MAZON Reacts to $40B in SNAP Cuts‏


President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that a lack of access to basic nutrition undermines a person’s ability to enjoy other fundamental rights. The “Four Freedoms” on the Roosevelt Memorial.

A response to the U.S. House of Representatives vote slashing $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

— by Abby J. Leibman, president of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Today is a sad, sad day for America. Today’s vote confirms that far too many of our Congresspeople hold their loyalty to their ideology above all else — more important than their responsibility as our nation’s elected leaders and more important than the needs of their actual constituencies. This mean-spirited legislation was designed to provoke divisiveness and acrimony — and it has succeeded in doing just that.

Our faith, like so many other faith traditions, teaches that the community has an obligation to sustain its most vulnerable. SNAP is the epitome of this fundamental idea, successfully realized on a larger scale. SNAP represents our collective commitment, as a national community, that when times are tough, we will stand together and help families get back on their feet.

More after the jump.
More than 70 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his historic “Four Freedoms” address to Congress, asserting that Americans had a right to “freedom from want.” He understood that a lack of access to basic nutrition undermines a person’s ability to enjoy other fundamental rights.

Now is the time to support smart policies aimed at strengthening our nation’s recovery, not taking food out of the mouths of hungry people. We can rebuild our economy, but not if our fellow Americans cannot meet their most basic need for nutritious food.

We at MAZON are dedicated to working with conferees to negotiate an improved nutrition title. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that every American is able to meet his/her most fundamental need: to eat.

Boehner’s House “Mandate”: Gerrymandering a Democratic majority

Last week, Americans voted not just for President but also for their Representatives and Senators. Results were mixed. In the Presidential election, Obama edged out Romney in both the Electoral College (332 to 206) and in the popular vote (51% to 48%). In the Senate, Democrats overcame all odds and not only held onto but actually expanded their majority. However, in the House of Representatives, Democrats only picked up 4-8 seats out of the 25 seats they needed to retake control of the House. (Four seats remain undecided: AZ-2, CA-7, CA-52 and LA-2.)

Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-2) took solace in keeping the House. “We’ll have as much of a mandate as he [President Obama] will to not raise taxes.”

How is that the same electorate shows up at the polls and hands victories to the GOP in the House and to Obama and the Democrats in the Senate?

In fact, Boehner is wrong. There was no mandate for the Republicans to keep control of the House. In fact, a majority of Americans voted for a Democrat to represent them in the House of Representatives. According to Dan Keating at the Washington Post:

  • Democratic candidates for the House got 54,301,095 votes (48.8%) while
  • Republican candidates for the House got 53,822,442 votes (48.5%).

But if that is the case, why did more Republicans get elected than Democrats?

According to Ezra Klein,  

What saved Boehner’s majority wasn’t the will of the people but the power of redistricting. As my colleague Dylan Matthews showed, Republicans used their control over the redistricting process to great effect, packing Democrats into tighter and tighter districts and managing to restructure races so even a slight loss for Republicans in the popular vote still meant a healthy majority in the House.


In most states where Republicans controlled redistricting, the Democrats’ share of House seats was far beneath their share of the presidential vote. (Dylan Matthews)

That’s a neat trick, but it’s not a popular mandate, or anything near to it – and Boehner knows it. That’s why his first move after the election was to announce, in a vague-but-important statement, that he was open to some kind of compromise on taxes.

For example, here in Pennsylvania, the Republicans control the Governor’s mansion, the State House and the State Senate, and they used their control to gerrymander the state so that while the Democrats got a majority of the votes (53%) they only took 5 out of 18 seats (28%). They do so by packing Democratic super-majorities into a few districts. Brady won PA-1 with 85.0% of the vote, and Fattah won PA-2 with 89.4%. These huge margins represent wasted votes that potentially could have elected additional Democrats had the districts been drawn differently.

More after the jump.
The situation is not symmetrical in the few states controlled by the Democrats.

This isn’t as true for Democratic-controlled redistricting, and not just because Democrats ran redistricting in only six states. Democrats are just worse at gerrymandering when they get the chance. While Democrats outperformed their presidential vote in House races in Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, they underperformed in Arkansas and West Virginia.

This suggests that it’s going to be tough for Democrats to make big gains in the House until 2022, when the districts are drawn again following the Census. And for that to happen, they’d have to do quite well in the 2020 state legislature elections.

 

House GOP Fifth Vote Against Strengthening Iran Sanctions

— David A. Harris

Once again, for the fifth time, every House Republican but one chose to stand with big business instead of America’s and Israel’s security by voting against measures that penalize mining companies that do business with Iran. We’re proud of House Democrats for their introduction and near-unanimous support for these crucial measures. But it is surprising and profoundly discouraging that so many pro-Israel Republican members of Congress — members who repeatedly and rightly discuss the importance of stopping Iran’s nuclear program — continue to vote against these measures that tighten sanctions. The time is long overdue for House Republicans to quit playing politics, and to start working with Democrats to jointly get serious about stopping Iran.
More information about Republicans voting against measures to strengthen Iran sanctions is available here.  

GOP’s 31st Quixotic Attempt To Repeal Obamacare

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today slammed the House Republican Caucus for continuing their quixotic campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the same bill supported by the vast majority of American Jews and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

This effort — the 31st such vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — proves once again that Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) care significantly more about politics than policy, as this effort will simply not succeed. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court and will provide life-saving health insurance to millions of Americans. Sadly, House Republicans would rather waste time with one more unnecessary vote than focus on working to further improve on health care reform or focusing on job creation. Most Jewish Americans — along with countless others — supported Obamacare and millions of Americans will benefit from the legislation as it is implemented. It is way past time for Republicans to cease tilting at windmills and quit playing politics with Americans’ health insurance.

To change policy, change the system


Maturing moment – Convention delegates sign great but flawed Constitution at Independence Hall.

Part 4 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

Congress will never change so long as both political parties are locked in an endless struggle for power.

Many senators and representatives in both parties enter Congress with the best of intentions, but they must still run for re-election and consider how their votes will affect their respective parties.

The end result means frequent watered-down compromises between what is best for their constituents and the public at large, and for their party.

More after the jump.
Republicans seem dead set against doing anything for vulnerable citizens,and they have feared that a more conservative candidate will be nominated to face President Obama in November. Democrats will restrain themselves because they worry that Democrats representing swing states or swing House districts will be endangered by initiatives considered to be too liberal.

It would be ideal if citizens entered Congress as, well, citizens intent on solving America’s problems, but political pressures intrude on a disproportionate basis. The election of independents could readily revitalize elections and the governing process.

The present system impedes the election of independents who would have difficulty raising the kind of money and building the type of campaign organization that can be provided by a political party. Because of the winner-take-all system, independents usually end up siphoning votes from one or both party candidates.

Some bad actors from either party who hold safe seats would probably get elected anyway, but a less partisan Congress would dilute their power. Probably nobody would have dared tell a president that he lied.

Independent candidates have been elected in a handful of statewide elections, usually small states. Of 100 senators and 435 House members, only two members of Congress are independents – Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was also elected as an independent when he represented Vermont in the House. Like independent governors in other states, these candidates were already people of stature.

These kinds of obstacles might be overcome by creating a system known as Instant Runoff Voting, which allows voters to list other preferred candidates in case their favored candidate ranks low on the pecking order. More on this in later chapters that outline recommended improvements.

It is probably impractical for an independent to mount a serious campaign for president or for elected office in a diverse, populous state, but it might be possible in congressional districts and small states.

______________________________________________________

The performance of Congress tops a chain of oppressive circumstances that restrict government on most levels in resolving difficulties in society.

The failings here are evident – crime, poverty, substandard schools, housing shortages, unemployment, inadequate health-care coverage, the widening income gap, child abuse, prejudice, political gridlock, corruption, government mismanagement and so on.

People often complain about conditions, but little is done about them. Some Americans who may fit the label of “liberal” assail Obama for failing to push his progressive agenda harder. Some African-Americans gripe that Obama has not done enough for issues which affect the black community. All true.

Maybe they failed to notice some slight stumbling blocks. Obama and Democrats in Congress have been unable to succeed with basic initiatives because of Republican opposition. The House passed legislation for a partly publicly financed health care system on Nov. 7, 2009, when it was controlled by the Democrats, but the Senate dislodged what was called the “public option” because Republicans threatened to exercise their filibuster power.

The same fate awaited Democratic attempts to repeal tax cuts for the wealthy.

If Democrats cannot get past these simple hurdles, how are they expected to do much else of a progressive nature?

The barrier that blocked Democratic legislation in Congress is one of many traps in our governance system that obstructs efforts to address some of the most basic needs in our country. Children continue to go hungry, more loyal employees in the private sector lose their jobs, students still attend overcrowded schools, prices persist in rising as wages stagnate.

Our system also maintains institutional racism. African-Americans and other racial minorities are disproportionately victimized by such policies.

None of this is likely to improve so long as we endure the policies produced by our current system.

To change policy, change the system.

The historic magnitude of the Constitution cannot be minimized, but certain of its rules limit America’s ability to serve its citizens adequately. The Constitution provides a durable foundation, but in two centuries it was necessary to place a great deal of building blocks atop it. What we have now is far from sufficient.

The Constitution contains four significantly flawed requirements. The most obvious was the set of provisions prolonging slavery. Fortunately, slavery was abolished with the Civil War, but the Constitution reflects the ongoing racial conflicts inherently embedded in American society.  

The electoral college was widely vilified when the 2000 presidential election turned into a bizarre spectacle – not the first time that a presidential candidate won the electoral college while losing the popular vote. The electoral college served its purpose for selecting presidents during the nation’s early years, but the reason for it no longer exists and the electoral college remains a drag, at best, on the democratic process.

The electoral college allows the ongoing potential for the selection of a president who is elected by only a minority of the voters, not to mention other disadvantages.

Creation of the Senate permits a minority of the country’s population to control part of the legislative process and the appointment of Supreme Court justices. The majority of the people must depend on chance at the ballot box to obtain sufficient clout in the Senate.

On the surface, the amendment process can easily block any attempt to adjust these clauses to make the system more democratic. Any proposed amendment can be thwarted by provisions requiring a two-thirds vote in each house and ratification by three quarters of the 50 states.

Under this system, interestingly, the minority of the population can block adjustments of the rules which already stifle the will of the majority.  

Our system of governance also inhibits the appointment of Supreme Court justices and judges on the lower federal courts whom we can trust for fairness. It is possible for the minority of the people to select judges because of the power of the electoral college and the composition of the Senate.

Beyond the Constitution itself, our 50-state network as we know it is anachronistic. The economic strength or weakness of many states now depends on corporate decisions reached in other states and even foreign countries. Big cities or metropolitan areas usually fund a state’s operations by higher proportions, and the larger states send more money to the federal treasury than smaller states.

Some cities and metropolitan areas may well be self-sufficient if they detach themselves from their state governments. It would likewise make sense if low-population states merged, or if some small states folded into an adjacent larger state.

Many of our problems are self-inflicted. We entrust our political leaders with extensive powers on levels from the White House to City Council. We have elected many exceptional people for public office, yet we have voted people into office who mismanaged our government, stole from us and even contributed to frantic turmoil throughout the world.

Politicians who betray our trust are able to do so because we let them get away with it.

Few enough Americans exercise their rights. Many do not vote in any elections and others will only vote in selected elections, especially the presidential election and in big-city mayoral elections. We do not take time to learn about candidates’ backgrounds and their positions.


Way of Wisconsin – Citizens exercise their democratic rights in rotunda of state capitol in Madison, in protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union initiatives

Once successful candidates take office, too few of us bother to keep track of what they do or communicate our concerns to them. Nor do we organize sufficiently to express dissent of their actions. The series of mass protests in Madison, Wisc., was an exception to what we have experienced in modern times.

Mayors, governors, judges and elected officials of all kinds have mismanaged their operations or abused the trust placed with them. Scandals abound, involving massive contract overruns, judges prosecuted for profiting from sentencing practices, council members benefiting from questionable procedures, a lawyer’s conflict of interest over a proposed building, sexual harassment, the appointment of a schools chief seen as indifferent and unqualified,  and a state government’s longtime neglected oversight of an abortion doctor ultimately charged with murder of babies after being born alive.

The system can be changed.

This begs some legitimate questions: Why bring all this up? Are there any alternatives? If there are, how do we bring about any change?

A series of recommendations are recited in the latter portion of this series. They include a more proportionate form of congressional representation; a realignment of state governments; more regional systems of government; modified rules governing the federal courts; and electoral changes to encourage campaigns of independent candidates, among other measures. Did I mention scrapping the electoral college?

These suggestions can at least serve as a starting point for consideration.

The most anticipated concern about these ideas is this likely question: How? To risk understatement, the obstacles to any changes are daunting.


Broken system – Electoral vote prompts need for bizarre recount in Florida, sparking protests.

If the Senate refuses to adjust or eliminate the filibuster rule, what hope is there for anything else? To amend the amendment process, we obviously need to use, well, the amendment process. The public understood full well the consequences of the electoral college when we endured the Florida recount a decade ago, but there has been no groundswell to eliminate it.

We should be under no illusion that the system will change. Maybe conditions can improve, but at this rate the outlook is not optimistic.

However, it is crucial to understand the deficiencies of the system before we can improve conditions. Making America what it should be does not seem possible under the existing way of doing business, but maybe it can happen. I do not know how to change policy without changing the system.

At stake is good government and how it can best serve its people.  

Profiles in Absurdity


Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) escorts Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) into the House of Representatives for the 2012 State of the Union

Part 3 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives
— Allen West’s belated Valentine’s Day message to colleague Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

To revive the economy, a majority of the House slashed  $126 million during February 2011 from the National Weather Service, the agency which operates the Pacific Tsunami Warming Center in Hawaii, which in turn issued warnings minutes after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

“The nation is in an historic fiscal crisis, and it is imperative that the Congress roll back spending in virtually every area — including NOAA — so that we can help our economy (get) back on track,” explained Jennifer Hing, GOP congressional spokeswoman

Tea partiers ignored safety concerns when they eliminated $61 billion in expenses. The House passed a bill slashing $61 billion, but the Democratic-controlled Senate disregarded the legislation.

More after the jump.
A union representative, quoted by the Associated Press, said the proposal could lead to furloughs and rolling closures of weather service offices, which might in turn impair the center’s ability to issue warnings comparable to those issued on March 11. “People could die,” said Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The weather service cuts were part of $454 million in reductions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation, all Democrats, asserted the need for the warning system, AP reported. “This disaster displays the need to keep the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center fully funded and operational,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I hope my Republican colleagues in the House are now aware that there was a horrific earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific.”

Hing, spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, insisted that House members understand that critical lifesaving and safety programs are maintained, according to AP. She said funds for a network of buoys to detect tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean will be retained.
It would be devastating if Hawaii and California were struck by a tsunami without an opportunity to minimize the damage. Hawaii is a tourist mecca and California is our most populous state, home of countless, innovative industries.

One would think the Republicans are anxious to preserve that part of our economy.


Our system has produced many members of the House and Senate who have done well, and there have been times they disgraced their office. A few samples of the latter, mainly Republicans:  

John A. Boehner infused three odious attitudes into this Feb. 15, 2011, sound bite:

Over the last two years, since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We’re broke.

Boehner, Speaker of the House then, was accused of lying about those 200,000 jobs and shed no tears — his specialty, remember? — over lost jobs, but what’s really incredulous is his claim that “we’re broke.” He broke the national bank, along with most of his cronies in Congress and the former Bush administration. They could have saved programs under the “human services” label by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Thank the filibuster and the Senate’s composition. The Democratic majority in December 2011 sought to restore higher tax rates for couples earning more than $250,000 yearly, but the filibuster process blocked it.

George W. Bush entered the White House with a comfortable surplus and produced a colossal deficit. In between, the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and slashed taxes for the wealthy.

Our military forces exited Iraq at the end of 2011 and, at this writing, we are stuck in Afghanistan. In December 2010, Democrats in Congress sought to revive higher tax rates for the wealthy, but Senate Republicans filibustered their way to maintain the lower tax rates.

Boehner never complained. He must share the blame now that “we’re broke.” So be it.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain reminded Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a committee hearing that his governor sent her a request to waive Medicaid requirements to save $541 million in annual state expenses. This exchange was broadcast on C-span.

In March 2010, when Obama signed the watered-down Affordable Care Act into law. McCain did his part in quashing any chance for creation of a publicly-funded health-care system.

On Jan. 19, 2011, 242 Republicans and three Democrats in the House passed the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law.” Arizona’s Republican House members who voted for it were Jeff Flake, Trent Franks, Paul R. Gosar, Benjamin “son of Dan” Quayle and David Schweikert, while Arizona Democrats Ed Pastor and Raul M. Grijalva voted against the bill. Of course, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords was hospitalized after surviving the Jan. 8 assassination attempt.

Arizona was among 26 states challenging the health-care law in court. One federal judge even ruled the entire law to be unconstitutional. However, these challenges were expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer faced a cash-flow nightmare. Collectively, many states were contending with a budget gap estimated at $125 billion. Brewer wanted to make up for almost half the state’s deficit by dumping 280,000 Arizonans from Medicaid coverage.

She sent a letter to Sebelius asking for a waiver in the new health-care law that requires the states to retain eligibility levels if they want to receive federal Medicaid money, according to The New York Times; other governors in both parties planned to follow suit. She wrote:

Please know that I understand fully the impacts of this rollback, and it is with a heavy heart that I make this request. However, I am left no other viable alternative.

Brewer wanted to unload 250,000 childless adults and 30,000 parents from Medicaid who were allowed eligibility as the result of a 2000 referendum. It was funded from cigarette levies and a tobacco lawsuit until 2004, when the general fund took up the slack, according to the Times.

Here was my recommended response from Sebelius, the mild-language version:

Jan, you talk about a heavy heart. You and your pals in Congress have hardened my heart. Democratic governors will get serious consideration for a waiver, but not any of you knotheads from Austin, Atlanta, Tallahassee or your beloved Phoenix. You might not have this problem if your cohorts in Congress had not obstructed a serious initiative to reform our health-care system. As my Democratic friends from the Bronx would say, waiver this! And give my best regards to Sen. McCain.

Rep. Allen B. West, a Republican, revealed serious mental-health issues when he sent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz a nasty personal note after she attacked his defense of a bill to reduce Medicare and other domestic spending on July 19, 2011. (Okay, so I’m not licensed to make m-h diagnoses; you judge).

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that Schultz, a Democrat, took to the House floor and said:

The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries — unbelievable from a member from south Florida.

West left the chamber immediately after his own speech, prompting Schultz’s rebuttal on the floor. He subsequently fired off this memo to Schultz and House leaders:

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!

Actually, West focuses on a different congressional district. He lives in Schultz’s district, but represents an adjacent district covering parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, though that’s a minor aspect.

In a fundraising letter, West wrote that Schultz “attacked me personally for supporting the legislation.” He has also griped about criticism for being a black conservative, sort of the Clarence Thomas of  Congress.

Schultz’s criticism of West on the House floor is known as “fair game.” Politicians habitually snipe at each other over policy issues. The grown-ups take it in stride, but West could not, well, take it.

Schultz was on target when she told The Miami Herald:

It’s not really surprising that he would crack under the pressure of having to defend that. If he feels that concerned and gets that churned up over having to defend his position then he probably should reconsider his position.

Hmm… Since when was she licensed to make mental-health diagnoses?

Tom DeLay offered these words of wisdom on Jan. 10, 2011:

This criminalization of politics is very dangerous, very dangerous to our system. It’s not enough to ruin your reputation. They have to put you in jail, bankrupt you, destroy your family.

“This criminalization of politics” did not disturb DeLay when he engineered the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 because the president lied about…his sex life.

DeLay felt far differently about it when Travis County Court Judge Pat Priest in Austin sentenced him to three years in prison for money laundering and conspiracy — the result of his role in channeling corporate donations to Texas state races in 2002, according to the New York Times.

The evidence presented at the trial showed that DeLay and two associates routed $190,000 in corporate donations in 2002 to several Republican candidates for the state legislature, using the Republican National Committee as a conduit. Texas law bars corporations from contributing directly to political campaigns.

DeLay and his Republican friends pushed for Clinton’s impeachment on grounds that he lied in court about sexual activity with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern. There were suggestions that Clinton’s denial did not constitute perjury. Clinton did nothing that affected his presidential duties. However anyone regards Clinton’s behavior, what’s the difference in terms of his job?

It was petty stuff, which is what DeLay claims about his conviction and sentencing. In fact, he charges that the Democratic district attorney was using the law to avenge his empowerment of Republicans.

DeLay was not using the power of impeachment to avenge Clinton’s empowerment of Democrats?

DeLay’s hypocrisy surfaced then, but his abuse of the Constitution’s impeachment clause was offensive.

Impeachment is briefly covered in Article II, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors

.

The framers of the Constitution had higher purposes for the impeachment clause than settling political scores. Now DeLay, who appealed his sentence, felt victimized by an unfair legal situation. Bad law or not, he was still convicted of violating it.

Next excerpt: To change policy, change the system

Horror on the Hudson

Part 2 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

“Children are not like roads. They will not remain static over the next few years and they will not get the chance to redo these school years when the economy gets better.”

– Debra Fuchs-Ertman, Scarborough, Maine

William Paterson’s distinguished career as New Jersey’s governor and senator, and subsequently as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, is a tad tarnished by his service as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The framers of the Constitution are habitually hailed as visionaries. Not altogether true. Paterson balked at the Virginia Plan for proportional representation in Congress. He predicted that the most populous states would dominate the agenda in Congress. Proportional representation would leave New Jersey and the other small states on the margins of power.

Paterson ultimately accepted the Connecticut Compromise that affords each state equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House.

With 8.7 million people, New Jersey is today America’s 11th most populous state, ranking immediately above Virginia. These days it seems as if the least populous states dominate the agenda, leaving the larger states – New Jersey among them – on the margins of power. Moral of this story? New Jersey and you, congested together.

More after the jump.
As Smoky the Bear might say, only you can prevent the collapse of the George Washington Bridge. If the GW crashes into the Hudson River, can you live with the scenes of twisted metal and the screams of the victims on your conscience?

As the wealthy lap up their luxury, the rest of us are now expected to find more money we do not have to rebuild our bridges and roads and supply jobs for the building trades unions.

Such is the message conveyed by our leaders in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, if indirectly through intermediaries. They refuse to raise taxes on the rich or profitable corporations, yet they want us to pay higher tolls and fees.

“The pain of higher tolls is nothing compared with the pain we would feel if the span of the George Washington Bridge collapses,” writes Mitchell Moss in a New York Daily News op-ed.

“There are dozens of critical maintenance projects like that – basic improvements that need to be made to keep things running smoothly,” the urban policy professor continued. “Contrary to popular belief, tolls are actually the best way to pay for highways and bridges.”

In a letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ricke C. Foster, president of the Contractors Association of Eastern Pennsylvania, writes: “The state has suffered for decades without the needed funds to invest in our highways and public transit systems. The recent recommendations by the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission offer a commonsense solution to our state’s transportation problem, in particular, raising additional funds specifically from transportation users.

“The cost for a typical motorist will be only 70 cents per week in the first year, growing to a still-modest $2.50 per week by year five – less than the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” he continues. “It’s a plan that will put Pennsylvania back on track to economic recovery and provide for our long-term prosperity.”

No argument. Our infrastructure has long been deteriorating. We know that. Likewise, repair projects to this end will create many jobs. We also know that the governors of both New York and New Jersey had until then refused to raise taxes on the wealthy; NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed his mind in December 2011. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has rebuffed all calls for imposing a production tax on ultra-profitable corporations that have been extracting shale gas underneath Pennsylvania land.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey antagonized motorists on both sides of the Hudson when in late August 2011 it proposed massive toll hikes on its bridges and tunnels across the Hudson and its bridges between New Jersey and Staten Island.

A commission in Pennsylvania recommended increases in taxes and fees to pay for repairs of state roads, bridges and mass-transportation systems. The increases would include annual vehicle and drivers’ fees.

As a man of vision, could William Paterson have envisioned this scenario?

The Port Authority originally proposed raising tolls for E-ZPass users from $8 to $12 and drivers who pay with cash would be charged almost double, from $8 to $15 for each trip. Fares for the PA’s subway-style service known as PATH would rise from $1.75 to $2.75.

The PA mess swiftly got ugly. Letters to the editor that were published were almost unprintable. Union workers filled some hearings to argue that the toll increases would produce jobs and upgrade the infrastructure, the NY News reported.

“This plan will be a lifeline for New York City workers, but it will also be a lifeline for our city’s infrastructure,” said Bernard Callegari, a member of Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79.

So poor and middle-class citizens should pay higher tolls and train fares so we can give Callegari and his friends jobs – jobs that will probably provide higher salaries than many of these people currently earn.

Also, union representative Michael McGuire said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch. We have serious infrastructure needs.”

Added Local 79 member Dennis Lee, “Haven’t we learned something from (the bridge collapse in) Minnesota when all those people died? Are we looking to be a Third World nation?”

Joe Valentine, vice president of Taxpayers of Staten Island, engaged in a shouting match with a union member after saying, “They come in here and try to intimidate me and the rest of Staten Island. You people are not even from Staten Island…I want your hands out of my pocket.”

Few people would be surprised if the unions and politicians orchestrated this spectacle. The Port Authority would get its toll and fare hikes and the unions would get their jobs. Everyone else would be squeezed even more.

The unions’ conduct is a sure way to lose sympathy. Any reasonable person would be pleased for anyone to find work, but opponents of the tolls are probably anxious to see these guys waiting in long employment lines.

If the politicians were behind it, they artfully played the divide-and-conquer game.

What the union members should have done was team up with the commuters. Instead, they apparently fell for the oldest trick in the book.

What’s more, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie balked at the PA’s toll-hike proposals – even though they appoint the members of the authority. They claimed they were caught flatfooted by the news.

Nor did anyone acclaim the governors as knights in shining armor who rescued them from the high tolls. The PA reduced the toll hikes considerably, but would raise the PATH fares 25 cents each year for the next four year instead of boosting it by $1 in one year.

Is it necessary to raise tolls to fund infrastructure repairs? Some of the wealthiest people in the world live in New York and New Jersey. They were already paying extra taxes before Christie ended it in New Jersey and Cuomo agreed to let them run out in New York. Cuomo campaigned on a no-tax pledge and must contend with a Republican-controlled state Senate.

Christie sacrificed money for schools and community services to soothe the rich. As a precursor to the toll increase, fares on New Jersey Transit trains rose nearly as much as 50 percent on May 1, 2010; a round-trip from Trenton to New York increased from $21.50 to $31.

So it’s strange to read Christie’s words in The New York Post: “What’s the cost of not paying higher tolls, if in fact we stop investing in our infrastructure to the region?…It’s about creating good-paying jobs for building tradesmen and women across our state, to put them to work on these projects.”

Rob Wonderling, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, tried to justify Pennsylvania’s fee increases in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed: “Additional proposals called for generating the revenue through an increase in the annual vehicle and drivers’ fees to inflation – by $13 and $5, respectively. The fees paid by these citizens have not been adjusted since 1987.”

So a failure to adjust said fees for 24 years obligates an increase. Maybe the state can think about adjusting the fees downward.

___________________________________________________

“I came in full of idealism – I was going to change my city,” Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s most populous city, told a New York Times reporter. “You get involved in government because you want to do more for the people, you want to show them that government can work and local government, by and large, really does work for the people.”

Finch caved to the same forces as other mayors, laying off 160 city employees. Mayors throughout the nation, gathering in Washington during late January 2011, testified to similar nightmares of cutting services, sending city workers to the unemployment lines, raising taxes and bracing for declining tax revenues and aid reductions from their own states, according to the NY Times.

The 200 mayors pressed their federal agenda as they visited President Obama and members of Congress, urging more spending on transportation and retaining the Community Development Block Grant program.

Many of these mayors expected their state governments to withhold more funds rather than help them since most states face moderate to devastating deficits. Among our largest states, California, population 36.9 billion, at the time faced a $25.4 billion deficit; Illinois, 12.9 million, $15 billion; Texas, 24.7 million, $13.4 billion; and New Jersey, $8.7 million, $10.4 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as reported in the NY Times.

Four states – Alaska, Arkansas, North Dakota and Wyoming – were not projecting shortfalls, according to the study.

The following June, mayors gathered in Baltimore where they called upon the president and Congress to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so that the money spent on military ventures could be diverted to the needs of the cities. In the preceding decade, $1.3 trillion was spent on Baghdad and Kabul.

So, cause and effect? Rats are swarming the underground. The jobless rate rises as stocks crash. Public school students confront class warfare. More blood flows on the city streets. And riots could come to a neighborhood near you.

“We have a lot of kids graduating college, can’t find jobs,” says Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who keeps contractors well sustained. “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”

Even political rival Jumaame Williams, a city councilman, is on the same page with Bloomy: “I don’t think it’s far-fetched that there could be civil unrest if people are not able to feed their families, just as it’s not far-fetched that if young people can’t get opportunities, violence will increase.”

A taste of the fallout as our societal nightmare worsened just as the 10th anniversary of 9.11 was observed. Especially as cuts imposed by state legislatures began to take effect.

Then 11 days after the anniversary, we learned that 46.2 million Americans were officially subsisting at the poverty level…in 2010. Of those, 1.6 million were living in New York City, up 75,000 from 2009, and nearly 400,000 resided in Philadelphia, up 64,000, according to New York and Philly papers.

The Census Bureau released these and other alarming figures in its 2010 American Community Survey, which reported that the national poverty rate rose from 14.3 percent to 15.1 percent in 2010, the third consecutive annual increase. However, one in five New Yorkers lived in poverty in 2010 while the poverty rate in Philadelphia rose 1.7 percent that year, from 25 to 26.7 percent. Other hard-hit cities were Los Angeles, Miami,
Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Minneapolis.

“A 1.7 percent increase from 25 percent to 26.7 percent poverty may not sound like a lot, but that’s nearly 23,000 more children, parents, brothers and sisters struggling to get by each and every day,” noted Kathy Fisher of Public Citizens for Children and Youth in Philadelphia.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, added, “Increasing poverty is simply a confirmation of what we see every day in ever-longer lines at food pantries and soup kitchens. It is also latest proof our city and state policies are failing in fundamental ways.”

It was a real surprise on Labor Day 2011 when a rat chomped on a woman’s foot as she sat on a bench waiting for a J train, inside the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station. Half-crazed from the attack, she rushed to a service booth and was taken to a hospital. She was treated and released.

The attack was unusual, sources told The New York Daily News, because the J train platform has a low rodent population. Now the platforms for the 4, 5 and 6 trains are “a rat fest,” said a transit worker.

In the wake of heavy layoffs, union officials and employees blamed less frequent garbage collections and failure to adequately seal trash storage rooms.

“I’ve heard of rats running over people’s feet,” the transit worker said. “But I’ve never heard of anyone actually bit.”

Trenton, N.J., laid off 105 police officers, nearly one-third of the force, on Sept. 16, 2011, to save $4 million, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Tony Mack attributed the layoffs to the loss of $28 million, from $55 million, in state funds from the past year. That follows steep police layoffs in Newark, Camden and Atlantic City.

“We’re losing the streets,” said Trenton Officer Maria Chell-Starsky, laid off after six years on the force. “We might as well just hand the city over to the gang members.”

Likewise, violence rose in the two major cities linked by the New Jersey Turnpike. Philadelphia’s homicide rate increased slightly during the 9/11 weekend with seven slayings in addition to 14 nonfatal shootings, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. The following weekend, gun use in New York prompted Cuomo to spout about gun control and related issues, The New York Daily News reported.

“It has been decades where we have been fighting Washington for sensible laws controlling guns, and we need those laws passed, and we need them passed now,” the governor said.

Basic law-enforcement services have suffered in the adjoining Midwestern states of Kansas and Missouri. A controversy among three arms of government has inflamed Topeka, Ks., after the Shawnee County District Attorney refused to prosecute suspects in misdemeanor cases of domestic abuse.

After the county commission cut his $3.5 million budget by 10 percent in 2011, District Attorney Chad Taylor said, his office would cease prosecuting misdemeanor cases of domestic violence. Topeka’s City Council, in turn, voted that October to repeal a local law categorizing domestic violence as a crime, The NY Times reported. That would compel Taylor to prosecute the cases since they would remain a crime under state law.

In addition to losing money, Taylor pointed out that violent crime has increased. “I feel like my office and public safety are a priority,” he said.

Shelly Buhler, chairperson of the Shawnee County Commission, said she did not expect Taylor to follow through with his warning that he would no longer prosecute domestic violence. “We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts,” she said.

“To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

In Missouri, a county public defender wondered aloud: “Is someone in prison who might have been acquitted if we had had more resources?”

Rod Hackathorn, public defender for a three-county district including Ozark County, adds, “You don’t know. I’m sure that it’s happened, and I don’t know who it has happened to. And that (is) the scariest part of this all.”

Hackathorn’s district was one of two in Missouri to announce in summer 2010 that it was turning down cases because they are overburdened and lack staff to serve all defendants, The NY Times reported. Nine other districts were taking steps to follow suit, and Public Defenders in other states have either sued over their caseloads or rejected new cases.

In one instance in Missouri, Christian County Judge John S. Waters said, “It flies in the face of our Constitution. It flies in the face of our culture. It flies in the face of the reason we came over here 300 and some-odd years ago to get out of debtors’ prison…I’m not saying the public defenders aren’t overworked. I don’t know how to move his case and how to provide what the law of the land provides.”

The public defender’s office had repeatedly begged the judge to release it from representing a defendant charged with stealing prescription pain pills and a blank check because of its workload. The Missouri Supreme Court subsequently rescinded the assignment pending further court proceedings.

“What you have is a situation where the eligible pool of  clients is increasing, crime rates are potentially increasing, while the resources often for public defenders are going down,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, president and chief executive of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Public-funded legal defense for indigent citizens charged with serious crimes was required as a result of the 1963 Supreme Court ruling, Gideon v. Wainwright.

However, Missouri’s public defenders office told the Times that $21 million more than $34 million it was slated to receive in 2010 is needed to staff it adequately. That would fund 125 more attorneys, 90 more secretaries, 109 more investigators, 130 more legal assistants and more space.

Due to school program cuts in Toledo, Ohio, boxing emerged as a popular sport by February 2011. A NY Times article chronicles how hundreds of teen-agers participated in boxing clubs after the school district terminated all athletic teams for middle school students and high school freshmen. Also cut were high school cross-country, wrestling, golf and boys’ tennis teams, along with all intramural activities that include cheerleading and dance teams.

Parents are willing to pay for boxing activities, as nurse’s assistant Tambria Dixson pays $90 monthly to a gym for her three sons. “Paying for it is a struggle,” she says. “But the kids in our neighborhood who aren’t involved in athletics are getting involved in gangs. So yes, it’s worth it.”

Because the California legislature is constrained from raising taxes, the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts filed a lawsuit against the state in late September 2011 claiming that Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature illegally manipulated the state’s voter-approved education funding formula to shortchange them by $2 billion, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Brown and the legislators circumvented a mandate to allocate 40 percent of state spending on schools in 2011 by converting more than $5 billion to local monies. The teachers union agreed to the plan, but a grouping of school boards and administrators chose to file suit. “We were really terribly underfunded before the recession began three years ago,” said Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. “There just has to be a stop to those sorts of cuts.”

No argument from the legislative majority, which is Democratic, but a two-thirds majority is required to increase taxes to offset severe cuts in school aid. Republicans occupy more than one-third of the seats and, predictably, refuse to cooperate

One victim of California’s 2011 budget cuts was the Los Angeles Unified’s elementary school library system, which laid off 227 of its 430 library aides and halved the hours of another 193 aides.

Jean Ross of the California Budget Project said in a statement quoted by LATimes columnist Steve Lopez, “Policymakers should not balance state and federal budgets at the expense of the families who have been hardest hit by the economic downturn…Policymakers should focus on proven strategies for improving the state’s competitiveness – strengthening our schools, our colleges and universities, and other public structures that are fundamental to job growth and a healthy economy.”

Lopez wrote, “Don’t we deserve a full public discussion in which we can question the wisdom of destroying an elementary school library system in a district with huge reading deficiencies?”

The school system in Scarborough, Me., was confronted with losing more than $1.1 million in state money, federal stimulus funds and other revenue sources, which translates to the equivalent of 12 full-time teaching positions and part-time jobs, according to The Portland Press-Herald.

The Board of Education spent an hour on March 17, 2011, listening to 13 residents, all of whom assailed the proposed cuts. Critics pointed to how the cuts affect class size, how programs should be upgraded and not diminished and the difficulties caused by activity fees.

“Children are not like roads,” said Debra Fuchs-Ertman. “They will not remain static over the next few years and they will not get the chance to redo these school years when the economy gets better.”

As Pittsburgh riders endured a transit crisis in March 2011, George Washington probably never imagined what would become of the triangular segment of land jutting out onto the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, where they formed the once-strategic Ohio River.

A case could be made that Pittsburgh’s Point State Park – first the site of Fort Duquesne and then Fort Pitt – indirectly inspired the creation of America. In 1754, then-Lt. Col. Washington led colonial troops toward that site to ensure construction of a British fort to control those waterways.

Along the way, Washington’s troops fought French soldiers in a brief battle at a spot known as Jumanville Glen. The engagement triggered events leading to the French-Indian War, which led to England’s demands for taxation to pay for the war, which set the course toward the Revolution.

Downtown Pittsburgh is located directly behind the park. It is the center of a region populated by almost 2 million people.

Yet in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ross, Tyler Boyer told a Post-Gazette reporter that he waited 70 minutes for a bus on March 28, 2011, the first weekday when severe cuts in bus service went into effect. He said four packed buses passed him until he joined with others to carpool downtown.

For five years, Kara Griffith caught a 7:27 a.m. bus in New Kensington each day to her job as a financial consultant in Pittsburgh, but on March 28 she had to start arriving at the stop at 7:05 a.m.

“The buses are packed. It’s standing room only. Some buses will pass you up,” she said. “For what I pay each month for a bus pass, and I get this kind of service? You raise your rates but give us poor service?”

One day earlier, Allegheny County’s Port Authority eliminated 29 bus routes and reduced service on 37 other routes while laying off 180 drivers and other employees. The authority blamed a $55 million deficit on the loss of state funds.

No doubt that Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and the remainder of America’s founders would feel proud and fulfilled that a great country evolved from a task that originated with them. However, they would probably be aghast to discover that an important city like Pittsburgh would be stripped of basic services provided by its transportation system.

Not to mention all the other cities, schools and towns that have been devastated in the wake of this recession.    

___________________________________________________

Robert Hudson may well have died so the city of New York could collect a fine from his wife for neglecting to wear her seatbelt. Maybe.

If the account presented by his widow’s attorney is true, Hudson was possibly victimized by New York’s desperate search for revenues to compensate for the money it has lost over the years. New York’s practice reflects the efforts of other cities and states to raise money.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has transformed this process into an art form, but it occurs in plenty of other places, especially in large cities and populous states. For decades, taxpayers in major cities and large states have been filling up the bulk of state and federal treasuries to the point that cities and states cannot support themselves.

To break this out, the federal government receives much more money from large states than elsewhere because that’s where the money is. Not only do we have a greater number of citizens to pay taxes in these states but a high percentage of the wealthy live in places like Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Fairfield County in Connecticut.

Not to mention suburbs like Newton in Massachusetts, Bethesda in Maryland, Lower Merion in Pennsylvania and Teaneck and Cherry Hill in New Jersey.

Likewise, these cities and wealthier communities stuff the coffers of state governments in higher proportions. The statehouses in Albany, Springfield and Sacramento stay in business largely thanks to downstate New York, Chicago and vicinity and Los Angeles County.

Of $8 billion in state sales tax revenues, Pennsylvania receives one-fourth of the total from seven counties, Philadelphia and its four suburban counties and two counties around Pittsburgh, according to state documents.

What kind of money does that leave for a city or a county, or a state? When they are in trouble, they must find ways to compensate. Often, the methods are outlandish and extreme, maybe enough to induce a fatal heart attack.

An account in The New York Daily News reported that Robert Hudson, 72, drove his wife Doris, also 72, to a Queens Village pharmacy on Jan. 14 so she could obtain medicine, and she took her seat belt off when they arrived.

Two police officers arrived, accused her of not wearing the belt and told her she would receive a summons, but she had no identification with her.

Hudson’s attorney, Bonita Zelman, told a Daily News reporter that police prohibited her husband from driving home to get the identification, so instead he spent 45 minutes walking home a half-mile back and forth.

While he was gone, Mrs. Hudson obtained her medicine and the officers wrote her a summons on the basis of her name and address from the prescription, the News reported.

The Hudsons subsequently returned to the car and drove off. After driving a block or more, Robert Hudson collapsed behind the wheel and later died at Franklin Hospital.  

“There was no reason not to let him drive home,” Zelman raged. “He wasn’t the one getting the summons. Instead, they had him walk home. He tried to walk as fast as he could, but he’s 72 years old and some of the walk is uphill.”

Mrs. Hudson disputed police claims that the officers were willing to write the summons without inconveniencing Mr. Hudson.

The News quoted an unidentified police official who said the officers “showed poor judgment.”

Reading between the lines, if Mrs. Hudson’s story is true, the officers were probably under relentless pressure to return to the police station with a stack of tickets that would generate wads of cash for the city.

Police officers elsewhere in New York have complained about being forced to make quotas, and this is typical of many local and state governments, and they do this with agencies other than police departments.

The Hudson episode would be an extreme example of how New York gropes for new money, but it is no isolated incident. A few years ago, some women were each fined $250 for wading into the ocean at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn after 7 p.m. Even if they violated the law, why were the fines so steep?

Not only members of City Council but also state legislators fumed over a plan for the fire department to charge at-fault motorists $365 and $490 for any kind of car accident with the intention of raising $1 million yearly, a tiny fraction of the department’s $60 million budget gap.

“This cracks open a door that if we don’t close now, they’ll kick open and start charging fees for 911 or garbage pickup,” state Sen. Eric Adams of Brooklyn told a Daily News reporter.

Added Councilman Peter Vallone of the Astoria section of Queens: “Firefighters are supposed to provide help, not assess damage and who is to blame. They are simply not set up to be judge and jury at the scene.”

More than 3.2 million parking tickets were contested in 2010, 15 percent higher than those contested the year before, stated the 2010 Mayor’s Management Report, according to the News. More than $600 million from parking tickets were collected by the Finance Department in 2010.

New Jersey’s school aid cuts had a strange downhill impact. Gov. Chris Christie axed state aid to the schools by $1 billion to contend with the state’s $11 billion budget gap. After losing $1.5 million from the state, Haddonfield’s school district initiated a campaign to attract tuition-paying students from outside the district for 10 students per grade between sixth and 10th grades, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The primary reason is to raise revenue because of the loss of state aid,” said Superintendent Richard Perry.

School officials in the Los Angeles United School District – second largest in America – had hoped to raise up to $18 million by seeking corporate sponsorships to make a dent in budget cuts. In November, 2010, 1,000 employees were let go in a new round of layoffs, the NY Times reported.

School board members who approved the corporate sponsorship program in December found the move distasteful. “The reality is public funding is not funding public education,” Steve Zimmer said. Smaller school districts have been permitting naming rights for their stadiums for a long time, but Los Angeles is the biggest district to take this step.

The D.C. Council in Washington considered a bill in December 2010 to force homeless families to prove they reside in Washington before they can be admitted to a shelter, according to The Washington Post. Council members argued during a meeting that the homeless shelters are frequently overwhelmed.

“We cannot be the hotel for Virginia and Maryland residents,” said bill co-sponsor Tommy Wells, a Democrat.

Mary M Cheh, also a Democrat, said, “I think in its various applications it’s going to be cruel.”

When New Yorkers suffered through a mammoth snowstorm, the city could pull in $500,000 from issuing 9,910 summonses to people who failed to move their vehicles when its alternate-side parking rules resumed on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, following the deluge of snow and ice, the Times reported.

Spoiled motorists whined that their cars were still trapped by snow and ice, and therefore they could not move them to legal spots. Talk about entrapment.    

The Resignation of Anthony Weiner: Wrong on so Many Levels

Crossposted from DemConWatch

The resignation was in some ways anticlimactic. I'm much more disappointed by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Chris Van Hollen relative to this whole situation than by Weiner. 

Remember Charlie Rangel? Here is a guy who REALLY broke the public trust. The Ethics Committee investigated him for years. He still hasn't paid his parking tickers. He still has the place in the Caribbean and four (4!!!) rent controlled apartments. No member of the Democratic leadership ever publicly called for his resignation. They didn't call for William “Cash” Jefferson's resignation. 

His offense, according to Bill Maher, was that of all the people involved in any form of sex scandal, he didn't get any. I think that's funny, but not the actual reason.

The Democratic leadership didn't LIKE Anthony Weiner. He was a lifetime politician, having been in some form of public service his whole career. He started out working for Chuck Schumer, went on to be a NYC councilman, and then to the House. Rumour has it his original career goal was to be a TV weatherman. He has always been an unabashed liberal: if you look at his record, you'll see that he is someone who actually probably read both the US Constitution and the Democratic Party platform and STUCK TO THEM. He never backed down. A thorn in the side of a spineless, ball-less leadership that prefers compromise to winning. They didn't honestly like his politics, nor his persona. On a personal level, they didn't like HIM.

A secondary consideration is related to what Bill Maher said: “people” find sexting weird. Well, people of a certain age. Certainly teenagers don't. An affair? Lots of people have affairs. Have since the dawn of marriage. It's in the Old Testament, early on. Hookers? The world's oldest profession. Sexting is new, texting is only about 20 years old:

The first text message (“Happy Christmas”) was sent in on December 3, 1992 over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom from Neil Papworth of Sema Group from an R&D lab using a personal computer to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone.

Sexting is much newer: think about when you started texting. And face it, like all technologies, eventually sex gets involved. As in: there was less phone sex on party lines then there was once 900 numbers became popular. As it happens, the term “sexting” was only coined in 2005. And let's be honest, ON AVERAGE, the younger you are, the more likely you are to embrace newer technologies sooner. Which explains Nancy and Steny, but you'd think that even if they don't do it, Chris and Barack would have been less appalled. Oh, wait, they didn't LIKE him. 

The resignation itself causes unintended consequences for the Democrats: especially Andrew Cuomo who should be spending time getting gay marriage passed and not be distracted having to come up with a primary date.

Today, the left lost a solid voice. A solid vote. It's a sad day. 

 

Saving the House: Grassroots to the Rescue

Crossposted from DemConWatch 

Yesterday, chatter started early in the morning with Mike Allen's Playbook that “highly placed Democratic operatives” were convinced the House is gone come November. This was repeated throughout the MSM during the day and evening. The “operatives” were never named.

In a few hours, the GDP numbers for second quarter are due to come out, and they're expected to be devastating. This on top of bad housing and consumables numbers earlier this week. So much for “recovery summer.” Bad for the home team.

If the House is gone, what will the GOP do once John Boehner is Majority Leader? Will they try to fix the economy? Nope. Will they extend Tier 5 benefits? No. Will they actually try to make government smaller, as the teabag candidates are promising? Not a chance. What they'll do is to launch all sorts of investigations to punish Democrats, find new tax programs to soak the middle class while giving dollars on top of more dollars to the rich, and will work to stop anything of worth that the Senate or Administration might attempt to do. Finally, they'll endeavor to do anything they can to eviscerate even more of the Constitution than the Bushies had time to get to. 

Ugly.

Therefore, this is the time to get up and organize. Yes you. The people who don't knock doors and make phone calls – we need you.  Make it a point to call one person a day: or just 7 a week. Friends, family members, neighbors, your kids' friends' parents – tell them how important it is to not let the House go down. (And to vote for the correct Senate candidate, too.) You think that so little an effort won't matter, but it will. It's grassroots, and it will make a difference. Remind them that this economy is the FAULT of the Republicans, and doing the same thing and expecting the same result is the definition of both stupidity and insanity. Convince them to make that one phone call a day.

If we don't do this, not only will we lose the House, but we'll deserve to lose the House.

Before joining DCW in the spring of 2008, I used to send a morning email to about 600 people, which was passed to more people than that. I had started that in 2000. A lot of you reading this have been reading me for a decade. Over that time, I've asked you to contribute to various charities, to get out and vote, to get your kids registered, to join with local organizations and work to get people elected. Some pleas were heeded, and some fell flat. But if I can't get you to make a few phone calls, and you stay home on election day along with everyone else, then the teabaggers win.

I know you're discouraged. I know you're disappointed. Angry. Recently impoverished. Scared.

Get up, get out, and do it anyway.

Need a phone list, a local contact, a script, more information? Drop an email to the demconwatch email address in the left side bar. Put in your phone number if you want me to call you.

This is the little blonde girl saying: please, PLEASE, help me save my world. The stakes are too high to stay silent. And yes, we can.

Together we certainly can. 

Who are you visiting?

Crossposted from DemConWatch

Congress has gone home. To your neighborhood. What these boys and girls are supposed to be doing is visiting with you, the voter. All the reps and Senators have websites. These sites will either list the public activities they'll be attending, or give you contact information for their local offices which you could call for information or to set up a meeting.

Some people interact with Congress on a regular basis. You know if you're one of these people: when you call, the staffers either sigh in a way that indicates “I cannot believe it's you, again” or ask after your family, all of whom they know by name. We can't all be like that. You actually can develop a personal relationship with your elected officials. My mom for many years had an interactive relationship with a Senator who will remain nameless, but his initials were Bob Torricelli. He had a position on one issue that, um, resonated with her. He'd have a speaking engagement where there was audience participation, and she'd be there. Everywhere he went. They were on a first name basis. For years. There's art.

More after the jump, and a poll!

But on a more normal basis, they will all be out and around, and if you want them to know what you think, you should consider going to an event, calling, and/or stopping by the office. This is true whether you have an elected official you love, or one you are actively working to replace. While the public events will likely not be as rude and contentious as they were last summer, and might not involve forging flooded roadways to get there, they will likely still be interesting and potentially worthwhile. 

Elected officials only get re-elected if they have the support of their constituencies, or at least that's what's supposed to happen. They can only vote your opinion if you let them know what it is. Even Rick “Spawn of Satan” Santorum was known to change votes based on his constituency input. Sure, not always, but on occasion. Point is, you say nothing, and they don't know how the populace feels beyond what polls tell them. And national polls may well not reflect local sentiment.

So what are your plans?