Archives for category: Chris Gibson

Lots of political ups and downs in recent days. This is generally the way politics go, of course, but the localized nature of these events makes them stand out more than usual.

Bad news from the top down. Cuomo photo: NY Times.

Starting at the micro level, here in Greene County, what’s up with Windham town supervisor and former police chief Stacy Post? Investigative officials apparently removed a computer from her town hall office in recent days, and also searched her condo on Route 23 in Windham. Why this was done has yet to be announced, and the American way is to presume someone innocent until proven otherwise. Still, at this neighborhood level of politics, where we can see how someone is performing, even a hint of impropriety added to the inefficiency and outright dysfunction of most local officials is hard to stomach.

That’s why Will Pflaum’s recent win against longstanding corruption in Columbia County is so satisfying. I’m referring to the discredited attorney Tal Rappelyea, who routinely billed for more than 24 hours a day while some Columbia officials turned a blind eye. This situation ain’t over, but it’s nice to see a good guy win one.

Far less inspiring is recent news concerning high-profile Democrats at the state and national level. Let’s start with the 19th Congressional District, where newcomer Sean Eldridge plans to take on incumbent Chris Gibson this fall. Although Eldridge has already locked up Democratic support for his run, his campaign so far has been a disaster. At least it has according to normally liberal-leaning outlets like Huffington Post, Politico and Slate. Even WAMC’s outspokenly liberal Alan Chartock weighed in, calling Eldridge “cookie cutter”.

This is not to say that you should go out and vote for Gibson this fall. But the fact that someone with money to burn can come in and lock up regional Democratic support early on, then go on to generate this sort of widespread negative coverage, is just goddamn depressing. Eldridge has obviously chosen to overpay the wrong handlers.

Finally, that brings us to our “progressive” Democratic Governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, widely hated in these rural parts for the SAFE Act he proposed and passed. Last year, to great fanfare, the governor announced an “independent” Moreland commission to investigate state corruption. “I work for the people, and I won’t stop fighting until we all have a government that we can trust,” Cuomo said at the time.

Well, he’s stopped fighting and we still don’t have a government we can trust—Cuomo disbanded the Moreland commission, amid reports that the commission was being micromanaged and interfered with by members of the Governor’s own staff. Fortunately, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara plans to pick up where Cuomo left off.

Bharara was sharply critical of Cuomo’s decision, as was the New York Times: this editorial sums the situation up nicely. Be sure to read the comments accompanying the Times article above, which savage Cuomo’s starkly ego-driven political ambitions and general phoniness. Again, it’s just goddamn depressing.

Last night, at an organizational meeting of the Greene County Democratic Committee in Cairo, Sean Eldridge received the party’s endorsement for this year’s 19th Congressional District race against incumbent Chris Gibson.

The endorsement was a foregone conclusion but interesting nonetheless—Eldridge addressed the assembled group (it was the second time I’ve heard him speak), and he’s good. He does represent a convincing alternative to the Republican Gibson, and in the recently reconfigured 19th District, he stands a fighting chance.

Sean Eldridge
Sean Eldridge. Photo:

Eldridge and his husband Chris Hughes represent something of a new wave in American politics: gay progressive power brokers. Both are young, bright and accomplished, and they enjoy substantial financial resources to support the goals they believe in.

Hughes co-founded Facebook while at Harvard and is the source of the couple’s fortune. He purchased and now publishes and edits the venerable journal, The New Republic. Hughes was also the coordinator of online organizing for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, an effort that was hugely successful and has influenced political campaigns ever since.

Eldridge runs Hudson River Ventures, based in Kingston, which has funded many area businesses, as well as the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz, which is working to bring cutting-edge manufacturing technology—including 3D printing—to the region. Eldridge was also instrumental in getting marriage equality passed in New York, and he is involved in efforts to increase environmental protections and reform campaign finance laws.

He is sharp and quick on his feet, in contrast to his sometimes plodding Congressional opponent. In fielding questions from the audience last night, Eldridge gave succinct but compelling answers which underscored his progressive views on a wide range of subjects, including economic inequality, NSA spying and gun control. (I do wish progressive politicans didn’t feel the need to preface their remarks on gun control with lines like “I myself am a gun owner,” but that’s another story.)

In short, Sean Eldridge is an exciting new candidate who has a solid chance of unseating Chris Gibson this fall.

Tonight the House of Representatives votes on a measure to block the NSA from gathering the phone records of innocent Americans. This could be an important step forward for restoring citizens’ protections under the Fourth Amendment, and would be an important landmark in privacy rights. Our U.S. Representative, Chris Gibson, has indicated he is against the NSA’s indiscriminate gathering of phone records. Please call his office—the number is 202-225-5614—and urge him to follow through by voting against the NSA’s blanket phone surveillance.

It’s not often that I or other progressives can find common ground with our conservative Congressman Chris Gibson. I feel he and other “gun rights” supporters have distorted the Second Amendment beyond recognition, for one thing. But on the Fourth Amendment, Congressman Gibson has it exactly right, and he deserves a salute for that.

Gibson has been vocal in criticizing the almost daily revelations of U.S. government spying on its own citizens, generally focused on the National Security Agency. He and 19 other members of Congress recently sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and NSA Director General Keith Alexander, essentially asking them to explain what the hell is going on. The letter has not received a response.

Congressman Gibson is co-sponsoring legislation which would limit the ability of the federal government to collect information on Americans who are not under investigation. The proposed law, known as the LIBERT-E Act, would also require opinions from the FISA courts to be made public. This would be an important step forward. Kudos to Chris Gibson for standing up for our Fourth Amendment rights.

A quick postscript on Edward Snowden
: patriotism works both ways. If, as Congressman Gibson believes, the U.S. government is subverting the Fourth Amendment with its NSA spying programs and if that is in fact a dangerous and wrong thing to do, it then follows that the person who revealed the NSA’s nefarious activity has done a good thing. I’d like to see our Congressman voice his support for Mr. Snowden, as Senator Rand Paul has done. Most of the GOP takes this response instead.

Now that we know U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson is going to be around for another couple of years, it’s time to take a look at what he’s been up to lately. In addition to voting “Yes” on legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff” (having earlier renounced his pledge to never raise taxes), Gibson sent a recent email to constituents outlining what he says are his top priorities.

These are (taken from the email):

1) “Address our country’s future fiscal solvency and enact policies that grow our economy and help hardworking Americans.” Sounds reasonable, if rather generic. Are further attacks on Social Security and Medicare subsumed in that “future fiscal solvency” phrase?

2) “Pass into law a full five-year farm bill that gives certainty to our family farms and allows them to remain a vibrant part of our local communities.” This speaks to the Representative’s constituency, but does little to address economic growth in the 19th Congressional District per se.

3) Lyme Disease.

4) Expanding access to broadband.

5) “Ensuring our veterans have the services and benefits they need….”

Which of these things is not like the others?

If you answered “Lyme Disease,” kudos to you. Lyme Disease has been rampant in upstate New York for a while now—that horse has left the barn. Combating its effects is a worthy thing to do, but perhaps not a top priority for a U.S. Congressman in an economically slumping district. As for expanding access to broadband, that too is a worthy goal, and something that would actually be of great economic benefit. It would be terrific if Gibson actually did something to address it this term, as opposed to holding meaningless symposia on the topic.

Except for the broadband item, which addresses economic growth indirectly, Gibson does not include improving the local economy as one of his top priorities. (Item no. 1 above is national in scope, and too generic to count.) That seems shortsighted, to say the least. But, it’s very early in the new year, and in Gibson’s new term. Let’s see what he does to address what he says are his priorities, paying particular attention to his efforts to expand access to broadband in the district.

Chris Gibson’s attempts to soft-pedal his voting record and present himself as a moderate took another hit yesterday, when some 40 protesters gathered on a cold November morning to “rally for the truth” and expose the Congressman’s true colors on women’s rights. The Hudson rally was sponsored by Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York.

Women Are Watching
Women Rally Against Gibson. (Photo: PPA)

M. Tracey Brooks, president of PPA, told the Register-Star that Gibson has voted in support of every bill “that has made it more difficult and life-threatening for a woman to access abortion, and he’s done it consistently.”

The newspaper’s coverage was somewhat undercut by giving extensive space to Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle, who attempted to rationalize or explain the contradictions between Gibson’s voting record and some of his recent statements, for the most part unconvincingly.

Gibson’s distortions of his record on women’s rights and freedom to choose are only his latest attempt to present himself as something he’s not. He has also presented misleading accounts of his positions on the Federal budget and Medicare, among other issues, as he tries to fight off a strong challenger in a new Congressional District.

Denying your own record is not a valid basis for re-election. Follow the lead of the women who braved the cold yesterday morning (and who would be left out in the cold by Gibson’s real policy choices). Vote for challenger Julian Schreibman on Tuesday.

Congressman Chris Gibson has consistently tried to hide or distort his voting record during this campaign, and with good reason—it’s not a record he could reasonably run on anywhere.

One of the most outrageous examples of Gibson’s “repositioning” as a moderate concerns his supposed support of a woman’s right to choose. He now says he is in favor of reproductive rights, in favor of choice.

This is a lie. Even worse, it’s a lie that is being reproduced in various media outlets. The Albany Times Union, in its unfortunate endorsement of Gibson, repeats Gibson’s claim that he “supports a woman’s right to choose abortion”.

In reality, Gibson’s voting record has earned him a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Political Action Committee, which endorsed him two years ago and is endorsing him again now. In contrast, Gibson has a zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America. His opponent, Julian Schreibman, has a 100 percent rating from both groups. And Julian Schreibman offers the kind of forward-looking leadership and support for working- and middle-class families that our district needs.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York, a volunteer-based, grass-roots organization, is holding an anti-Gibson rally tomorrow morning to get the truth out. After the rally, which is planned for 11 AM in Hudson, volunteers plan to conduct a door-to-door canvas to continue to bring the truth to voters.

They could use your help. Please call 518-434-5678, x133 for complete details, and plan on attending the rally tomorrow morning.

One of the most telling moments in the third and final debate between Congressman Chris Gibson and challenger Julian Schreibman came near the end, when Schreibman noted that it was mid-term season at SUNY-Oneonta, where the debate was held.

“If you’re taking a test and you’re asked for your opinion, you’re free to give it,” Schreibman said. “Congressman Gibson and I have been exchanging a lot of opinions in these debates. But if you’re asked when Columbus came to America and you say ’1776′, you’d be wrong. Facts are facts. Congressman Gibson seems to have his own version of the facts, and you can’t do that.”

Schreibman then proceeded to rip Gibson for his Romney-like effort to evade, deny or cover up his record. On point after point, Gibson has tried to present himself in a way that contradicts his actual votes in Congress.

Another revealing moment, also near the end, came when Gibson complained to Schreibman about “how you’ve treated me.” This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. As Schreibman noted, it’s not personal. But Gibson seems to take every challenge, and every exposed lie, as a personal affront.

Perhaps it’s his military background. Perhaps he thinks that entitles him to be taken at his word, even when his word is obviously false and contradicts his actions.

“Who do you trust?” he asked, in closing, as he did in the second debate.

Not you, you prevaricating hypocrite. And not your deluded Tea Party followers, with their mantra of small government, small business and “individual initiative”. If this small-minded Randian “philosophy” represents a genuine way forward, then why do so many upstate Republicans live in poverty? Why has upstate New York been so backward for so long? Why do towns continue to stagnate, people continue to leave and opportunities continue to vanish?

Why can’t Gibson’s supporters understand they are being asked to keep things just as they are? Why can’t they see they are being exploited?

The 2012 Congressional election is a rare opportunity for upstate New York to renounce its benighted history, change its status quo and actually move forward. People who believe in facts, in science, in climate change, in common sense, and in the hope of their children—these people should vote for Julian Schreibman. Mr. Schreibman represents a genuine way out of the morass of ignorance and stubborn, self-defeating resistance to change that Republicans have imposed on this region for so long. If Gibson wins, we’ll continue down the same ignorant pathways, continue to watch our towns shrivel and die, continue to watch our kids move away and watch life become even grimmer for those left behind.

Please: stick to the facts. Have the courage to move forward. Vote for Julian Schreibman on November 6.

The second Chris Gibson-Julian Schreibman debate took place last night at the WMHT studios in North Greenbush. Once again, Schreibman clearly won on points, both for style and substance.

Not that much changed from the initial debate in Kingston last week. Gibson continued to try to disguise his voting record in Congress and portray himself as a moderate. Schreibman continued to thwart that attempt and underscore Gibson’s right-wing voting record on major issues, particularly the Paul Ryan budget that would transform Medicare into a “premium support” (i.e., voucher) program.

As he did in the first debate, Gibson ticked off the four items he sees as his major accomplishments: “storm relief, broadband, Lyme disease and small business”. This is an eclectic and somewhat ludicrous list. It is also misleading, insofar as Gibson claims to have resolved any of these issues. The aftermath of Irene still lingers in many areas, rural broadband accessibility remains a sick joke, Lyme disease continues to be rampant throughout the 19th Congressional District and upstate New York in general , and upstate business is hurting as badly as it ever has.

The difference in this debate, to the extent there was one, was in Gibson’s demeanor. He didn’t become as flustered or excited as he was in the first debate, and he attempted more attacks on his opponent, largely in the form of asking “OK, then, what’s your plan?” But most of Gibson’s energy continued to be spent dodging his own record, and I think he was unsuccessful in this.

Schreibman has the stronger presence and does a far better job of speaking directly to the audience. This is likely due to the fact that, unlike Gibson, he’s not trying to hide anything. Gibson tried another distraction at the end by closing with an especially sleazy and divisive line, asking “who do you trust? A combat veteran or a New York City lawyer?”

Well, I’ll tell you, Chris: I trust Julian Schreibman a hell of a lot more than I trust you.

You can watch a stream of last night’s debate on the New York NOW website. The third and final debate in the series will take place at 7 PM on Wednesday, October 24 in Craven Lounge in the Morris Hall building at SUNY Oneonta.

Debates are not sporting events, yet we tend to view them that way—witness Mitt Romney’s bounce in the polls since “winning” the first debate with President Obama. Last night, the first of three debates between U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson and Democratic challenger Julian Schreibman took place before hundreds of people in the auditorium of the M. Clifford Middle School in Lake Katrine, and Schreibman clearly outpointed Gibson. No knockout punches were thrown, but the challenger turned in the stronger performance.

Gibson and Schreibman in Lake Katrine
Gibson and Schreibman in Lake Katrine. Photo: Tom Pletcher.

The debate was sponsored by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, and it covered a fair amount of ground. Written questions, submitted on index cards by members of the audience, formed the basis of several discrete segments on topics ranging from Medicare to the Middle East, from climate change to energy policy. Schreibman had Gibson on the defensive throughout—”on the ropes.” as it were—as the Congressman sought to distance himself from his conservative voting record, notably his vote in support of Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

There were some areas where the two candidates agreed. These included Middle East policy (unquestioning support for Israel), fracking (both view the process as hazardous) and, surprisingly, the Patriot Act—here, each man said the act had seriously eroded civil liberties; Gibson went so far as to call it unconstitutional. But these moments of agreement were relatively rare; the differences were more pronounced, and Mr. Schreibman defined and underscored these differences very effectively.

Nowhere did Gibson take more punches than on his vote for the Paul Ryan budget. They left him wobbly. Although the Medicare segment of the debate was relatively brief, Gibson kept reverting back to it after the debate had moved on to other topics, in an effort to defend himself. For example, he noted that he later voted for a somewhat obscure budget resolution based on the principles of a bipartisan deficit commission. (However, he didn’t say that this was after his Congressional district was redrawn and had become more Democratic.) Gibson also offered his Ryan budget vote as “an attempt to get the conversation going”.

Schreibman’s counterpunch landed solidly: “When you vote to end Medicare,” he said, “you’re not starting a conversation. You’re ending a conversation.”

And so it went throughout the evening. Gibson’s attempts to redefine himself as a moderate were consistently pushed aside by Schreibman, and this caused Gibson to become visibly agitated and strident. His gestures became more exaggerated, his voice rose in simulated fervor, and he repeatedly veered off into what he hoped would be distracting generalities. (“This is a great country! We can do anything!”) It didn’t really work—Gibson’s discomfort was obvious, and Schreibman maintained his cool throughout.

One of Gibson’s more desperate swings came when he accused Schreibman of being “divisive”. This, from a member of the most obstructive, do-nothing House in living memory. Schreibman countered strongly by hitting Gibson with Mitt Romney’s “47%” remarks, and noted that Gibson’s support of the draconian Ryan budget reflected this bleak vision of the country. (By the way, Gibson has also sought to duck our petition asking him to renounce Romney’s remarks; he has never responded.)

There were a couple of points during the debate when Tea Party supporters in the audience booed while Schreibman landed solid blows against the Congressman. But for the most part, the audience seemed evenly divided, or even slightly pro-Schreibman. Certainly Schreibman received the louder ovation after his concluding statement, with many in the audience standing to applaud.

A stream of last night’s debate is available on the Daily Freeman’s website. The next debate in the series will take place at 8 PM on Thursday, October 18, and will be broadcast by WMHT.


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