Friday, April 15, 2016

Last Call For Out Like Flint, Con't

It's official, Republicans have killed federal funding to fix Flint, Michigan's water crisis again, and again the bad guy here is Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee.

Bipartisan Senate leaders reached an agreement Wednesday on a long-stalled energy modernization bill that some had hoped would include money to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. 
But because the Flint provision is still the subject of a hold by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee -- who objects to the way it is funded -- the energy bill will now move on without it. 
The setback is significant, because even if Lee's concerns are resolved eventually, it will likely be time-consuming and complicated to find a new legislative vehicle to pass the money for Flint. 
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow quickly issued a statement knocking Lee for holding up the funds, which she argues are desperately needed. 
"It's totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully paid for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have serious lead and water problems," the Democrat said. "This is about something as basic as making sure families have clean water to drink and children with lead poisoning get the help they need." 
"We will not give up until this gets done using whatever legislative vehicle it takes," she added. 
The Flint measure would provide $250 million for repairs to its lead-leaching water lines as well as deal with the health effects on the city's residents. The money would also be available to other communities with drinking water problems.

You think Lee is going to suffer an ounce of political fallout over this in a state like Utah?  He won in 2010 by nearly 30 points, and the Democrats are running Jon Swinton, a marriage therapist, against him.  The one poll I can find was from a year ago and Lee would win by six.  Now?  Who knows, nobody in Utah seems to care about removing Lee from office. 

Utah's Senate primary isn't until the end of June, so if the one remotely popular Democrat in the state, Rep. Jim Matheson is going to step in, he has plenty of time, except for the fact Matheson now has a comfy job as an energy company and payday lender lobbyist after getting clobbered by GOP Rep. Mia Love in 2014. Odds are real good Matheson isn't going anywhere.

So Sen. Lee makes the perfect bad guy here. Utahns aren't going to punish him, and Flint will continue to suffer.

And so it goes. America really doesn't seem too interested in helping Flint when "everybody needs help with my tax money" in the age of Austerity.

A House Afire, Con't

Larry Sabato's crew at Crystal Ball see the Dems picking up a significant number of seats in the House in 2016 at this point, and should the GOP really screw it up with a Trump or Cruz disaster at the top of the ticket, Dems winning back the House isn't totally out of the question.

Before this update, we rated 229 House seats as either Safe, Likely, or Leaning to the Republicans, 188 Safe/Likely/Leaning to the Democrats, and 18 Toss-ups. If one splits the Toss-ups 9 to 9, it would leave the House with 238 Republicans and 197 Democrats, or a net gain of nine seats for the Democrats. The new ratings are as follows: 227 Safe/Likely/Leaning Republican, 188 Safe/Likely/Leaning Democratic, and 20 Toss-ups. Split the Toss-ups, and Democrats net 10 seats, or only a third of what they need.

That is roughly what our outlook is right now — a small Democratic gain of about 5-10 seats — but as we showed earlier, the presidential math could change that calculation, swelling Democratic gains. On the flip side, Republicans still have a chance to hold Democrats to single-digits gains. A Republican net gain seems exceedingly unlikely at this point, but in this crazy cycle one cannot completely rule it out with seven months to go.

It's interesting to see that 5-10 seats is a middle point in a year where the Democrats have controlled the White House for two terms.  You would normally expect the non-incumbent party to make gains, but that's how bad the GOP has it right now, even with the significant structural advantages through redistricting in 2010 and gerrymandering after that gave them a huge win in 2014.

Not only are there a significant number of toss-ups on the Republican side, but several very likely Dem pickups too.  Getting enough to take back the House isn't likely, but they could gain 20 seats or so at this point.

We'll see.

A Mess Of Carolina BBQ, Con't

The most liberal part of North Carolina is definitely Asheville, where I went to college back in the 90's, and it's places like this that do give me hope that something can be done about NC's awful Republican problem.  The state's being boycotted by a number of groups over HB2, the recent "bathroom bill" legislation passed in less than a day by Republicans in a special session of the state legislature, and not everyone in the state thinks a boycott is fair or even helpful, like Linda-Marie Barrett, of the city's legendary Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe.

We’ve just entered a particularly rough patch, though, as we endure the repercussions of a new law that bars transgender people from the bathrooms of their choice and permits discrimination based on sexual orientation. This horrible legislation goes against what we stand for: human rights, tolerance and inclusiveness. We’ve held meetings about how to respond. We’ve helped write a letter from North Carolina independent bookstores to the State Legislature demanding a repeal of the law, and we’ve signed onto a letter from children’s book authors in the state speaking out against it. We are heartened that Asheville’s City Council just passed a resolution calling for the law’s repeal.

But now we’re being made to pay a price for a law we vehemently oppose, as artists, businesses and government officials have begun to boycott North Carolina. Our store, too, is being boycotted. Customers from other states tell us they won’t visit until the law is no more. More threatening to us financially and to our community culturally is the cancellation of events by authors.

The National Book Award-winning author Sherman Alexie canceled an event in May that included a talk in a large ticketed venue and two school visits. Although we deeply respect the author’s reason for boycotting, we lost out on much needed revenue through book sales tied to his appearance. We also lost an opportunity to connect a beloved, charismatic author with fans in a city who would have been empowered by his outrage over the law.

After he canceled, other writers and booksellers let us know they stood with us. But this shows how precarious social protest can be, especially when it involves boycotting bookstores, which are financially vulnerable, and often the best place in a community to discuss controversial ideas.

As justified as a boycott can be, we ask authors to consider a way of protesting other than boycotting bookstores. We need your voices, your presence, your art. When you cancel events with us, you deprive readers of a voice that can buoy them up, enlighten them, and demonstrate the fellowship of being there for each other, in community.

For 34 years we’ve had authors’ backs when their books were challenged or their events protested. We need authors to have our backs, too.

And yeah, like every other UNC-Asheville student, I went to Malaprop's several times.  It's a great place and if you're ever in Asheville, PLEASE go there.  I hate to see it suffer like this.  Boycotts do have unintended consequences and are not always the best solution to a problem.  Small businesses, especially bookstores, are very vulnerable to economic pressure.

Voting out the lawmakers who caused the problem, well, that's entirely different.


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