NYC Subway Crisis: yes, it needs repairs, but ridership is also up 2,000,000 a day

The NYC subway system carries an average of 6 million riders per day on weekdays. That’s a mind boggling success story. It’s up from the around 4 million per day the system was handling 20 years ago. So take that Uber!

Former Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Peter Kalikow uses valuable space in The NY Times to air his personal issues with former MTA chairs he didn’t appreciate, and give a wet sloppy one to current Chairman Joe Lhota (who was  DeBlasio’s GOP challenger in 2013).

The problems of a 100 year old system that has been benignly and not so benignly neglected for decades, and now enjoys (suffers) the success of exploding ridership are legion. People are rightfully furious at delays, cramping, crowding, breakdowns and safety issues. Kalikow’s subtext is there’s plenty of money, but it’s been wasted. Okay.  We can’t really go back and reapportion money’s possibly unwisely spent in the past. Maybe expansion wasn’t a good idea when maintenance was inadequate. But really don’t we need both? Can’t it also be true that the system has been underfunded since the bankruptcy of the mid-70s?

Yes, too much corruption. Yes, theft and inefficiency. Yes, maybe bad allocation too. But you can’t ignore that 2,000,000 per day ridership increase any more than you can overlook Superstorm Sandy or other massive strains on a system that is essentially the arteries of a great metropolis everyday.

For all of the national wealth generated in this area of the country we sure have to scrimp and save and bargain a lot. Whether it’s arguing over upgrading signals vs. the 2nd Avenue extension, or the cancellation of much needed new tunnels under the Hudson for dubious cost overrun concerns (not done with you yet Christie!) we NY/NJ commuters are asked to put up with a host of inconveniences even as we shell out hundreds a month in fees. NJ just recently finally increased its lowest in the nation gas taxes that hadn’t changed in decades. That alone represents billions not collected that could have gone to tunnels, bridges, signals, potholes, etc.

Oh and let’s not forget that our airports are neglected third world pits too.  The patterns are too clear. We’ve needed larger commitments both of money and public service in this region for decades. People on both sides of the Hudson and the aisle, and our friends in D.C. have to come together and treat the citizens, businesses and visitors of this area better.

To much of the world we represent America. Our airports, transit hubs and trains should be the best in the world. Period!

In Defense of the Mandate

From the moment the Affordable Care Act was wheeled out the mandate part of it was apologized for even by it’s creators and then kind of ignored by its administrators as if it was a nasty mole on the legislation.

The mandate was essential and fair and if it had been enforced would have lowered premiums for everybody and helped the entire system work better.  The heart of any insurance system is getting as many people into the pool as possible, for health insurance it’s getting as many healthy people as possible to pay into the system.

You couldn’t have an auto insurance system without making it mandatory to have insurance, and likewise the best way to create universal health insurance is to enforce a similar uniformity.

Every time Democrats apologized for it gave oxygen to the Republicans who denounced it.  It was always stupid to keep pushing it away and delaying its implementation rather than educating people as to what insurance is about and getting buy in.

As much as the GOP disingenuously and cynically attacked the mandate (although at times it was unclear that they did understand how insurance works), they included a penalty in their horrific tax cut bill masquerading as a healthcare bill for those who let their coverage lapse.  Even their ridiculous attempt had to include some inducement to get into and stay in the system.  Everybody working on health insurance needs to understand that THIS IS HOW IT ALL WORKS.

Russian Attack is More Electronic Pearl Harbor Than Watergate

We are learning more about what our intelligence services know about the Russian attack on our election and elections systems.  This Washington Post article is the most hair raising account yet.  It’s why there’s no uncertainty about it from any of the intelligence officials and the people who saw the intelligence in the Obama Admin.

An attack on an airfield or port would have been easier to deal with than what the Russians did, but could not have been more effective.  Obama and others were trying to raise the may day flag but were thwarted by Republicans, as well as the unprecedented nature of what they were seeing.  I’m sure they were puzzled as to what they could do.

In early September, Johnson, Comey and Monaco arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties.

The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

They tried to go straight to state elections officials but were met with skepticism and patented southern states’ rights stupidity.

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.

The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Despite such intransigence, people in the administration feel they didn’t do enough.

But other administration officials look back on the Russia period with remorse.

“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

There should have been more of an effort, earlier, to warn state elections officials. They should have told election officials in states like GA, MI and WI that the election was being rigged for HRC.  Then maybe they would have been alarmed and paid attention.

It is indeed SAD!

As McConnell Reveals Senate Healthcare Disaster, Remember There’s a Justice Gorsuch, not a Justice Garland

Bottom line is McConnell is an unprincipled, unethical snake who will do anything he thinks he can get away with.  The tax cut bill disguised as a healthcare bill (that takes away healthcare) will be godawful and a small handful of supposedly rational Republicans will say they are against it.  But there will be “negotiations.”  Amendments will be added and voila! one of those principled Republicans will vote for it giving them 50 plus Pence and 1/6th of our economy will be reshaped without any Democratic votes, and fittingly no democratic process – no hearings, no testimony, no experts heard from, no dissenting voices allowed to speak.

Like they did with their unprecedented theft of a Supreme Court seat, their bald faced lying about process, about what Obamacare did and what their bill will do, they will un-democratically impose the will of their donors on the rest of America and claim it’s a victory for democracy and the people.

Charlie Pierce on The Myth of Moderate Republican Senators

No matter where they are, in the U.S. Senate, in Georgia or Idaho, in the suburbs of New York, on the Supreme Court, wherever – if someone identifies as a Republican, or a conservative, in 2017 they are telling you that they are okay with tactics and behavior by Republicans that they would denounce as offensive and unconstitutional if it came from anybody else.  Their hypocrisy on steroids renders them less than a political party, and more of a gang.

They colluded with the Russians, lie with impunity, work tirelessly to impede voting and blocked a legitimate Supreme Court nominee.  Can the burning of the Reichstag be far behind?

 

Supreme Court to Look at WI Partisan Gerrymandering

Not surprising, we anticipated and hoped for this a few months ago, but the Court accepting this challenge to partisan gerrymandering is a big, big deal.  With one decision the Supreme Court could make our entire political system more fair, honest, nonpartisan and issues based in one decision.

The court accepted a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges last year ruled last year (sic) that the state’s Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.

Would any of the five conservatives on the court take away the tool that Republicans have used to force their agenda on states whose citizens do not actually vote in the majority for their policies?  While it’s exciting that they’ll hear the case, I am not going to hold my breath on it because it’s sheer optimism to think they will.

In their decision to hear the case they also decided, on 5-4 partisan lines, to stay the lower court ruling forcing WI to redraw lines now, effectively continuing the potentially unconstitutional Republican advantage.  They may believe there’s plenty of time to fix it before the 2018 election, so no need to force the state to go through the effort before a decision later in 2017.  Or they may be telegraghing that they’re not going to be the people to say that there is a constitutional issue in diluting other people’s votes and take away the GOP’s advantage – which is at its heart a Machiavellian lack of conscience about unfairness.

Essentially what the GOP did in WI and other states is that when they narrowly won an advantage in the state legislature in the tea party wave of 2010 they redrew districts to secure and expand their advantage to an almost laughably partisan level.  In WI, MI, PA, OH and NC more people consistently vote Democratic, but each state is overwhelmingly run by and represented in D.C. by Republicans.

In the election after adoption of the new maps, Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly.

Fairness is the issue, but the constitution, sadly, doesn’t guaranty fairness, just equal protection and freedom of speech.  Funny how the Court throughout its history, despite being populated by the most virtuous of us, consistently finds a way to descend into the gutter of common politics, and defend that as a virtue.

But an optimist can dream, right?

The Untold Story of the D.C. Shooting – The Damage High Powered Weapons Do

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Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip.  So that’s not life threatening, right?  Not if it were a handgun shot, or even a legitimate hunting rifle.  But the kind of semi-automatic rifle that the shooter used, like that in Orlando and Newtown and just generally really popular, was designed for war, for damaging specifically human flesh.

These weapons aren’t just deadly for their ability to fire more rapidly with magazines that hold more ammo, every shot is more deadly when it hits it’s intended target.  Or an unintended target.  It doesn’t care.

I once treated a patient shot in the pelvis with a similar weapon. The bullet shattered the hipbone into hundreds of pieces. It shredded the femoral artery, causing life-threatening bleeding and destroyed whole portions of the bowel and bladder.

Every Congressman should read What Bullets Do to the Body.

There is simply no reason for these weapons to be legally available to anybody but law enforcement and the military.  The lethality of these weapons is off the charts and we cannot justify it for self-defense or sport.

We’re just inviting disaster and it keeps coming.