Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney cuts himself with his own axe

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Mitt Romney may have at last made errors that he can't overcome, even with the help of a highly financed ad campaign.

The more he talks, the more he reveals that he is stunningly uninformed. Today he's trying to deal with a video, obtained by Mother Jones Magazine, of a talk to wealthy Republican donors. In it, he portrays nearly half of American voters as dulards and moochers who rely on government help instead of trying to improve their lives.

Romney has tried to explain the comments, saying he could have spoken a bit more eloquently. The problem for Romney, however, is that he couldn’t have been clearer. He is beyond being out of touch with a large swath of voters; he doesn’t respect them and he blames them for the nation’s economic troubles.

But even worse for a presidential candidate, Romney doesn’t understand what he has done. The New York Times’ David Brooks makes this point as well as anyone in this morning’s column. The comments suggest, Brooks writes, “that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the VA? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?”

Brooks calls Romney’s comments “country-club fantasy.” They reinforce negative stereotypes that aren’t true, and they make the point that the Obama team has been making since the beginning of the campaign: Romney doesn't get it.

The Romney team, from most reports, is in a state of confusion. This was supposed to be the week they hit the campaign's reset button. But it seems like they hit "delete" instead.

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There Romney goes again

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 10:29 AM

I’m surprised by the number of people rushing to write Mitt Romney’s political obituary this morning. The Republican presidential candidate, often his own worst enemy, was caught on video basically saying that 47 percent of the country is dependent on the government and therefore committed Obama voters not worthy of his time.

Putting aside emotion and the sheer stupidity of the comments — every mic is a hot mic, remember — is this anything we didn’t already know about this guy? The Republican Party is dominated by extremists, and Romney has twisted himself inside-out and back again to please them, right up to and including his VP pick. Prime example: the former governor of Massachusetts went from supporting abortion rights to calling for the elimination of Planned Parenthood.

Romney has shape-shifted so many times, it’s impossible to know who he really is and what he really stands for. He wants to repeal Obamacare. Wait, some of Obamacare. Wait, which parts?

The extremists driving the GOP bus believe that Obama wants to turn America into a socialist country. He wants to take their guns. He’s a Muslim who wants to impose Sharia Law. Evolution and abortions for all!

My point is these people were never going to support Obama, no matter what Romney says or does. This latest attempt at self-destruction is a blip on the radar. My prediction: the story plays out in a few days and has little impact on the race.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week ahead: water-level teleconference, Sibley building vote

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 1:32 PM

On Tuesday, a joint US-Canada board tasked with managing St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario water levels will hold a teleconference on that topic.

The teleconference, which starts at 7 p.m., is being held by the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control, a sub-board of the International Joint Commission. The presentation will address current and projected conditions affecting water levels and the actions the board of control takes to manage the water’s height. After the presentation, the board representatives will take questions from participants.

Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River water levels are manipulated by the Moses Saunders Dam, which controls the amount of water flowing out of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence. Target water levels were established in 1958 by an IJC plan, and the Board of Control works within that plan.

Earlier this year, the IJC proposed a new plan to regulate Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River water levels, but that’s not what this teleconference is about, at least not directly. The board’s forecast will surely become part of the debate over the IJC plan.

The teleconference can be accessed via phone by calling (877) 413-4814 and entering 3121346 when prompted for the access code. For more information, including links to presentation slides, go here. — Jeremy Moule

Sibley building. FILE PHOTO
  • Sibley building. FILE PHOTO

At their meeting on Wednesday, City Council members are expected to vote on a deal to sell the Sibley building to Sibley Redevelopment Limited Partnership, an entity to be formed by the Boston-based Winn Development. (The meeting is being held on Wednesday rather than Tuesday because of Rosh Hashana.)

Winn plans to use the building for retail, offices, and housing. Council members initially said that the proposal was overly complex and that it gave too much discretion to the mayor. They also questioned whether the city would be setting itself up for another quagmire if Sibley Redevelopment can’t make a go of the building.

Council Vice President Dana Miller said in a phone interview this morning that Council had shared its concerns with the administration, and that he expected Council would vote on the proposal at its Wednesday meeting, which is at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 30 Church Street. Miller said he didn’t know whether Mayor Tom Richards has made changes to the agreement. (We have a call in to the Richards administration on that question.) — Christine Carrie Fien

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Fair Elections committee rules on O'Brien's complaints

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Over the past few weeks, an anonymous group calling itself Common Sense has sent out mailers containing inaccurate claims about Ted O'Brien, the Democratic candidate for the 55th Senate District. O'Brien filed complaints about three mailers with the League of Women Voters' Fair Election Practices Committee. (For more background, see City's previous story on the situation, "Campaign mystery mail.")

The committee issued its ruling today, in O'Brien's favor. O'Brien filed the complaints against his opponent, Republican Sean Hanna. But well in advance of the ruling Hanna denied knowledge of the mailers and said neither he nor his campaign has any connection to Common Sense.

While saying that the mailings' claims were false, the committee's rulings also said that:

"The committee accepts the statement of Sean Hanna that he had no knowledge of nor did he authorize the mailings, and further he is not responsible for them."

"Sean Hanna appropriately publicly repudiated the mailings both prior to and subsequent to the hearing on the allegations."

Gantt, for good?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM

I’ve been skimming the postmortems on last night’s Democratic primary for State Assembly with candidates David Gantt, Jose Cruz, and John Lightfoot.

The smart money was always on Gantt, but I don’t think anyone expected a blowout. The longtime incumbent earned more votes than Cruz and Lightfoot combined. Turnout was pathetic, but it always is.

What does it mean? Well, for starters, the job is almost certainly Gantt’s for as long as he wants it. This was his most substantial competition in a long time — ever? — and he destroyed them. I’d be surprised if he ever faces another primary.

Secondly: I covered the Town of Gates for many years and can tell you that the people out there really do feel shortchanged by Gantt’s representation. But given last night’s results and the fact that Gates Democrats backed Lightfoot in the primary, I wouldn’t expect much to change. Gates will just have to tough it out.

I think Gantt confuses a lot of people. They don’t understand how this curmudgeonly old-school pol who rarely feels the need to explain himself has attained and maintained such a high-profile public office. But the people in his district — apart from the Town of Gates — obviously feel like he’s getting the job done. And that’s what matters on election day.

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Romney's bow to the far right isn't working

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s long and illustrious political star plummeted when the Brits rightly opposed being dragged into President George W. Bush’s Iraq War. The British tabloids began referring to Blair as W’s poodle. It wasn’t the same kind of puppetry we saw with former Russian President Medvedev and Putin, but it was clear in that case, too, who was pulling the levers.

It’s quite possible that we just saw the turning point in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign this week. His lifelong desire to continue the political dynasty begun by his father is looking increasingly out of reach, according to new poll numbers. And his not-so-presidential response to the latest Middle East crisis gave the American public a taste of Romney’s unpreparedness.

Much of Romney’s problem has to do with an almost juvenile willingness to say and do whatever he thinks will appeal to the extreme right of the Republican Party.

Talk about an appeaser. Just look at the cast of characters who came to Romney’s defense after his latest foreign policy clunker: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter.

Then there were possibly the two worst advisers to W: John Bolton and good old Donald Rumsfeld. At least W was smart enough to cut Bolton loose when he started talking about nuking other countries. And it’s not hard to imagine him calling Romney and saying something like, “Take it from me Mitt my boy, listen to whatever Rummy says and do exactly the opposite.”

But Romney doesn’t seem to be able to follow his own political instincts. Ironically, Romney is the “other” to conservatives, a dark and alien character. And no matter what Romney does, he sounds weirdly out of sync, and worse, amateurish.

Romney might be able to save himself in the debates, but the pressure on him now is formidable. In a strange turn of events, he has validated what the Obama camp has been arguing: Romney would usher in a third term of George W. Bush.

After W’s gross miscalculations about the Middle East and bringing about the Great Recession, it’s not surprising that a lot of Americans are now recalibrating their views on a Romney presidency.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Arab spring may be Romney's fall

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 1:16 PM

The bloody events in Libya on Monday night are another reminder, as if one is ever needed, of how volatile that part of the world remains. It’s also a stark reminder of how quickly the political fortunes of Western leaders can change in that neck of the woods when things go wrong.

President Obama now faces what may be the most serious test of his presidency yet. The violence and protests that ignited in Libya and Cairo over an anti-Islamic film have spread to Yemen, and could engulf the Middle East if cooler heads don’t prevail.

For starters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was so eager to seize the moment of crisis for political leverage that he scored another huge foreign policy blunder. His grandiose attack on Obama using the same tired line, that Obama is an apologist, has backfired.

Romney accused the Obama administration of apologizing to protestors after they breached the embassy in Benghazi. But as many national and international reports have shown, the sequence of events undercuts Romney’s claim. The National Journal’s account of the timeline makes that point clear.

But Romney and his craven supporters have never let the facts deter them from criticizing the president. This case, however, has even given many Republicans reason to be concerned. Romney not only showed a stunning lack of sensitivity, he’s also proven that he has an amazing lack of foreign policy instincts. More and more, Romney sounds like a relic from the Cold War, and his critiques of Obama don’t resonate with reality.

Meanwhile, describing the situation as explosive is no exaggeration when you look at it in the broader context. And exploiting it for political gain is dangerous. The US has already been involved in a decade of unfunded wars in the region, thanks to President George W. Bush.

Republicans in Congress are now backpedaling on their votes to cut military spending to reduce the deficit: a vote that even Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan seems to have forgotten in an expedient case of amnesia.
And let’s not forget that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is busy wooing Romney while pushing Obama into a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

It’s one thing listening to the bizarre ramblings of actor and director Clint Eastwood and his chair, but if Americans don’t disregard the desperate political puffery coming out of the Romney camp, we’ll be waking up to gasoline at $8 a gallon.

And we’ll spend another decade building roads, schools, and hospitals over there, while ignoring them here.

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New Zealand dabbles in personhood for the environment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 9:00 AM

In the United States, corporations have constitutional rights. It's a concept known as corporate personhood, and over the years it's been shaped by court decisions and the occasional law.

The US isn't the only country to recognize corporate personhood. But in some other countries, citizens are using the same legal concepts to protect the environment. A recent article on Treehugger says that a New Zealand river may be the first river in the world to be granted personhood, which gives it rights and interests similar to those of a corporation.

New Zealand officials granted personhood to the Whanganui River as part of a settlement with the indigenous Whanganui River iwi. The iwi had filed several legal claims against New Zealand's government seeking to protect the river. In a New Zealand Herald article, a government official said the iwi have pursued protections for the river since 1873. The Treehugger article says the iwi have strong cultural ties to the river.

The Treehugger article also points out that New Zealand isn't the only country to invoke environmental personhood. Ecuador, renowned for its biodiversity and home to the Galapagos Islands, has granted rights to the environment in its constitution.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slaughter and Brooks start duking it out

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Hoo boy: We may not get much of the harsh TV ads of the presidential campaign, since Obama pretty much has a lock on New York State, but it looks like the Maggie-and-Louise campaign will make up for it.

The Slaughter campaign has released a particularly harsh TV ad called "Scandal," focusing on negative news involving the Brooks administration. Robutrad. The astonishing misdeeds of two successive airport directors. Patronage at the Water Authority. It's all there.

And then there are the several state audits, which Democrats say show that the Brooks administration funnels contracts to friends and contributors. (To which the Republicans respond that the state audits, done by a Democratic official, were pure politics.)

Brooks responded this morning, saying that the "negative mud slinging" of Slaughter's ad "says more about her failed 25-year record in Congress than anything else."

So we're off and running in this important Congressional race. And it won't get any prettier.

We could wish - and I sure do - that these two experienced, intelligent women could conduct a campaign that focused on issues, that would help voters decide based on substance. And yet….

Isn't Brooks' administrative history relevant? Isn't it fair for Brooks to focus on Slaughter's record?

As my mother used to say, it's not what you say, it's the way that you say it.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So long, intercept

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks says the sales tax intercept has saved the county $30 million in Medicaid costs since it took effect in 2008, but now she wants to repeal it.

The intercept, controversial when it was introduced, is an arrangement where the state takes approximately half of the county's sales tax revenue and, in turn, covers the county's share of Medicaid costs. The 2012 to 2013 state budget set a new Medicaid cap for all counties, and also included a provision permitting Monroe to drop the swap.

Brooks says that the new Medicaid cap is a better option than the intercept.

A press release from the Brooks administration says the Legislature should vote on a referral repealing the swap during its December meeting, the same time the Legislature usually votes on the budget. A separate press release from Democratic legislators says a county committee will take up the referral on September 26.

Democrats twice this year introduced legislation to repeal the intercept, but Legislature President Jeff Adair rejected the referrals. They've argued that the only reason the intercept was successful was because of sluggish sales tax growth. If sales tax growth improved, the county would lose the swap's benefit, they've said.

"I am delighted that Maggie Brooks has finally come to the realization that the intercept will cost taxpayers going forward,” said Legislator Paul Haney, the Democrat who sponsored both referrals, in a press release.

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