Tag Archives: Senate

In Memoriam (Mr. Basil Paterson)

One of New York’s greatest citizens passed away earlier this week, and for me, it hit home on a personal level.

Basil Paterson was a power in the politics of New York City and State. He was one of “The Four Horsemen“, the men generally credited with ruling Harlem and black New York for several decades — a matter of controversy, even today, amongst media critics.

The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen

 

I have had the pleasure of knowing all these icons, and worked for one them. Yet Basil Paterson was a true inspiration to me throughout my 40 year career in radio.

It was many, many years ago, at an event the fog of memory obscures. I was there covering it, with my trusty tape recorder and microphone with the WLIB-WBLS logo. I was at the time, still a kid, a bit wet behind the ears. At the end of the event, Basil Paterson called me over for a private chat. He said that he’d been following my work for a while, and he liked what I was doing. He urged me to continue to hone my skills, and he predicted great things for me.

I left that room on Cloud Nine. This was, after all, Basil Paterson!

During his life, he served as a New York state senator, deputy mayor of New York City, a labor negotiator, federal mediator, and New York’s secretary of state.

Even these impressive accomplishments don’t tell the whole story of Basil Paterson.

He had, as many might describe it, the common touch. For many years after he first encouraged me to move forward in my career, I would see him at events or press conferences. After a time, our handshakes turned to hugs. More often than not, he would talk to me about issues that were brought up on my talk show, and his insights weren’t just valuable, they were precious. I was among the many who were disappointed when he decided not to run for mayor against Ed Koch in 1985. There was a widespread belief that he could have beaten Koch that year. Four years later, ironically enough, another member of the Four Horsemen, David Dinkins, toppled Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary.

During that same period, I met and became friends with Basil Paterson’s son David. In fact, I was the first person to interview him after he announced he would run for the state senate seat his father held more than a decade earlier. I saw the pride in the elder Paterson’s face when his son became Lieutenant Governor, and later the state’s first black Governor.

David Paterson sworn in

 

David Paterson inherited his father’s concern for the plight of the poor, and his time as Governor spoke to that more than  most would admit, even now.

I saw Basil Paterson a few times last year at various events. His warmth toward me was the same as it was decades earlier. His passing is only partly about the four men who dominated Harlem politics for a generation. It’s about a kind, sophisticated, insightful human being who touched the lives of many, many people.

Basil PATERSON.

I am only one of them. Rest in Peace, Mr. Paterson.

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Are You Sick of the Debate Over the Public Option?

I was hoping not to have to write about this anymore, but, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of the vacillating, equivocal maneuvering on the public option. And that’s from lawmakers we believe to be our friends, including the current occupant of the White House.

There are published reports that President Obama is more interested in the politics of the public option than actually getting a strong one done.

If it’s true, this is hardly change we can believe in. Senator Harry Reid is to be commended for at least trying to get a bill with the public option to the Senate floor.

Senator Harry Reid
Senator Harry Reid

Joe Lieberman, if he’s ready to support a filibuster on any bill containing a public option ought to be summarily stripped of his committee chair, and sent packing to the GOP caucus (that idea comes from my good friend Brent Budowsky). Even the House has caved, somewhat, with Nancy Pelosi now saying she’ll bring a bill to the floor with a public option that’s not pegged to Medicare rates.

Joe Lieberman
Joe Lieberman

That means not so robust as the one people were talking about just days ago. Then in the Senate there’s talk of opt outs and triggers (reportedly the one the President favors).

And what does all this mean when taken together? OUR LAWMAKERS ARE PUNKS!!!

There’s no other way to put it. And this cowardice is from the TOP DOWN! The public wants the public option (and that may not count people like my and my friend Sanda Aronson who want single payer). Four out of five congressional committees passed bills containing the public option.

So why is Joe Lieberman and his fellow travelers such a large roadblock?

I hate to say this, but it’s the President. Barack Obama thinks he needs bipartisan healthcare reform. He hasn’t sent those people in his administration whose job it is to twist arms to go out and do what they’re paid for. Somebody ought to be saying that the Joe Liebermans of the current Congress aren’t acting in  the best interest of their constituents. They’re pimping Americans with pre-existing conditions for the dollars that come from big insurance and big pharma.

I shouldn’t have to say this. Neither should Brent Budowsky, Ed Schultze, Randi Rhodes, Rachel Maddow or the others who have kept the fight going through all the nonsense the public has been exposed to.

Would these same jackals who bleat about government run health care prefer to leave national security to the bindlestiffs at Blackwater? Oh, sorry, they already did.

Sorry to vent, but I’m sick and tired. How about you?

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Can CBO News Boost the Public Option?

We’ve been hearing for quite awhile now that adding a public option to healthcare reform would break the bank. “More than a trillion dollars!!!” lawmakers screamed. And many of them were Democrats. Now comes word that a preliminary estimate from the Congressional Budget Office puts the cost of a House Democratic bill with a public option at $871 billion.

For those who like to count numbers, that’s less than the $900 billion dollar cap set by President Obama in his address to a joint session of Congress last month. But wait, there’s more good news. The Democrats’ version would also reduce the deficit in the first 10 years. The CBO report is due to drop Wednesday, and its ramifications could be far reaching. It gives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi much more ammunition in trying to get a bill with a strong public option through the House.

For reasons best known to themselves, so-called “blue dog” Democrats in the House have been arguing for the lame, government run insurance plan promoted by Republicans in both the House and Senate. Published reports say that plan won’t save as much as the one with the public option. So what will be their excuse now? Speaking of which, when will President Obama get behind the public option, for real?

We’ve said this before. Barack Obama says he favors reform with a public option. Yet he hasn’t put the full weight of his office behind it, and he lets some of his aides equivocate when asked about it. As the late Jim Morrison once opined, “The time for hesitation’s through. No time to wallow in the mire”. Let’s put this bluntly. If President Barack Obama wants to leave a lasting presidential legacy, this is it. Time to get off the dime, Mr. President. The numbers favor you, and those members of the House who have fought hard to provide adequate, affordable healthcare for all Americans.

Let the Rush Limbaughs, the Glenn Becks, the Sean Hannitys do their best. They can’t impugn the integrity of the CBO. They use numbers from the agency when it suits their purpose. Do they really want to cry socialist forever? There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the public option, but it’s not law yet. Those who favor it, and many have been doing yeoman work in their advocacy, need to raise their voices even louder.

And I’m not just talking about well known people. I’m talking about the folks who send healthcare messages in every Facebook post they make, the people who keep it alive on Twitter, the underground majority who get that this is a matter of national pride, and can’t be left to the loud, the selfish, the lawmakers whose votes are bought and paid for.

I, for one, am optimistic the public option will become law. How about you?

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