Corning Farewell

They met some big wheels, and do not
    Let you forget it.
— Auden

I went to Tom Reed’s April 21st Corning farewell meeting and found it interesting. There were about 30 people there mostly family, staff, and government officials. The first 30 minutes were introductions and banter, the next 15 minutes Tom’s practiced monologue, a few questions and fewer answers filled out the hour. I was at Tom’s first town hall meeting 12 years ago; his act has changed little since then.

The Corning meeting affirmed that in the eyes of local Republicans Tom has done well, leaving the GOP firmly in control of local government, which is what matters to them. He kept Democrats at bay for twelve years, his most significant accomplishment.

Jasmine Willis, reporting for WRFA, gave a detailed account of the meeting. She omitted a few things, probably because Tom’s rambling talk was hard to follow. She wrote:

After an emotional statement of thanks to all those who have supported him over the years, Reed talked about several big topics on everyone’s mind. He thanked family, friends, neighbors, staff, and local officials for all the love and support. He said it is people like his neighbors and friends who made Corning a good place to live and grow up. Reed said everything he did was for the people, and he hopes to stay in the political arena working for our freedoms.

Tom disparaged Communism, always a safe subject. He opposed political violence, but didn’t mention the former President who instigated it, whom he has said he would vote for again. In response to a question (prearranged?), he agonized over national debt, without mentioning his support for tax cuts. He took a swipe at “entitlements. He assailed a strawman, “Modern Monetary Theory.” He complained about “the politics of fear,” but didn’t note the role it played in his election campaigns. He said he would support responsible candidates for office, but has endorsed two who don’t support his relatively moderate views. He said he was a big supporter of renewable energy, but only in the bye and bye.

It wasn’t Tom’s views, any contradictions, or any accomplishments that mattered to his audience, it was that he was their guy.

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How we got where we are

Trump was using Ukraine as a plaything for his own purposes — Fiona Hill quoted by Robert Draper

Robert Draper, interviewing Fiona Hill, reports missteps by several US Administrations with respect to V. Putin in The New York Times Magazine. Dr. Hill was a national security advisor for Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump, and currently, informally for Biden.

Hill advised President G. W. Bush that expanding NATO would provoke Putin and not appeal to NATO allies. She credits Bush for listening, but Bush went ahead proposing that Georgia and Ukraine be invited to join. Bush thought he could sell this idea, but as predicted, European Governments objected and it didn’t happen.

During the Obama Administration Russia invaded Georgia and annexed Crimea. Hill faults Obama for indifference and public comments which she thought would barb and incite Putin.

Draper writes little about Hill’s involvement with the Trump Administration, turning to other sources possibly because Hill has a book forthcoming. Hill’s testimony at the impeachment hearings is well known. Here is more from Draper’s article:

Ukraine became radioactive for the duration of the Trump administration. There wasn’t serious engagement. Putin had been wanting to reclaim Ukraine for eight years, but he was trying to gauge when was the right time to do it. Starting just months after Jan. 6, Putin began building up forces on the border. He saw the discord here. … These folks sent the signal Putin was waiting for. — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

The refusal to lend aid to Ukraine, the subsequent disclosure of the heavy-handed conversation with Zelensky and then the impeachment hearing all served to undermine Ukraine’s new president. It made it impossible for Zelensky to establish any kind of relationship with the president of the United States — who, faced with a Russian Army on his eastern border, any Ukrainian president would have as his highest priority. So basically that means Ukraine loses a year and a half of contact with the president.— former Natl. Security Advisor John Bolton

Putin has been there for 22 years. He’s the same guy, with the same people around him. And he’s watching everything. — Fiona Hill quoted by Robert Draper

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Contributed by Arthur Ahrens of Branchport, NY.

Here’s a couple of photos:

One photo was taken at a book burning in Opera Square in Berlin, Germany, on May 10, 1933. It is described by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as “perhaps the most famous book burning in history”

The second photo was taken on Feb. 2, 2022, in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, which is a suburb of Nashville. It was taken of a book-burning held in the days after a Tennessee school board voted to ban “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust.

Does anyone see any similarities?

Some other interesting news:

The Radical Right is now turning its attention to Public Libraries. A library in Llano, Tx is under assault by the Censorship Police. These activists found 60 books objectionable, including those about transgender teens, sex education and race, including such notable works as “Between the World and Me,” by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, an exploration of the country’s history written as a letter to his adolescent son. They want the books pulled off the shelf. I don’t know about the rest, but I have read “Between the World and Me”. Not only do I believe that it shouldn’t be banned, I believe that it should be required reading for Secondary School students everywhere. But I digress…

Llano joins a growing number of communities across America where conservatives have mounted challenges to books and other content related to race, sex, gender and other subjects they deem inappropriate. A movement that started in schools has rapidly expanded to public libraries, accounting for 37 percent of book challenges last year, according to the American Library Association. Conservative activists in several states, including Texas, Montana and Louisiana have joined forces with like-minded officials to dissolve libraries’ governing bodies, rewrite or delete censorship protections, and remove books outside of official challenge procedures.

Over the years I have been told IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE!   And now I see it happening. Where, when and how exactly, will it stop?

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Tom Reed’s Campaign Funds

Tom Reed’s 1Q 2022 Campaign Report shows that he is spending little; he has $116,230.31 left to spend. He is no longer paying any staff. He made only two political contributions:

  • $1000 to Mike Sigler, a Republican running for Congress in NY-22
  • $1000 to the Monroe County Conservative Party

How he will spend the remaining money is yet to be seen.

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Right to Privacy

“Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” Ginsburg said. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.”

If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child. — Justice Brennan concurring in Eisenstadt.

Is there a Constitutional right to privacy. The courts have found there is.

The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy.  The Bill of Rights, however, reflects the concern of James Madison and other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information.  In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the “enumeration of certain rights” in the Bill of Rights “shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”

​In Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965, the Supreme Court found a right to privacy, for married couples with regard to the right to purchase contraceptives. The Court used the personal protections expressly stated in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments to find that there is an implied right to privacy in the Constitution. This was a 7-2 decision.

In Loving v. Virginia, 1967, the Supreme Court ended race-based legal restrictions on marriage. The Court found that Virginia’s law violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it forbid interracial couples to marry while others were allowed to do so. This was a unanimous decision.

In Stanley v Georgia, 1969, the Court concluded that the right of privacy protected an individual’s right to possess and view pornography at home based on the First and Fourth Amendments. This was a unanimous decision.

In Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1971, the Supreme Court extended the right to purchase contraceptives to unmarried couples. The Court found that “the constitutionally protected right of privacy inheres in the individual, not the marital couple.” This was a 6-1 decision.

In Roe v. Wade, 1972, the Supreme Court extended the right to privacy to encompass a woman’s right to have an abortion. This was a 7-2 decision.

In Lawrence v. Texas, 2003, the Supreme Court extended the right to engage in sexual conduct to persons of the same sex. Relying upon the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, the Court held: “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives.” This was a 6-3 decision.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, (2015),  Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Marriages of same-sex couples have all the rights and responsibilities as marriages of opposite-sex couples. This was a 5-4 decision.

Over time, votes on privacy cases have grown closer. We need to keep in mind that more than Roe v. Wade depends on our right to privacy. If a decision on Roe weakens the right to privacy, other decisions might be in jeopardy.

© William Hungerford – April 15, 2022

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Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) was fought between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire  over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. 

The Russian and Japanese empires were exhausted by the war, faced domestic unrest, and having little to gain by continuing the struggle, accepted President Theodore Roosevelt’s offer to mediate.

Roosevelt served as mediator at the peace conference, which was held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, U.S. (August 9–September 5, 1905). In the resulting Treaty-of-Portsmouth, Japan gained control of the Liaodong Peninsula (and Port Arthur) and the South Manchurian Railway (which led to Port Arthur) as well as half of Sakhalin Island. Russia agreed to evacuate southern Manchuria, which was restored to China, and Japan’s control of Korea was recognized. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the conflict.Encyclopedia Britanica

The signing of the treaty settled immediate difficulties in the Far East and created three decades of peace between the two nations. — Wikipedia

The current war between Russia and Ukraine could end in this way. Already both sides have little to gain by continuing the struggle. What might be lacking is an impartial mediator. Perhaps Turkish President Erdogan can fill this role.

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Congressional Member Organizations

Caucus — A conference of members of a legislative body who belong to a particular party or faction.

In the 117th Congress, there are 381 caucuses, one conference (Hispanic Conference), six task forces, six working groups, and one team (Values Action Team), almost one for every member of the House. Many Representatives are listed as leaders of one or more, others to none. The names of the caucuses range from 5G to Zoo. Six have bipartisan in their name, seven black. There is a Pro-Choice Caucus and a Pro-Life Caucus. There is a Czech Caucus and a Slovak Caucus. There is a Tire Caucus (Rep. Cooper is the chair).

Tom Reed (R-NY23) is listed as a leader of three:

  • Dairy Caucus
  • Diabetes Caucus
  • Manufacturing Caucus

Claudia Tenney (R-NY22), who hopes to succeed Tom Reed, is listed as a leader of two:

  • Congressional Election Integrity Caucus
  • Macedonian Caucus

Elise Stefanik (R-NY21) of four:

  • Community Health Centers Caucus
  • Congressional STEAM Caucus (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)
  • Invasive Species Caucus
  • Olympic and Paralympic Caucus

Speaker Pelosi leads none; Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA1) leads 19; Minority Leader McCarthy leads one: “Valley Fever Task Force.” .

Here is the entire list:

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Restaurant Revitalization Fund Legislation

Today, April 7th; the House voted to add $60 billion to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The vote was 217 to 199; Tom Reed was one of only six Republicans to vote in favor; Rep. Tenney was not.

Reed said many restaurants in his district and nationwide need help to recover from a pandemic that is two years running. Restaurants were forced to move to takeout and curbside service at the onset in 2020 because of New York’s business shutdown measures. Both bars and restaurants operated for many months with capacity limits and other covid-related measures.

Explaining her no vote, Rep. Tenney wrote:

I am a cosponsor of legislation, H.R. 4568, that would replenish funds for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) while making key reforms to the program to ensure it actually works for New York’s small business owners. Unfortunately, the bill considered today failed to address the program’s deficiencies, which far too many small businesses have experienced firsthand. My key concern continues to be that the RRF program awarded grants unconstitutionally based on race, gender, and additional priority criteria, rather than ensuring those most in need received assistance. This meant that more than 70% of the restaurateurs who applied for the grants did not receive funding simply because many of them did not meet the program’s unconstitutional and woke criteria. This was wrong then, and it continues to be wrong now. A lack of equal opportunity in the program means that many of those who truly need help will still not receive it. Regrettably, H.R. 3807 did not fix these fundamental issues. That’s why I am a cosponsor of the Entrée Act, which I mentioned above. This is a responsible alternative to this legislation that would eliminate woke criteria that is keeping aid out of the hands of struggling restaurant owners across the country.

In short, Rep. Tenney offers excuses for her vote. She claims: 70% of the restaurateurs who applied for the grants did not receive funding simply because many of them did not meet the program’s unconstitutional and woke criteria, yet if Tenneys position had prevailed in the House, 0% needing help would get any.

Here are the CRS Summaries of the two bills:

H.R. 3807 passed by the House:

This bill provides an additional $60 billion in FY2021 for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was established to support restaurants and other food and beverage purveyors in response to COVID-19.

H.R.3807 has 230 cosponsors, mostly Democrats.

H.R. 4568 favored by Rep. Tenney:

This bill provides FY2021 supplemental appropriations for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and modifies requirements related to administration of the fund. The fund was established in response to COVID-19 to make grants to eligible food and beverage purveyors for covering specified costs such as payroll, operational expenses, and paid sick leave.

The bill correspondingly rescinds unobligated amounts previously made available for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds.

Further, the bill requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to (1) review and process grant applications in the order in which they are received; (2) impose requirements on applicants that reduce waste, fraud, and abuse; and (3) submit and report monthly on an oversight and audit plan outlining the SBA’s policies, procedures, and activities with respect to these grants.

H.R. 4568 has 94 cosponsors, all Republicans.

H.R. 4568 appropriates the same $60 billion as H.R. 3807, but there are caveats–one hand giveth and the other taketh away. Republicans often claim to favor simple, single-purpose bills; not in this case evidently.

It isn’t clear what chance H.R. 3708 has in the Senate; if the House vote reflects Republican views, it will likely die there. Businesses that need help, won’t benefit from excuses.

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Thomas Carle for Congress from NY-23

Thomas Carle

Thomas Carle is an independent candidate for Congress. About himself he says:

If you are reading this, you have to know that my children and grandchildren, my wife and my family, my friends and my colleagues, are my motivation to seek public office at this time.  The competence of the members in the House of Representatives to accomplish the proper work of legislators is at an all-time low.  The worst of the worst are doing most of the GOP’s talking and its an embarrassment! The reality show is over and those that supported that ill-advised movement or continue to perpetuate it (like my opponent), have to be stopped for the sake of our kids–yours and mine!  We need to return to honest, respectful leadership.

Which opponent Thomas has in mind isn’t clear: there are several including Hugh Bahar, George Burns, Max Della Pia, Rich Moon, possibly Joe Sempolinski, and Claudia Tenney.

Here is a sample of Thomas’ views on the issues:

I will be a candidate that will listen to further understand the divides between us.  I will support all initiatives that promote unity and equality.  I will fight discrimination in all forms.  We can no longer tolerate, intolerance.

Similar to what I have done in my career, I will collaborate with the economic development teams of each county and municipality, and with the industrial leaders in the district to determine their needs and do my best to help them achieve their goals. 

I will support initiatives aimed at addressing our healthcare system to ensure affordable coverage for all.  No one should have to worry about coverage and care.  Those with employer-sponsored healthcare, no change is necessary, other than making plans portable and affordable.

The Social Security Administration has been in place for 80 years and is the sole source of income for many Americans.  We must protect it. 

Thomas Carle’s views seem responsible to me; I wish him well.

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Two Bills addressing cost of Insulin

The Democrats Bill which passed the House on March 31:

Introduced in House (02/25/2022)

H.R. 6833 —Affordable Insulin Now Act (The Democrats’ Bill)

CRS Summary:

This bill limits cost-sharing for insulin under private health insurance and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Specifically, the bill caps cost-sharing under private health insurance for a month’s supply of selected insulin products at $35 or 25% of a plan’s negotiated price (after any price concessions), whichever is less, beginning in 2023.

The bill caps cost-sharing under the Medicare prescription drug benefit for insulin products at (1) $35 in 2023 regardless of whether a beneficiary has reached the annual out-of-pocket spending threshold, and (2) $35 beginning in 2024 for those who have not yet reached this threshold.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is testing a voluntary model under the Medicare prescription drug benefit (the Part D Senior Savings Model) in which the copayment for a month’s supply of insulin is capped at $35 through participating plans. The model is set to expire on December 31, 2025.

The Republicans Bill

Introduced in House (04/21/2021)

H.R. 19 — Lower Costs, More Cures Act of 2021 (The Republicans’ Bill)

CRS Summary:

This bill establishes and modifies several programs and requirements to address prescription drug prices.

The bill modifies provisions under Medicare and Medicaid relating to prescription drug coverage and price transparency. Among other changes, the bill

  • requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to publish certain information, as reported by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), relating to generic dispensing rates, drug discounts and rebates, and payments between PBMs, health plans, and pharmacies;
  • reduces the annual out-of-pocket spending threshold, and eliminates beneficiary cost-sharing above this threshold, under the Medicare prescription drug benefit;
  • allows prescription drug plan sponsors under the Medicare prescription drug benefit to offer additional plans in a region;
  • requires pass-through pricing models, and prohibits spread-pricing, for payment arrangements with PBMs under Medicaid; and
  • allows states to include in the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program covered outpatient drugs that are provided as part of physician or outpatient hospital services.

The bill also generally modifies other provisions relating to the regulation and costs of generic and brand-name drugs. Among other changes, the bill

  • prohibits the manufacturer of a brand-name, generic, or biosimilar drug from entering into certain agreements to resolve or settle a patent infringement claim in connection with the sale of a drug or biological product;
  • permanently allows high deductible health plans to waive deductibles for insulin and associated products; and
  • establishes the position of Chief Pharmaceutical Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Assuming CRS summaries are accurate, the Democrats bill caps cost-sharing under the Medicare prescription drug benefit for insulin products at $35 in 2023. The Republican bill permanently allows high deductible health plans to waive deductibles for insulin and associated products.

The CRS notes:

Currently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is testing a voluntary model under the Medicare prescription drug benefit (the Part D Senior Savings Model) in which the copayment for a month’s supply of insulin is capped at $35 through participating plans. The model is set to expire on December 31, 2025.

Thus the Republican bill would allow insurers to voluntarily cap insurance copayments for insulin.

Rep. Tom Reed, who is co-chair of the House Diabetes Caucus with Rep. Diana DeGette, explains his no vote:

We care about lowering the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for those impacted by diabetes. Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to lower the true cost of insulin; it uses government price-setting to shift those costs elsewhere. Rather than engage in pure partisan politics like yesterday’s vote, we have been working for months on a bipartisan, bicameral bill with Representative DeGette in the House and Senator Susan Collins and Senator Shaheen in the Senate to achieve a solution to the root causes of this problem and solve it once and for all. All indications are we will get such a bill to the President’s desk soon.

The Democrats bill doesn’t lower the cost of manufacture, but it does lower the price some consumers pay. If a bill is bipartisan only if numbers of members of both parties support it, then “not bipartisan” is an empty claim. What bill Tom Reed advocates, he doesn’t say. Rep. DeGette may not be a big fan of the bill, she wasn’t a cosponsor, but she did vote in favor. Republicans have a bill, H.R. 19. It isn’t clear why another doomed bill is needed or why a different bill might soon become law. H.R. 3, which would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, would likely result in lower cost to the public.

If the Democrats’ bill shifts the cost of insulin from those who need help to the general public, that isn’t undesirable–that’s what insurance does.

Rep. Claudia Tenney explains her no vote:

I voted No on H.R. 6833, the so-called Affordable Insulin Now Act. This bill is a misguided attempt by House Democrats to address a serious problem but in a manner that falls well short of meaningfully lowering insulin prices for Americans. I opposed the bill because it will not fix the serious issue of high insulin costs, but instead simply shift those costs to higher health insurance premiums. In addition, I opposed the bill because it inexplicably delays the Trump Administration’s Medicare Part D rebate rule, which would have ensured that drug rebates are directed to patients rather than to the pockets of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) who are responsible for negotiating drug prices between insurance companies and pharmacies. Over the past 10 years, the actual cost of insulin has gone down; however, the amount consumers pay has continued to rise as PBMs deepen their pockets and widen their profit margins. The problem is clear: PBMs are enriching themselves at the expense of Americans who need to access life-sustaining drugs and treatments. Unfortunately, the Affordable Insulin Now Act is a giveaway to special interests and a half-hearted messaging effort, rather than a genuine attempt to fix the cost problems or incentivize additional innovation and cost-effective solutions to diabetes care. By delaying the Trump rebate rule even further, Democrats are ensuring PBMs will continue raking in high profits while Americans are stuck footing the bill. Any solution to rising drug prices must end this exploitative practice. The Republican alternative, H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which I cosponsored, would also cap the monthly cost of insulin while keeping PBMs in check and fast-tracking new brand-name, generic, and biosimilar competitors to the marketplace, further driving down costs while increasing access. Americans need results-oriented solutions H.R. 19, not industry giveaways under the guise of patient protections like the bill considered today in the House. 

H.R. 19, with only Republican cosponsors, is unlikely to be considered by the House. Rep. Tenney is known as a fan of business, large and small, thus this diatribe is surprising. Rep. Tenney’s views may reflect a belief that the former president (he said he would make insulin as cheap as water) already solved the problem, or would have had his efforts not been thwarted by a cabal. Rep. Tenney, like Rep. Reed, prefers “pie in the sky” to a bill favored by Democrats.

Kudos to Tom Zoidal for finding the linked article. Read more here:

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