Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Democrats get tired of Republicans obstructing funds to fight Zika

For weeks now, Congress has either been ignoring requests for funding on Zika, or dragging their feet while the risk keeps growing. Republicans have been using stalling tactics, always claiming to need more information no matter how many reports stack up. Now Democrats have had enough.

The political battle over Zika funding intensified Tuesday as congressional Democrats and the White House amped up pressure on Republicans to pass money aimed at combating the dangerous virus that is spreading north to the United States.

The birth defects caused by Zika are terrible. It’s also terrible that trying to halt the spread of this disease is a “political battle.” Truthfully, we were already at the “will kill people to keep Obama from reaching policy goals” stage way back at the beginning of the healthcare fight. This round just seems more obvious.

"This is an emergency if there ever were an emergency," said Harry Reid who blamed GOP senators for a "continual pattern of constant Republican gridlock" that the Senate minority leader said was blocking swift passage of the money. ...

"We cannot wait to act. With the mosquito season coming here and families wondering what is being done to protect them," said [Senator Patty] Murray in a notably tougher political attack than a week ago. "Today we are here to send a very clear message to our colleagues across the aisle. There is no more time to wait. We need to get an emergency funding agreement through the Senate this week."

Barring Something Unforeseen, Hillary Clinton Will Be The Democratic Nominee

Hillary Clinton now has 2,141 delegates (with pledged and superdelegates combined), as of midnight Wednesday. 

That means she is 90 percent of the way to the 2,383 delegates she needs to clinch the Democratic nomination. 

Taking superdelegates out of the equation, she leads Bernie Sanders by 351 pledged delegates. (Clinton has 1,622 to Sanders' 1,282.) Sanders would need two-thirds of all remaining pledged delegates to overtake Clinton in that count. 

Clinton could lose every single remaining contest in every single remaining state by more than 20 points and still get a pledged majority. 

That is a virtual impossibility. 

But superdelegates should not be excluded. Yes, they won't officially vote until this summer's convention. And, yes, they can vote however they want, but Clinton has a 519-to-39 lead with these elected officials and party leaders. Without Sanders winning the pledged majority, his only argument is that he polls better than Clinton at this point against Donald Trump. That is hardly an argument most seasoned politicians are going to buy at this point. 

The bottom line is this: Barring something extraordinary happening, Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Charles Koch: Clinton Might Make Better President Than Republican Candidates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, a key source of financing for conservative Republican causes along with his brother, said Democrat Hillary Clinton might make a better president than the candidates in the Republican field.

Koch, in an interview to air on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program, said that in some respects Bill Clinton had been a better president than George W. Bush, who Koch said had increased government spending. Then when asked if Hillary Clinton would be a better president than the Republicans currently running, he said, “It’s possible, it’s possible.” 

ABC said Koch, who along brother David leads an influential political organization called Freedom Partners, has been displeased so far with the tone of the Republican presidential race, in which billionaire Donald Trump leads U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Asked if he could support Clinton over the Republicans, Koch responded, “We would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way.”

While many conservatives have questioned Trump’s commitment to their agenda, a spokesman for the Koch brothers said last month that they would not use any of their money to block him from winning the Republican nomination.

Elizabeth Warren busts Goldman-Sachs for handling of union pensions

Goldman-Sachs and Northern Trust ​charged the Teamsters Union $41 million in fees for handling the beleaguered Central States Pension Fund. The same pension fund where 400,000 retirees are facing drastic cuts. 

What did the fund managers do to earn their millions? They put the fund in unnecessary danger through risky investments.

While part of the Teamsters issues have to do with a declining union workforce — resulting in fewer employers contributing into the fund — Smith says the financial market collapse and the riskier-than-average investments made by the fund contributed to losses.

Or as Warren put it.

The decisions that Goldman and Northern made, along with an Act slipped into the 2014 budget, directly led to this.

James Lambert, 69, a former trucker, from Randolph, Ohio, was told his $2,200 monthly pension payment would be slashed to $1,200.

Bob Berg, 61 … was informed that his monthly payment would drop from $3,000 to $2,200.

And Judy Weeks, 62, ... would drop from $3,000 to $1,258.

Warren speaking on the Central States Pension Fund.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Major redistricting lawsuit could spell the end of unfair partisan gerrymanders

An important new redistricting lawsuit in Wisconsin just cleared a major hurdle by surviving a motion for summary judgment and will now head to trial. The suit raises an argument that has been made many times before but without success: that election districts were drawn with the improper aim of maximizing one side's partisan advantage. In this case, the plaintiffs, a group of Democrats, have alleged that Wisconsin Republicans unfairly gerrymandered the state's legislative maps to benefit the GOP.

Every such case in the past that has made similar claims has ultimately failed because the Supreme Court (or more specifically, Justice Anthony Kennedy) has ruled that there's no manageable standard for judging when a partisan gerrymander is impermissible. But here, plaintiffs are relying on a new metric known as the "efficiency gap," a very compelling approach its creators describe thusly:

The efficiency gap is simply the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. Wasted votes are ballots that don’t contribute to victory for candidates, and they come in two forms: lost votes cast for candidates who are defeated, and surplus votes cast for winning candidates but in excess of what they needed to prevail. When a party gerrymanders a state, it tries to maximize the wasted votes for the opposing party while minimizing its own, thus producing a large efficiency gap. In a state with perfect partisan symmetry, both parties would have the same number of wasted votes.

Put more concretely, every time a Republican legislator or member of Congress wins with 55 percent of the vote but a Democrat in the same state wins with 85 percent, far more votes are "wasted" on behalf of the Democrat—exactly what Republican cartographers want, and exactly what they’ve achieved in Wisconsin, where the GOP holds 62 percent of seats in the legislature even though Barack Obama carried the state twice.

Unlike other proposals, this test can be rigorously and empirically applied to any map, and now plaintiffs will have the chance to make their case in court. And should this dispute eventually reach the Supreme Court, it's quite possible that Justice Kennedy will finally find that the efficiency gap is a partisan gerrymandering standard he can love. But even if he doesn't, if a fifth liberal justice joins the court and finds this approach workable, it'll be a whole new day in redistricting jurisprudence, and a massive flood of lawsuits will follow.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Clinton Ad: ‘Tough Enough to Stop Trump’

Though she has yet to clinch the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton is going after Donald Trump in their shared home state of New York in advance of the April 19 primary. 

Clinton today is debuting a new TV ad that proclaims her the only one “tough enough to stop” the billionaire GOP frontrunner. The spot, titled “Stronger Together,” is airing in New York City, where the bulk of the primary vote is likely to be generated. 

I believe this is the third Clinton ad in rotation in New York, and its release comes as her Democratic primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, hit the airwaves for the first time in the state over the weekend. 

Here’s the full transcript of “Stronger Together”:

Narrator: He says we should punish women who have abortions.

Donald Trump: There has to be some form of punishment.

Narrator: That Mexicans who come to America are rapists.

Donald Trump: They’re rapists.

Narrator: And that we should ban Muslims from coming here at all.

Donald Trump: Total and complete shutdown.

Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump says we can solve America’s problems by turning against each other. It’s wrong, and it goes against everything New York and America stand for.

Narrator: With so much at stake, she’s the one tough enough to stop Trump.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ted Cruz: No apologies for being the Senate's biggest jerk

Remember back when Ted Cruz blew up the Senate, going to the floor to rant and rave about his leader, Mitch McConnell, being a liar? He told CNN's Dana Bash Thursday that he's not going to apologize for that, even if that's the one thing that would unite the Republicans behind him. Here's what he said when asked directly if he would apologize to his leader. (Video below the fold.)

Cruz: "You know what, Dana? This is why people are so frustrated with Washington. It's the inside battles back and forth. This isn't a game. This isn't about Washington power brokers. This isn't a smoke-filled room. If we want to turn the country around, let me tell you who should apologize. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should apologize to the American people."

Bash: "No apology to Mitch McConnell? Because it could help you."

Cruz: "My focus is not on Washington. That ain't going to happen. And if Washington lobbyists want the see that happen, they can hold their breath a long, long time. My focus is on the American people and uniting Republicans behind a shared values and a shared vision. Now I will tell you this. I am happy to praise Mitch McConnell and praise him effusively for his stand, along with Chuck Grassley saying we are not going to hold hearings on a replacement for Antonin Scalia. Mitch McConnell is doing the right thing. Chuck Grassley is doing the right thing. I'm proud to commend them. I've done so many times. They're saying Justice Scalia's nomination should be made by the next president."

Unpack that one. This isn't a game about Washington and business as usual and people are so frustrated with that, but good on McConnell and Grassley for creating a crisis on the Supreme Court. You can't make this shit up. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

An Iowa Teenager Just Shut Down Chuck Grassley’s Supreme Court Argument

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, still refuses to give a hearing to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because Obama is a lame-duck president.

It’s only fair to wait until after the November elections, Grassley says, and let the next president fill the court vacancy.

“Stated differently: The president should let the people decide,” the Iowa Republican said last month on the Senate floor.

But Jake Smith, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, just blew a hole through the senator’s argument. In an open letter published Wednesday in The Des Moines Register, Smith pointed out that by Grassley’s own logic, he should step down as chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the Supreme Court debate. That’s because he’s a lame-duck politician, too.

“You, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, carry significant power in determining who gets to become the next Supreme Court Justice,” Smith writes. “But senator, since you, too, are in an election year, how can you possess the authority to make a decision that will affect the future of our country if ‘the people have not yet spoken?’”

“Following the direction of the Republican’s logic, I politely ask you to step aside as chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee until the elections take place,” he continues. 

A Grassley spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Smith told The Huffington Post on Friday that he was inspired to write the letter after he and his parents took a road trip through the Midwest to tour colleges. They listened to conservative radio as they drove, and heard one Republican senator after another say they wouldn’t consider any Supreme Court pick from Obama. Smith decided to reach out to Grassley to point out the “absurdity” of denying a lame-duck president the chance to move a nominee.

“I know he’s not going to read this letter from an 18-year-old and say, ‘Oh crap. I have to step down now,’” Smith said. “But I’m just trying to kind of match his ridiculous statements about this issue with another ridiculous statement.”

Grassley is one of 24 GOP senators serving the sixth and final year of their term, and most of them echo the line about “letting the people decide” who should pick the next Supreme Court justice. HuffPost’s Mike McAuliff asked some of them in February why they should be allowed to take consequential votes as lame-duck senators if Obama isn’t allowed to make consequential appointments. They didn’t have much to say.

“It’s a ridiculous analogy, but I appreciate it,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who is facing a tough re-election campaign against Gov. Maggie Hassan (D).

To be sure, the real reason Republicans are blocking nominee Merrick Garland is that they don’t want Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat. They’d rather hold out until 2017, when a Republican might be in the White House. But the GOP may be making things worse for itself by denying Garland a vote: Republicans run the risk of the party’s front-runner, Donald Trump, naming a total wild-card nominee or Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton nominating someone far more liberal than Obama’s moderate pick.

As for Smith, he’s still trying to figure out which college to attend next year. But he’s already decided to major in political science. That wouldn’t be a bad precursor to a Senate run, eh?

“Maybe in a few years,” he said.

Ted Cruz Calls For National Law To Cripple Unions

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said during a radio interview Thursday that he supports national “right-to-work” legislation, a type of anti-labor law that Wisconsin passed last year in an effort to cripple the state’s unions.

The Texas senator, who is currently leading in the Wisconsin polls, said in an interview on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee that such right-to-work laws are a “fundamental right,” according to the Associated Press. Right-to-work laws are designed to severely weaken unions by forcing them to provide services without payment from workers. 

Cruz said during the interview that supporting a right-to-work law will show that government “sides with the working men and women of this country.” He added that Wisconsin’s law restricting unions “is exactly what we need to do in Washington.”

Friday, April 1, 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

NY state budget includes $30M for communities hurt by closing of power plants

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- New York state will provide up to $30 million to communities that lose property tax revenue because an electric generating plant closes if the state Legislature approves a state budget bill printed Wednesday.

The state funding would be available for counties, cities, towns and school districts to replace property taxes paid by electric generating facilities that close on or after June 25, 2015, according to the budget bill.

Full story

Hillary Clinton will campaign in Syracuse on Friday

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton will stop in Syracuse on Friday as she ramps up her campaign ahead of New York's April 19 presidential primary.

Clinton will hold a public organizing event at 2 p.m. Friday at the Central New York Regional Market in Syracuse, her campaign said. Doors to the event in Shed F will open at noon. Those who wish to attend may sign up through Clinton's campaign website.

While in town, Clinton also plans to host a roundtable discussion with manufacturers at a time and place yet to be determined, her campaign said.

Clinton began her New York campaign with a rally Wednesday at the Apollo Theater in New York City, where she was introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., one of her biggest allies.

Clinton's opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also plans to campaign vigorously across New York ahead of the primary. He opened a Syracuse office, but has not announced any plans for campaign stops in Upstate New York.

Full story

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How corporate America invented ‘Christian America’ to fight the New Deal

The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of “one nation under God” to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe.

Kruse concludes that with the polarization of America in the 1960s over such issues such as school prayer and the war in Vietnam, politicians such as Richard Nixon abandoned the more inclusive civic religion of the Eisenhower era. Kruse writes that by the 1970s “the rhetoric of ‘one nation under God’ no longer brought Americans together; it only reminded them how divided they had become” (274). Arguing that public religion is a modern invention that has little to do with America’s origins, Kruse maintains that contemporary political discourse needs to better recognize the political ideology being perpetuated by the advocates of America as a Christian nation. Needless to say, Kruse’s arguments will antagonize many on the Christian right, as well as many on the left who have employed Christianity as the means through which to implement principles of equality and opportunity as extolled by Jesus of Nazareth, the working-class carpenter.

Drawing upon extensive archival research, the first part of Kruse’s book documents the alliance between religious leaders such as Congregationalist minister James W. Fifield Jr. and businessman J. Howard Pew Jr., president of Sun Oil and a major figure with the National Association of Manufacturers. Working out of his affluent Los Angeles community and congregation, Fifield formed a national organization called Spiritual Mobilization that attracted the support of big business while embracing unfettered capitalist traditions threatened by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. The fertile ground plowed by Spiritual Mobilization and Fifield prepared the way for the influential prayer breakfasts of Methodist minister Abraham Vereide and the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham. While the insecurities of the Cold War contributed to the growth of postwar religious fervor, Kruse insists that the prayer movement and Graham “effectively harnessed Cold War anxieties for an already established campaign against the New Deal” (36).

The prayers of the Christian libertarians were answered with the ascendancy of Dwight Eisenhower to the Presidency. While Graham was given a cold shoulder by Harry Truman, the evangelist was welcomed to the White House by Eisenhower, who also supported the prayer breakfast movement bringing together Congressional leaders and members of the business community. While he lacked allegiance to any specific denomination, Eisenhower was a devout Christian who opened cabinet meetings with prayer. Kruse argues that the President endorsed a rather general sense of Christian principles that would unite the nation under a common understanding of its religious heritage. Thus, Eisenhower supported Congressional legislation that added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance while also embracing “In God We Trust” as the nation’s official motto that was included on the nation’s money supply. The Eisenhower administration also endorsed the National Association of Evangelicals call for a July 4, 1953 March of Freedom declaring that the American government was based upon Biblical principles. The concept of “One Nation Under God” was also championed in the popular culture by the creation of Disneyland and Cecil B. DeMille’s film epic The Ten Commandments (1956), while the National Council for Advertising championed Madison Avenue techniques that would bring the concept of God and free enterprise to all Americans on the local level.

Eisenhower’s rather vague notion of a Christian America, however, did not quite coincide with the ideology of Christian libertarianism. Instead, Kruse suggests that actions such as adding “under God” to the pledge were examples of ceremonial Deism; establishing the idea that the First Amendment mandated the separation of church and state but not the separation of religion and politics. Thus, general support for the sacred was acceptable, but not active government intervention that might advance a particular sect. In addition, Eisenhower did not move to dismantle the New Deal; accepting programs such as Social Security and expanding government activity with legislation such as the Interstate Highway Act. Kruse, writes, “Unlike Christian libertarians, who had long presented God and government as rivals, Eisenhower had managed to merge the two into a wholesome ‘government under God.’ In doing so, he ironically undercut the key segment of many of his earlier backers, making their old claims about the ‘pagan’ origins of statism seems suddenly obsolete” (87). Here, Kruse seems to imply Eisenhower had inadvertently sanctified the state and government. Therefore, to criticize the government was both anti-patriotic and anti-religious. This is a fascinating argument, with considerable implications for contemporary politics, but Kruse fails to tease out this idea before moving on to other issues.

Kruse maintains that the religious unity sought by Eisenhower was challenged in the late 1950s and the 1960s as various faiths worried that state advocacy of religion might trample on traditional beliefs and practices. One of the most contentious issues was school-mandated prayer which was deemed unconstitutional in the Engel v. Vitale(1962) decision. Nevertheless, in his majority opinion, Justice Hugo Black insisted that ceremonial Deism, such as prayer before Congressional sessions, chaplains in the military, and “under God” in the pledge, was protected. To the surprise of many church members, a number of religious leaders and the National Council of Churches came to support the prayer decision as a means through which to protect religious traditions from state interference. This approach, however, led to considerable division between leadership and laity; undermining the concept of “one nation under God.”

Seeking to mount a conservative movement against the religious establishment, evangelists such as Billy Graham joined forces with the administration of Richard Nixon to promote a religious perspective that would divide rather than unify Americans. Holding White House religious services officiated by leading evangelical ministers and sponsoring events such as the 1970 Fourth of July “Honor America Day,” featuring a religious service at the Lincoln Memorial led by Graham, Nixon attempted to employ religious nationalism as a means through which to brand those opposing his administration or the war in Vietnam as attacks upon American Christian values. Although Kruse includes an epilogue offering an overview of religion and American politics from the 1980s to the Obama Presidency, he assigns Nixon, rather than Ronald Reagan, primary responsibility for using religion to divide rather than bring Americans together.

One Nation under God is a provocative piece of historical scholarship that will be sure to engender considerable debate at the OAH. It is a work that will antagonize those on the political right who perceive American exceptionalism as a gift from God bestowed upon the framers of the Constitution, while those who embrace the opposing tradition of the social gospel and Christian socialism may also take offense. Religion has played an important role in American history, and some critics will make the case that Kruse downplays the role of the sacred in American life. However, Kruse makes a major scholarly contribution in his examination of how ministers cooperated with big business to formulate an ideology that the New Deal was a threat to traditional American Christian values of free enterprise and individualism while promoting the false pagan deity of statism. As Kruse moves into a discussions of ceremonial Deism with the Eisenhower administration and consideration of how Nixon employed religion to divide rather than unify, Kruse’s thesis regarding the role assigned to corporate America in creating a Christian America becomes somewhat lost, and this ambitious study may take on too much by attempting to survey the relationship between American politics and religion from the New Deal to the modern age.

Cuomo, lawmakers down to the wire on budget agreement

Lawmakers worked toward a budget deal Monday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he’s making some concessions on the minimum wage.

Cuomo said he would like budget agreements to come early enough so that all of the bills can be passed by the April 1 deadline. He said he does not want to use what’s called a message of necessity to pass bills faster if agreements come late, but he has not ruled out that possibility altogether.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to get there on time,” Cuomo said, speaking at an Easter Sunday egg hunt at the governor’s mansion.

The budget issue that’s gained most attention is the governor’s push to phase in raising the minimum age to $15 an hour.

Cuomo was asked about reports that  there might be a lower than $15 minimum wage for upstate, perhaps as low as $12.50 or $13. Cuomo would not confirm that, but said his plan already calls for a longer phase in to $15 for regions outside New York City, and he concedes talks have focused on treating upstate differently than downstate.

“Some states have three rates, some states have even more,” Cuomo said. “So, we anticipate a different rate to get to $15 and obviously there’s a variety of ways that you can get there.”

Pro minimum wage groups are holding a 24-hour vigil at the Capitol. Rev. Emily McNeill, with the New York State Labor Religion Coalition, said Cuomo already is proposing a nearly six-year phase in for the $15 rate upstate and any longer would be unacceptable.  

“They will not allow families to support themselves,” McNeill said.

The minimum wage advocates aren’t the only ones at the Capitol as the budget deal draws near. Proponents of the governor’s goal to end AIDS in New York by 2020 also came to protest.

They say the governor announced his plan in June 2014 nearly two years ago, but since then has not put any significant money into the budget. They say this year, Cuomo has only placed between $10 and $15 million in the state spending plan.

Reginald Brown, with VOCAL New York, said at least $70 million is needed -- $50 million to fund crucial housing programs for people living with HIV or AIDS. Using the mic check style of call and response made popular by Occupy groups, Brown said he and other activists stay they also will stay night and day to pressure lawmakers to add the funds.

“We will stay here and risk arrest and civil disobedience to honor 100,000 of those that we have lost,” said Brown, his voice breaking. “This is going to stop now.”

They say they will spend the time reading the names of New Yorkers who have died of AIDS.

While the groups, as well as reporters and lobbyists wait to hear news of a final deal on the budget, government reform groups condemned the decision making process as being more secretive than ever. Barbara Bartoletti with the League of Women Voters said even the closed door, three men in a room leaders meetings, criticized for their secrecy, are no longer even announced.

“We (already) have a culture of corruption here in Albany, “ Bartoletti said. “We can now say that there is absolutely no openness to this budget.”

Bartoletti and other government reform groups say they are also disappointed that the budget will not include any ethics reform, despite the conviction of the two former legislative leaders on multiple corruption charges.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Donald Trump proxy Roger Stone claims to have seen women Ted Cruz allegedly had affairs with: He’s “copulating with rodents”

Donald Trump proxy Roger Stone claims to have seen women Ted Cruz allegedly had affairs with: He’s “copulating with rodents” 

Donald Trump proxy Roger Stone claims to have seen women Ted Cruz allegedly had affairs with: He's "copulating with rodents"

Roger Stone — a Donald Trump supporter and the only named source in the National Enquirer’s article about Ted Cruz’s alleged mistresses — spoketo Frank Morano on AM 970 this past Sunday about the allegations against the Texas senator, and he insisted that he couldn’t be a Trump operative because he’s not being paid like one.

Cruz apparently disavowed the allegations in part by saying that Stone is someone who “copulates with rodents,” to which Stone replied that “knowing what a couple of these women looked like, I actually feel he’s the one who’s been copulating with rodents.” In addition to shaming largely anonymous women, Stone also explained why Cruz’s non-denials were so unconvincing.

Full story

Chuck Grassley put on defense by Hillary Clinton over Supreme Court blockade

Hillary Clinton, campaigning in Wisconsin Monday, is hitting Chuck Grassley for his refusal as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman to hold hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. The campaign says this is part of a "sustained effort to rip into Senate Republicans for failing to hold a hearing for a qualified court nominee." The increasingly irascible Grassley peevishly returned fire on totally predictable ground.

"With all the troubles she's getting on e-mail, and the FBI's going to question her, I would imagine she'd want to change the tone of her campaign," Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO in an interview here. He was apparently referring to a Los Angeles Times story Monday that indicated an FBI investigation of the private email server she used as secretary of state is entering a final phase that will include interviews with her advisers. […]

"I want to spend my time on doing things we're going to accomplish and you know ahead of time that this isn't going to be approved," Grassley said, referring to Garland being confirmation. "So spend your time on things that …we can do in a bipartisan way instead of in a partisan way."

So what "bipartisan" things have been taking up Grassley's time lately? He spent the better part of last year blocking almost all of President Obama's State Department nominees because, what else, Benghazi. So there's that. Not very bipartisan, however.

Seems like Grassley's spring recess isn't very bipartisan, either.

The senator, known for his tradition of visiting all 99 counties in Iowa every year—aka the "full Grassley"—is not spending so much time with his constituents now. At least not with any who might prove hostile. He's having 16 "private" meetings at "public schools, workplaces and service clubs." Those events are not being publicized, says a spokeswoman, because "it would be unfair to the people who wish to attend and who want to ask their senator a question if the event is taken over by protesters." So much for letting the people decide.

Mar 28, 2016 by Joan McCarter

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ted Cruz knows 'absolutely nothing' about war against terror

There seems to be a widespread belief among certain members of the political class that protecting the country against terrorism is a matter of ideology. According to them, the strong leaders in this area are the ones who are willing to insult Muslims, advocate torture, and engage in various other provocations. They claim that other leaders are paralyzed by political correctness and that they alone have the ideological fortitude to guard against the terrorist threat.


Terrorism is ideologically driven but counterterrorism, like other kinds of police work, has no ideological component whatsoever. It is about stopping the terrorists before they strike. That requires intelligence gathering, analysis and focused investigative work.

In the event of a terrorist attack, police also need the capacity to respond swiftly and with effective tactics. It is a matter of consistent, determined, targeted detective work, of highly trained and well-equipped operational units, and of intelligence analysts who can interpret the data, decipher the chatter and distinguish the real threats from the bluster and the noise.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for police to “patrol and secure Muslim communities before they become radicalized.” We already patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods, the same way we patrol and secure other neighborhoods.


When people call the police, we rush to help them. When people break the law, we move to arrest them. But no, we do not single out any populace, black, white, yellow or brown for selective enforcement. We do not “patrol and secure” neighborhoods based on selective enforcement because of race or religion, nor will we use the police and an occupying force to intimidate a populace or a religion to appease the provocative chatter of politicians seeking to exploit fear.

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.

Nor will we accept the fiction of Sen. Cruz’s narrative as presented. Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn’t serving any useful purpose. He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was. The fact is that the former administration had allowed the unit to dwindle down to two investigators. Why? Because the work of the unit, which was to map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area, was finished. The two remaining detectives simply had little to do.

This sensible move was translated in the bumper-sticker, sound bite language of politics to be one of two extremes. Either transferring the last two detectives out of the Demographics Unit ended an extensive spying program that inhibited religious freedom (it wasn’t and it didn’t) or, we eliminated the key program protecting New York City from terrorists and with it, our undercover operations, informants and surveillance (it wasn’t and we didn’t).

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.

It is clear from his comments that Sen. Cruz knows absolutely nothing about counterterrorism in New York City. We have in this city, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country and virtually any city in the world. Let me count the ways:

—The Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the FBI, has more than 100 NYPD detectives working full time on counterterrorism investigations. They do not place entire communities under surveillance, but at any given time, based on authorized investigations, they may be watching individuals who have aroused suspicion as to possibly being involved in terrorist activity. Our Intelligence Bureau detectives work with informants, surveillance teams, undercover officers and cyber specialists on investigations that are documented, authorized and regularly reviewed to protect the city from terrorism.

—The Critical Response Command, founded on Mayor de Blasio’s watch, deploys more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets. These officers would be immediately deployable to any attack, or series of attacks, and could engage heavily armed terrorists without delay. Given the pattern of attacks in Europe where terrorists hit multiple sites simultaneously and showed the clear intention to kill as many people as possible, these new units have the mission of engaging the terrorists, as quickly as possible, with equal firepower and superior training to stop the killing as soon as possible. The CRC is backed up by other commands with counterterrorism capabilities, including the Strategic Response Group and the Emergency Service Unit. These NYPD units have the capacity to deploy hundreds of heavily armed officers to any attack site in the city at any time of the day or night.

—The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, also houses a wide variety of other capabilities, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; an infrastructure unit that hardens targets across the city; and a public-private partnership called SHIELD, with a membership of some 15,000 local property and business owners.

—The NYPD Intelligence Bureau is staffed not only with police officers but highly skilled civilian intelligence analysts, the sort of experts who work in national intelligence. They are continuously vetting leads, hints and rumors to keep the threat picture in New York updated. The Intelligence Bureau also maintains liaison officers in multiple cities around the world who can swiftly report back to us on any attack anywhere on Earth.

—The NYPD Domain Awareness System is one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world, providing real-time information across southern Manhattan and in many other parts of the city.

The dashboard for the NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.

The dashboard for the NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.

So, no, transferring the two detectives we found languishing in the already defunct Demographics Unit did not have any effect on our ability to protect New York City from terrorists. Sen. Cruz’s references to the discontinuance of the Demographics Unit shows he has been hoodwinked by a 21st century fairy tale that refuses to die. He uses it in tandem with his suggestions that the police create a looming presence to intimidate Muslim neighborhoods with a show of force.

In New York City, we protect all communities from crime and terrorism — yes, Muslim communities too — because like us, they are Americans who own businesses, work hard, pay taxes and dream of a better life for their children. Over 900 of them work in my police department as police officers, many of them in counterterrorism and intelligence. Many of them have served in the military and fought for their country. We police our city not by campaign slogans or inflammatory rhetoric, but by an old piece of parchment called the U.S. Constitution and another called the Bill of Rights.

Ted Cruz and others seem to be willing to sideline these principles because what they stand for shifts with the tide of the campaign and the shrillness of the name-calling. But as it has been said, when you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Sen. Cruz needs to do some homework before he speaks again.

Meanwhile, in New York, we will continue keeping the city safe while policing constitutionally, respectfully and effectively.