Rabbi Ties Earthquake To Gay Marriage (Update)

Yehuda Levin, an ultra-conservative and controversial Orthodox rabbi, posted a video on YouTube linking yesterday’s quake with New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage earlier this summer.

UPDATE: Sometime between my writing of this post and 5 p.m., YouTube has removed this video due to its policy “prohibiting hate speech.” That did not sit well with this Jewish blogger, who said he thinks Levin is a “disgusting, loudmouthed bigot,” but also opposes censorship.

This isn’t in the least bit surprising. Levin, as you’ll recall, was a key player in the uproar over Carl Paladino’s anti-gay statements during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

He actually wrote at least one version of the Buffalo businessman’s remarks, delivered to members of the Orthodox community in Brooklyn. Paladino later apologized – more or less – for saying children shouldn’t be “brainwashed” into believing that being gay is an appropriate and acceptable “lifestyle.”

Levin promptly unendorsed Paladino during a press conference held – where else? – on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the video Levin demonstrates a self-awareness and humor that I found a bit surprising, saying with just a hint of a smile:

“An email went out in my community just a few hours ago: How long will it take Rabbi Yehuda Levin to tie this earthquake in with homosexual marriage. I’d like to answer that tonight: Not very long at all. I’m happy to see that people, even if they are scofflaws, are starting to see there is a connection. Yes, there is a connection.”

Pataki Gets A Website. Sort Of. (Update)

pataki12

Here, via Azi Paybarah, is a screen shot from what appears to be a password-protected campaign-website-in-waiting for former Gov. George Pataki.

Pataki is rumored to make some sort of announcement later this week regarding his presidential ambitiouos. Fueling these rumors his is announced trip to Polk County, Iowa.

As Azi notes, the website includes rollover bars for subjects on Pataki’s record, including “K-12 education”, “welfare and “taxes” along with “national security.”

It appears that after the screenshot was taken, the campaign logo and other information was quickly removed from the public view of the site.

Updated: David Catalfamo emails this response to inquiries about the site, saying it will be formally launched only if the former governor decides to run.

Can’t run a campaign without a website — the hosting company apparently made a mistake and has prematurely made it searchable. The site is still in development and will only be launched if the Governor decides to get in the race.

If anything, this shows that Pataki’s people are indeed gearing up for a race and are putting the infrastructure in place should he run.

NRCC Quick To Attack Maffei

He’s not even in the race yet, officially, but the NRCC is already attacking former Congressman Dan Maffei as he prepares to announce he is going to challenge Republican Ann Marie Buerkle in a rematch.

NRCC Spokesman Tory Mazzola is tying the Democrat to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, highlighting the fact that he voted with his House leader 96% of the time when he was in office.

“After spending the last few months at a lobbying firm, Dan Maffei must have realized that he wants to do more to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker again,” said NRCC Spokesman Tory Mazzola. “Unfortunately, he’s at a lobbying firm now because voters already rejected him twice and because he helped pass the failed stimulus bill, government-run healthcare and tax increases on small businesses that are hurting our economy.”

In his email to supporters late last night, Maffei attacked incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle for voting to cut funding for health care reform and supporting the “radical ideology” of the Tea Party.

Maffei Seeks Rematch vs. ‘Extreme,’ ‘Dangerous’ Buerkle

Former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei will reportedly file paperwork in D.C. today to officially kick off a grudge match against the Republican who narrowly defeated him just nine months ago, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle.

In an email sent out in the wee hours of the morning, Maffei slammed Buerkle as a Tea Party handmaiden.

He said Buerkle’s “no” vote against the debt deal (the only one cast by a NY GOP House member) demonstrated “dangerous priorities” and “nearly plunged the nation into economic catastrophe.”

“Sometimes, people are so frustrated that they are tempted to throw up their hands in disgust and walk away,” Maffei continued. “I understand this feeling.”

“But I know that there is a bright future in front of us as long as we don’t give up on Central New York, America, or ourselves. Working together, we can do better! ”

“That is why I am running for Congress in 2012. Our campaign will offer the people of Central New York a better future than the divisive politics of Ann Marie Buerkle.”

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey scoffed at Maffei’s effort to cast himself as a moderate, saying he is a “liberal.” (He did, after all, once work for Rep. Charlie Rangel, the NY delegation dean, who’s about as left as they get, other than Rep. Jerry Nadler).

Dadey pledged to turn Maffei into a “three-time loser” this fall and expressed confidence that Buerkle, who only won by a few hundred votes last fall, will cruise to re-election.

Buerkle, who is on a trip with fellow House members in Israel at the moment, actually has been on the ropes in recent months.

Her early fundraising numbers were downright anemic – her office said she was concentrating on getting situated in her new job, and her money pace has picked up since then.

She’s also viewed by the Democrats as weak, a top target in 2012 – assuming NY-25 doesn’t get drawn out of existence in the next round of redistricting as legislators in Albany try to figure out how to downsize the delegation by two seats.

Meanwhile, Maffei’s road is not entirely clear. He could face a primary challenge. Syracuse lawyer Brianne Murphy, has already filed her candidacy paperwork with the FEC and raised more than $25,000 through the end of June.

Murphy told the Post-Standard she’ll make a decision about whether to run by next month, insisting her choice won’t be influenced by Maffei’s presence in the race.

There also appears to be some Maffei fatigue among CNY Dems, who wouldn’t mind seeing someone else take a crack at NY-25 for a change.

The former congressman, who took a new job with the lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips not long ago, also admits he needs to change his approach, telling the Post-Standard:

“I know people, jokingly or not, say Dan Maffei is too smart or too cerebral. I do have to work on communicating with people better.”

The full text of Maffei’s announcement email appears after the jump.

More >

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vacation appears to be over. He’s in Suffolk and Westchester counties today with no public schedule, due in CNY tomorrow for State Fair opening day and a fundraiser co-hosted by GOP Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and the Business Council.

Forecasters say hurricane Irene could hit NYC Sunday, and will likely be far worse than yesterday’s earthquake.

While the quake didn’t do major damage, it did put a crack in the very top of the Washington Monument, which is closed for further inspection.

The National Cathedral also suffered some fairly extensive damage.

The only damage of note in NYC, according to Bloomberg, was a partial chimney collapse at Red Hook West, a public-housing development in Brooklyn.

Mineral, VA – site of the quake’s epicenter – is now famous.

California: 5.9? Yawn.

Forget high-tech earthquake-spotting equipment, what this country needs is more lemurs.

It was the second time in 14 months that WNY residents felt the earth move, literally.

Now that Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. has dropped the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief’s accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, could face deportation hearings.

While admitting Vance “made mistakes,” the Post says Diallo “needs to go.”

A gratified Strauss-Kahn released his first statement since the arrest back in May.

More >

Heastie Optimistic On Prescription Drug Bill

In non-earthquake related news, Assemblyman Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, was in Albany today with a group of independent pharmacists to push for his bill that would prohibit insurers from requiring mail-order prescriptions.

The legislation is one of the few unfinished pieces of business that passed the Legislature earlier this year. Business groups like the Business Council have lined up against the measure, saying it would cost businesses more in the long run when employees opt to purchase their prescription drugs from a bricks-and-mortar store.

Many health-insurance plans now require some prescriptions filled in the mail because of the expense of going to a pharmacy.

But pharmacists say filling scripts by mail actually costs the policy holder more money. And they point to the need for giving consumers choice.

“I remember being presented with petition signatures from hundreds of my constituents who were concerned they weren’t going to be able to fill their prescriptions at their local pharmacist,” Heastie said. “And I know we’ve outlined the bill and talked about these things, but there’s also been some misnomers that we’re doing away with mail order which is the furthest thing from the truth. We are actually trying to give people choice.”

He also said he was hopeful Gov. Andrew Cuomo would sign the measure. The bill is yet to go to the governor’s desk.

“I’m actually pretty confident and I hope I’m not misspeaking that, I believe the governor will sign this for the very simple fact that during the budget time we were looking to close a $10 billion deficit,” he said. “And if this was a cost raiser, I can’t imagine why we would have done this in the budget.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission said the bill would do little broaden consumer choice and ultimately drive up costs for prescription-drug users and business owners. The participants in today’s news conference said the FTC’s analysis was flawed, because it relied on information supplied by mail-order drug companies.

It was during this news conference that the alleged earthquake occured. However, since it was in the bunker-like basement of the Legislative Office Building, I felt nothing (Sensitive Sally Casey Seiler of the TU, who was also there, was disturbed by the tremblor, however). Seriously though — if a nuclear war starts happening, head for the LOB.

Extras

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., who can’t seem to catch a break these days, was forced by the earthquake to cut his DSK press conference short.

Seismologists expect today’s events to improve their D.C. access.

Contrary to early reports about the Washington Monument being tilted, the Park Service reports there was no serious damage to any D.C. monuments.

UB earthquake expert Andre Filiatrault says today’s quake will be helpful in providing data to update seismic maps. (There’s video of him below).

Indian Point was asked by the Cuomo administration to conduct an enhanced post-quake safety inspections.

The New School is hosting a panel discussion on Cuomo’s relationship with the media.

Rockland County GOP Chairman Vincent Reda believes there’s “room for moderates” – like ex-Gov. George Pataki – in the 2012 GOP field.

As promised, former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s Soundview filed a restraining order against DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah and the OMIG for its “unfair and arbitrary” removal from the Medicaid system.

Mid-year surplus? Not so much, says the Citizens Budget Commission.

Jonathan Tasini defends AG Eric Schneiderman against Kathy Wylde, who he thinks should resign her Fed Reserve Board post.

Pridezilla.

How long before this gets yanked off-line? Any bets?

Cuomo: Everyone Chill Out

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vacation was pre-empted for a spell by the 5.9 magnitude earthquake today, but told reporters on a conference call that the tremor produced no reported damage or injuries.

“We live in a natural environment,” Cuomo said. “And things happen.”

Cuomo stressed that the state was monitoring the situation and that no one should be concerned by any aftershocks.

Naturally, the discussion trended toward asking the governor about the state’s aging infrastructure, including the Tappan Zee Bridge and Indian Point nuclear plant, both in the Hudson Valley.

Both structures were inspected after the quake, Cuomo said.

“We specifically looked at both,” he said. “I’m familar with both. The bridge has been inspected and found no damage whatsoever and all reports on Indian Point found no damage whatsoever.”

Cuomo, both as attorney general and later as governor, has said he wants to find a replacement for Indian Point and even dispatched Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy to discuss the matter with the federal officials in Washington.

The Tappan Zee Bridge was one of the first places Cuomo visited as governor-elect, saying the state’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded. The span over the Hudson River that connects Rockland and Westchester counties (the latter of which is were Cuomo makes him home) is in dire need of replacement.

Cuomo himself said he didn’t feel the earthquake (that makes at least two of us, gov!), but said the people with him felt the ground move.

“I’m on Long Island, but I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “There were people who were with me, but I didn’t feel anything.”

Cuomo Getting Quake Updates While Vacationing On Long Island

….according to the governor’s office, which would not disclose where, exactly, on Long Island, Cuomo is, what he’s doing or whether he felt the quake.

President Obama, who is also on vacation at the moment – on Martha’s Vineyard – received updates about the quake while on the golf course.

Cuomo’s office sent out a new statement, which is all that different from the first one, but does have a bit more detail:

“The State Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor the effects in New York State from the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that originated near Mineral, Virginia this afternoon.”

“The state is initiating comprehensive reviews of critical and sensitive infrastructure including the state’s hydroelectric plants, nuclear power plants, key bridges and tunnels, and other assets.”

“I am getting regular reports from agencies all over the state and at this time there are no reports of damage or power outages.”

Bloomberg On The Quake, Officially

Mayor Bloomberg was evacuated from City Hall in Lower Manhattan along with the rest of the building’s denizens.

I believe Room 9, which houses the press corps, is still under construction, which means the reporters were already outside. DN City Hall Bureau Chief Erin Einhorn reports (on Twitter) that the City Hall reporters rushed out of the trailer that is serving of their temporary quarters.

Also according to Twitter, Bloomberg said he “did feel a little bit of shake; and then it got greater.” That’s compliments of @mikiebarb, AKA NYT scribe Michael Barbaro, who also Tweeted: “At 1:55, Mayor Bloomberg was at desk in City Hall. Floor and chandeliers shook. Police ran in and shouted ‘everybody out.’”

According to Einhorn (@erinleinhorn) Bloomberg quipped: “It could have been an exploding story in a tabloid for all I know.”

The mayor is going to update NYers about the quake at a 4 p.m. press conference at City Hall. He’ll be joined by the commissioners of the FDNY, NYPD, Emergency Management and Buildings Department. The event will be carried live on nyc.gov.

So far, no word from Gov. Andrew Cuomo other than his official statement. No response from the press shop as to where the governor is and whether he’ll be addressing the state at some point. In the meantime, Here’s Bloomberg’s statement:

“Like people up and down the East Coast, New Yorkers across the five boroughs felt the effect of this afternoon’s earthquake in Virginia.”

“I’ve spoken with our Police and Fire Commissioners, and we’ve activated the Office of Emergency Management’s Situation Room and spoken to other city agencies, including the Department of Buildings.”

“Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time. As ever, we urge New Yorkers to call 911 only in cases of actual emergencies.”

“Shortly before 2:00 PM, we evacuated City Hall briefly, but quickly returned to work. As we await more news from Virginia and elsewhere, our thoughts in New York are with those who were more directly affected by this natural disaster.”