Democratic challenger: “The reason I’m losing . . . is the
reason I’m running”
Eliot Spitzer already is lounging comfortably in New York’s
open seat for governor, according to pollsters. Ahead of Republican
candidate John Faso, Spitzer also is pulling a convincing
lead—ahead by more than 60 percent in some polls—over Democratic
challenger Tom Suozzi.
Despite the disappointing poll numbers, Suozzi isn’t pulling
back the reins on his campaign as Tuesday’s Democratic primary
approaches. “The reason I’m losing, the reason that I’m behind,
is the reason I’m running,” he said.
At its most fundamental level, Suozzi said his campaign is
fueled by a desire to overturn politics as usual in New York
state. Even if voters don’t allow him the opportunity to clean
up what he describes as problem-ridden state government, Suozzi
said at least he’s stirred the pot.
I had not run, if I did not continue to run, Eliot Spitzer
would not be talking about property taxes,” he said. “He would
not be talking about Medicaid fraud. And I’m very concerned
about the way he’s embraced all the status-quo interests that
have given us the problems in our state that we have now,
so I’ve got to keep on working to try to win the race.”
Beyond the polls, Suozzi also trails his gubernatorial rival
in campaign financing.
Throughout the state and in the press, much has been made
of Suozzi’s campaign contributors. His critics particularly
question the motives behind donations tied to Suozzi’s leading
financial supporter, Ken Langone, a Wall Street investor and
the founder of Home Depot.
Some have ac cused the Democratic challenger of hypocrisy,
suggesting that Suozzi, who has made challenging the influence
of lobbyists and special-interest groups in state government
a priority of his campaign, is himself a puppet of Langone.
Critics assert that Langone’s contributions come as a tool
of revenge against Spitzer, who, in his capacity as attorney
general, named Langone as codefendant in a suit that alleged
excessive executive compensation on the New York Stock Exchange.
has raised about $900,000 for my campaign,” Suozzi said of
Langone. “He doesn’t like Spitzer, but he doesn’t want anything
from state government. He just wants me to beat Spitzer. The
same as Spitzer has people who don’t like me supporting him,
like the president of the Nassau County PBA—Police Benevolent
Association—or [speaker of the Assembly] Shelly Silver . That
happens in politics. You have people who don’t like your opponent,
who support you for that reason.”
Suozzi said he has amassed about 4,000 contributors in total.
Their average contribution is less than $1,000 per person.
His network of supporters also includes those who volunteer
as part of Suozzi’s grassroots campaign. The strategy is one
that has proved successful for Suozzi during previous campaigns
for his current position as Nassau County executive and former
role as mayor of the city of Glen Cove. The grassroots approach
also has been necessitated by his status as the financial
underdog in this gubernatorial race, Suozzi said.
With his success in the Democratic primary seemingly doomed
from the beginning, it wasn’t until early August that a campaign
spokesman officially ruled out the possibility that Suozzi
would file to run as an independent candidate and avoid a
Spitzer-vs.-Suozzi primary contest.
thought about it, but I really wanted to focus on running
in the Democratic primary and focus my energy in that direction,”
The deadline for filing petitions to secure an independent
line was Aug. 22.
a Democrat,” he said. “I’ve always been a Democrat. I believe
in the historic Democratic values that I think we’ve lost
touch with for the most part. I want to work to make the Democratic
party stronger and better.”
As part of his effort to challenge politics as usual, Suozzi’s
campaign has focused on three major issues: reducing property
taxes; creating jobs, particularly in upstate New York; and
reforming city schools.
can it be, with all these problems, we have a 98.5-percent
re-election rate of our state legislators?” Suozzi said. “There’s
a problem that our elected officials are not accountable for
the issues that people face in their everyday lives. And part
of my campaign is to connect the dots between Albany’s dysfunction
and the affect on local people.”
If he’s unsuccessful at the polls on Tuesday, Suozzi said
he’ll finish out his term as Nassau County executive and likely
return to work in the private sector. While he said he doesn’t
currently have his eye on any other political office, he would
not rule out the possibility of returning to public office
a Dirty Job, Who’s Going to Do It?
week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continued
to claim that the regulation of materials that
can be used to create a dirty bomb is not a security
issue and shouldn’t be a federal responsibility.
After Al Qaeda dirty bomb how-to guides were found
online, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen.
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) again called on the NRC
to push for tighter controls on such nuclear materials.
“The threat of a dirty bomb is a security risk,”
Clinton said. “This is just one more example of
failure to ensure our homeland security.”
in the Senate and House are expected to present
a no-confidence measure against Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld sometime this week. The bill is
likely to be defeated by Republicans and likely
would not affect Rumsfeld’s status in the off
chance that it did pass. However, Democrats want
to have their Republican counterparts on record
as supporting the controversial secretary before
November. Many see the upcoming elections as a
referendum on an increasingly unpopular war of
which Rumsfeld was one of the chief architects.
in the Wind
Iowa’s Franklin County could become home to the
nation’s largest wind farm if the county zoning
board approves permit requests on the $200 million
project next month. Iowa Winds LLC reported that
the planned wind farm would cover about 40,000
acres and could be operational by 2008. Iowa currently
ranks third in wind energy production, behind
Texas and California.
Talk Isn’t Cheap
refund will offer New York’s tax-burdened cell-phone users
Somewhere between selling you the latest promotional plan,
trendiest phone and supposedly essential accessories, wireless
providers may forget to tell you (or maybe you just weren’t
listening) that as much as 21 percent of your monthly bill
will go toward taxes and surcharges alone.
It’s a statistic that earns New York top seed as the most
wireless-taxing state in a spread that drops to as low as
approximately 6 percent in Nevada.
Federal officials provided some relief in May when they agreed
to exempt wireless customers from a 108-year-old communications
tax that had been tacking on 3 percent each month. In addition
to a reduced monthly bill, most wireless users will be eligible
for a refund of taxes collected by the federal government
during the past three years.
long overdue,” said John O’Malley, a spokesman for Verizon
Wireless in upstate New York. “We’ve been saying for years
that that tax should go away.”
Introduced as part of the Spanish War Act of 1898, the Federal
Excise Tax was designed to levy funds on long- distance telephone
services in order to help support the conflict. Throughout
the years, the tax expired or was repealed several times,
only to be reinstated. In 1990, it was permanently extended
to the current 3-percent rate.
The Department of the Treasury is authorized to collect the
excise tax on local and toll-based phone services. The federal
tax code defines toll-based services as those communications
for which there is a charge that “varies in the amount with
distance and elapsed transmission time of each individual
After several federal court rulings, the government conceded
that certain long-distance service agreements, including wireless
plans, do not meet the toll-based service criteria since users
incur charges solely based upon the length of the call. As
a remedy for years of collecting illegitimate revenue, the
government will allow taxpayers to file for a refund on their
2006 returns. Taxpayers will be eligible to collect a refund
on excise taxes paid from March 2003 through July 2006.
Repeal of the federal excise tax is a step forward, according
to wireless industry representatives, many of whom also argue
for the reduction of wireless taxes at the local and state
you look at the wireless industry, it’s one of the most competitive
industries that you’re going to find, and one of the real
positive results of that competition is lower pricing,” O’Malley
said. “In fact, the average monthly wireless bill now is less
than half what it was 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the rate
of taxation and these surcharges hasn’t kept pace with that
Instead, many state and local governments have recognized
the revenue potential of the wireless industry and tapped
into it as a means of expanding the tax base.
Despite repeal of the 3-percent excise tax, the federal government
will continue to collect regulatory and universal service
fees from wireless consumers.
States governments typically collect sales tax and an E911
fee, which funds 911 communications systems. New York state
also collects a gross receipts tax, which historically has
been imposed on state monopolies such as utilities and phone
At the local level, county governments often levy sales tax
on wireless bills. Some municipalities, including Albany,
also impose a school-district tax.
been encouraging our customers to reach out to their local
lawmakers and ask, ‘Why is this? Why am I paying so much?
Why am I paying one-fifth of my bill every month just to cover
taxes and surcharges, when if I go to the grocery store or
to the mall I’ll pay about 6 percent?’ ” O’Malley said.
Reducing taxes may be one point on which wireless-service
providers and consumers agree. Decreased fees would add money
to the average user’s pocketbook while potentially resulting
in increased demand for wireless services, according to O’Malley.
taxes have a real impact on consumer demand for our service,”
To add muscle to their call for tax reductions, several wireless-service
providers, including Verizon, actively petition lawmakers
at all levels of government.
More information about wireless-service taxes is available
at www.stopaddingtomybill.com. For questions about filing
for a refund, refer to the Internal Revenue Service Web site
Hersh article exposes the Bush administration’s foreknowledge
and backing of Israel’s war against Hezbollah, but the American
media don’t want to hear it
I did Abu Ghraib, the same kind of stuff was thrown at me:
I’m fantasizing. I’m a fantasizer,” Seymour Hersh responded
in his hurried way to Wolf Blitzer on CNN Aug. 13, with images
of war-torn Lebanon flashing beside him. “I’m not writing
for some off-the-wall weekly! The New Yorker is very
So why was one of the most respected award-winning journalists
in recent history—the man who broke the story of the My Lai
Massacre—justifying himself to a stammering CNN anchor?
saying these Sy Hersh conspiratorial theories are so far-fetched
they are rejecting them out of hand!” spouted Blitzer, referring
to the Bush administration. “Especially this notion that what
the Israelis have done now is a prelude to a test run, if
you will, for what Israel wants to do against Iranian targets
in Iran, and I want you to explain the nature of your sources,
if you can, how good these sources are that are making this
In the Aug. 21 issue of The New Yorker, Hersh reported
in his article “Watching Lebanon” that Israel had approached
the Bush administration about a full-fledged assault against
Hezbollah at least two months before Hezbollah abducted two
Israeli troops. Through many sources, both former and current
employees of the administration and Pentagon, Hersh documented
that the Israeli plan was greeted with enthusiasm from both
the State Department and the White House, but for different
State Department always viewed what Israel is going to do
as a way to stabilize the Lebanese government,” Hersh told
Blitzer. “The White House, I write in this article, specifically
Cheney’s office, which is sort of the center for the neocons,
their view was different. Israel’s attack on Hezbollah was
going to be sort of a model . . . that is a lot of air against
a dug-in underground facility. For them, it was going to be
a test run for a bombing, an attack they really want to do
next year if they can. I’m not saying it is decided, but they
want to go in after Iran.”
Hersh went on: “Our air force worked very closely with the
Israeli air force for months before this . . . not necessarily
with a deadline for when it would happen, but whenever there
was an incident they would take advantage. When Hezbollah
grabbed some of the Israeli soldiers in early July, that was
then a pretext for a major offensive that had been in the
works for a long time.”
Hersh’s article and sources were bolstered by reports from
The New York Times that the Bush administration was
expediting shipments of target-specific weaponry to Israel
in the heat of the conflict, weapons such as laser-guided
bombs and “short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster
munitions.” Hersh quoted one insider as saying, “The Israelis
told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose
it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels
and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”
On Aug. 14, a cease-fire was finally reached, and while Hersh
did make the rounds with some talk-show and radio interviews,
the story barely broke into the top headlines of the major
news providers. And yet in the weeks to come, stories based
on nothing but speculation, that could best be described as
fear mongering, were treated like fact.
For example, a number of mainstream news organizations, including
CBS, picked up on a Wall Street Journal editorial by
Bernard Lewis that suggested Iran had a nasty surprise planned
for Aug. 22. Lewis implied that because the date fell during
the month of Rajab, it “might well be deemed an appropriate
date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary
of the world.” So while the Bush administration pretended
to put its foot down to demand peace after weeks of inaction
in a war it sanctioned and helped arm, the major media were
fueling the fire of the administration’s next war.
With the conflict in Lebanon having ended in what a great
number of experts say was a defeat for Israel, some pundits
dismiss Hersh’s article as too late or of little consequence.
They say if the Bush administration is looking for successes
in Lebanon on which to base its future conflict with Iran,
it will find few. But according to one of Hersh’s sources,
the administration was going to take the conflict as a success
no matter what the outcome.
is no way that [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and Cheney
will draw the right conclusion about this,” Hersh’s report
quoted a former official as saying.
the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll
draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.”
loose ends this week-