Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Monday
    Jan242011

    Mr. Obama Goes to Schenectady

    "So our challenge, especially as we continue to fight our way back from the worst recession in our lifetimes, is to harness this spirit, to harness this potential, the potential that all of you represent." - President Obama


    Air Force One


    It's not as catchy as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and there's no devilishly handsome Jimmy Stewart. But, see that wee plane in the background above? You might have to squint to see the lettering but it says 'United States of America and it landed at Albany International on Friday afternoon as I was chipping ice from my windshield. There I was pounding away, putting my back into it and whoosh! da plane, da plane!

    Prior to the President's trip to the Albany area I'd been so full of mocking of the choice of Schenectady. It's not a glamorous city by any means and while those of us living in Albany or Troy even guffaw at it's nothingness. It's so harsh and that is the point one would suppose, of visiting a city that is long past its heyday and only looking for that chance to pull a phoenix. In the end it makes me sad to see the devastation when heading west on I-90.  Things that were once are no longer and once vibrant places, hit hard by even harder economic conditions.

    Have you been to the southern tier? Or Corning? It's vast emptiness of what was before is shown in boarded up shops and buildings. There are spots of revitalization in bars on the main streets and yet...It's sad. The thing you must know about New York is that it's segregated. Not in the Birmingham 1955 kind of way but in the Upstate v. Downstate: What matters more? way. What people from the outside see is the thriving metropolis of the island of Manhattan. There's still hustle and bustle and when they were down and out on their luck there was TARP to save them. But west of Albany is a different story starting with Schenectady. It's like no one cares and so I mock in jest knowing that those who do live there stay because they do believe that State street headed towards Proctors only needs the volt of a crash cart to get it going again. Hence the President's visit there to a GE plant that made it the Electric City but has since lost its flicker.

    Tomorrow evening is the State of the Union where the President will talk jobs, jobs and more jobs and why the economy is slowly rising and yet continues to suffocate some of our most deserving citizens. It's hard? You know. To see these hard hit areas who seem to continue with their struggle. So what to do, what to do? A speech won't help, will it? There's that SOTU bounce back that the administration hopes for but I hate playing with the politics of polling when it comes to people's livelihoods. Wait and see what happens I suppose. Knowing that these cities didn't fall in a day and it will take much more than 90 minutes of pomp and circumstance to bring them back to their feet.
    Monday
    Jan102011

    Gabby

    "Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. " ~John F. Kennedy


    A few years ago one of my best friends took a job with then newly elected House of Representatives member, Gabrielle Giffords. You know when you think about something that happened so long ago and at the time was not newsworthy? At the time it was something I would never have thought to write about or think twice on. Just a job with a House Member. Now some three years later every conversation is remembered and replayed. Quite honestly, Gabby's staff adores her. Meet enough politicians and you know who the good ones are a fact not based on the bills introduced or leadership positions held but because of their staff.

    And now...Now I find myself at a loss for words. It's probably easier to comment on a situation when you don't feel close to the subject matter. Hence the ability for reporters and the whole of Twitter to chatter off to anyone and everyone. Meanwhile all I feel is that complete sadness and helplessness that occurs and overwhelms when the inexplicable happens. This isn't some random, far off person, this is someone I know and people I know and love have long loved Gabby. It was my already precarious state that made me so livid on Saturday; the who said what that caused what instead of genuine feelings of sadness and sorrow. We've become a mass of people who are able to provide our every thought, discuss our every whim and more importantly able to provide color commentary for any event. With all of these things comes some sort of responsibility...at least I would hope or maybe the knowledge that as adults we should know to keep the hateful rhetoric down and yet we aren't.

    I spent the better part of Saturday oscillating between grief and being furious. Angry not just at the situation but the piss poor behavior of those bearing witness to the events via social media. I love good political back and forth more than the next person but we should all know that there is a time and a place for speculation and the blame game and four hours after a horrific event might not be the best time. Who benefits from such a thing? It made me feel no less better about the previous hours to hear Liberals blaming the entire Tea Party movement and vice versa.

    This is a complete stream of conciousness so you must forgive me but the last thing I must say is this: What happened was awful and incomprehensible and it happened at a public event with a Congresswoman doing her job. Now never mind my overwhelming love of our bicameral legislature but I have a bit of a soft spot for the House. Though all 535 members of Congress can be seen roaming the halls of the Capitol, saying Hi to passersby it is the House that has representation mastered. Which is their job of course and I feel honored to know so many members who take that role seriously. I enjoy the unfettered access to our representation as part of living in a representative democracy. What happened on Saturday affects all of us and the life to which we are accostumed  hings that I along with others have taken for granted. I think of the number of political events, rallies and the like I attend each session and never before have I given any of what I do second thought. But now? I don't even know. I'm not fearful I am just...well...I don't even know.The one thing I do know is that this changes everything and that's what scares me most.
    Tuesday
    Dec212010

    The Cloture Vote

    "The men and women who put on the uniform to protect and defend the United States -- gay or straight -- do so for the same reason: love of country. So, let them serve with dignity and honor. Let them serve openly." - Jonathan Capehart

    The cloture vote is a pain in the ass. It’s one of the things that sets the representative body of the House from the far more deliberative body of the Senate. To file for cloture is to file an end to debate and end a filibuster before an up or down vote for final passage. A cloture can be a test for how a bill will fare in an up or down vote. And because we are all guilty of playing politics with policy; waiting to file cloture and end debate depends upon whether or not a leader feels that he has the votes in order to pass a bill.

    That last bit - knowing that you have the votes - is why on Saturday morning when Senator McCain took the floor and all but threw himself down kicking and screaming; he was already resigned on this fight. The votes were being counted prior to the actual votes but since this is a legislative body ‘whipping’ takes place to see where the pieces lie. McCain stood up and said that it was a ‘sad day for America’ and quite honestly I would have had more respect for the man had he just stood up and said what he really wanted to say. I mean, hell, if you’re going to be an old curmudgeon then you might as well let your bigot flag fly. The rational behind spending so much of your time worrying about a sex life THAT ISN’T YOURS is something that I have yet to comprehend. But this isn’t about why people can be assholes, this is about playing politics.

    Anyway, that morning, with the announcements of crucial votes by Senators Snowe, Collins and Brown, the leadership knew that they were on their way to 60 votes. They ended up with 63 which ended a filibuster. And, prepared the bill for final passage. Hence the reason for why debate was limited (it’s limited to 30 hours but if it’s the Saturday before Christmas and you want to get the hell out of DC, and clearly the votes are there, then there isn’t going to be an additional 30 hours of debate) post-cloture vote.

    And that, friends, for those that asked, is a cloture vote. Clearly none of this begins to explain the hysterics over both cloture votes held on Saturday; one for the DREAM act that failed by five votes and then the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Which, by the way, isn’t really a repeal so much as it lays the groundwork for the President and the Pentagon to begin the process of repeal. But back to what I was saying about hysterics and full blown temper tantrums by grumpy old men; this is not meant to explain that but I will after a few deep breaths and reigning in of my emotions. Until then you have this.

    Any questions?

    (After the cloture vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Saturday, I received a slew of emails and DMs on what the vote would mean for final passage. I wrote this diddy in response. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Poliogue@gmail.com MMkay?)