Thursday, April 27, 2006

GOP Crony of the Week: Why YOU pay higher gas prices.

With gas prices anywhere from $3.06 to $3.11 per gallon around the 20th district these days it is fair for us all to ask... why?

How come gas prices have more than doubled under the Bush administration? Fuel oil. Natural gas. Diesel. They have all gone through the roof under the Republicans while Exxon-Mobil rakes in record profits for any company in history for multiple years in a row. As if that is not enough the CEO of Exxon-Mobil retired with a $400 Million pension.

And Republican Senators talk of buying off our unrest with $100 rebate checks. Where do those rebate checks come from? Exxon-Mobil? The pension of the retired CEO? No. Republican lawmakers are so beholden to oil companies that they are suggesting a measly $100 rebate of OUR OWN MONEY to us rather than taking it back from big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil in the form of an excess profits tax.

In honor of the bankruptcy of Republican politics the DCCC has started a new web site... The GOP Auction House.

To inaugurate this new feature exposing the crony politics of Republican run Washington the DCCC has chosen The GOP Crony of the Week our very own John Sweeney. Mr Sweeney you may have read yesterday flip-flopped on the subject of gas prices and CAFE standards for increasing gas efficiency. Sweeney actually told the truth about the issue however when he said "Listen, in Washington it's always politics."

Given that Sweeney voted in favor of Dick Cheney's $8 billion in giveaways and tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and has raked in over $120,000 in Big Oil and gas industry money since 1998 it is hard to believe his recent change of views is anything more than election year nervousness.

In the meantime, Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand announced her plan for immediate and long-term solutions for the energy problems Republicans have exacerbated and mostly ignored.
Gillibrand's plan calls for a suspension of the gas tax, investigations into oil companies that engage in predatory and anti-competitive pricing and new investment for development of alternative sources of energy to ease the nation's dependence on oil.


"It is time for a change when Congress finds the time for lavish million dollar compensation packages and pension payouts to energy company executives, but can't protect working families and small businesses from such outrageous gas prices," said Gillibrand. "We need to stand up for hard-working middle class families and show that help is on the way."


In the meantime, the DCCC points out Sweeney's "rubber stamp" qualities like voting against cracking down on the oil and gas industries price gouging and more.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

John Faso and Constituent services

The Troy Polloi shares an interesting and humorous interview with us today that sheds a great deal of light on the character of John Faso, Republican candidate for New York State Governor.

Is this the man we want in the highest office in the state?

Monday, April 24, 2006

The 15th Seat: Kirsten Gillibrand and NY-20

The good news and good reports have been coming fast and furious for Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic challenger in New York's 20th Congressional District.

USA Today's Andrea Stone highlights Gillibrand in a report on Democratic chances for recapturing the US House of Representatives in this falls elections. Democrats need to gain a total of 15 seats in order to gain majority control.

Describing the upstate New York district as "the land of opportunity" and a "key" to Democratic "strategy for gaining control of the House of Representatives," Gillibrand is quoted as saying:
"There's a shift happening right now in the district and the region," says Gillibrand, 39, a lawyer and a former Clinton administration housing official. "People want new leaders who are accountable."


Gillibrand has made ethics and accountability centerpieces of her campaign. She opened her campaign with a humorous but hard hitting ad attacking the incumbent, John Sweeney, for his coziness with lobbyists amid the Abramoff-DeLay scandals striking at the heart of Republican Washington.

The northeast region, particularly New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania is considered "fertile gound for Democrats to pick up many of the 15 seats they need to regain House control." There are more a dozen Democratic candidates vying to take currently Republican held seats in the area.
"If there is a (Democratic) wave this year and it's going to hit anywhere, it's the Northeast," says Amy Walter, analyst at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "That is where Bush's weakness is felt."


Incumbent Republican John Sweeney, a "rubber stamp" for the Bush agenda, is feeling the heat. While recent health problems have had some in his own party questioning whether he would run for re-election or not. Sweeney insists his health is improving and dismisses questions regarding his and his wife's personal ethics and finances. Even while admitting the New York GOP is "in disarray" and that there are vulnerable House Republicans, Sweeney insists that his seat is safe.
"They get a good mark for effort," Sweeney says of the Democrats Northeast strategy. "But if they're going to spend their time in my district, they're wasting their time."


Meanwhile various political analysts have moved the district from safe Republican to Republican favored and are listing this as a race to watch to see if Democrats can succeed in taking control of the House.
Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, which includes several Northeastern lawmakers, says the GOP faces several challenges: "The president's numbers, the war in Iraq, the famous six-year itch. There's a lot of things that are around this."


New York Republicans tend to be traditional Republicans. Fiscal conservatives, fiercely independent and libertarian in regard to individual liberties. While Sweeney and his surrogates like to point to the districts large Republican enrollment advantage it is the independent voters that often make the difference.
Dartmouth University political scientist Linda Fowler says the "most ominous" signs for Republicans there are the disenchantment of independent voters and fiscal conservatives who are fed up with deficit spending by Congress.


Local elections across the 10 county district showed Demcoratic gains at almost every level including Democratic sweeps of several long time Republican strongholds. Democrats are quick to point out that the district has been won in statewide elections by Sen. Chuck Schumer and this years Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer during his previous election for Attorney General. Many analysts also expect a banner year for Democrats and depressed turn-out amongst Republicans due to the overwhelmingly strong top of the Democratic ticket which features Spitzer and Sen. Hillary Clinton and the complete disarray of the Republican party that may feature virtual unknowns at the top of their ticket.

Congressional Quarterly reported last week that Gillibrand's 1st quarter FEC filing ranked her 14th among all House challengers as of March 31. CQ subsequently moved the rating on this campaign from Safe Republican to Republican favored.

Virtually all analysts believe that this is exactly the kind of race that Democrats must win if they are to gain the 15 seats it requires to become the majority party once again the US House of Representatives.

NY-20 is the 15th seat. If we win here we win control of the House.

For more on Kirsten Gillibrand please visit her web site.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

On Primary Schedules

Reading CAat14K's front paged diary Alabama: Moving on up (over at MyDD) had me thinking again about the best way to schedule presidential primaries.

Defining "best" as that which serves the people best removes what I am about to write from the realm of political reality in Washington, DC and various State capital circles that actually get to decide these things. In those places "best" is defined by political and financial capital and some people's short term views of the "best" way to produce a winner. What is "best" for the people is not part of that equation.

What I hear most of us clamor for is diversity and the opportunity for our state and therefore our vote to count. We want a say in who our Presidential nominee will be. This too separates us from the circles of the politically powerful who believe they know what is best and therefore want to keep that decision to themselves.

Being mathematically and logically inclined it seems to me that the "best" way to approach this is to divide the states up into geographic regions; divide the states up into groupings based on population size; and to divide the calendar into equal portions in an effort to give as many people in as many states as possible a say in who is each parties nominee.

With this in mind I created 10 geographic groupings of 5 states each. I then split these into 2 sets of 5 groupings each. Further, I ordered the states in each grouping by census data from 2000. In addition I created an eleventh category that includes Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Americans Abroad. I know that there are other territories that hold individual primaries or caucuses of their own but forgive me for not being sure of which and how many they are. They would be placed in this eleventh category as well.

So the resulting groupings are as follows. The numbers following each state are their population ranking.

Set 1

Northeast:
Massachusetts - 13
Maine - 41
New Hampshire - 42
Rhode Island - 44
Vermont - 50

South:
North Carolina - 11
Virginia - 12
Tennessee - 16
Kentucky - 25
South Carolina - 26

Ohio River Valley:
Pennsylvania - 6
Ohio - 7
Michigan - 8
Indiana - 14
West Virginia - 38

Southwest:
Texas - 2
Arizona - 20
Oklahoma - 28
Arkansas - 34
New Mexico - 37

Mountain:
Colorado - 24
Utah - 35
Nevada - 36
Idaho - 40
Wyoming - 52

Set 2

Atlantic:
New York - 3
New Jersey - 9
Maryland - 19
Connecticut - 30
Delaware - 46

Deep South:
Florida - 2
Georgia - 10
Louisiana - 22
Alabama - 23
Mississippi - 32

Upper Midwest:
Illinois - 5
Missouri - 17
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 21
Iowa - 31

Northern Plains:
Kansas - 33
Nebraska - 39
Montana - 45
South Dakota - 47
North Dakota - 48

West:
California - 1
Washington - 15
Oregon - 29
Hawaii - 43
Alaska - 49

And -

Other:
Puerto Rico - 27
District of Columbia - 51
Americans Abroad - unknown
and perhaps others....

Now, set a primary calendar that begins the third Tuesday in January and schedules a primary every third Tuesday from there through July. Schedule 5 (sometimes 6) different states for each date.

For the first date in January we will select 1 state from each of the 5 groupings in set 1. To the closest degree possible we will select the highest numbered state in each of 5 population groupings (i.e. 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50). 3 weeks later we will do the same only this time selecting from Set 2. 3 weeks later, set 1; 3 weeks later, set 2, etc.

The result would be a primary schedule that looked something like this:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008:
Michigan - 8
Arizona - 20
South Carolina - 26
Maine - 41
Wyoming - 52

Tuesday, February 5, 2008:
Georgia - 10
Maryland - 19
Oregon - 29
Iowa - 31
North Dakota - 48

Tuesday, February 26, 2008:
Ohio - 7
Tennessee - 16
Oklahoma - 28
Idaho - 40
Vermont - 50

Tuesday, March 18, 2008:
New Jersey - 9
Wisconsin - 18
Alabama - 23
Nebraska - 39
Alaska - 49

Tuesday, April 8, 2008:
Pennsylvania - 6
Virginia - 12
Colorado - 24
New Mexico - 37
Rhode Island - 44

Tuesday, April 29, 2008:
Illinois - 5
Washington - 15
Connecticut - 30
Mississippi - 32
South Dakota - 47

Tuesday, May 20, 2008:
Texas - 2
Indiana - 14
Kentucky - 25
Nevada - 36
New Hampshire - 42

Tuesday, June 10, 2008:
Florida - 4
Missouri - 17
Puerto Rico - 27
Kansas - 33
Hawaii - 43
Delaware - 46

Tuesday, July 1, 2008:
North Carolina - 11
Massachusetts - 13
Arkansas - 34
Utah - 35
West Virginia - 38
District of Columbia - 51

Tuesday, July 22, 2008:
California - 1
New York - 3
Minnesota - 21
Louisiana - 22
Montana - 45
Americans Abroad - unknown

There are a couple possible variations on this theme. I purposefully picked the lowest population state in each of the 5 groupings in order to keep someone from wrapping up the nomination by winning California, Texas, and New York in the opening weeks. This could instead be handled randomly.

Instead of having all 5 states have the same primary day they could be broken up to Tuesday and Thursday in the same third week or perhaps 1 per day during every "primary week."

4 years later it would be necessary to ensure that each state rotated to a different location on the schedule in order to ensure that states such as West Virginia and Minnesota didn't always get the shaft of being in the last groups and that the modern day problem of Iowa and New Hampshire claiming ownership status as first in the nation didn't occur either.

I think the end result of such a schedule and 3 week spread would be one of more states seeing more candidate visits and being included in more candidates electoral strategies. More states and more voters would have a say. Urban, rural, east, west, south, mountain, plains, coastal, midwest, southwest, northwest, would all get a chance to have their say in who best represented their views and values in a Presidential nominee.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The story of one immigrant family

His name was Thomas White and he came to America looking for a new life. We don't know where he was born nor when. We don't know who his family was. He left them behind. He started showing up in records in Weymouth, Ma. in 1635. No one knows what his wife's name was, when he arrived, or where, what ship he came on, or under whose authority or command.

But he came to the new world to make a life for himself and his family. He begins to show up in town records in 1635. These records begin to show him as a productive member of society. He was a surveyor and became a leading citizen in town. His sons likewise became productive and leading members of the society they adopted and that in turn adopted them.

It is believed he was born around 1599 but he was undocumented and this date is pulled from a record in which he stated his age as 60 in 1659. He died in Weymouth in August, 1679. He had been made a freeman and later a Captain of the local militia. He had served as a Selectman for the town and was so highly esteemed an immigrant that he was elected as a Deputy from the town to the General Court (equivalent of the colony legislature) in 1637, and again in 1657 and 1670.

It is believed that his eldest children were born in another land but his youngest son Ebenezer was born in his adopted country America in 1648. Ebenezer like his father served well in the town of Weymouth, admitted a freeman in 1674, commissioned a Lieutenant of the Weymouth Company, serving as a Selectman for the town in 1690, according to the available records "a man of integrity and worth and a respected and useful citizen." He served in the expedition to Canada against the French and the Indians, in King Williams War (1690-1). He died a fairly wealthy man in August 1703.

His eldest son Rev. Ebenezer White was a graduate of Harvard University receiving a Master of Arts in 1692. He went on to serve as Pastor of the church at Southampton, LI, NY where he own son later served.

Lt. Ebenezer's third son Samuel was likewise a leading citizen of Weymouth. His son Ezekiel removed his family to the wilds of western Massachusetts in 1777. All of his sons and sons-in-law served in the Continental Army during the revolutionary war. It appears all of them served during the pivotal battles of Saratoga. At least one of those sons, David, wintered with George Washington at Valley Forge.

After the war David White moved his family to the wild country of western New York being one of the first settlers there. His was the first European-American death there 2 years later. His wife Martha Cottle raised their family there later remarrying. All of their sons served their nation in the War of 1812. Two sons became Doctors, a son-in-law a Judge, the eldest son was a Brigadier General and co-founder of later became Sylvania, Ohio. The youngest boys, twins Orin and Orpheus, age 14, served as drummer and fifer under the eldest brother during the war.

Dr. William White can be found in records of early western New York as the first Doctor or as building the first mill and similar tasks. His son Arthur married Hannah Warner and raised their family in and around the Buffalo area. Their nephew, Glenn Scoby Warner, was trained as a lawyer but became a football coach instead. Because he was older then the other lads at college they decided to call him "Pop" and the name stuck.

Later generations of this immigrant family served in World War's I and II. One was a famous stained glass artist whose work graces many a church and whose murals are seen as some of the best works of the depression era WPA. Others went into the ministry and served their nation during the civil rights movement.

This typical American family began with an undocumented immigrant family that came from an unknown place at an unknown time aboard an unknown ship arriving in unknown place and appearing in records as productive and eventually leading members of their new community. They went on to help build this nation in the small ways. Not as Presidents and Senators but as Doctor's, lawyers, military men, teachers, builders, etc.

This family merged in recent generations with the Clock or Klock family. A Dutch family that similarly began to show up in records around 1635 in what was then New Amsterdam. Abraham Martensen Klock settled near what is now Wall Street. He was a craftsman and spent time on contract at Ft. Orange (now Albany).

The most recent immigrant ancestor in this family was a young Irish lad, David Carson Patrick. He too arrived at an unknown time, in an unknown place, by an unknown method. He simply shows up in records the middle of Iowa after the civil war. The family story is that he arrived alone at the age of 11 from Ireland near the end of the potato famine but this is unconfirmed. One of his daughters married a Clock, the son of a civil war veteran, whose daughter then married a White. That White's maternal grandfather was one Ezekiel Silas Sampson, another civil war veteran, Judge, and 2 term congressman.

And we haven't even discussed the Quaker ancestors on my Mother's side of the family that came to America looking for religious freedom.

So here we have a brief outline of only half of a typical immigrant family in America. Every member of Congress has a similar one. Some of them argue immigrant families ought to be sent back where they came from. Where do I go? Which part of me is sent to Ireland? And which part to England? Which to Holland? Scotland? Wales? France?

There is no crisis. There are issues that need addressing. As with my own immigrant ancestors there are economic and religious problems that need to be solved.

For them the solution was to leave their homelands and families behind and come to America. Today is no different because no one is discussing how to solve the economic and religious problems in the modern day immigrants homelands. In typical fashion though we look narrowly at the issue with a punitive eye, politicians bluster and say nothing worth hearing, and we all miss any opportunity to create real solutions to the real problems.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's 9:00 PM. Do you know where your Congressman is?

Our friends over at Democracy in Albany have the scoop on John Sweeney's Pool Game.

Mr. Sweeney's supporters like to complain at length (ad nauseum frankly) about his competitor Kirsten Gillibrand holding fund raisers in New York City. Last I checked New York City is still a part of New York State. It may seem like another world but it is still an integral part of the state.

Sweeney prefers to hold his fund raisers with lobbyists in place like Park City, Utah and Buffalo Billiards in Washington, DC.

My Dad did a good job teaching me how to read a map as a kid so I'm fairly certain that neither of those places are anywhere near New York State. I'm also fairly certain that the lobbyists and PAC representatives that show up for these affairs don't have upstate New York's best interests in mind either when they hand Sweeney those $1,000 checks.

April 5, 2006 7:00 p.m. Congressman John Sweeney's 3rd Annual Eight-Ball Tournament
Buffalo Billiards 1330 19th Street NW
Washington, DC
Casual Attire $1,000 PACs $500 Personal
Enquiries: 202-302-7678 (Phone) 202-986-5319
(Fax) MikeGBurton@aol.com

It's 9:00 PM. Do you know where your Congressman is?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bush's War hits close to home again

The Albany Times Union reports today that Capt. Timothy Moshier of Bethlehem was killed in Iraq Saturday when the helicopter he was piloting apparently took enemy fire and went down. Moshier was 16 days shy of his 26th birthday. He leaves behind his parents, James and Mary Ellen, his wife Katherine, and their 10 month old daughter Natalie.

Albany County Executive Mike Breslin who interviewed Moshier prior to recommending him for West Point spoke in glowing terms about his character. Breslin also said,

"This was a very special young man, and it's a tragedy that he's no longer with us. And sometimes you can't explain it," he said.


There is no sensible explanation for the continuation of Bush's War. Families like the Moshier's suffer these immense tragedies for no good reason whatsoever.

Can we stop this please? Before another family has to suffer this grief?

Monday, April 03, 2006

DeLay afraid to face voters in wake of indictments

Another indicted Republican resigns.

Who's next?

Time magazine has the details. Tom DeLay has informed reporters, staff, and colleagues that he will announce that his official residence is now in Virginia thereby making him ineligible to run for office in Texas. DeLay won the Republican primary in Texas just about a month ago.

Speculation of another impending indictment of DeLay followed the guilty plea of Jack Abramoff associate and former DeLay staffer Tony Rudy. Legal and political analysts have reported that Rudy leads to his former boss, another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham. Buckham is widely expected to be indicted soon and to perhaps plead guilty in the bribery and corruption scandal that has already taken down another former DeLay staffer, Michael Scanlon, and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. From Buckham it is expected that DeLay himself will be next in the indictment line.

John Sweeney has been quiet regarding DeLay's recent troubles. This after being his leading defender following his earlier indictments in Texas. Sweeney has long been an admirer of DeLay, considering him a mentor.

The Department of Justice recently pulled the financial records of Sweeney at the same time they pulled records of DeLay and several others involved in the Abramoff-DeLay-Norquist scandal. It is unknown whether the DOJ is investigating Sweeney, who has received money from Buckham and several of his partners at Alexander Strategy Group, as part of this scandal, his wife's skimming of campaign contributions or some other, as yet unknown, scandal of his own.

DeLay's resignation makes 2 in recent weeks following the conviction of Duke Cunningham in another bribery and corruption scandal rocking the Republican party in Washington. There has been wide speculation about other resignations of Republican House members in the wake of the several on-going scandals and investigations.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Gillibrand Campaign and NY-20 gaining momentum

It's been a bad week for Rep. John E. Sweeney (R, NY-20). It was a bad month for John Sweeney. For that matter it has been a bad year for the incumbent (as it has been for most Republican incumbents) and it really began going downhill for him in Sep. of last year.

And there are no signs it is going to get any better for him in the coming month or the remaining 220 days.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Sweeney's challenger in this years election, nailed him earlier on the hypocrisy of his Utah skiing trip with lobbyists on the heels of his having attempted to paint himself as the bold reformer. Thus ended that storyline for Bush's representative to the 20th CD.

In the last week there have been revelations about Sweeney rewarding his favorite lobbyist and staffer friends with a skiing trip in Lake Placid on the New York tax payers dime.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) has ordered an investigation into the New York Power Authority's funding of the junket.

Sweeney's on-going health problems seem to have abated a little and he has returned to work. He says his doctor has said he can walk and ride a bike but that skiing is out for now.

All of this has fueled on-going reports that the weakened Sweeney may face a challenger within his own party, former State Republican Chairman Sandy Treadwell.

With the complete disarray in the state party comes even more circling buzzards and Republican dirty laundry being aired by conservative blogger Bob Fois at News Copy, New York. Normally an admirer of Sweeney, Fois expresses distaste at what we have come to know as the typical behavior of Sweeney and his surrogates in their betrayal of another Fois favorite Assemblyman Patrick Manning. Perhaps Fois will begin to see the sort of man Sweeney really is.

All of this was preceded by the revelation that Sweeney's wife has a similar arrangement to that of Rep. John Doolittle's wife, skimming 10% off of his campaign contributions into the personal family bank account.

And then we can add the more typical corrupt practices of Sweeney being in bed with the food lobby mainly through his former Chief of Staff Brad Card, brother of former Bush Chief of Staff, Andrew Card. Card, now a lobbyist with the food industry, is a regular contributor to Sweeney's campaign along with Altria, the parent company of Kraft foods. Sweeney is a co-sponsor of the bill to destroy food safety labeling laws in New York and elsewhere.

In the meantime, Kirsten Gillibrand, who has already out raised Sweeney over the last two quarters, is reported to have had her best fund raising quarter yet.

Sweeney, who appears to have a spending problem, went through more money then he raised last quarter racking up impressive bills for $1000 cigars, liquor bills that would impress WC Fields (remind me to tell you someday about an older skiing trip of Sweeney's where he crashed his car into a power pole and knocked out the power to an entire town), and what appear to be the purchase of 2 vehicles.

Having spent most of this quarter in the hospital is likely to have depressed his own fund raising. Amazingly, though to ill to do his job most of the quarter, he did manage to recover briefly enough to attend a couple fund raisers so he will have something to show for the quarter. In particular his spokeswoman promised his FEC reports would show just who attended the Utah Skiing trip at least part of which was hosted by pharmaceutical lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the capable, personable, and intelligent Kirsten Gillibrand has seemingly been everywhere. While concentrating on her own fund raising she has found time to attend house parties and events all over the 10 county district. Glowing reports for attendees, reporters, and skeptics have followed wherever she went. One couple I know that walked in to one house party unsure of their support walked up to me afterwards positively glowing and saying "Well! I'm sold!" All this while a basketful of checks showed that they weren't the only one's. Comments from sources close to the campaign tell me that this quarter has been outstanding, exceeding even their own lofty expectations.

Gillibrand has been in the news with her Comprehensive Ethics Proposal marking a stark contrast between her and the incumbent.

Meanwhile, Sweeney's surrogates have attempted to lash out at her by attacking her family members. Her father, her recently deceased grandmother, her husband, all have been subject to the slime typical of the Rove, D'Amato, Sweeney wing of the once respectable Republican party.

While Kirsten engages the people of the district and talks about issues that matter the incumbent through his surrogates slimes and smears while he betrays the hard working people of the district voting against our interests time and again.

This campaign is far from over and is not an easy one. The Republicans like to remind us that Sweeney is a street fighter, not that we are likely to forget. Sweeney's right hand man in Florida by the way, was one Thomas Spargo. Spargo was relieved of his seat on the New York Supreme Court just this past week for shaking down attorney's appearing before his court (amongst other things).

But I digress... this campaign is far from over and we'll need your help. This is exactly the sort of seat we need to win in order to take control of the US House of Representatives. There are several we should win. Those will get us close. Then there are those that we shouldn't win but can. Those will get us control of the House. This is one of those races.

By the way, did I mention that she has stated she would immediately call for or support an investigation into the Bush administrations lies and deceptions that got us into the Iraq War? Or that she would also call for or support an immediate and full investigation into the Bush administrations warrantless domestic wiretapping activities?