Archive (2008)

Local and National News

The Messenger-Post's Bryan Roth has a long story, with some good local color, on the S-CHIP veto override.

Liz Benjamin has read Eliot Spitzer's campaign finance reports, and she finds that Eric Massa is one of the recipients of Spitzer's largesse.

In the speculation department, there's a rumor out that Jim Walsh (NY-25) is retiring.

There's a (small) possibility that Republicans will not be allowed to add earmarks to bills.

Finally, I'm not the only person who thinks that a stimulus package will grow the deficit and endanger the country's financial future:

"While much attention will be paid in the coming weeks to the contours of a fiscal stimulus bill, no one should overlook the implication of today's report by the Congressional Budget Office that we are heading into the baby boomers' retirement years in a position of fiscal weakness," said Robert Bixby, the head of the Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group[.]

Update:  Reader Elmer sends the Corning Leader front page [pdf] and jump [pdf] with two S-CHIP stories.  One covers the override, and the other has reactions from Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa.

S-CHIP Veto Override Fails Again

Unsurprisingly, Randy Kuhl voted to uphold the veto.  Here's the roll call.

Morning Links

Some anti-abortion protesters from the Twin Tiers marched in DC and met with Randy Kuhl. 

Eric Massa will be leading a discussion of Fiasco, a book about the Iraq War, today at noon at the Corning Library.

Yesterday's Massa news conference on S-CHIP got some more press, as did Randy Kuhl's response to the new border regulations.

Another Chapter in the Passport Saga

The Department of Homeland Security has long wanted every person passing across the US/Canadian border present a passport (or a drivers' license plus birth certificate or naturalization papers).  Since passports these documents are expensive or a hassle, Western New York's congressional delegation has consistently opposed that measure.  DHS keeps announcing deadlines far in the future, and our delegation continues to get those deadlines pushed back.  The last compromise pushed the "absolute, final date" back to June, 2009, a date that few took seriously.

Since the DHS was losing at the "final deadline" game,  they're trying a new tactic:  fuck-you arrogance. Yesterday, the DHS announced that they're going to require passports or two forms of id at the border starting January 31, and Director Michael Chertoff told all involved that "It's time to grow up."  Cue hyperventilation on the part of Randy Kuhl and every other resident of the 29th who was planning to travel to Canada without a passport.

I can only imagine that Chertoff's arrogance will end up with a win-win for DHS and our local Congressman. Our delegation will swoop in to correct Chertoff's injustice, thus protecting us from the evil and unfeeling DHS bureaucracy, by getting him to agree to a later deadline. In the short run, Chertoff will get slapped down, but in the end he'll get passports at the border.   

The only losers in this play are those of us who don't want to pay $70, or go through the hassle of digging up a birth certificate, to prove our identity at the border.

Update:  The original post indicated that only a passport will be accepted.  A drivers' license plus birth certificate or naturalization papers will also be allowed. 

Hobby-Horse Update

I'm trying to avoid sounding like an old man sitting on the porch telling the young'uns how easy they have it nowadays, so I've combined all my hobby horse issues into one post.  Here comes voting technology and the D&C, with an Iraq chaser:

I haven't posted much about voting technology since New York wisely decided to delay their decision and stick with our lever machines for the near future.  But I can't help pointing and laughing at the recent Maryland decision to scrap their Diebold system and start over with paper ballots and scanners.  Money quote:

By 2010, four years before its $65 million touch-screen machines will be paid off, Maryland expects to be back on the paper trail, following states such as Florida and California, which have also decided that all-electronic systems make it too easy to compromise elections.
So it turns out that quitting the D&C isn't as simple as it sounds.  I canceled my subscription on New Year's Day, yet three weeks later  I'm still getting the paper delivered every day to my door.  I've called the D&C's customer service office in Louisville, KY and been assured that my subscription is canceled.   I can only imagine that this little bit of administrative incompetence is a tiny window into the irrational "rationalization" of customer service into a few mega-centers.

Finally I want to recommend last week's Fresh Air series on Iraq.  Host Terry Gross interviewed 10 different guests, each of whom had long experience and a different perspective on the war.  It's well worth listening to both shows, the first here, and the second here.  Fresh Air is also available as a podcast here -- pick the January 16 and 17 shows.  One of the most interesting guests, Lt. Col. John Nagl, who was a major player in writing the Army counterinsurgency manual, announced his retirement on the day the show was aired.

Another S-CHIP Showdown

Eric Massa is holding a press conference at 11 A.M. today at the Rochester headquarters of the UNITE union.  The subject is the scheduled S-CHIP veto override, which is set for tomorrow.

Other than Kuhl's recent S-CHIP mailer, the only other event which might change how some feel about S-CHIP is Governor Spitzer's decision to include full S-CHIP funding in the New York State budget.  If Kuhl and others had supported the S-CHIP override, that $37 million would have come from the federal budget, not the state's.

Update:  Rochester City Newspaper has a story based on the press conference.

Update 2
:  Video, from the Massa YouTube channel, after the break.

Kuhl Supports Mortgage Relief

The Messenger-Post has a story on Randy Kuhl's support of HR 4627, a bill that would allow interest-free withdrawals from 401(k) plans to pay for mortgages.  While Kuhl thinks it's a good idea, a financial planner quoted in the story says that it's never a right to take money out of retirement plans.

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of a financial planner, but this bill makes sense to me.  There are a few circumstances, such as someone with good job prospects who's temporarily out of work, where a making mortgage payments from a retirement plan is a good strategy. Unfortunately, there are many other situations where the bill will allow homeowners to double down when they should be cutting their losses. 

In the end, this and other efforts to blunt the impact of the mortgage crisis can't really do much, because the risk of rewarding speculators far outweighs the benefit of rescuing a few legitimate victims.  If the mortgage crisis ends in a bailout, it will engender a new, larger bubble fueled by speculators assuming that government will swoop in to rescue them if the market goes south.  Of course, it isn't politic to point that out, so Kuhl and other politicians will continue to trot out band-aids like this one as the recession deepens.

Kuhl on Stimulus

Randy Kuhl complimented the Democratic leadership for working with Republicans to craft a stimulus package.

I have one question for stimulus supporters of either party:  Will the checks be printed with a picture of Hu Jintao, or is the memo line "I.O.U. - P.R.C" sufficient?

Pop-Up Energy

Randy Kuhl sent me a new mailer. This one is on energy policy, and you can see what I thought of it by checking out Pop-Up Energy

Various Items

I missed the Massa press conference today. For the near future, I'll attend Massa press conferences if something big comes up, or if I haven't checked in with the Massa camp for a while.  There isn't much going on in the 29th race at the moment, and I'm not going to pretend that there is, nor am I going to insult my readers' intelligence by re-hashing stuff that's already been covered.

In the meantime, Norm Ornstein, who is a center-left expert on Congress, is participating in a conversation on the New Republic site.  I thought Norm captured the last year's follies pretty well in this paragraph:

The Senate is at the root of many of the problems Democrats faced this year. Republicans applied delaying tactics that had never been used before--on highly controversial issues as well as routine ones, and not just by filibustering, but by regularly denying unanimous consent in a body where everything moves, or doesn't, by unanimity. It had the twin effect of raising the bar to 60 on nearly every issue, and slowing down the Senate as if there were gallons of molasses poured onto the roadway. Because a filibuster can be applied as many as three separate times on a bill, and a successful cloture vote allows up to 30 hours of debate after it passes, filibuster efforts, even on widely accepted matters, can take days to resolve. And by raising the bar to 60, it meant that many matters with majority support--like limiting farm subsidy payments to non-millionaires--went by the boards. Combine these delaying tactics with the president's near-universal veto strategy, and you have a formula for gridlock.
As Norm points out, it really doesn't matter what the House does if the Senate passes everything through its sphincter of delay.  The inevitable end result will be bad compromises and kitchen-sink bills that serve petty partisan interests while they delay the inevitable reckoning that's coming on energy policy, our massive deficit, and our seemingly endless involvement in Iraq.  I think the whole exchange between Norm and a couple of other TNR reporters is well worth reading.

Also, those of you who are frustrated by the superficial yet never-ending coverage of the presidential race might want to check out Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece, and Glenn Greenwald's exchange with John King of CNN.

Pop-Up S-CHIP Mailer

For all you VH-1 viewers out there, the Fighting29th is proud to present Pop-Up SCHIP.  Move your mouse over the boxes and see what pops up.

Kuhl's Site Wins Award

Randy Kuhl's official website won a "Silver Mouse" award from the Congressional Management foundation.  Here's the list of winners, and the Star-Gazette's writeup.