Wednesday, September 28, 2016

President Obama Meets with Troops in Virginia

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Politics in Action: H.R. 5325

Senate Amendment to H.R. 5325 -- Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 and Zika Response and Preparedness Act, 2016
(Sen. Cochran, R-MS)

The Administration supports passage of Senate Amendment to H.R. 5325, making: 1) continuing appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2017; 2) appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the FY ending September 30, 2017; 3) additional resources available to combat the Zika virus; and 4) for other purposes. 

By providing a short-term funding bridge, the bill would allow critical Government functions to operate without interruption.  To minimize the negative impacts of a short-term funding measure on Federal agencies, the Congress should act quickly to enact full-year appropriations legislation for the remainder of FY 2017.  The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to support investments equally balanced between defense and non-defense spending that will create jobs, support middle-class families, contribute to long-term growth, and safeguard national security.

The Administration is disappointed the legislation continues a provision that would bar the Securities and Exchange Commission from taking action to increase transparency in public companies' political spending.  The Administration strongly objects to the inclusion of problematic provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.

The Administration is also disappointed that—despite overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral support—the Congress failed to ensure that the Export-Import Bank is able to fully assist American businesses and workers by restoring a board quorum to the Bank.

The Administration appreciates that the Congress is finally taking bipartisan action to address the Zika virus.  The funding provided in the bill supports the Administration's efforts to reduce the risk of the Zika virus, particularly in pregnant women, by better controlling the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus, develop new tools, including vaccines and better diagnostics to protect the Nation from the Zika virus, and to conduct crucial research projects needed to better understand the impacts of the Zika virus on infants and children.  The Administration appreciates that the bill is free of provisions that would inhibit the Administration's ability to target resources to best protect the American people from the Zika virus.  However, the Administration continues to believe that funding to fight the Zika virus should be treated as an emergency, the same as past public health emergencies, and is disappointed that the funding is partially offset.

The Administration is pleased that there appears to be a path forward to provide targeted funding to support people in communities impacted by natural disasters and catastrophic events, including in Louisiana, Flint, Michigan, and other areas.  The Administration welcomes the bill's investments in communities ravaged by natural disasters, but notes that the funding provided is insufficient to fully address needed recovery efforts in these and other communities.  Upon its return in November, the Administration urges the Congress to take immediate action to provide funding, whether in an appropriations bill or another vehicle, that supports those who have been most impacted by natural disasters and other catastrophic events.

In addition, the Administration welcomes the bill's investments in military infrastructure, housing, and services for men and women in our Armed Forces and their families.  The Administration also appreciates the Congress' commitment to fund the benefits and services our veterans have earned. 

Source: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award Presented to Kristine Mraz

Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award to an educator in New York City. The award recognizes outstanding educators who exemplify the highest professional standards and work to inspire students, instill a love of learning and ensure school is exciting, motivating and challenging.

The winners hail from every region of the state, working with students in grades Pre-K-12 and teaching diverse subjects such as music, math, reading, science, technical education and art. 

The Governor, joined by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, presented the award to Kristine Mraz, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 059, the Beekman Hill International School. 

Mraz teaches Kindergarten at P.S. 059, the Beekman Hill International School. In addition to writing and teaching, she consults in schools across the country and as far away as Taiwan. She primarily supports teachers in early literacy, play, and inquiry based learning. 

Ms. Mraz earned a Masters of Education in Moderate Special Needs from Boston College. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Boston University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She grew up in Fairport, New York. This is her 12th year teaching in New York City.  

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Peres' Funeral Presents Huge Challenge for Security Conscious Israel

Security officials will face one of the most challenging events of recent years when a host of world leaders descend on Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres on Friday.

President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to attend, while Bill Clinton and the U.K.'s Prince Charles have already confirmed they will be among the mourners.

The sheer number of guests combined with Israel's tense security situation presents a daunting task for security officials — but Israel is up to the challenge, according to experts. 

Click here for the full article.

Senate Overrides Obama Veto On 9/11 Bill

The Senate on Wednesday took the first major step in overriding President Obama's veto of controversial legislation that would allow the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot.

The overwhelming 97-1 vote comes after Obama vetoed the bill on Friday and a consequent push by 9/11 survivors and victims' family members and their supporters to buck the president. The House is also expected to have the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the measure later on Wednesday afternoon, which would be the first veto override of Obama's presidency.

All of the senators voted in favor of the legislation except for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada who had previously discussed the matter with the administration. 

Click here for the full article.

Do You Want Fascism to Come to the U.S. Sooner, or Later?


In my most recent column, “The End(s) of Capitalism,” I discussed the factors that indicate that capitalism is (finally) coming to the end of its useful life.  They are, in no particular order of importance: over the last century or so, the capitalist ruling classes in most countries have managed to destroy for the most part any semblance of working class consciousness and any semblance of a militant trade union movement; in terms of its ability to produce and produce sustained growth, without fiscal or monetary stimulus (and in some cases event that doesn’t work) capitalism is running down; chronic, residual, unemployment is becoming common in many capitalist countries; the wealth and income gap (gulf) is becoming ever wider (as highlighted by a capitalist [on the liberal side] economist, Joseph Stiglitz), but with no significant political or mass-based opposition, the capitalists just keep on concentrating both, reducing thereby the amount of capital available for new investment; capitalist potential for making profit is becoming increasingly financialized, which reduces employment; and then there is CAR: Computerization, Automation, and Robotization, which reduces available employment and thus the workers’ share of the surplus value produced by their work.  And this is only a partial list.

Now eventually, this is going to lead to worker revolts of some kinds.  However, they will likely be quite some time in coming because of the growth of the “anti-immigrant” movements in so many capitalist countries, certainly including, with the rise of Trump, the United States.  Examples include the United Kingdom Independence Party in Great Britain, the Front Nacional in France, and the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary (which was the home of the first fascist state, established by Admiral Miklos Horthy in 1919). 

It is difficult to know how many, if any, of these far-right parties, which certainly have major elements of fascism (see below) in their ideologies and programs, presently have any direct connection to a majority of their respective national ruling classes, and/or have been consciously created by them.  However, they are certainly very useful at this stage of history to their respective ruling classes, for they serve extraordinarily well to distract significant elements of their respective working classes from the real source of their difficulties --- that is, of course, capitalism and its natural outcomes resulting from its exclusive foci on producing profits and more capital --- to focus instead on “immigrants” and “others” who are different, instead of focusing on class struggle. 

The Trumpist Republican Party in the U.S. is a prime example of this.  Over the last 40 years, with a policy that can be encapsulated as “Reaganism,” the Republican Party has been the primary political representative of the U.S. ruling class, (although, please do not let us exclude the Democrats from responsibility as well).  It has established and led the policy and program agenda of which has led to misery for so many members of the white working class, from the destruction of the trade unions to the massive export of capital and with it deindustrialization, massive tax cuts for the rich and a steady decline in funding for various government agencies on which significant sectors of the working class depend, like the Veterans Administration.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Greanville Post

Legislation Signed Allowing the Alternative Veterans' Tax Exemption to Apply to NY School Taxes

Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed legislation to allow New York City to extend the alternative veterans' tax exemption to school taxes.

"Our veterans answered the call to protect the freedoms that this state and this nation were founded upon and this exemption is just one small way to thank them for their service," Governor Cuomo said. "I'm proud to sign this measure and close the loophole that denied New York City veterans the opportunity to receive the same benefit as their peers in every other part of the state."

In 2013, the Governor signed legislation to allow school districts across the state to provide the alternative veterans’ exemption against school taxes. However, since the City of New York does not have a school board, there was no mechanism to grant this relief to veterans in the five boroughs.

This legislation (A.9688 / S.7121) reforms this inequity and allows the New York City Council to pass a local law to extend the alternative veterans’ tax exemption to school taxes.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick said, "Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for us and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. The law being signed today clarifies my existing legislation passed in 2013 to allow the New York City Council to grant a property tax exemption to tens of thousands of veterans residing in the five boroughs, providing them and their families with significant savings each year. Many other localities throughout New York State have already implemented this measure, and I implore the New York City Council to follow in their footsteps and act on this legislation immediately. Thank you to Governor Cuomo & Senator Lanza for their partnership in this effort, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the City Council on bringing well-earned tax relief to our Veteran homeowners."

Senator Andrew J. Lanza said, "This law grants qualified veterans in NYC, upon approval of the City Council an exemption on their school taxes. It is only fitting that we show our commitment to military veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom. As the proud sponsor of this bill, I think it is important that we demonstrate our unwavering commitment to honor and properly recognize our veterans' service to America." 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The Government Funding Deadline

The Hill’s Scott Wong spoke by phone about the possibility of a government shutdown ahead of the September 30 funding deadline. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

First Lady Michelle Obama Campaign Appearance

First lady Michelle Obama campaigns for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Donald Trump Remarks to the Polish American Congress

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers remarks to the annual meeting of the Polish American Congress in Chicago, Illinois. He’s introduced by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

State Department Officials Testify on North Korea Threat

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russell and Daniel Fried, the sanctions policy coordinator at the State Department, testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the persistent threat posed by North Korea. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Trailblazers in Black History: Macon Bolling Allen

Macon Bolling Allen, born Allen Macon Bolling, is believed to be both the first African-American licensed to practice law and to hold a judicial position in the United States. Allen passed the bar exam in Maine in 1844 and became a Massachusetts Justice of the Peace in 1848. 

He moved to South Carolina after the American Civil War to practice law and was elected as a probate court judge in 1874. Following the Reconstruction Era, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association.

Additional information is available here.

Source: Wikipedia

Cuomo to Attend Peres Funeral

Statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo

“New York is home to more than 1.7 million Jews – the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the world – and the community is mourning the loss of a larger-than-life figure. Former President Shimon Peres was a leader and a statesman, and an especially wonderful friend to all of us. He will be missed dearly. Tomorrow, I will be traveling to Israel for President Peres’ funeral to pay my respects on behalf of all New Yorkers. New York has always had a special relationship with Israel, and this trip will ensure that our state has an opportunity to say goodbye to President Peres and honor his devotion to the people of Israel and Jews across the world.”

Last night, Governor Cuomo released the following statement after the death of Shimon Peres:

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former President of Israel Shimon Peres. He was not only a great leader for his country, but one of the most profound statesmen our world has ever known.

"Serving in nearly every high office of government, Shimon Peres dedicated his life to his country and his people. He worked tirelessly to reaffirm their rights and freedoms and, following the systematic annihilation of six million fellow Jews, he worked to ensure their future by helping to establish an independent Jewish state. Shimon later devoted his life to the pursuit of peace and economic cooperation, an effort he pursued with determination and dignity until the end.

"I offer my deepest condolences to the Peres family and to all Israelis. I will remember Shimon as a friend to both me and my father, and honor him as a friend to all of New York and to all defenders of peace across the world." 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo 

Gary Johnson: Take a Deep Breath, Voters. There Is a Third Way.

The following op-ed was published today in the New York Times by the third party candidate. 

The America I know wasn’t on the television screen on Monday night. My America is about the freedom to make choices, pursue your dreams and use your skills as entrepreneurs. It is about having more choices than just red versus blue.

Americans want to be able to choose a president who is capable of reason, of learning from failures, and of telling them the truth, even when it hurts. Most of all, they want to choose a president who will adhere to the Constitution and will make government live within its means.

I’m offering that choice. I wasn’t part of the presidential debate on Monday, but as Americans listened in dismay to the so-called major parties’ candidates, Google searches for “Gary Johnson” skyrocketed.

I’m the third candidate — the leader of the Libertarian Party. My name will be on every ballot alongside that of my running mate, Bill Weld, who like me was a twice-elected Republican governor of a strongly Democratic state. Contrary to the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, Bill and I don’t believe the United States is a polarized nation. 

We don’t deny that there are very real tensions on the fringes, and we can’t simply ignore those tensions. But when it comes down to the basics, most Americans really aren’t that far apart. 

Click here for the full article. 

Clinton Takes on Her Challenge with Millennial Voters

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter. 

There's a reason why Hillary Clinton today is campaigning -- again -- with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire: She has some work to do with young voters. In last week's NBC/WSJ poll, she was running 16 points ahead of Donald Trump among registered voters ages 18-34, 50%-34%. But that margin decreases to 12 points when you add Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein to the mix: Clinton 38%, Trump 26%, Johnson 17%, and Stein 5%. (Indeed, those percentages for Johnson and Stein were almost double their support among all voters.) Maybe more importantly, young voters aren't as interested in the election as older voters are. In the poll, 50% of those 18-34 registered as either 9s or 10s on a 10-point interest scale, compared with 67% for those 35-49, 79% for those 50-64, and 80% for those 65 and older. As we learned in 2012, this lower interest doesn't mean these younger voters won't vote; in fact, we saw plenty of 5s and 6s and 7s turn out for Barack Obama. But Clinton clearly has some work to do. She appears with Sanders at the University of New Hampshire in Durham at 2:15 pm ET.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News  

Dems Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle

High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. 

Click here for the full article.