I spotted this headline, and couldn’t resist clicking on it. The intro says,

“Two studies released last week {August 2013} confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research….”

This does seem to ring true for the most part. I think there are those rare individuals who were raised in privilege — maybe 3rd generation blue bloods? — who have minimal affectations and are really decent people.

As I’ve heard said, ‘they were raised right.’

The truly self-centered seem to be the pirates who rose from a proletariat family to economic aristocracy on their own – hell-bent on becoming rich and powerful – no holds barred.

My poster child for this syndrome is Joseph Cassano, who grew up in Brooklyn, where his father was a policeman. He earned a political science degree from Brooklyn College in 1977. No blue blood here!

In 1987, American International Group (AIG) hired Cassano as Chief Financial Officer for their Financial Products group.

By 2000, Cassano had risen to the position of CEO of the AIG Financial Products group, which had developed a very lucrative business selling Credit Default Swaps to various Investment Banks as protection against their potential losses on mortgage-backed securities.

Some said that Cassano was at the very center of the Great Recession due to his leadership of this lightly-regulated AIG subsidiary which seemed capable of writing its own rules on how it assessed risk; on how it priced risk; and how it compensated executives.

It has been reported that between 2000 and 2008 — the year he left the company — Joseph Cassano’s compensation from AIG was more than $300 Million.

Cassano walked away free, absolved of any improprieties by federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers injected $182 Billion into AIG to prevent it from destroying our American financial system.

What a fabulous inspiration for young people on how to achieve the American Dream!

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August 2013.

Westchester County is known as the bucolic gateway to the Hudson River Valley. Located just north of New York City, Westchester has a plethora of attractions, including castles, mansions, historical sites, and the iconic Playland Amusement Park in Rye.

Westchester boasts thousands of acres of parks and nature preserves; world-class museums and performing arts venues; exclusive shopping, wineries and orchards; public gardens; excellent dining; and year-round, family-friendly fairs and festivals.

That’s what current Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and his cronies would like the world to know and believe.

The real Westchester County consists of 45 independent communities on a land area of 450 square miles. Just under 1 Million people live in Westchester, and they are racially, economically and culturally segregated.

From the City of Peekskill (population 24,000) where 51% of the population is white, 14.5% live in poverty, and the median family income is $65,585; to the City of Rye (population 16,000) where 90% of residents are white, just 2.3% live in poverty, and the median family income is $210,824; the contrasts are dramatic.

Meanwhile, it is very clear: Current County Executive Rob “I cut your taxes” Astorino has no shame.

Much like Don Quixote jousting at windmills, Mr. Astorino loves to do battle with various federal agencies. As he stamps his feet and screams, “I want my Maypo”, he tries to divert attention away from the huge financial penalties Westchester County Taxpayers face because of his incompetence, inability to lead and inexperience managing an organization of any size.

The most recent revelation?

The County had been given a deadline of April 2012 to provide Ultra Violet treatment to the water in Westchester Water District 1 which serves White Plains, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

Career professionals in the County had developed solutions; Astorino allowed the progress afforded by the solutions to grind to a halt.

Now, we find out that the County has been in violation of the mandate to deliver clean drinking water for 16 months, with probable fines of $37,500 a day. 16 months x 30 days x $37,500 is $18 Million. That’s a lot of money!

Cryptosporidium is the pathogen that is often behind the syndrome sometimes known as “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

It is highly resistant to chlorine disinfection, which is the primary form of disinfection used at most water treatment plants.

As long ago as 1999, the US EPA published definitive research showing that UV treatment is the only reliable and effective treatment system against all pathogens, including Cryptosporidium.

It is somewhat surprising that CE Astorino would mess with folks in Scarsdale.

His predictable pattern of abuse and benign neglect tends toward Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Port Chester, Peekskill and New Rochelle. Those folks just don’t seem to make time to come out to vote, and they mostly don’t make campaign contributions.

Maybe his campaign advisors told him, “Don’t worry, boss. People in Scarsdale don’t drink tap water. They drink bottled water. They will never find out that we are sending them potentially dangerous water.”

Hopefully, some of our neighbors in Scarsdale who do vote will get a bit vociferous about the gamble Astorino and his cronies seem to be willing to take with the physical (and financial) health of fellow Westchester residents.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Westchester County this month after county officials refused to enter into a consent decree to resolve the violations.

The potential legal fees and fines are astronomical.

What is even worse?

The lack of UV treatment puts thousands of Westchester residents (the majority of whom are registered Democrats!) at extreme risk of serious illness or even death from drinking improperly treated tap water.

Pretty clever political strategy, I think.

If you can’t convince the other party you have a solid plan and strategy, then disable or kill them so they can’t vote.

Brilliant move, Mr. Astorino!

The Town of Clarkstown — located in Rockland County in New York’s lower Hudson Valley — today is a suburban town comprising 47 square miles with a population of 84,000.

Clarkstown is predominantly white and middle class. According to the 2010 Census, just 4.5% of the people who live in Clarkstown are at or below the poverty level. The median household income is $102,000 and the median home value is $500,000. About 80% of the homes in Clarkstown are owner-occupied, and the majority were built after 1950 as Rockland County transitioned from a predominantly agrarian economy to a bedroom community for the New York metro region.

In 2010, CNNMoney.com named Clarkstown the 41st best “small city” to live in America, which was the highest such ranking in New York State.

One would think that in a stable suburban town like Clarkstown, public safety would be of paramount importance to residents, yet the job of policing would be less stressful than in nearby high-density, inner-city areas where danger lurks around every corner.

New York City — one of the most complicated places in America in terms of ensuring public safety — has a police force of 34,000 supervised by the New York City police commissioner who earns annual salary of $215,000.

For some reason, Clarkstown has a history of providing the highest compensation to police officials in the lower Hudson region. In Clarkstown, an entry-level police officer makes a base salary of $62,000.

In nearby and contiguous towns, entry-level police officers earn between $40,000 and 43,500 per a year in base pay.

In 2010, it was reported that then-Clarkstown Police Chief Peter Noonan was the highest paid municipal employee in New York State — earning just over $301,000.

At the time, he was supervising a force of 173 police officers, of which 147 made more than $100,000 in base salaries, not including overtime and other earnings.

Noonan retired in 2011 after spending 33 years in the Clarkstown police department, the last seven as Chief.

When he retired, his annual pension was calculated to be $193,892 based on the formula New York State uses to calculate pension benefits.

A recent recalculation by the NYS Comptroller’s Office has added nearly $13,000 to Noonan’s retirement benefit, bringing it to $206,398, the highest pension for a retired cop in New York State.

Noonan now has the eighth highest pension among municipal retirees in New York State and is one of 10 pensioners with an annual benefit exceeding $200,000.

You think Detroit has problems?

Rob Astorino – young and inexperienced – was elected to become County Executive in Westchester County NY in November 2009. He ran on a Tea Party platform — at the time (and still today), property owners in the 40+ towns, villages and cities in Westchester County were paying about the highest property taxes in the U.S. Astorino won the election on his promise to cut Westchester County property taxes.

Good news: he succeeded. He delivered what he promised. My County property taxes have decreased by almost $200 since Rob Astorino was elected!

On the other hand, my total property taxes – including City, School and County – increased by +$3,500 since Mr. Astorino was elected — an increase of over 18%.

Over the past 3 years, I have watched Westchester County cut support for safety net services and send the responsibility for providing those services downstream to the local towns, villages and cities.

That makes me very sad, because while the need for services doesn’t go away, and we can and do save $1 in taxes at the County level, only to find that our local municipal and school taxes go up by $3.

We need a County Executive who is able to see and understand the big picture, not a County Executive who has no experience other than as a silver tongued broadcast journalist. This is the 21st century, and we are in a very competitive economic environment.

We just can’t afford the distractions which come from our County leadership sparring with State or Federal government over issues like a consent decree for fair housing, or a mandate for clean water.

Noam Bramson gets it. He is a moderate, middle-of-the road leader who is able to see the big picture and make decisions based on the best interests of the majority of citizens today – and in the future — of our Westchester communities.

Let’s help Mr. Astorino return to his real strength – broadcast journalism – where he has the best chance of making a mark on the American landscape which doesn’t damage the lives of so many good people…..

The very best base for Tea Party Patriots are those folks who never learned critical thinking skills. The reason Common Core Standards strikes absolute fear in the hearts of the architects of Tea Party is that it is centered on Critical Thinking Skills!

Mind you, we are 10 to 15 years distant from returning to a society where the majority will be capable of logical thinking and logical reasoning, but the Tea Party Patriots are wasting no time to appeal to their base, and to recruit as many vapid automatons as they can sink their teeth into.

Stay thirsty and vigilant, my friends!

Tea Party Thoughts

August 4, 2013

I’ve recently been called out as a bigoted liberal who is a ‘hater’.

I think the reason for that is that I take exception to some current Tea Party shenanigans. I try not to be a ‘hater’ but I am willing to call out when I see or hear commentary which seems to be non-productive.

Here are some Walrus thoughts:

A widely accepted view of Liberalism incorporates the political philosophy founded on ideas of liberty and equality. It is generally acknowledged that Liberals support ideas such as: free and fair elections; civil rights for all people; freedom of the press; freedom of religion; free trade; and rights of people to own and protect their private property.

The 17th century philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding Liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property and according to the social contract, governments must not violate these rights.

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights reflect that the very foundation of our country is based on Liberal principles.

The original ‘Tea Party’ – The Boston Tea Party (circa 1770) — was all about anger and resentment of British mandates on the Colonies – often summarized as an objection to “Taxation without Representation”.

Today’s Tea Party seems to claim a connection to the Boston Tea Party, though I don’t grasp their logic, or see any connection at all.

We have a governmental structure in the U.S. which allows and encourages everyone eligible to vote to get engaged in the political process and to vote. In 21st century America, there is no “Taxation without Representation”.

The basic tenets of the modern Tea Party – as I understand them – are to reduce government spending thus cutting taxes on U.S. citizens.

I’m all for that.

The only way I know of to reduce government spending is to re-engineer government.

The majority of my tax burden comes from a combination of taxes on: (1) Income (Federal and State); (2) Sales (State, County & City); and (3) Property (County, City and School District).

There are plenty of other taxes I pay which are buried in: my telephone bill(s); my utility bills(s); the gasoline I purchase; hotels I stay in; and airplanes I fly on.

Slashing spending without a plan to re-engineer government is a recipe for disaster.

Other than calls to “cut taxes, make government smaller and reduce spending” I haven’t heard or seen any sort of plan. Lots of noise, no plan? It wouldn’t fly where I work.

Fact is, the current Tea Party movement is quite similar to the Contract with America which was championed by Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s. It was all about shrinking the size of government, promoting lower taxes, and eviscerating safety net programs for disadvantaged people.

No plan, just a lot of noise.

Prior to that, we had The Moral Majority, which started in the mid 1970’s when Jerry Falwell created a national platform to raise awareness of social issues important to him and his followers.

The Moral Majority was launched and heavily supported by a coalition of conservative southern Christian right leaders, congregations and political action committees which campaigned on issues its personnel believed were important to maintaining its Christian conception of moral law, a conception they believed represented the opinions of the majority of Americans.

At its peak, the membership of the Moral Majority was in the 4 million range, with over 2 million donors. It was one of the largest conservative lobbing groups in the U.S. at its zenith. Their first key victory was the defeat of Jimmy Carter by Ronald Reagan in 1980, and they continued to have power and influence until the late ‘80’s.

Again, a lot of noise, but no plan to reduce the overall size of government.

Before that, many of our fellow Americans who identified with this ideology were members of the Ku Klux Klan, and some still are, apparently….