Saturday, February 13, 2016

Schumer has to threaten the full nuclear option to move McConnell on Supreme Court nomination

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Republicans abandoned any pretense at decorum and immediately began issuing pronouncements as to how and when Scalia’s seat should be filled—namely, not by Barack Obama. If that’s the way they want to play it, then fine: Here’s how Democrats should respond.

There’s no law or Senate rule that can compel Mitch McConnell, the GOP majority leader, to allow a vote to proceed on anyone Obama might nominate. McConnell could choose to wait as long as he likes—indeed, he can wait until Republicans control both the White House and the Senate at the same time. And if that situation doesn’t obtain in 2017, he could delay confirmation hearings until 2021, or 2025—whenever the red stars finally align.

Could “political pressure” move McConnell any more quickly? Unlikely. Republicans don’t care what the traditional media says about them—hell, they love to claim the press is their enemy—so even if a thousand newspaper editorial boards exhorted McConnell to move forward on a nomination, he’d just shrug his shoulders. And it’s even less likely that any Republican senator would find him or herself threatened for re-election because of GOP recalcitrance. Process stories rarely move voters.

But there is one force in this universe McConnell does have to respect, and that’s the nuclear option. In 2013, when Senate Democrats eliminated the use of filibusters for most presidential appointments, they still kept them in place for Supreme Court nominations. Therefore, even if Republicans lose both the Senate and the White House this November, they could still filibuster any Supreme Court pick that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders might put forward in 2017.

And that’s why Chuck Schumer, who will replace Harry Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats next year, has to be willing to go full thermonuclear and end the filibuster once and for all if Democrats retake the chamber. In that scenario, a Democratic president could nominate whomever he or she likes, and the Democratic-controlled Senate could confirm that person, with as few as 50 votes since the vice president would break ties.

Schumer needs to issue this threat now, while it can still credibly be made: If McConnell doesn’t act on a nomination this year and Democrats fail to retake the Senate, then McConnell can simply delay forever. Republicans would certainly prefer a court split between four liberal and four conservative justices to one with a liberal majority.

But McConnell has to fear the possibility of losing his majority leader’s gavel—the Senate playing field doesn’t favor the GOP this year. And if he also fears Schumer will get rid of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominations, then he’ll be motivated allow Obama to name a replacement for Scalia now. This way, McConnell would have more leverage. If waits, he risks winding up in the minority and having Schumer run roughshod over him. McConnell’s smart enough to know what the better choice is, and that’s acting now.

But to push him into action, Schumer has to prove he's ready to enter the launch codes and press the big red button.

Memo to GOP budget chairmen: National debt will explode under your presidential candidates

Among the lesser-known facts of the Obama presidency is this: inflation-adjusted federal spending is lower now than when Barack Obama first took the oath of office. Nevertheless, after seven years of flat-spending and declining deficits, the Republican budget committee chairmen in the House and Senate dismissed Obama's $4 trillion fiscal year 2017 budget proposal sight unseen. More shameful still, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) are taking the unprecedented step of refusing to hold any committee hearingson Obama's budget request. Enzi explained his shocking snub this way:

"It is clear that this President will not put forth the budget effort that our times and our country require. Instead of hearing from an administration unconcerned with our $19 trillion in debt, we should focus on how to reform America's broken budget process and restore the trust of hardworking taxpayers."

If Senator Enzi is so concerned about the national debt, then he better have some serious conversations with his Republican Party's 2016 presidential candidates. After all, every one of them is proposing gigantic tax cut windfalls for the richest Americans, giveaways that will add trillions of dollars in new deficits over the next decade.

As the record since Ronald Reagan shows, the only certainties for Republicans are debt and tax cuts. But pretending otherwise, as I explained in November ("The Republicans' Dynamic Deception for 2016"), the GOP field continues to peddle the "tax cuts pay for themselves" myth to the faithful:

Among many others, Citizens for Tax Justice doesn't share the supply-siders dynamic faith. The CTJ's analyses forecast that Marco Rubio will drain $11.8 trillion from the Treasury over 10 years. Jeb! Will siphon off $7.1 trillion! (Bear mind that total federal spending over the next decade is projected to be $41 trillion.) As Vox explained, Ted Cruz's combination of a flat tax and a value-added tax (VAT) is the most regressive of them all. The top contenders provide mammoth tax cuts to the richest one percent of Americans. And the GOP field does all of this even as they demand a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and some refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

The case of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose scheme John Barro rightly dismissed as a "Puppies and Rainbows Tax Plan," is particularly instructive. To achieve the balanced budget Senator Rubio demands, President Rubio would have to slash federal spending by up to $21 trillion—that is, by more than 40 percent—over the next decade.

Here's why: In its most recent forecast, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the federal government would run up $9.4 trillion in new deficits between 2017 and 2026 as spending ($51.4 trillion) outstrips tax revenue ($42.0 trillion). But according to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, Marco Rubio's tax proposals would drain $11.8 trillion from the U.S. Treasury during the same time frame. (On top of that, Rubio wants to increase defense spending by at least $1 trillion over 10 years.) The result, as Jonathan Chait previously explained in "Why Rubionomics Is Even Crazier Than You Think," is a mathematical impossibility:

Over the next decade, Washington is projected to collect $41.6 trillion in revenue under current policies. Rubio would reduce that to about $30 trillion. Rubio proposes to increase the defense budget -- but, for the sake of generosity, let us assume he merely keeps the budget at the current levels he decries as "setting ourselves up for danger." He likewise promises not to touch benefits for current or near-retirees, leaving those programs unavailable for cuts over that time. According to figures from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, expenditures on defense, Medicare, Social Security, and mandatory interest payments on the national debt will total $30.7 trillion over that period -- and that's without accounting for any other functions of the federal government at all. So Medicaid, veterans' health insurance, transportation, border security, and education, not to mention the entire federal anti-poverty budget other than Medicare and Social Security, would have to go. Oh, and Rubio has also called for an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget every year.

Making matters worse, President Rubio would have to start draconian spending reductions immediately. That's because as far back as 2011, Senator Marco Rubio insisted he would never support another increase in the debt ceiling. That March, the new freshman senator from Florida didn't just demand a balanced budget amendment. As he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, "Why I Won't Vote to Raise the Debt Limit":

"I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

The inescapable outcome of Rubio's full set of demands is that the United States would either default on its debt or experience an economic calamity—or both. Even if Congress managed to avoid breaching the debt limit by somehow slashing $21 trillion from the $51 trillion in currently forecast spending, austerity of that magnitude would usher in the worst financial freefall since the Great Depression.

Even the conservative Tax Foundation acknowledges the GOP’s red ink problem.

If the next president of the United States is one of the Republicans now battling it out for their party's nomination, chairmen Price and Enzi face a crisis similar in kind if not degree. Nevertheless, even before they saw it the two promised they wouldn't have anything to do with President Obama's final budget request:

"Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration's previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy."

If this all sounds familiar, it should. As Vice President Dick Cheney put it in 2002, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Unless, of course, a Democrat is in the White House.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Oswego County Legislature cancelled its meeting on Thursday allegedly because of weather.

Repost Post from Oswegolion

Or was it really because they could not get a quorum or was it because they wanted to hold off the embarrassment t until they could get a plan in place for the five that’s right FIVE Republican legislators who have vacated their elected offices. New York state election law requires every elected official to fill out and deliver to their respective city, county or village clerk a signed oath of office statement within thirty days of taking office (January 1). Five elected Oswego County Legislators all Republicans, failed to do so.
With those five legislators the Republicans held a two thirds majority. Without them they are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. One remedy would be to bring a resolution to committee to appoint them back to their offices however that would require a two thirds majority to pass and they don’t have it without getting votes from the Democratic minority, which they have screwed over for decades. If such a resolution is passed there is nothing in the law that says they have to appoint the same people. Some rumors indicate there are two or three they (the Republicans) would like to see replaced. Regardless which people they appoint those five will have to run in a special election next year to fill the remainder of the two year term. Can anyone guess how much it will cost to run a special election in five districts? Perhaps you should ask the people of Sccriba who are going to have to foot the bill for a special election in an attempt to re do the election for Highway Super. 
                                                                                                                          Feb 121/12

It’s Your Choice!

The Editor:
I’m sure most of you have read or heard on the street about my thoughts about dissolving the city we all love.

The choice to do this will not be up to me or to six elected officials at city hall.

Have any of you ever walked into a public gathering place in this city and over heard anyone saying how happy they are with their taxes going up, services going down and the fact that they see so many public safety employees making upwards of $100,000.

This idea is offering the city and the people of this city an option to end the money pit we call a city.

If this option goes anywhere it will be up to the voters of this city.

We could be two great villages instead of one mediocre tax laden city that lives from paycheck to paycheck to make its payroll.

With the state offering incentives (money) for consolidation.

It would be in our best interest and for future generations to be prepared for what is coming and start looking at the process now.

The mayor (Ron Woodward) himself in an interview said when asked what his vision of the future of Fulton was, he said: ”I see it as a bedroom community.”

Nowhere in the meaning of that phrase is the word “city” used.

Village, suburbia, burbs etc. are used.

He verified that at the CC meeting on Tuesday February 2.

So please keep this in mind that the choice will be yours.

Legislator Frank Castiglia

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How National Media Failed Flint

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in which thousands of residents have been exposed to everything from cancer-causing chemicals to lead in their drinking water, dates back nearly two years. But the unfolding story had received scant coverage from the national media until a month ago, when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency for Flint.

Why did it take so long for major national outlets to focus closely on the story, even as local outlets had been doggedly covering it for well over a year?

In interviews with Media Matters, media observers and the journalists who have been covering the story in Michigan cite a wide range of factors, including continued newsroom cutbacks, the complexities of a story that combines government mismanagement with detailed science, and competition from the presidential primary campaign, breaking news events, and click-bait like celebrity gossip.

"The Flint water crisis went under the media's radar. It was lost in what's trending on Twitter, who liked what on Facebook, and the next poppin pics on Instagram," said Jiquanda Johnson, a reporter at The Flint Journal since Oct. 2014 and a Flint native. "Journalists have become lazy. We wait for the obvious and jump on trends. Flint's water crisis didn't make the social media cut so it was missed. It didn't make headlines like the Charleston killings, Ferguson protests over Michael Brown's death or Ed Garner's choking. Is it racism? Is it classism? Is it both or neither? I don't know."

"I do know that Flint's issues were not just neatly packaged and ready for media," she added. "They required work, digging, sifting and a lot of questioning. Things were not as blatant as a cop pulling out a gun, shooting it and killing a young black man. Or as clear as a white man walking into a church."

Anna Clark, a freelancer who covers the Midwest media for the Columbia Journalism Review, said the national press likely got caught up in other issues.

"It is kind of amazing that it didn't get much media notice nationally," she said. "It's troubling because the national media is kind of blowing it up this month. ... The reason for that slowness, some of that is everybody is so concentrated with political campaign coverage. National media, too, is strapped for resources and following around candidates. There is also not much of an infrastructure for the national outlets to cover the Midwest."

She said such limited coverage can also impact how government tends to respond and address problems: "We are beginning to see the consequences of fewer people around in news. National coverage around these stories really gives a boost and puts pressure on public officials."

The water story first broke in April 2014, but the backstory actually dates back to 2011 when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed the first of several emergency managers to help with Flint's financial crisis.

In March 2013, the Flint city council voted to switch the city's water supply from the Detroit water system to a new pipeline to Lake Huron that would take three years to complete, a decision that was given final approval by the state treasurer. In June of that year, Flint's state-appointed emergency manager made the decision -- with state approval -- to use water from the Flint River while the new pipeline was being built, and that switch took effect in April 2014.

Less than a month later, residents began to complain about the smell and taste of the water. The Flint Journal, which had been following the fiscal situation and water switching debate, ran its first stories on the complaints then.

"When we first started writing about it, it was something that was of interest if you were on the water system," recalls Ron Fonger, a Flint Journal reporter since 1995 and the paper's lead reporter on the story. 

He said there would have been no reason for national interest that far back.

But then things got worse.

In September 2014, the water tested positive for E. coli and residents were ordered to boil it. General Motors announced that October that it would stop using Flint River water because it could corrode engine parts.

Then, in January 2015, Flint residents were notified that their water system violated the Safe Drinking Water Act because the water contained unacceptable levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHM), dangerous chemicals that are formed as a byproduct of disinfecting water.

"The first time I think you could say that someone else should have started paying attention was that first week of January 2015, that's when I thought we were getting into a big story," Fonger said. "The city, without explanation to anybody, sent out a citywide mailing saying you have excess levels of trihalomethanes. It was astonishing that the city without warning was going to spring this into people's mailboxes."

The next month, the first signs of lead were observed in the city's drinking water -- in University of Michigan-Flint drinking fountains and Flint resident LeeAnne Walters' home. Walters later found her children exposed to lead, with one child having "bona fide lead poisoning." 

At that point, the unfolding crisis garnered a brief round of national attention. In addition to reports by the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, The New York Times published a detailed story in March 2015 about concerns over Flint's water. But none of these outlets returned to the story until the fall. The Times'minimal coverage -- and lack of follow-ups featuring "serious digging" in the intervening months -- prompted Times public editor Margaret Sullivan to criticize the paper in a Jan. 27, 2016, column that stated:

The Times got off to a strong start with its initial Flint story in March. It was good to return to the subject in October; and this month's coverage has been thorough. But there could have been, and should have been, much more. If -- for example -- the March article had been followed up with some serious digging, and if the resulting stories had been given prominent display, public officials might have been shamed into taking action long before they did.

Concerns grew even greater in late August and early September 2015, when Virginia Tech researchers found high levels of lead in nearly half of 120 homes sampled. Later in September, Flint Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha released research that the percentage of children with lead poisoning had roughly doubled since the city switched its water source. A county public health emergency was declared in October 2015. In December 2015, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who was elected just a month earlier, declared a state of emergency for the city of Flint, seeking state and federal aid. On January 5, Gov. Snyder followed suit.

Many local and national news outlets contend that Snyder's state of emergency declaration and an investigation launched by the Michigan attorney general 10 days later prompted the national media coverage that still continues today.

"The delay is understandable" said Steve Carmody, a reporter for Michigan Radio who has been on the story since the beginning. "It is a story that's been building for a long time on the local level. I can see why people outside of Flint did not see it or understand it as a local issue until there was a big red flag flying high that the national media can see."

Nancy Kaffer, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, said the complexities of a story mixing government mismanagement with water science and health safety might have turned some journalists and readers off.

"It's a very complicated story with a lot of layers. People want it to be digested sometimes in partisan political soundbites," she said. "I think a lot of national media have done great jobs, but some of the narratives of some of the publications have been streamlined at the expense of context, which is crucial to understanding a story. It's also the appetite of people to read it, how many people will sit down and take time with a deep dive. Complicated stories don't always elicit a lot of readers."

Detroit News managing editor Gary Miles, who said he currently has up to six reporters out of his 130-person newsroom on the story at any one time, also points to other major stories during the past year as occupying the attention of the national press, not least of which has been the presidential primary season.

"The focus of the national press on the national campaign has been intense because of so many Republicans," Miles said. "And the way the Flint crisis emerged meant that it was tough to maybe recognize for that national media when it became a story where kids' lives were in jeopardy."

He also added, "It kind of transcends just one beat. When you look at who knew what when, it is a more complicated story than you think."

Vincent Duffy, Michigan Radio news director, agrees there are many reasons for the later national attention, but adds that it's not a complete excuse.

"There could have been better communications with local media in Flint to our national outlets to keep them aware of this," he said. "The problem is not just that national outlets are ignoring smaller communities, but you do not have as strong a local journalism as there used to be that is feeding that up to national outlets."

Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, has been covering the story for a year and says more coverage should have started at least back in July 2015.

"Certainly in July, I think it was a major story, yes," he said. "That is when I published an internal EPA memo sounding the alarm that one home had two and half times the lead levels needed to determine it was hazardous waste. At least in terms of the lead, but people were complaining about the water in general since April 2014."

The Detroit News' Miles said the story really got big at least by September.

"The lead was out in a conclusive way in September, that changed the tenor of the story," he recalled. "That's when the story took a significant change, it has been out there for a year and a half. High lead levels in children being found goes back to the fall."

Last September, an article by Guyette that ran in the Detroit Metro Times highlighted findings from the researchers at Virginia Tech, who concluded based on extensive testing that "unless run through a filter designed to capture toxic heavy metals, the water is unsafe for drinking or cooking." Guyette also noted, "An ACLU of Michigan investigation running concurrent with the water sampling has uncovered a number of problems with the city's testing procedures, which were conducted with state oversight. The flawed measures helped assure that the city could be able to claim compliance with federal regulations."                

Common Cause, a nonpartisan grassroots organization that has been urging transparency from Gov. Snyder and calling for a congressional select committee to investigate the crisis, pointed to Guyette's work for the ACLU as evidence that the media dropped the ball.

Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause, said, "When people's health and lives are the line -- especially threatened by something as essential as water -- no one can move fast enough. Local reporters did what they could in an era of slashed budgets, staffs, and loop-hole riddled Freedom of Information Laws. The national media was slow to realize the impact of the Flint Water Crisis. That it took an advocacy organization hiring an investigative journalist to get to the core of the story should be alarming to all of us."

Echoing Sullivan at the Times, The Washington Post editor Martin Baron said he wished The Post had been on the story sooner.

"We could have done more sooner, no question. I imagine the same is true of other major national news outlets," Baron said. "When local issues have national resonance, that's definitely a story for a national publication such as ours."

Asked how he decides when to send resources into a local story, Baron said, "The Post covers the country. When water supplied to a large community is unsafe to drink -- and when the crisis has persisted for a long time and may not abate soon -- there's no question that we should cover that aggressively. There are also important, overarching issues of whether the population in Flint was treated inequitably by government, given that its population is heavily black and poor."

David Callaway, editor-in-chief of USA Today, said his paper has an unusual situation as the flagship of the 94-newspaper Gannett chain. He said they draw most of their local coverage from their local newspapers. Among them is the Detroit Free Press.

"In this case, I would say we weren't first to Flint, [but] we were one of the first," Callaway said. "We didn't send any of our people to Flint, as we support them with graphics and slide shows. We would have if [The] Detroit [Free Press] made a big deal of it years ago. I sure wish we had, that's news, that's important stuff, a water lead story is a story of our times." 

In addition to calling out the media, Common Cause's Rapoport also pointed to the state government's handling of the crisis, telling Media Matters, "But the people responsible for the Flint Water Crisis, Governor Snyder and the Emergency Manager, should have alerted the public. The challenge is in every community with an Emergency Manager, the only elected official that can be held accountable is Gov. Rick Snyder. He invoked, hired, and manages the Emergency Managers -- and after delaying the news of the actual threat, he's now stonewalling the release of documents, causing further delay. The people deserve the truth and an accountable government that provides essential services like clean, drinkable water."


Emails Indicate Flint Lead Tests Withheld from Public at Snyder's Command

snyderordered-a.jpgMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who, according to emails obtained by the Flint Journal, ordered MDEQ to hold on to lead testing results until they figured out how to present the information to the public. (Photo: Michigan Municipal League/flickr/cc)

Adding to controversy over what top officials knew and when regarding Flint's water crisisand resulting health epidemic, emails obtained by the Flint Journal suggest that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told state officials to suppress lead testing results, both from local health officials and the community, while they figured out how to present the information to the public.

The emails, which are from October and November 2015 and were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, include correspondence by Jim Henry, Genesee County's environmental health supervisor, to county Health Officer Mark Valacak, and correspondence between Henry and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Laboratory Director George Krisztian.

They "show growing frustration on the county's part as it attempted to obtain information from the DEQ," the Journal reports.

Testing on buildings within the Flint School District began on Oct. 2, and Snyder gave a press conference Oct. 8 admitting that lead levels exceeded federal limits. At one school, Freeman Elementary School, levels were six times higher than federal limits.

From the Journal:

"MDEQ explained that the Governor prohibited releasing all Genesee County lead results until after the press conference," wrote Jim Henry,Genesee County's environmental health supervisor.

Henry, in an interview Wednesday, said county officials didn't learn of the test results until they were distributed following a press conference.

"They should have alerted the schools and they didn't," Henry said.

Henry and DEQ officials held a meeting Oct. 16, and

[a]ccording to an Oct. 18 email Henry wrote to county Health Officer Mark Valacak summarizing the meeting, DEQ apologized for not releasing school lead results in a timely manner and claimed they were ordered by Snyder to delay the release.

And on Nov. 3 Henry sent an email to Krisztian requesting all testing results for water at Freeman, as further testing had been done there during the end of October, but that request was denied. Krisztian said that the samples from Oct. 24 presented an "incomplete picture of the plumbing system" and that samples taken Oct. 31 would not be available until Nov. 4.

"I am hoping to either have a conference call or a meeting in Flint with all the partners to review the results and discuss how we will present the information to the public," Krisztian wrote in the email.

"If there was any question as to whether the Snyder administration was more concerned about their public image or public health, this should provide a definitive answer."
—Lonnie Scott, Progress Michigan
The governor's office responded to the reporting by stating that it "unequivocally denies [the] allegations" that it withheld information.

The statement adds: "On Friday, Oct. 2, the day after learning about elevated lead levels in in the city, Snyder responded aggressively with an action plan that included testing the water in the schools and distributing filters."

However, redacted emails released last month by the governor indicate that his administration was informed of problems with Flint's water many months before, as early as Feb. 2015, while those distributed filters may not be effective enough to bring down lead levels to the safety threshold for some homes.

"If there was any question as to whether the Snyder administration was more concerned about their public image or public health, this should provide a definitive answer," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Lansing-based watchdog group Progress Michigan, in response to the new reporting.

"Damage from lead poisoning is irreversible," Scott added. "Delaying the decision to alert the community to high levels of lead in their water for even a day is too long. The decision to delay the release of critical lead test information is a decision that children and families in Flint will have to live with for the rest of their lives."

John Kasich campaigns like a moderate, but on women's health he's your basic Republican nightmare

John Kasich has positioned himself in the Republican presidential primary as the … maybe not quite moderate guy, but the establishment guy with a heart. The not-so-far-out-there candidate in a field of way-far-out-there candidates. Thing is, when you look at Kasich’s record—separate from how he’s positioned in the terrifying presidential field—he’s damn scary himself.

As Ohio governor, Kasich backed an attack on public workers that voters rose up and overturned. He’s been a big cheerleader for privatization—of prisonsschools, the lottery. And on reproductive rights, he’s been your basic nightmare Republican. Most recently, Kasich:

… is likely to sign an Ohio bill into law that prohibits some state and federal funding from being distributed to facilities that perform and promote what are known as "nontherapuetic abortions"—abortions performed in cases that are not related to rape, incest, or life endangerment of the mother—even though the funds are not used to pay for any abortion services. The measure effectively strips Ohio's Planned Parenthood affiliates of $1.3 million in funding.

The new law targets specific Planned Parenthood programs for services such as HIV and STI testing, as well as cancer screenings, rape prevention programs, and sex education for youth in foster care and the juvenile detention system.

The cuts will also affect the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program, a neighborhood outreach effort by Ohio's Planned Parenthood that offers support and education to high-risk African American women in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. These women receive in-home visits throughout their pregnancies and for the first two years after giving birth. In these impoverished areas, African American women are twice as likely to give birth to a baby with a low birth weight than the population at large. Ohio ranks 45th nationally for its infant mortality rate, and has one of the highest rates of infant death for African American mothers in the country.

If that isn’t a perfect example of how Republican attacks on abortion are in reality broader attacks on health care for low-income women, then nothing is. Abortion is certainly a target, but it’s not the only one. This is about keeping people—women, especially—in poverty. And punishing them for it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chris Matthews: ‘There is a troll-like quality to Cruz — he operates below the level of human life’

MSNBC host Chris Matthews argued on Wednesday that Ted Cruz appealed to some Republican voters because he had a “troll-like quality” and operated “below the level of human life.”

Following Donald Trump’s win in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, a panel on MSNBC speculated that Cruz could be the billionaire’s biggest challenger in the weeks to come.

“There’s a troll-like quality to Cruz,” Matthews explained to co-host Joe Scarborough. “He operates below the level of human life.”

“That’s a little tough!” Scarborough interrupted. “You have not gotten sleep. We’re going to try that again.”

“Can I not have an opinion?” Matthews shot back. 

“Not that opinion,” Scarborough insisted. 

“I think he appeals to people’s negativity rather than their joy,” Matthews observed. “I don’t think people feel good about voting for Cruz.”

“What is he? A theocrat? Maybe he is,” the Hardball host continued. “There’s something about that guy who has always reminded me of Joe McCarthy, and there’s something about him that’s negative and menacing.”

“When I say below the level of human life, I mean the good nature of human life, not just being a person.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Hampshire Results


Obamacare keeps working: New data puts repeal-happy Republicans like Paul Ryan in a tough spot

As you read this, Republican voters in New Hampshire are tromping off to their polling places to vote for candidates who promise that, as president, they’ll do away with the Affordable Care Act. Their reasons for wanting to wipe out Obamacare are many and hyperbolic: it’s a “job-killer,” it doesn’t work, it’s hurting American families, it’s denying people coverage, and so forth. These rote talking points form the backbone of conservative and Republican opposition to Barack Obama’s signature policy achievement, and the criticisms persist despite ever-growing mounds of evidence that they are, in fact, wrong.

The latest addition to the “Obamacare is working” evidence pile comes courtesy of the National Center for Health Statistics, which released a report Tuesday morning looking at the uninsured rates nationally and in 37 states over the first nine months of 2015. According to NCHS, the number of adults lacking insurance has plummeted since 2013, when many of the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions went into effect. “In the first 9 months of 2015, 28.8 million persons of all ages (9.1%) were uninsured at the time of interview – 7.2 million fewer persons than in 2014 and 16.0 million fewer than in 2013.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

Siena Poll: Clinton And Trump Lead In New York

One was born and raised in New York, and came to exemplify the city’s intoxication with success and grandeur. 

Another moved here to run for a U.S. Senate seat, settling in an affluent suburban neighborhood in Westchester County following a “listening tour” in upstate New York. 

And now both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton hold double-digit leads over their respective rivals for the presidential nominating contest in New York, a Siena College poll released today finds. 

Clinton, the former secretary of state who represented New York in the Senate from 2001 through 2008, leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, (who is Brooklyn born), 55 percent to 34 percent among Democratic voters. 

Trump, a real-estate developer and reality TV show host, receives 34 percent of the vote among Republican voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each have 16 percent. 

Gov. Chris Christie of neighboring New Jersey received support from 11 percent of GOP voters, with all other candidates who are still in the running in the single digits. 

New York’s presidential primary is scheduled for April 19. The state’s primary is usually so late in the calendar for presidential primaries that it rarely matters in the nominating process. 

But with Republican candidates bunched up together in an effort to dislodge Trump, and Clinton fending off a surprisingly strong challenge from Sanders, it’s possible New York could still be in play by the start of the spring. 

Despite the lead Trump holds here in his home state, he also polls with the highest unfavorable rating – 71 percent – of any of the presidential candidates. 

At the same time, New York is not likely (for now) to turn a shade of red in the upcoming November general election. More than half of voters expect Clinton will be the next president, including two-thirds of Democratic voters. 

Both Clinton and Sanders lead potential Republican challengers in a general election matchup by double digits, the poll shows. 

Among the GOP candidates, Rubio and Christie come closest in running against Clinton and Sanders, but they’re still far behind in New York. 

Clinton leads Rubio in a head-to-head duel by 17 percentage points, while she leads Christie by 19 percentage points. Sanders defeats Rubio, meanwhile, by 22 percentage points and Christie by 23 percentage points. 

New York last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide. 

When it comes to issues facing the country, New York voters list jobs and the economy at the top, along with keeping America safe. 

At 72 percent, the issue of jobs beats security (51 percent) overall with most demographic groups save for Republican voters, the poll found. 

The poll of 930 registered voters, including 434 Democrats and 235 Republicans, was conducted from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. It has a margin of error 3.8 percent overall. For Democratic respondents, the margin of error is 7 percent. For GOP responders, it is 5.6 percent. 

Sny0215 President Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Ted Cruz wants to protect women from all this political correctness and equality and stuff

Ted Cruz seems to be trying to earn macho points as a defender of fragile womanhood. He would NOT bow to political correctness and draft women into the military, no sirree.

"I'm the father of two little girls, and I love those little girls with all my heart," he said. "They are capable of doing anything in their heart's desire. But the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn't make any sense at all. It's yet one more sign of this politically correct world where we forget common sense. We gotta get back to a president who just says, 'No, that doesn't make any sense.'"

Is it just me, or does the way he phrased “put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them” sound like Cruz is slamming the men of the American military? But sexism, not poor phrasing, was the point here. Cruz’s girls can do anything in their heart’s desire, but moving forward to where women are treated equally on the lousy stuff as well as the fun stuff would be bad and wrong. And we’re not supposed to notice that positions like “my girls are too fragile to do that difficult, dangerous thing” aren’t just used to protect women from the draft, they’re used to hold women back from desirable jobs and equal treatment across the board.

Mostly, though: Ted Cruz, man. Posturing posturing posturing. Political correctness! My precious campaign props! Common sense!

Cuomo asks SUNY, CUNY to rein in six-figure administrative salaries

The State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) are drawing criticism from Gov. Andrew Cuomo for their administrative salaries. Some of the highest-paid employees at the publicly funded universities earn more than $400,000, at the same time that tuition is rising. 

The New York State Legislature's joint budget hearings will focus on higher education Monday and SUNY and CUNY administrative salaries will be front and center. United University Professions (UUP) President Frederick Kowal, who represents 35,000 faculty and professional staff at colleges and universities in New York, said the group plans to call out the high pay in their testimony.

"There is this national trend where administrative salaries seem to be rising and costs seem to be rising at the same pace as tuition, while faculty and staff salaries have been stagnant," Kowal said.

According to Kowal, 30 percent of SUNY's teachers are adjunct professors who earn about $3,000 per course. Meanwhile, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher makes $654,901. And, 43 of the top-50 public earners in New York work for SUNY or CUNY, all of whom make more than Cuomo and President Barack Obama.

"We think that the governor was correct to raise the issue of administrative salaries and we agree that resources need to be in the classroom since, at the present, between 65 and 70 percent of the cost of a SUNY education is paid for by tuition and the remainder is made up with state dollars," Kowal said.

Cuomo is asking the SUNY and CUNY's chancellors to reduce their administrative costs. He said those "exorbitant" salaries come from "the pockets of struggling students and taxpayers." New York taxpayers are SUNY's single largest source of revenue and their share of the SUNY budget is increasing. The state appropriated $3.14 billion for SUNY in fiscal year 2015, or 31 percent of the system's total income. Tuition there has also risen an average of $300 dollars in recent years. SUNY Oswego graduate student Shayna said the cost of her education is insane.

"If I can help another student -  it’s great," Shayna said. "I’m more than willing to donate to that cause, but I’m not necessarily willing to donate to lining administrator’s pockets."

SUNY declined to comment on this story. But, Zimpher recently sent campuses a letter defending the administrative pay. She said that overhead only accounts for 6 percent of the overall budget and those salaries are in line with what competitors pay.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Democrats could gain up to six House seats in New York

WASHINGTON – Republicans face the possibility of losing up to six House seats in New York this presidential election year, reversing their 2014 pickup of three seats.

All six districts have been represented by Democrats in recent years. Three are currently represented by freshman Republicans and two are open seats where incumbent Republicans are retiring.

That means New York State represents Democrats' best hope of significantly reducing the GOP's large majority in the House.

Whether those districts remain competitive as Election Day nears depends on some major unknowns, including which House candidates win in June 28 primaries and which presidential candidates are at the top of each ticket.

“It’s always the case that when you are talking about a competitive district that the particular nature of each campaign becomes very important,’’ Syracuse University political scientist Grant Reeher said. “By that, I mean the quality of candidates, the degree to which the local party has its act together and the nature of the local fundraising effort.’’

In the 22nd Congressional District covering the Mohawk Valley south to Broome County, the conventional wisdom among Democrats is that they have a better chance in the general election if politically conservative state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney wins the Republican line over school teacher George Phillips. If that happens, the eventual Democratic nominee would appeal to the district’s many moderate voters.

Republicans believe they'll have an advantage in the 19th Congressional District in the mid-Hudson Valley and Catskills region if politically liberal law professor Zephyr Teachout wins the Democratic line over farmer Will Yandik.

Teachout, on the other hand, could match up better against Republican John Faso as an anti-corruption candidate running against the former Republican leader in the state Assembly. Faso also is facing a primary, with heating oil executive Andrew Heaney as his chief Republican opponent.

Democrats widely agree they'd do better in down-ballot races around the state if former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is the party's presidential nominee.

If Republicans select a polarizing presidential nominee such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or businessman Donald Trump, it could be harder for Republican congressional candidates to win in New York, David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said Friday.

Political scientist Kevin Hardwick of Canisus College in Buffalo disagreed.

“I think Trump would energize a conservative base and that would especially help upstate,’’ Hardwick said. “You look at the impact that Carl Paladino had when he ran for governor (in 2010). He didn’t win obviously, but in this neck of the woods it was a good year to be a Republican.’’

Republican Reps. Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna are retiring to create the two open seats Democrats hope to pick up.

Gibson’s 19th Congressional District in the mid-Hudson Valley-Catskills region was won by President Obama in both 2012 and 2008. Part of the district was formerly represented by retired Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey and the other part used to be located inside the district represented by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand when she was a House member. Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in early 2009 to succeed Hillary Clinton.

Hanna’s 22nd Congressional District in the Mohawk Valley of central New York runs south to Broome County. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney defeated Obama in the district in 2012, but by a razor-thin margin. And the district was in Democratic hands for two terms until Hanna beat Rep. Michael Arcuri in 2010.

Two other Democratic opportunities also involve formerly Democratic seats won in 2014 by freshman Republican Reps. John Katko in the Syracuse area and Lee Zeldin on eastern Long Island.

Katko’s district, which includes Wayne County in the Rochester suburbs, has flip-flopped from Republican to Democratic control in each of the last several elections. Obama won 57.2% of the vote in the district in 2012.

Zeldin’s district is more evenly divided politically. Obama won there with just 50.3% of the vote in 2012.

The last two possible Democratic pickups would probably require a wave election for Democrats to win. They are the North Country’s 21st Congressional District seat won by freshman Rep. Elise Stefanik in 2014 and the 23rd Congressional District seat in the Southern Tier held by Rep. Tom Reed since November 2010.

The best opportunity for a Republican congressional pickup is in the 3rd Congressional District on the North Shore of Long Island, where Democratic Rep. Steve Israel is not seeking re-election. But Obama won the district with 57.2% of the vote in 2012 and 58.1% in 2008.

Two less likely opportunities for GOP pickups are in the Hudson Valley’s 18th Congressional District represented by Democrat Sean Maloney and the 25th Congressional District in the Rochester area represented by veteran Democrat Louise Slaughter.

New York and California each has nine potentially competitive House races this year, more than any other state, according to the Cook Political Report.

But California has only three Democratic pickup possibilities. The other six seats offer Republicans opportunities to build on their majority.

Of the nine potentially competitive races in New York, Wasserman expects only five will turn out that way. Of those, four seats are currently held by Republicans.

Democrats have 188 seats in the House and need a net gain of 30 to win a 218-seat majority. Many pundits say that’s out of reach.

Republicans agree.

“It would take a miracle for Democrats to win the House this cycle," said Chris Pack, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Only 59 of 435 House seats are rated potentially competitive this year by the Cook Political Report. Only 34 are considered competitive now.

In many states, House district boundaries are drawn to make them either safely Republican or safely Democrat.

“One of the reasons that New York seats are more competitive than other states is because they were not gerrymandered by the state legislators,’’ Hardwick said. “Part of the reason there aren’t many competitive seats in the nation in Congress is that they are so well gerrymandered. Gerrymandering today is so much better today than 40 years ago is because we have computer software that helps us do it. And it’s tough to find a competitive seat in any legislative body.’’

The limited playing field allows both parties to focus money and resources on the five-dozen or so House seats in play, making it less likely either side will suffer overwhelming losses, although wave elections do occur from time to time.