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


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.

Once Again Reminded That Americans Are Being Cheated Out of a Great Country

In 2014 I wrote this upon the occasion of Germany eliminating college tuition:

My reaction to the parts of Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko”, where he shows how other countries provide universal healthcare to their citizens as a right, was disgust and the realization that Americans are suckers. We’re being screwed by our government and the assumptions that we live with that we’re all on our own and our government is not really there to help the individual succeed, no less thrive. Germany, and other Western countries, have a different view of government. Which is odd because many of them got their constitutions from ours, but their interpretation of it is 180 degrees different from our Supreme Court and the traditional pre-New Deal 19th century understanding that stubbornly persists today.

One of the Polislice progeny applied to a psychology program at one of those universities that involve flaura that climb up their ancient walls.  He got in.  He’s become very interested in exploring the subject and he earned his way in (maazel tov!) and that’s a lovely, lovely thing!

However, said program costs $50,000.

He doesn’t necessarily want to be a psychologist.  He already has a calling in music.  He’s just fascinated by the subject and wants to explore it.  No job at the end of it is guaranteed to justify it.  (Although that’s also true for the people who DO want to pursue it as a profession, isn’t it?)  So a loan is impractical.

In Europe what would it cost?  In some countries nothing, in others a nominal fee, nothing prohibitive.   But here in exceptional America, if you have a curiosity to study something, a desire to learn at the highest levels, even if you are accepted you still may not be able to swing it because of the outrageous cost of attending such prestigious university that, by the way has a billion dollar endowment and owns huge swaths of uptown Manhattan.

It just sucks to be hindered from exploring every intellectual, avocational or professional avenue – by money!  Such hindrance does not exist for the 1 percenters out there.  Just the rest of us.  “Hey state university for you, pal!”

Meritocracy my ass.

We are still suckers and will be for the foreseeable future.

Georgia 6th Special Election Next Week and oh by the way, Voting System Completely Vulnerable

Cybersecurity experts have been warning about Georgia’s election systems security for over 10 years.  Which is interesting because the Georgia Secretary of State at the time of his first warnings was GOP congressional candidate on the ballot next Tuesday, Karen Handel.  She ignored the warnings then and Georgia has continued to ignore the warnings since.

Someone who should be particularly concerned about the center’s security lapses and the use of the touch-screen machines in the upcoming election is Handel, the Republican vying for the 6th Congressional District seat. In 2006, when Handel ran for secretary of state of Georgia, she made the security of the state’s voting systems one of her campaign issues. After her win, she ordered a security review of the systems and the procedures for using them.

Experts at Georgia Tech conducted the review and found a number of security concerns, which they discussed in a report submitted to Handel….

But once they delivered the finished report to Handel, DeMillo says, “We never heard anything more about it.” It’s not clear whether Handel’s office acted on recommendations made in the report. (Handel’s campaign office did not respond to a call for comment.)

They’ve been using an electric touch screen system there since 2002 with experts warning them and even suing to no avail, for the addition of paper receipts.  The Georgia election hierarchy has strangely fought every warning of potential election issues.

Researcher Logan Lamb, after hearing about the potential of Russian breaches, looked into the Georgia system which is housed at Kennesaw State University Center.  What he found was stunning and alarming.

“I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hack an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.

“I was like whoa, whoa. … I did not mean to do that. … I was absolutely stunned, just the sheer quantity of files I had acquired,” he tells Politico Magazine in his first interview since discovering the massive security breach.

It’s even more alarming that GOP election supervisors and state election officials have been dismissive of every warning.  Leading one to believe that the flaws in the system are a feature not a bug.

Anything funny happens next Tuesday and all eyes should turn to Georgia’s lax cyber security and the people who were aware of it but did nothing.

By the way today is the last day of early voting and Ossoff is all over the issue of Handel’s inaction on voting system security.


The Price of Hiring Trump – Who He Hires

I’ve said that HRC’s biggest error in the campaign was focusing more on Trump’s wanting character and not as much on what it would mean to have a President Trump, ie. someone at odds with the entire establishment, a limited Rolodex of people who will take his calls, and the personality disorders of an autocrat.

We know his cabinet are a group of sycophants and billionaires that received the fewest approval votes from the Senate in our history.  Including an energy secretary that didn’t know what the Energy dept. did.  An education secretary that hates public schools. An EPA administrator that sued the EPA dozens of times.  A national security adviser that had to be fired for undisclosed foreign ties.  And that’s without naming Christie, Gingrich and Giuliani, the best known of his useless, unqualified supporters.

We know that hundreds of positions remain open 6 months into the non-administrating “administration.”

They’ve gone through their friends, and friends of friends and then friends of people they’ve humiliated over and over again (new FBI Director nominee and Christie lawyer Chris Wray)

But never let it be said that the Trump Employment Agency isn’t a miracle worker – if you don’t really need a job and have no real qualifications they’ll place you in a position of insane responsibility you have no right to hope for!

He just hired Eric’s wedding planner to administer billions of dollars in HUD money.

Now President Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton — who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned — to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York…

“Responsible for organizing, executing and assisting with upscale events and celebrity golf tournaments,” her LinkedIn profile says. “Handle celebrity talent acquisition for various marketing projects, philanthropic events and golf tournaments.”

Okay, I was being flip and dismissive citing “wedding planner,” there’s also organizing golf tournaments!  And so what if she has no clue what she’s doing, she can be guided by housing expert Ben Carson!

Cindy McCain, Budweiser heiress and wife of a senator that yells at clouds and interrupts senators of color, has a position at the State Dept.

“[Trump personally], aggressively courted her for this,” one White House official told The Daily Beast. “It’s a done deal now… The president had floated several positions before—this is the one that stuck.”

A formal announcement of that new role is expected within a matter of weeks. Early last month, the Associated Press was the first to report that Cindy McCain was expected to be “offered a prominent role in the Trump administration’s State Department.”

I generally like the wives of senators who don’t interrupt Kamala Harris, I hate to tell you, but I’m sure Mrs. McCain is well qualified to give a cocktail party to spread awareness of human trafficking.  She has a degree in canapés, i’m told.

McCain and Patton together could throw a mean golf cotillion I’m sure, that Ivanka could host.  At taxpayer expense of course.