Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Those Retirement Rumors

On Monday, Rottenchester posted about the latest Randy Kuhl retirement rumor, this time involving the NRCC trying to convince Congressman Kuhl from seeking another term (you know, "We'll make him an offer he can't refuse..."). I agree with Rottenchester that this latest rumor sounds incredibly fishy, not only for the reasons he cites, but also because federal election laws forbid the NRCC from approaching any incumbent to have such a conversation anyway.

William F. Buckley Jr., 1925-2008

"A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"
~William F. Buckley, Jr.

I'm very saddened by the passing of WFB today. Building a political movement is much like building a house: You need to start with a firm foundation. And I would argue that while Edmund Burke was the father of conservatism in general, Buckley laid the foundation for the modern American conservative movement. Conservatives should be thankful that a man like Buckley existed, and that he never gave up on yelling "Stop!"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ontario County's Growth

13WHAM's Evan Dawson has a great story on Ontario County's growth compared to most of the region, along with a blog post about the Eastview Mall in Victor. It's great to read and watch stories like these about Ontario.

Dawson emailed me a few days ago to get my input on the story, and here was my response:

I think the Progressive Farmer put it best in 2006 by ranking Ontario County the "Best Place to Live" in the United States, because of its: "Great schools. Low crime. Excellent health care." I'm not originally from here, having grownup downstate and then living a few years in DC, but I fell in love with the area after meeting my then girlfriend (now fiancee) who's from the region. It's a beautiful county, right in the middle of the Finger Lakes region and New York State's wine country, and with its closeness to the third largest city in the state, Ontario County offers a unique opportunity to residents who commute to Rochester but want to live in either a rural or suburban setting. Besides, where else in America can one get a slice of delicious grape pie?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Congressman Kuhl's Statement on FISA

I missed posting this statement from Congressman Kuhl over the weekend. As to his comments about the Clemens hearing last week, while I'm no Yankees fan, I fully agree that last week's congressional hearing on whether or not Roger Clemens used steroids was a joke. If it turns out that Clemens did in fact use roids, he should be punished, not by Congress, but by Bud Selig. And if Henry Waxman is so concerned about the state of baseball, I propose that he do us all a favor and resign from Congress and try to become the MLB Commissioner.
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 15 – U.S. Representative John R. "Randy" Kuhl, Jr. (R-Hammondsport) today issued the following statement regarding the priorities of the Democratic Leadership:

"America is fighting a battle against a potential recession, job loss, ramifications of war and famine, outlandish spending, and a failing health care system, but the Democratic leadership would rather hold a full-day hearing to determine if Roger Clemens used steroids. By being more concerned about sensationalism of cheating in baseball, the Democratic majority is cheating Americans out of the security and prosperity that their government has promised to uphold.

This week was another example of what happens when Congressional leadership fails to get their priorities in order. I understand that Speaker Pelosi wanted to get home for a wedding this weekend, but she put the bride and groom ahead of protecting our nation. By not allowing the bipartisan, Senate-passed FISA vote to be brought up on the floor, she has rendered U.S. intelligence officials unable to certify new terrorist surveillance without needless, cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles. I sure hope that was some amazing wedding cake.

Unless Roger Clemens has a plan to revive our faltering economy or pass legislation that will protect American from a terrorist attack, he has no business testifying on the Hill when Congress has more imperative issues to discuss. Maybe next week American Idol will hold their audition on Capitol Hill so the Democratic majority can delay taking up legislation to fix our porous borders or create solutions to Social Security.

The Democratic majority is out of touch with the American people. The majority has forgotten that the reason that they were sent to Washington was not to get a photo op with a celebrity, but to solve America's problems. I hope we can do better in future weeks."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Who Does My Brain Want to Vote For?

So I took the Implicit Association Test from Harvard University today, which is designed to use your mental reflexes to rank the remaining presidential candidates in either a positive or negative light. Not surprisingly, in my results, Huckabee was ranked on top, followed by McCain, then Obama, and all the way at the bottom, Hillary. These results pretty much mirror my results from this online candidate selector, which had Huckabee at 68%, McCain at 55%, Obama at 18%, and Hillary at 10%. The interesting thing about the latter results is that it is generally viewed that Obama is more liberal than Hillary, and he was, in fact, rated as having the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate last year. But according to the quiz, there are a few (and I mean "few") issues that we do agree on: (1) we favor allowing churches to provide welfare services; (2) we favor a means in which illegal immigrants could earn citizenship (though I'm sure we disagree on the means); and (3) we agree that drug laws should be enforced. As for Hillary, we agree on the first two items, though supposedly not on the third issue concerning drugs. Granted, none of these issues are make-or-break issues for me, but still interesting that a hard-core conservative like me slightly agrees with Obama more than Hillary.

As for the Harvard test, it measures likeability more than one's preference on the issues, and in that contest between Obama and Hillary, Obama wins in a landslide. And while I like McCain, there's no question that Huckabee is the more affable of the two, IMHO.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

House Republicans Protest Democrats’ Partisan Games at the Expense of America’s National Security

CNN : "What they're doing here is that they're trying to bring awareness to what's going on. They're ratcheting up pressure on House Democrats on the FISA act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. We heard from President Bush just a short time ago as well, so this is a full-court press that Republicans and President Bush are staging against House Democrats. This is a showdown over the legislation that governs how U.S. intelligence agencies oversee some communications between suspected terrorists." (Watch the full segment here.)

FOX: "There is some outrage on the Republican side. … The President and a number of Democrats and many Republicans in both the Senate and House are saying 'you have to pass a law, we cannot let the old law expire because there are problems in it.' The Leadership instead decided to pursue different matters and recess for a week without even taking up another effort." (Watch the full segment here.)

MSNBC: "A day when the President and these Republicans and a vast majority of the Senate feel as though the law governing the electronic surveillance of terrorists in this country should be taken up. That bill right now in limbo because the Senate has passed a bill that House Democrats are vehemently against … Congress due to go out on a week-long recess after they leave this week … Nancy Pelosi at this moment holding a press conference saying they will hold firm, they will not put the Senate bill on the floor…" (Watch the full segment here.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Congressman Kuhl: We Owe Our Deceased Veterans, Not the Other Way Around

Congressman Kuhl wrote the following post on The Hill's blog today, in which he announces that he's cosponsored H.R. 5148, a bill that would relieve families of paying certain debts if a veteran dies "as a result of an injury incurred or aggravated on active duty in a combat zone."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Criticism of DNC's "Superdelegates"

With the prospect of a brokered Dem Convention seeming increasingly likely this year (especially after Obama went three for three yesterday in states as different as Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska), Chris Bowers, an Obama supporter, indicates that he would quit the Dem party if the "superdelegates" don't vote for whom "the majority (or plurality) of its participants in primaries and caucuses want it to nominate" at the convention. Out of fairness to the Clinton campaign, he also advocates that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be allowed to vote at the convention, which would give her a few more delegates.

I can understand Bowers' frustration with the process, but this is not an argument to put forward now if you're an Obama fan. According to the latest CNN vote totals, Hillary has received just over 420,000 more votes than Obama when the vote tallies from Florida and Michigan are included. RealClearPolitics currently has Hillary having 3 more delegates than Obama, though that's without Florida and Michigan given that they won't have delegates seated at the convention at this time (though the DNC could change its minds on that decision), and the RCP polling national polling average has her beating Obama by 2.9%. However, Obama now has the momentum in this race and should continue to do well this month in states like ME (which is today, though this is the only race that I think is still "up in the air" left this month, given no current polls and New England having gone for Hillary thus far despite the Kennedy's), the VA-MD-DC trifecta on 2/12, WI (which usually votes similar to IA), and HI (where he grewup).

Yet, despite all this, what if Obama can't close the 400K voter gap, or there remains a razor thin delegate margin in June? Even though there is a lot of criticism against superdelegates, the fact is that we do not hold a national primary in this country. Instead, we have primary voters going to the polls during a six month period, during which they learn more about the candidates and make a decision at the time that they vote. And even when they vote, they're not voting for a particular candidate, but for the delegates to represent them at the convention, which is held more than eight months after the first caucus/primary contest. Because of this, I think it's very premature for an Obama supporter to say that he'd "quit the party" if the superdelegates don't support the "will of the people," because it's hard to claim a "will of the people" in the primary process. How many people who've already voted in the primary now regret their decision? What if something new transpires, or a scandal is revealed, against the "favored candidate" before the convention? Should the superdelegates vote for the candidate who received a plurality of the vote, or has a slight lead in delegates, then? And let's say that Hillary still has a slight lead in the vote total and delegate count then, but polls still show that the more liberal senator from Illinois has a better shot against McCain than Hillary, and the superdelegates decide that it's better for the party to nominate Obama in such circumstances? I'm sure under the latter scenario, Mr. Bowers would be singing a much different tune...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WHAM Followup

Evan Dawson replied to my comments on Rottenchester's blog here (just scroll down through the comments), and I replied to his. Perhaps my use of the word "bias" was too strong in this matter, and I appreciate Evan for taking the time to reply. As I stated in my reply to him, "In the past, when I have criticized other media outfits in their reporting of stories (particularly the local papers), I never received a single response from them, so I'm glad you took the time to reply."

While I may still disagree about how this story was portrayed, having the reporter in question follow up with the bloggers on this was very helpful, and even though I normally watch WROC 8 for my local news, Evan, through his thoughtful followup, has given me reasons to watch his network instead.

Brazil Truth

Rottenchester just posted a lengthly retort to my comments on his blog from last night, questioning how I could accused WHAM of media bias and providing a hypothetical if a Dem was investigated by the media for doing the same thing.

Yet, the proof of bias (see post above) is right on WHAM's website. Here's a link to the PDF on the channel's website with the expenditures. Notice something there? Right on the first page, the document is stamped January 31, 2008. Why is this relevant? Because Kuhl's office could NOT have provided the report to the reporter on the 2nd, since the report is not required to published until 60 days after the trip.

Here are excerpts from the Congressional Rules for "Official Travel" that apply to CODELS: "Additionally, the Speaker of the House may approve official foreign travel for a group rather than an individual. Group official foreign travel is called a 'congressional delegation' (CODEL). In the case of a CODEL, the committee chairman, ranking member, or senior employee must write the report for the entire group and submit the report to the Chair of the Committee on International Relations before the end of the session. The report should cover the per diem expenditures, transportation expenditures, and miscellaneous expenditures, as well as the reasons for the expenditures. Within 60 days of the beginning of the next regular session of Congress, the Chair of the Committee on International Relations must file a consolidated report of all committees' official foreign travel expenses with the Committee on House Administration. Changes may be made by submitting an amended report to the Clerk of the House (Emphasis added)." So as you can see the official foreign travel report should have been filed by "the committee chairman, ranking member, or senior employee" who "must write the report for the entire group" and it must be submitted before the end of the congressional session. Not in 30 days and certainly NOT by Congressman Kuhl! Even if Congressman Kuhl was traveling alone the rules state that "members must submit an expense report to the committee chairman within 60 days of the conclusion of the trip," not in 30 days. The 30 day rule applies only to officially connected travel, i.e., official travel paid by a private source, which this trip wasn't!

Super Tuesday Results

As expected, McCain cleaned up tonight and is clearly the frontrunner on the GOP side. And given that Romney said earlier tonight that he's in this race for the long haul, one has to wonder how that's even possible after tonight. As for Huckabee, he had a decent night, and may have increased his chances of being McCain's runningmate.

On the Dem side, Hillary had a much better night than I anticipated, particularly in California. Yet, Obama did very well tonight, winning many states and delegates, kept his campaign alive, with some speculation that he may have received more delegates than Hillary tonight, though I don't know if that will hold given the margin in CA right now (55%-33% for Hillary with 17% of precincts reporting right now). But we'll just have to wait and see how the delegates are apportioned tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, I don't think the Dem race will be decided for quite a while.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Price of Kuhl's Brazil Trip: $0.00671 Per Constituent

Congressman Kuhl just posted the total amount of his portion of the bipartisan Brazil delegation on energy independence: $4,028.93, or $0.00671 per constituent. Rottenchester found the post "snotty". But, when WHAM-13 has expended countless hours trying to do a hit job on Congressman Kuhl "getting to the truth", such a response is warranted. Now they're attacking the figure which Congressman Kuhl released since it may not include the cost of the military air transport. Of course, this expense would have been incurred anyway even if Congressman Kuhl didn't go, as his non-participation would not have cancelled the trip. Frankly, given that this trip helped in gathering information on energy independence, is encouraged by the State Department to foster diplomatic relations, and our congressman was invited by the Democratic organizer of the delegation, I would think that this should be a positive for Kuhl. It shows that he takes energy independence seriously, he's willing to help this country foster diplomatic ties, and it shows his bipartisan spirit by being invited to attend and represent our interests over there.

If only WHAM-13 cared so much about every other dollar that the feds waste rather than do a full "investigative report" on the legitimate spending of four grand...

Pre-Super Tuesday Results Analysis

Given that the polls didn't open in New York until noon today, I haven't voted yet but will do so as soon as I get off from work. I don't anticipate any surprises on the GOP side. Even with CA appearing to be close (which allots its delegates proportionally), other mega-states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Arizona, are all solidly polling for McCain and they're all winner-take-all. In the South, McCain is leading in most of the states, with Huckabee chipping votes away from Romney, as what happened in the West Virginia convention, which Huckabee won by having McCain supporters go for him in the second ballot today.

Of course, there are some on the Right who are vehemently opposed to McCain, like Rush Limbaugh, who has indicated before that he may not vote in the general election if McCain is the GOP nominee. Others, like Ann Coulter, have expressly stated that they would prefer Hillary over McCain. Frankly, I understand their frustration with McCain but I do not comprehend why they are sooo negative about him. Here's a good article about the situation. There are clearly issues where I disagree with McCain, particularly McCain-Feingold (you know, that glorious bill that was supposed to "take money out of politics," but ended up making the system worse, empowering 527s, curtailing our First Amendment rights, and producing election after election where more money has been donated and spent each year). When it came to McCain's immigration bill, I had mixed feelings. While I understand the need to come up with a solution to the problem we face involving the 12-13 million illegal aliens in this country, I also recognize the need to secure the border. That's why Rudy had the best plan of all, IMHO, which was later adopted by McCain: Secure the border first, deport the criminals, and then deal with the other illegal immigrants later. To me, that's the best way to reach a consensus on this issue. And while I first cringed at the Gang of 14 idea, it ultimately produced good results in getting conservative justices on to the Supreme Court. So, in essence, my major issue with McCain is mostly over Campaign Finance Reform, which frankly, is not a "life or death" issue for me to preclude voting for him, and with an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 82.3%, and the best chance the GOP has in keeping the White House, it seems to me that this vehement anti-McCain sentiment by some on the Right is extremely counterproductive. Fine, your guy Romney isn't going to be the nominee. My guy, Rudy, isn't either, but do what I did: Get over it! The only other major concern I have with McCain is his age and non-eloquent speaking style. Yet, for a man who spent more than five years in the hellish Hanoi Hotel and survived, he can most certainly survive being president and gets off from having to sound "eloquent."

On the Dem side, we just might have a horse race on our hands tonight. I still think Hillary will ultimately be their nominee, and the Dems will only have themselves to blame for the outcome of that decision. When you have a young, dynamic candidate who is the most liberal senator getting praise from Republicans, building a phenomenal grassroots coalition based on change, character, and honesty, and poll numbers showing that he has the best chance to beat John McCain in the fall, and you choose the other candidate, who along with her husband, has a scandal rap sheet that runs around the block and is viewed as one of the most polarizing figures in American politics, don't complain about the results in November. In fact, let's just think hypothetically that she actually pulls it off this year and wins the presidency. Does anyone actually believe that she will help the Dems on the Hill in 2010? For me, I see a clear pathway for the GOP to make huge gains in both houses of Congress (if not take both back) in such a scenario, a la 1994. And do you reasonably believe that she could get herself reelected? Oh sure, she might, but by a slim margin, further polarizing the Clinton image and this country.

Just some thoughts to chew over before the results come in later tonight.

Super Tuesday!

Remember that today is Super Tuesday, so please go out to vote! Polls are open from 12pm to 9pm at your regular polling site.

Also, if you haven't already read my interview with Congressman Kuhl, click here!

Monday, February 4, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with U.S. Rep. John "Randy" Kuhl (R-NY)

OntarioGOP: Congressman Kuhl, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today. Before we begin, I wanted to ask you about the presidential election since much of the news of late has been focused on the primaries, with all of the changes in the polls and the candidate field winnowing down. As you know from reading my blog, I was a huge supporter of Rudy Giuliani in his presidential bid, but with his exit from the race last week, I've decided to vote for John McCain tomorrow. You also announced last week that you were endorsing John McCain. How did you arrive at that decision?

Kuhl: With the announcement last week of New York's favorite son withdrawing his name from the race, my decision got a lot easier. I have a trust in Senator John McCain and I am confident in his experience, judgment, and ability to unite this country. Although, we have some ideological differences, John McCain stands by his beliefs and I know that he will work with Congress to find solutions to America's problems.

OntarioGOP: Now on to issues involving our district and the upcoming congressional campaign. In 2006, you ran a successful campaign in a year that many Republican incumbents did not win their reelection bids. What do you think made the difference for you in 2006?

Kuhl: I have held public office in the 29th District for over 27 years. When my constituents voted for me in 2006 they chose to vote for a lifelong resident of Upstate New York, who has the experience and convictions to represent their best interest. They know that I care about securing their jobs, protecting their families, and ensuring that they have a government that doesn't control their lives. They know that I represent them, not a political party or any interest group. In 2006, my constituents voted for me because they trust that I will find solutions to their problems and I am privileged and honored to have their trust.

OntarioGOP: As you know, about 45% of the registered voters in our district are either Republicans or Conservatives, while about 30% are members of left-of-center parties, i.e., Democrats, Working Families, and Green. The remaining 25% are either non-affiliated or members of another party, such as the Independence Party. Knowing these data, do you think that your views reflect the views and values of most of your constituents?

Kuhl: Regardless of your political affiliation, we all want similar things. We want to know that when we work hard and follow the rules, that we get rewarded in the end. We want solutions to our nation's problems, and these issues are not Republican concerns or Democratic concerns, but American concerns.

Over the past three years, I have held a town hall meeting in all 145 towns in our district. The issues and questions people have are concerns that are shared across party lines: "How much is gas going to go up?; How am I going to pay for my children's education?; Is this country safer than we were seven years ago?" My job as a Congressman is to provide answers and solutions to our nation's problems.

OntarioGOP: Over the past several months, Eric Massa has criticized you for your votes on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), going as far as saying that he was making SCHIP his number one priority. What are the major issues involved with SCHIP, and why do you oppose the Democrats' proposed expansion of the program?

Kuhl: For over a decade, SCHIP has successfully provided health insurance to New York State's low-income children. SCHIP was designed by Republicans to cover children who did not have private health insurance and were not covered by Medicaid. However, the Democratic extension focused on enrolling higher-income kids who already are covered by private health insurance, instead of low-income, uninsured kids. Their plan also enables illegal aliens to fraudulently enroll in Medicaid and SCHIP by weakening the proof of citizenship. Also, their bill is the most regressive tax increase in American history and taxes the poor to benefit the rich. SCHIP was also designed for children, but the Democratic extension increases the number of adults on SCHIP, which allows even more resources to be taken away from low-income kids. And finally and most importantly, SCHIP was designed for low-income, poor children. The majority forgot that when they designed their extension, because there are still poor children not covered. We must ensure that we cover the low-income children first before considering expanding the program.

SCHIP is a vital program and I am pleased that Congress extended the program for 18-months which ensures that over 6 million children will continue to receive the medical care they need.

OntarioGOP: A few weeks ago, Massa attacked you for a trip you took to Brazil, in which you joined a bipartisan congressional delegation to examine Brazil's efforts in energy independence. What did you and the delegation learn from the trip, and why do you think the trip was important to take?

Kuhl: When I was approached by my colleague Eliot Engel to go on this bipartisan trip, I wanted to learn how Brazil reached energy independence and I wanted to increase my understanding of how alternative energy can succeed. Brazil saw the same signs the U.S. did in the 1970's and instead of sitting by and waiting for the energy crisis to occur, they began investing in a self-sustaining energy solution and now over 90% of Brazilian cars run off their home-grown ethanol supply. Upstate New York can learn from the Brazilian model without using sugarcane, the most prevalent natural resource available in Brazil. New York can learn to develop its natural resources, such as switch grass and other cellulosic feed stocks, in a similar fashion.

But the United States works closely with Brazil on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. During my trip I met with border enforcement and discussed keeping narcotics, money laundering, and terrorism out of both of our countries. We had a meeting about the Amazon Rainforest and protecting the "Lung of our Planet."

This trip was enlightening and desperately needed. And for those people that want to belittle it for political gain, do not understand that as a country you can not hide your head in the sand and think that everything will be fine. This is a global economy and we must learn from one another to benefit from the successes and failures that we have experienced.

OntarioGOP: I understand that you have decided to wait until March or April to officially announce if you are running for reelection. If you do decide to run again, what issues do you think are the most important to the voters of our district this year?

Kuhl: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and our economy. Upstate New York has not fully recovered from the early 1990's when a significant amount of jobs left our area. To combat this we must invest in business, both small and large, to ensure that there are incentives to employees in New York. Everything from providing a better infrastructure to support moving and building in the district to easing the tax burden for entrepreneurs.

Our economy is faltering and Americans are beginning 2008 with a deep concern over a potential recession. The bipartisan stimulus plan passed by the House will provide relief to cash strapped Americans and encourage business to invest in their future and their employees. By targeting both consumers and employers, this plan will provide both an immediate boost to the economy and a launching pad for growing small businesses.

It is important to note that this plan is only a short-term solution. We can not rely on this temporary relief to be the cure for our economy. We need to develop a long-term strategic plan to encourage sustainable growth in our economy.

OntarioGOP: I now want to ask you a question about constituent services. A few weeks ago, the Congressional Management Foundation gave your congressional website a "Silver Mouse Award" in its "Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill" category, an indication that your website is both user-friendly and holds a wealth of information for constituents. In addition, as you stated earlier, since being elected to Congress, you have held a public town hall meeting each year in all 145 cities and townships in the district. What other constituent services do you offer, and what services set you apart from other congressmen?

Kuhl: One of my jobs as a Congressman is to keep my constituents current on what is going on in the federal government and avoiding the bureaucracy and red tape of government agencies. Since we are living in an internet age, my website is a key source for conveying information. The links can be found on my website (under constituent services) connect you to important federal government links, federal grant notifications, internship opportunities, and important information that influence you and your family.

But offline, I can help you navigate the federal agencies or obtain a federal document, i.e. a passport. By calling my DC office, we can schedule tours of the White House or the Capitol and request to have a flag flown over the Capitol in honor or celebration of a loved one.

OntarioGOP: Finally, you have been in public service for many years, beginning your political career in the State Assembly, where you served for six years, then serving in the State Senate for 18 years, and now starting your fourth year in the U.S. House of Representatives. And before you became an elected official, you had been an attorney for 10 years. You definitely have a long and impressive resume, and have been involved in many decisions of historical significance, but I must ask, what do you think is your single most important accomplishment?

Kuhl: Besides raising three terrific sons, my biggest career achievement has been being accessible to the people I represent and help them fight the red tape and bureaucracies that our federal government can present. From holding telephone town halls to helping seniors understand Medicare to hosting a blog to communicate with the youth of my district, I always try to represent the people by listening to what they want and communicating my beliefs. Over the last four years, and the many years I was a State Senator and Assemblyman, I have held meetings with people that agreed and disagreed with my positions. It is important to me that I remain
accessible to my constituents and make them feel like they have a true representation in Washington.

OntarioGOP: Congressman Kuhl, thank you very much.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

NH Trip Makes the Paper

As you know, the weekend before the New Hampshire primary, a group of us from Ontario and Cayuga counties went up there to volunteer on Rudy's campaign. Here's the story from the Daily Messenger, which came out yesterday.