has to yield to getting a straight story. And I also worry that liability fears are preventing a straight story from coming out.

Most of these problems I think that we’re seeing are also occurring because we’re trying to act as if every hospital in the United States can be “Ebola-ready,” and I think that is a very unwarranted assumption. There are plenty of hospitals in the United States that can’t deal with an Ebola patient. They don’t have practice with isolation; some of them are hospitals that are set up to care for veterans and are in nursing-home mode; some of them are specialty children’s hospitals. What we need to do is focus on a few hundred hospitals that have a lot of experience and are quite capable of dealing with Ebola patients, or anyone else who’s got a highly infectious disease; make sure they’re trained, and following the same set of policies; make sure they’re practicing — putting on their equipment, taking it off — and stop pretending as if an Ebola patient can go anywhere in the United States and be managed.

Further on in the article:

[SALON.COM]: There’s a very, very small chance of there being an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. But seeing what’s happened with this, should we be concerned about the United States’ ability to handle another, perhaps containable epidemic or another public health scare?

[Dr. Caplan] Yes, we should. We have starved the public health system, both in terms of research and ability to respond. We need a rapid-response capability, both here and in overseas locations where outbreaks occur — there is no equivalent of the Special Forces to send, no boots on the ground kind of thing. There was no one to send to Guinea when Ebola first broke out: there was a lot of begging for help, but there wasn’t like a standing volunteer force that said, “Yep, okay, they need us, and we’ve practiced and we’ve been to other places, we can get there.” I think also we’re seeing a lack of coordination, because everyone’s talking about the CDC. The whole Texas thing is run by the Texas Health Department. The CDC is an advisory group. They don’t have any authority. Is that a good system? I don’t think so.

So let’s get this clear: even in Africa right now, more than 300 times as many people die of HIV or of respiratory infections than die of Ebola. Ebola even now is way down on the list. In the US we have thousands to tens of thousands of flu deaths per year. Right now ONE Ebola death. Are we going to have a travel ban on all countries that have flu? We might save more lives!

Ebola requires DIRECT contact of body fluids to be transmitted. Simple as that. The right wing hysteria is insane and their so-called “solutions” are illogical and useless. Obama has handled it as well as it can be handled. The only major mistake has been at that Texas hospital. That and the Republican hysteria itself.

Maybe the Republicans want to spend the next few months in sterile isolation while the rest of us actually get some things done. I think that might work out for everyone.

Republicans fear your phone: USE IT!

MoveOn.org has done amazing work in several elections during its recent history. In 2006 they turned dozens of “longshot” races into wins. All through the art of grassroots phone banking. They are at it again and Republicans have something to fear from their efforts. And we all should use it as a tool for winning in November.

If you have time this coming Saturday or Sunday, join the National MoveOn.org Phone Bank from Home:


MoveOn’s Voters Rising program will connect you directly to progressives in key states who may stay home on Election Day without some extra motivation. Each calling shift will focus on one of these key races that could decide control of the Senate.

  • Michigan to help elect Gary Peters.
  • South Dakota to help elect Rick Weiland.
  • Colorado to help elect Mark Udall.
  • North Carolina to help elect Kay Hagan.
  • Iowa to help elect Bruce Braley.
  • Kentucky to defeat Mitch McConnell.

Sign up today for one of our upcoming shifts. Each shift will begin with a brief training call to help you prepare.


If you can’t join Sat or Sun, or if you want to do more, please go below for more opportunities to beat Republican ass nationwide.

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Prop 1 will appear on the November ballot. It claims to be a reform-minded redistricting proposal. It isn’t. It is really an insider attempt to make a flawed process even more corrupt and even more favorable to Albany insiders.

Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner:

The following organizations, newspapers, and individuals urge you to VOTE NO on Prop. 1:

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LGBT Evening in support of Jamie Kemmerer for State Senate

LGBT Evening in support of Jamie Kemmerer for State Senate

Wednesday, October 8
497 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY
7-9 PM

Price: $50 (includes FREE open bar)

RSVP Online now

Hosted by:
Empire State Pride Agenda
Scott Klein
Bill Thomas

Jamie is running against Marty Golden who is one of the greatest opponents of marriage equality in New York. Prior to marriage equality being passed in July of 2011, Senator Golden proposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which would have voided former Governor Paterson’s executive order to recognize marriages performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Jamie Kemmerer organized with MoveOn and Bay Ridge Democrats for the passage of marriage equality. It’s time for us to come together and hand Senator Golden one more defeat this November.


Lambda Independent Democrats OPPOSES PROP 1

From LID:

[Oct. 1st], another NYS Assembly member was arrested on corruption. In November, these same legislators are asking the voters to change the state constitution to allow these same corrupt people to be in charge of keeping them in power. SHARE and LIKE this status if we can count on you to stand up and Vote NO on Prop 1 and help end the cycle of corruption in our state!

Prop. 1 is NOT reform…it is just another attempt by corrupt politicians to cover their collective asses.


Here are the key races for Congress this year

Michael Bouldin wants me to beg you for money…okay, no he doesn’t. I don’t set arbitrary deadlines and I don’t beg. I just want to ask you how badly you want to slap down the right wing extremists who are trying to take over Congress and prevent ANY kind of progress for the next 2+ years. If you want to stop them, here are the races to donate to:


Let’s start with a NY race since we are all New Yorkers:

Sean Eldridge, NY-19

Image of Sean Eldridge

This is one our best chances to flip a red seat in NY state blue, and it is the one where the odds are most evenly balanced. This is one of those races where the Greedy Oil Party is so desperate to win they created a fake website to smear Sean Eldridge. They don’t think they can win this one honestly, so the Repubs once again stooped to lying. I think we can win HONESTLY if we all pull together.


Now let’s go next door to New Jersey:

Aimee Belgard, NJ-03

Image of Aimee Belgard

Yet another one of our best chances of flipping a seat to blue. People think of NJ as a blue state, but this race is a dead heat and the Repubs are sweating it. Winning this seat would help solidify New Jersey as a blue state.



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