Image source: Mayors Against Illegal Guns
A matter-of-fact article in the right-leaning Daily Mail (“Gun rights organizer calls for civil disobedience“) highlighted a number of pernicious trends that keep upstate New York, including Greene, backward, poor and unhealthy. The most insidious of these was not the pro-gun rally organizer, Billy Martin, who seems to be a caricature of the ill-informed and easily manipulated gun lover. No, the worst of it was the presence and miguided encouragement of “nice guy” state legislator Pete Lopez.
Lopez: leading his constituents backward.
Martin railed against apathy, saying that gun owners represented such large numbers that, if everyone would just wake up and get on board, “We sweep the day, uncontested”. This is, of course, a self-serving delusion: gun ownership has been declining for years. As Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy notes:
Gun ownership has dramatically dropped over the last 20 years, so now it’s about selling a larger number of more expensive weapons to a smaller number of customers. The N.R.A., doing the bidding of the industry, ratchets up paranoia about government so that those people will go out and buy more guns.
No, Martin’s not the problem, obnoxious though he may be. He is simply a type, a loud and fanatical, self-appointed spokesman for a dwindling minority. Lopez is the problem. He is supposed to represent the best interests, health and well-being of his constituents, and he is failing miserably in that regard when he joins with local upstate zealots in claiming that “the challenge will be, we’re gonna have to strike down every piece of that damn bill [the NY SAFE Act] to kill it … and in the future we’ve got to prevent that stuff from coming forward.” Lopez went on to claim that fighting against gun control will “determine the fate of America”.
What Lopez should be focusing on is the health of the people he represents—their health is not likely to be improved by making it easier for guns to metastasize throughout upstate NY even more widely. Indeed, the counties that are calling for the repeal of NY SAFE are among the sickest—literally—in the state. Greene ranks 55th in health care outcomes, out of the state’s 62 counties. That’s down from 52nd place the year before. (Columbia held steady in 45th place.)
The upstate economy could stand some serious attention, too. It seems to be growing steadily sicker along with its inhabitants. Instead, Lopez chooses to spin fictitious scenarios about basic human rights under seige by sinister government forces.
Finally, what passes for honest reportage in this benighted district could use some more media pushback as well. Where is the commentary from our perceptive local bloggers? Carole? Sam? We need you to step up on all of these very serious issues.
Both Martin and Lopez trashed newly elected State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk and suggested she needed to be removed. (How, exactly? By “ballots or bullets,” as the gun fanatics like to say?) Tkaczyk is one of the brightest spots in recent upstate politics, and represents real hope for change. She deserves your support. Lopez does not.
Come on, people. If you want a better, healthier upstate New York, then come forward and speak out. Don’t let ignorance and fanaticism control the conversation.
Update, April 9: No other subject generates such heated response. Some of it is rational, most of it is not. Venom abounds. And gun lovers from around the country feel free to join in—with any other issue, the response is generally local.
From this point on, I will approve comments selectively. I am not going to take the time to respond to each one. It becomes tiresome responding to the same formulaic arguments, over and over again. Suffice it to say that America has a very serious problem, and it has as much to do with gun lovers as it does with guns.
One of the most intolerable aspects of the “pro-gun” argument, for rational Americans, is the heavy reliance such proponents place on the Second Amendment. The NRA and others cite the Second Amendment as graven in stone, permitting no possible deviance from its absolute law. This is nonsense.
The amendment is an antique, and it has been twisted by right-wing courts into a travesty of present-day relevance. The amendment did not have the intent of guaranteeing citizens the right to possess and use super-charged, military-grade weapons that can kill dozens in a few minutes. The constant citing by “gun rights advocates” of the Second Amendment as something approaching the Word of God is therefore absurd, as the illustration below makes clear.
Assault weapons were never intended. Image source: the New York Times, Christopher Sergio, photographs by JRB/Fotolia, zim101/Fotolia and Anatoly Vartanov/Fotolia.
There is a very strong argument to make for rewriting the amendment, to accord with common sense and strike some semblance of a balance between gun owners’ “rights” and public safety. There is also a strong argument for abolishing the amendment altogether, something I would personally favor. I do recognize that this is very unlikely to happen, however.
But rewriting the Second Amendment does seem possible, perhaps after several more senseless atrocities have occurred. If you have an open mind, read why such a revision could convey benefits to people on both sides of the gun debate in this article.
Harry Reid recently dropped an assault weapons ban from proposed Senate gun control legislation, to widespread disgust and consternation.
“It doesn’t even have 40 votes,” he explained. Left unsaid was Reid’s inability or disinclination to reform Senate voting procedures, so 60 votes would not be needed to pass important legislation. Also left unmentioned was Reid’s NRA backing and his general lack of leadership on this critical issue. With his droning, reedy voice and increasingly frail appearance, Reid seems more than ever to epitomize weak, ineffectual leadership.
Harry Reid: a pathetic failure to lead.
A wide array of people and groups, including President Obama, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the families of the slaughtered Newtown children, are urging a vote on an assault weapons ban anyway. As the president noted, “These ideas shouldn’t be controversial—they’re common sense. They’re supported by a majority of the American people.”
A vote on assault weapons would have the further advantage of forcing senators into actually coming out against new gun controls, a political risk and a potential public relations disaster that may eventually harm some of them. One can only hope.
A friend of mine recently wondered whether, if the general public could view a photo of the carnage in Newtown—small children literally blown apart by a military-grade weapon—it would make any difference in the gun control “debate”. I’d like to think it would, but I remain skeptical. Cowardice and doublespeak are likely to remain the order of the day in the U.S. Senate, which will struggle to pass any gun control legislation at all.
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 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. 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.