"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Paging Dr. Christie, Dr Cuomo”: When Did Chris Christie And Andrew Cuomo Go To Medical School?

Just when you thought the Republican slime-ballers had run out of muck, you discover, no, they have more mud to throw at honorable people. And they are not just smearing Barack Obama. This time, they are disparaging the doctors and scientists at the National Institutes of Health and depicting them as weak-willed tools of the Democratic Party. If Americans fall for this, they may get the government they deserve—stripped of honest science and trustworthy decisions.

Republicans are not stupid, but they are shameless. They know people are rattled by the stealthy emergence of Ebola and that media hype has reflexively pumped up the danger and public confusion. NIH experts calmly explained what has to be done to defeat the disease and assured nervous citizens that healthcare teams are on the case. The GOP saw opportunity in unfolding tragedy and rushed to exploit it.

A political hack named Ed Rogers, corporate lobbyist and White House insider under Republican presidents, chortled gleefully over the political twist. His op-ed in The Washington Post hailed the brave governors of New York and New Jersey—Democrat Cuomo and Republican Christie—for intervening with a common-sense response. Any doctor or nurse who had gone to West Africa to treat Ebola victims should be automatically locked up in quarantine when they return home.

Rogers boasted, “If there is a Republican wave in the elections next Tuesday, pundits may well claim that it fully formed when Christie and Cuomo decided to go their own way with an Ebola strategy, despite objections from the White House.” People will be reassured by their common-sense intervention, he said, because “voters don’t trust the president to do the right thing and they are less likely to vote for those who echo the president’s blasé response.”

Actually, this know-nothing attack was launched by two well-known cynics of politics, both of whom lust after presidential ambitions. What Ed Rogers left out of the slime ball aimed at Obama is that it actually smeared some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and principled employees of the federal government. The real question at stake is whether the GOP demagoguery will succeed in destroying yet another citadel of advanced science and public values.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who played a significant role in the successful war against AIDS/HIV, has explained patiently and repeatedly why rigid quarantines of healthcare workers would actually increase the dangers. “The best way to protect the US is to stop the epidemic in Africa and we need those healthcare workers so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer.”

If political pollsters were more devoted to the public interest than their political clients, they would ask people this question: Whom do you most trust to handle the battle against Ebola—Dr. Fauci, the longtime leader of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or Chris Christie, the author of political vendettas against Jersey mayors who failed to support him? Or do people think Andrew Cuomo knows more than Anthony Fauci about how to organize the global counterattack against this dread disease?

The questions sound ludicrous, but they need to be asked. Once these guys finish with New York and New Jersey, they want to run the country. Let me restate the question in a harsher way people can understand: Who do you think will manage to kill more people with Ebola—Dr. Fauci or Governors Cuomo and Christie, the political twins?

Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she often does, is pushing back hard against the irresponsible politicians. On CBS This Morning, she said Christie “should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that because we know that we want to be led by the science. That’s what’s going to keep people safe—science, not politics.”

She went further and suggested the Republican party may have blood on its hands because it has pushed hard to cut NIH spending and thus research on the Ebola virus. “So now we’re in a position where instead of making those investments upfront, we wait until people die and now we’re going to spend billions of dollars and some real risk to our country.”

Good question. Why don’t reporters ask Dr. Christie and Dr Cuomo?


By: William Greider, The Nation, October 29, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Ebola | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Right-Wing Incumbent’s”: Five Awful GOP Governors Who Need To Go

Senate, Senate, Senate. Of course it’s the most important battle this fall, the top fight on the card. But there’s a lot of other action to watch. I’ll write plenty about Senate races between now and Election Day, but today, let’s look at the key governors races. From a liberal point of view, there are five that are clearly the most important; five where taking out the right-wing incumbent would be gratifying either for its own sake, for what it might suggest about 2016, or in some cases both. Here we go, in order:

1. Rick Scott, Florida. Scott seems to be maintaining a slender lead over Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who’s running against him. But it’s all margin-of-error stuff at this point—Scott leads narrowly in most polls, and every so often one finds Crist ahead. There is a third candidate, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who’s running between 4 and 8 percent and, according to one poll, drawing equally from Scott and Crist.

The most important thing about this race is not political but—lo and behold!—substantive. If Crist wins, the biggest state in the union that is not participating in Obamacare may do so. Governor Crist would have to battle with the legislature about accepting the Medicaid money, but this has been a central plank of his campaign, just as refusing the money has been central to Scott’s campaign. If Crist were to win and push acceptance of the funds through, the state could gain $66 billion in federal dollars over the next decade and insure 1.1 million more people. It’d be a huge step forward for the Affordable Care Act.

And of course there are 2016 ramifications as well. In most states that have taken the Medicaid money, doing so has turned out to be pretty popular. If Crist gets in and manages to implement Obamacare in a reasonably successful way, that has to help whoever the Democratic candidate is. And when a party controls a governor’s mansion, its donor base is more engaged and its network of local activists and volunteers is more energized.

2. Scott Walker, Wisconsin. I’m confident I speak for all of American liberalism when I say we’d love to see this smarmy, smug, self-satisfied little blobfish go down to defeat. Right now, he’s basically tied with Democrat Mary Burke. He’s ahead by three points in one recent poll, she’s up four in another. One factor that could help Walker in turnout terms is that, of the state’s eight congressional districts, the only two in which the races are competitive are GOP-leaning districts, so that could push Republican turnout up a bit. On the other hand, Obama’s job approval in Wisconsin isn’t so bad, at 45-49, so it’s not like a Kentucky or Arkansas, where loads of conservative voters are going to vote just to register their animus toward the president.

I rank Walker second on my list because he’s a potential presidential contender for 2016. The conventional wisdom now in Washington is that he’s the 2016 Tim Pawlenty—the guy who looks good on paper but isn’t ready for prime time. But who knows, the conventional wisdom is wrong all the time about these things. And if somehow Walker were to demonstrate that he’s ready for prime time and capture the Republican nomination, then there’s a chance he could win—only a chance, I think—his home state, and that’s 10 electoral votes that would really alter the Electoral College calculus (the Democrats haven’t lost Wisconsin since 1984). Better just to take him out now and not have to worry about such exigencies.

3. Nathan Deal, Georgia. A true wingnut, former House member Deal has presided over the new gun law that lets people pack heat in America’s busiest airport, spoken fondly of the old Stars and Bars, and sent most of the other signals you’d expect someone like that to send to reactionary white voters. While in the House, he was something of a birth-certificate “truther.” That all combines to stand a chance of rendering Deal a bit much even by the hardened standards of the Peach State, where polls show him one or two goober peas ahead of Jason Carter, grandson of Jimmy. Carter is well to grandpap’s right—he supported the new gun law, for example. But at least he’d probably not say things like, “My wife tells me she could look at her sixth-grade class and tell ya which ones are going to prison and which ones are going to college.”

But here’s the real importance of this race: A Carter win would terrify the GOP heading into 2016. Remember, Obama lost the state by just eight points. I can guarantee you that on the day after the election in 2012, when political pros on both sides saw that result, their universal next thought was: Holy smokes, Hillary could win that state. And indeed, while statewide opinion polling on Clinton vs. GOP field in ’16 is scant, as often as not, it shows that she leads the major Republicans already. A Carter victory would start intensive “Will Georgia Turn Blue?” talk. Whereas a flip of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes would make life a little more complicated for the Democrats, a flip of Georgia’s 16 would pulverize any GOP chances of the White House.

4. Rick Snyder, Michigan. Like Walker, Snyder is an anomaly, a conservative Republican who won in a usually slightly left-of-center state in 2010, the tea party year. He’s been better than Walker—he did, for example, come around to accepting the Obamacare Medicaid money after having initially opposed it. And he signed a bill raising the minimum wage. But he’s been plenty conservative, too, pushing for hugely controversial right-to-work legislation, and presiding over the usual scorched-earth public education policies. Snyder is basically tied with Democrat Mark Schauer.

Snyder is too conservative for that state. It’s as if, oh, Indiana had a Democratic governor—it’s something that happens, but it’s just not the natural order of things. Besides which, if he wins reelection, we’re going to have to endure a mountain of GOP spin about how the party is going to take back Michigan in ’16, even though Republicans haven’t carried it since 1988. If he loses, there’s a sporting chance the media will be less gullible about such nonsense

5. Paul LePage, Maine. This one has no 2016 ramifications. The Democratic presidential candidate will win Maine, although the state is one of two where it’s legal to split electors, so the Republican could conceivably win one of the state’s four electoral votes. But LePage is just America’s highest-ranking elected baboon, with a long string of comments that aren’t just “incendiary,” to employ one of the standard euphemisms, but simply embarrassing to the Republican Party, the state of Maine, and the human race. He’s running just a hair behind Democrat Mike Michaud, a member of the House of Representatives. There’s an independent candidate polling in the low double digits and stealing more from Michaud than LePage, so he might be the incumbent’s salvation.

There are several other important governor’s races. I left Kansas’ Sam Brownback off my list because it already looks as if, while there’s still plenty of time on the clock, he’s going to lose. But the significance of a Republican incumbent governor losing in Kansas would be pretty great, although obviously it wouldn’t impact 2016, since a Democratic presidential candidate will win Kansas the same year the great and powerful Oz returns in his hot-air balloon to the state fair. Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois are all tight races, too. There’s no denying it. Election night is likely to be a long night for liberals. But catching glimpses of the concession speeches from the above quintumverate would make the night a lot less painful.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2014

September 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So What’s The Point?”: Mandatory ID ‘Isn’t Just For Voting Anymore’

As part of a broader voter-suppression campaign, Republican policymakers in many states now require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast an election ballot. This step, ostensibly intended to combat voter fraud that doesn’t exist, is a hurdle that’s never been necessary before, and which studies show disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies. There’s ample evidence of registered voters already being blocked from voting because of these measures.

But as my msnbc colleague Zack Roth reports, “For Republicans, requiring photo ID isn’t just for voting anymore.” It’s now being applied to recipients of government benefits.

North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature – which last year passed a voter ID requirement as part of the nation’s most restrictive voting law – advanced a bill Thursday that would make recipients of jobless benefits also show a photo ID. It’s expected to pass next week. […]

Other Republican-led states are even moving to require photo ID to buy food. Starting in July, welfare and food stamp recipients in Maine will have to show photo ID, under a program pushed by far-right Republican governor Paul LePage. He said transactions records show food stamp cards were used thousands of times at strip clubs, smoke shops, and bars, which isn’t allowed. Georgia recently passed a similar requirement for food stamp recipients.

Given all of these efforts, one might assume that fraud is rampant and that ID requirements would save money while preventing illegal schemes.

Except, that’s not quite right.

As Zack’s report made clear, fraud does exist when it comes to the distribution of government benefits, but most of the wrongdoing is the result of “concealed-earnings fraud,” which refers to people who have financial resources they mask in order to remain eligible for benefits, cheating the system.

How would forcing these people to show ID prevent this fraud? It wouldn’t.

For that matter, because food-stamp benefits are distributed by way of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, ID requirements wouldn’t reduce fraud here, either.

So what’s the point? Proponents will have to answer these questions themselves, though Zack’s report added a key detail:  ”Studies suggest around 11% of Americans – including one in four African-Americans – don’t have a photo ID. Among those who receive government benefits, that number is almost certainly higher.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2014

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Easy And Instant Voting”: A Great Idea Whose Time Has Come, Again

Forty years ago, at a point when Americans were profoundly concerned about declining voter participation, democracy advocates proposed a fix: “instant voting.”

To remove barriers and increase participation in elections, the argument went, officials should make it possible for citizens to show up at a polling place, register to vote and then cast a ballot.

Instead of jumping through registration and participation hoops over a period of weeks, even months, people could just vote.

A handful of states—Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin—began to implement the idea and something exciting happened: turnout soared.

But the approach was controversial.

In my home state of Wisconsin, then-Governor Pat Lucey implemented the reform.

Lucey, who died last week at age 96, was a remarkable figure. He helped build the modern Democratic Party of Wisconsin, ushering an an era of two-party competition for a state where in the mid-1950s virtually every top official was a Republican. He was close to the Kennedys, playing especially important roles in the John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential run and Bobby Kennedys 1968 race. He bid for the vice presidency in 1980 as the running mate of liberal Republican John Anderson on a “national unity” ticket. As a prominent realtor in Wisconsin, he championed open housing as a part of a broad commitment to civil rights. As governor, he forged a strong university system, established fair and equitable funding for public schools, reformed criminal justice and the courts, fostered labor-management cooperation and economic growth, and appointed the first woman to the state Supreme Court.

But some of Lucey’s greatest accomplishments were as a political reformer, who championed open government and campaign finance reform—and who fought to make it easy to vote.

Pat Lucey believed in high-turnout elections. And Lucey was enough of a structural reformer to recognize that policies could contribute to making lofty rhetoric about popular democracy into an Election Day reality. Indeed, his support for Election Day voter registration was so significant that it helped to make this particular reform central to a national debate about how to expand the electorate.

In the mid-1970s, Lucey and his legislative allies moved to enact what the national media referred to as “instant voting”—a new set of rules designed to allow citizens to simply show up at a polling place, register and cast a ballot. This was a radical change from the restrictive rules that were in place in much of the country, many of which had their roots in the machinations of big-city bosses and Southern segregationists who were disinclined toward expanding the electorate.

When Wisconsin enacted rule changes to remove barriers to voting, it was national news. The New York Times highlighted Wisconsin’s 1975 plan for “easy and instant voting.” Critics screamed that this was a recipe for fraud, expressing particular concern about language that allowed for registration with a Wisconsin driver’s license, a student ID or fee card “or any other ID judged to be acceptable by local election officials.” There were demands for monitoring of elections by the US attorney’s office in Milwaukee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But after a review of the 1976 election, officials confirmed that the FBI “found no evidence of fraud or voter theft.”

What was found was high turnout. In November 1976, 210,000 Wisconsinites—11 percent of the total electorate—registered at the polls. The Times reported that “in Milwaukee, for example, registration in 1974 was at the comparatively high level of 65 percent. After Wisconsin adopted Election-Day registration in 1976, registration jumped to 86 percent.” Hailing the Wisconsin accomplishment, along with more modest advances in Minnesota (which also embraced Election Day registration), the paper argued that all America should “trust democracy by enlarging it.”

President Jimmy Carter agreed. He tried to take the Wisconsin model national, with a proposal for universal Election Day registration. It never quite happened. This country continues to have a patchwork of different registration rules, some of them absurdly restrictive. And there have been efforts in a number of states, including Wisconsin, to eliminate Election Day registration and limit related reforms such as those allowing for early voting.

These are moves in the wrong direction. So wrong that they have frequently been blocked by responsible legislators and the courts. But Maine Governor Paul LePage and his allies actually did eliminate Election Day registration in that state in 2011—only to have it restored by a 60-40 popular vote in November of the same year. Former American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Director Shenna Bellows, who helped get the issue on the ballot and who now is a US Senate candidate, said at the time, “Maine voters sent a clear message: No one will be denied a right to vote.”

Voters like Election Day registration, and for good reason—Election Day registration works.

As Demos notes:

Voting rights advocates have long argued that no voter should lose their access to the ballot just because they missed a registration deadline, or because a paperwork error left them off the rolls. Any number of studies have found that turnout will get a boost if people can register on Election Day, and that argument is backed up by the (data analyzed Nonprofit VOTE, a nonpartisan group that encourages nonprofits to engage voters).

Among states that allow residents to establish or update their registration the same day they vote, turnout was 71.3 percent on average—far above the 58.8 percent for the remaining states. Five of the Same Day Registration states appear in the top 10.

This effect can’t be explained away by other factors. For example, one useful predictor of voters’ inclination to participate was the margin in the presidential race—turnout was highest in the 10 swing states where the Obama and Romney campaigns battled most intensely. But even among these 10 swing states, the three that allow Same Day Registration easily beat out the others in turnout, with Colorado the only exception.

Unfortunately, Election Day registration is not universal, as Pat Lucey, Jimmy Carter and the reformers of the 1970s hoped it would be.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, less than a third of US states “currently offer, or have enacted laws which provide for Election Day registration, allowing eligible citizens to register or update their records on Election Day.” Several states have moved recently to create the option, including California, Maryland and Hawaii. But most Americans, especially those in Southern states with historically low turnout patterns, don’t have it.

So Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, has proposed a Same Day Registration Act, which would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require states with a voter registration requirement to make same-day voter registration—or revision of an individual’s voter registration information—available at the polling place on the date of election itself. The Ellison proposal would also make those options available during early voting periods. The congressman says the United States can and must “ensure [that] our nation lives up to its ideals and protects the most fundamental right in our democracy.”

That was what Pat Lucey did almost four decades ago with his push for “instant voting.” History has proven Lucey and the voting advocates of the 1970s right. They recognized, as we all should, that the promise of democracy is made real when voting is easy and turnout is high.


By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 16, 2014

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Standing With The People”: Democratic Governors and Statehouse Candidates To Adopt Obama’s Minimum-Wage Message

Democratic governors and candidates competing in battleground states are planning to make a minimum-wage increase a centerpiece of this year’s campaigns, taking the baton from President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, according to a memo shared with National Journal.

Raising the wage was a core part of Obama’s larger theme of boosting “opportunity” for all, and it’s a policy that Democrats running for statehouses think will help them politically, according to the memo from the Democratic Governors Association.

“No issue better crystalizes the broader debate between 2014 Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates than that of a minimum wage hike,” DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner says in the memo.

This is a big year for the Democratic Governors Association, given the number of Republican governors swept in during the 2010 wave who are now up for reelection.

Republican governors from Florida to Wisconsin have consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage, and Dems think that choice will come back to bite the GOP. The DGA points to a recent Wall Street Journal poll showing 63 percent of Americans support raising the wage and a separate Quinnipiac poll showing a plurality of Republican voters agree.

While it’s not surprising that Democrats would echo the president on a central policy goal, raising the minimum wage has until recently been seen as the domain of the party’s progressive wing and an issue that candidates in battleground states might shy away from.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to a handful of gubernatorial races, at least. In Maine, while Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed legislation to raise the minimum wage, Rep. Michael Michaud, the presumed Democratic nominee, cosponsored a bill in the House to raise the wage nationwide.

Democrat Mark Schauer, who is hoping to oust Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, has proposed boosting the wage to $9.25 an hour and indexing it to inflation, and said he would make hiking it a top priority if elected.

In Iowa, Jack Hatch wants to go even further and raise the wage to $10.10, which would give the important political state the highest minimum wage in the country. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat former governor, who is running to reclaim his old seat in Florida’s statehouse, also supports setting the wage at $10.10.

Meanwhile in Illinois, where Democrats are hoping to defend Gov. Pat Quinn as he heads into a tough reelection battle, all four Republican challengers oppose Quinn’s proposal to boost the wage.

And Democrats think the message will resonate as well in redder states like Kansas, where they’re hoping to push aside Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kanner says Democrats will use the minimum wage to present a larger economic message.

“These are two starkly different economic philosophies, and the minimum wage debate makes that clear. In this case, Democrats are standing with the American people while Republicans, once again, thumb their nose at them,” he said.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, The National Journal, January 29, 2014

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Minimum Wage | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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