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Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge is fighting an uphill battle against two term incumbent Chris Gibson but after meeting him yesterday, I believe there's a chance he can win. I confess that I had been skeptical about his candidacy. He has just moved to the district, clearly with the intent of running. He has loads of money, as the husband of one of the Facebook billionaires, Chris Hughes. He is 27 and his only political experience has been campaigning for marriage equality. His business experience consists largely of investing his and his husband's money in local businesses. Gibson, a native of the district and a retired colonel with several combat tours in Iraq, has labeled Eldridge a billionaire carpetbagger who is out to buy himself a seat in Congress. Gibson has successfully painted himself as a moderate but has joined in the endless votes to repeal the ACA, and only last week voted for HR 694, which authorizes suing the president.

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I am still trying to account for Kerry's current stance as chief promoter of this new war. After all, he first came to national notice for his opposition to the Viet Nam War. True, he was not a draft resister but, like so many veterans, he was unwilling to remain silent after he learned what that war really was about.  When he enlisted in 1966 antiwar opposition had already begun but it was still limited mostly to the Left and pacifist groups. Even Daniel Ellsberg did not understand how criminal the war was in 66. This is why I never faulted Kerry for not taking a stand while still at Harvard nor for enlisting. (I supported Goldwater in 64 myself)

I remember how impressed I was in 1971 by his testimony in Congress and by his leadership in the Winter Soldier investigations. (The documentary film Winter Soldier is well worth viewing) His Senate career was also exemplary, as in his lead role in the BCCI investigation.

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Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 11:39 AM PDT

It's tough being a world cop

by Valatius

Ross Douthat's column in today's New York Times "War, What is it good for?" offers a fictional version of what Obama would say about Syria if he could be honest. It’s not about humanitarianism. It’s not about any threat to the U.S. It is about the role that the U.S. plays in the world and has played since 1945. He imagines Obama saying:

But what the view from this office has taught me is that real stability still depends almost exclusively on the United States military’s monopoly on global force. Multilateralism is a nice idea, but right now it’s the Pax Americana or nothing. There’s nobody else prepared to act to limit the ambitions of bad actors and keep them successfully boxed in.
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Prepaid display at Walmart

A more concise version of this story was published today in the Albany Times Union as A Huge Gap in Our Security.

Returning from a visit to Texas last month, I was called aside for some further attention at the Austin-Bergstrom airport. Perhaps the scanner revealed some anomaly of which I was unaware or maybe a mysterious algorithm randomly selects those to be singled out for more intensive scrutiny. Whatever the reason, I was patted down and my hands were tested for explosive residue.  

I am not complaining. I was in Manhattan on 9/11 and have no problem with TSA agents looking at every airline passenger, no matter how innocent he or she appears, as a possible terrorist.  But the experience got me thinking. If I were actually a terrorist, wouldn’t I know enough not to smuggle a weapon onto a plane at this point in history? Would I really be walking into a security checkpoint laden down with guns and bombs?


Would you sypport a federal law requring identification for all buyers of prepaid cellphones and internet devices?

19%10 votes
80%41 votes

| 51 votes | Vote | Results

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Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 09:07 AM PDT

I agree with my Republican congressman

by Valatius

Last Fall I wrote a diary on the congressional  race in NY-19 in which I volunteered for the Democratic challenger, Julian Schriebman. Although I had misgivings about Schriebman’s history as a CIA lawyer, the main issue for me was winning a Democratic majority in the House. As I expected, however, the Republican incumbent Chris Gibson won and is a generally reliable part of the Boehner stranglehold on Congress.  Although Gibson is widely seen around here as a decent guy and respected for his service in Iraq, I knew he was neither a simple country boy nor the yahoo his Tea Party supporters took him to be. He retired as a colonel and had been a fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford. And he had written a scholarly treatise with the rather disturbing title of Securing the State.

But Gibson has struck an independent path on some key national security issues. He opposed the blanket renewal of the Patriot Act sought by the administration. And  he voted for the Amash amendment to rein in the NSA’s mass collection of private communications.


Do you support the Obama administration on NSA surveillance policies or its bipartisan opposition?

27%10 votes
72%27 votes

| 37 votes | Vote | Results

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Eliphalet Remington

When I was growing up in Little Falls, New York in the 1960s, the men who worked in Snyder’s  on East Main Street or at the Remington factory  in nearby Ilion had good jobs. The work was highly skilled and the pay gave their families a solid middle class life. And those men produced solid goods that stood the test of time.

 We owned the products of those factories. I had an ancient Snyder bicycle that took me anywhere I wanted to go. And one of my father’s proudest possessions was a Remington Springfield 30-06 bolt action rifle.  A standard US infantry weapon for World War I and the first part of World War II, the 30-06 was a reliable deer rifle even after a half century of use.

 Although Snyder’s was closed decades ago, Remington Arms in nearby Ilion is humming with activity - the only major manufacturing firm left in a valley strewn with abandoned factories. The work at Remington is still highly skilled, much sought after, and still pays well. But the workers in Ilion built the Bushmaster .223 assault rifle used to kill the children of Newtown.

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Oil tankers in Albany
Tanker cars full of Bakken crude in downtown Albany

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York  and New Jersey coast,  politicians and media people actually pronounced the words “climate change” without immediately stressing that there is no way to attribute any one extreme event to a changed climate. Looking at the flooded Brooklyn-Tunnel in November, I thought to myself that everything had changed. But, judging by the silence around here on our own rail-and-water version of the XL Pipeline, I’m less optimistic.

Bloomberg did endorse Obama on the grounds that he believed in the reality of climate change. Chris Christie left no doubts that he thought Romney's response to Hurricane Sandy was pathetic. And Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out:

It’s a longer conversation, but I think part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality, it is a reality that we globe…You can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward," are vulnerable. Climate change is a controversial subject, right? People will debate whether there is climate change … that’s a whole political debate that I don’t want to get into. I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations, which is not political … There’s only so long you can say, ‘this is once in a lifetime and it’s not going to happen again.”
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It’s beginning to look as if Hurricane Sandy has finally made the words “climate change” acceptable for public discussion. As most rational people noticed, the words never appeared anywhere in the four national debates. Global warming is  more accurate, but at least the word climate is out there in the mass media and in the mouths of a few politicians. The far-seeing congressman Ed Markey is getting interviews and other hitherto timid or merely pragmatic Democrats will soon be saying the same truths in public. I fully expect Chuck Schumer, among others, to step up on this issue. His pessimism on getting even cap-and-tradethrough congress in 2010 proved to be correct.

It’s still very tentative with lots of perhapses and maybes about whether or not  this one storm is directly caused by climate change, but the corporate media is beginning to gingerly poke at this issue. Andrew Revkin at the often admirable NY Times dot Earth blog is typical in still quibbling over whether Sandy was directly caused by climate change.(Two views of a superstorm  in climate context)but I’m anticipating that the conversation will slowly shift toward the kind of realism expressed by James Hansen in his essay on the XL pipeline and the Alberta Tar Sands: Game over for climate change

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Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM PDT

Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza

by Valatius

I dont' know why the entire Democratic party is not talking about Greg Palast's great piece in the Nation: Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza. It's really an amazing revelation. Although Romney opposed the bailout, the Romney family raked in millions intended for the auto industry.

After opposing the auto bailout, and lying every which way about what kind of bankruptcy he favored, Romney continue to benefit from a complex scheme in which huge amounts of federal bailout cash was diverted to his wife Ann and to other members of the top .01%

I'm going to give only a brief summary below the fold because you absolutely must read Greg Palast's whole article. He is meticulous about the various corporate layers, combinations and maneuvers. And his sources appear impeccable to me.

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Our  Republican congressman Chris Gibson is a likeable and modest guy, and that’s why I’d give him the edge in the ongoing congressional race in NY-19.  In fact, I like him myself even though I won’t vote for him. We’re neighbors and last time I saw him he was just sitting on his porch in Kinderhook as I went biking past.   First time I met him, I was at the 4th of July parade with my grandkids and we were talking for a while and he never mentioned he was running for Congress.  His aunt even asked me to write his authorized biography – until Chris apparently vetoed the idea of having an amateur like myself take on such a task. (Fair disclosure: I met the very nice lady while infilftrating a tea party rally)

And Chris is one of only 500 or so people who read my first book, or claimed to,  and that goes a long way with me, Republican or no.

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In November 2010 I wrote a diary entitled Obama's DHS acts to extend Arizona-style anti-immigrant policy nationwide. Although it seemed for a while that the president would rein in the abuses of that program, the opposite has occurred.

We are all aware of the extent to which the Republicans have demonized immigrants, but the "Secure Communities" program about which I wrote started with Bush but it has now become the centerpiece of Obama policy on immigrants. While Republicans openly celebrate their contempt for the most voiceless and powerless among us, our own Democratic president has quietly been supporting a program that is little different than those advocated by people like Jan Brewer or Joe Arpaio. This program, which has already led to the deportation of a million undocumented people since January 2009, has been all but ignored by the media yet it continues to expand and will take effect in New York state tomorrow.

While the attention of many progressive US citizens is taken up with issues that directly affect them like marriage equality, health care and women's rights, this attack on the the non-citizens who do the most thankless work in this society has been relentless.

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Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 02:00 AM PST

The Socialist Mayor of Schenectady

by Valatius

       A hundred years ago Democrats and Republicans were united in their hatred for socialism. Unlike today, however, socialism was not simply a mythical bogeyman. There was a real Socialist Party. It was growing and it was a threat to the two major parties. This was true on a national level where  presidential candidate Eugene V. Debswas barnstorming  the country in his own “Red Special” train and it was true on a local level where Socialists came to power in a number of American cities.
      Within five years, the party had been destroyed, its leaders jailed or exiled, and the United States had embarked on its long adventure of international militarism. And although the destruction of the Socialist Party was clearly a bipartisan mission, it was the Democratic Wilson administration which used the Espionage Act of 1917 and the 1919 Palmer Raids to suppress every kind of radical dissenter.
      It was with this history I mind that I recently visited Schenectady, New York, where the charismatic socialist George Lunn dominated city politics for a decade before eventually cutting his losses and becoming a Democrat.

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