We Are All In The Same Boat

Today is Martin Luther King Day, the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  What would Dr. King say if he could see our society today?  He would see that we have an overt racist in the White House.  If we ever had any doubts, they were eliminated by his obscene comments when presented with a bipartisan compromise on DACA, comments confirmed by Senator Dick Durbin.  Let us add to his comments about Haitians and Nigerians his comments about Mexican “rapists;” his disparagement of the Mexican heritage of a federal judge; his clear Islamophobia; his inability to unequivocally condemn white supremacists in Charlotteville; and his casual reference to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” Further, his actions make it clear that his impulse is to punish minorities (amongst others).  We see it in the way he wields his influence on the Justice Department:   Pressure to end affirmative action for universities.  A pullback on Justice Department investigations of local and state police forces.  A potential return to enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences even for low-level drug offenses.      Recall, this is a man who believes he has the “absolute right” to do whatever he’d like with the Justice Department. Dr. King would tell us that we have access to a tool that was systemically withdrawn in his time, but which is threatened again today – the ballot box.  For now, Trump’s “election integrity” commission has gone away, although Homeland Security still has a brief to investigate bogus reports of voter fraud, and  gerrymandering remains a potent obstacle. But minority voters played a vital part in the electoral turnaround in Virginia, and the African American vote was pivotal in the defeat of Roy Moore.  Likewise,  the minority voters of NJ7- - the 11% Hispanics, the 4% blacks, and the 8% Asians-- can help us deliver a powerful message in November, 2018.  We will not tolerate a racist in the White House, nor his enablers in Congress. As Dr. King said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”  
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The Creatures from the Red Lagoon

Donald Trump came into power on a populist wave, promising to “drain the swamp.”  How long before his supporters realize that his promises were empty and that enrichment of his ego and his bank account are his only priorities?   He talked about a system “rigged” for the rich. He fulminated about self-serving politicians operating on the whim of lobbyists. He railed against hedge fund managers avoiding paying their fair share. He knew, he told us, because he was a poacher himself, and he was going to turn gamekeeper to protect us, the middle class from the predations of the wealthy. He would, he told us, pass a tax bill for the middle class.  Instead, we saw a feeding frenzy of Republican donors who made sure that all those rich insiders, who were supposedly going to be punished for their avarice, would carry away more than 80% of the tax plan’s benefits, while the rest of us get bupkis. So intense was the last minute lobbying that the Senate bill contained  hand written annotations in the margins.   And our President and his family are massive beneficiaries, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars through the “pass-through” deductions, real estate provisions, estate tax changes and top-rate tax reductions.  Now we are to be subject to a multimillion dollar advertising campaign, funded by same Koch brothers who lobbied furiously for this legislation, to persuade us that this medicine will indeed be good for us.  Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is already telling us that less medicine is in our future-- those pesky healthcare entitlements stand between us and prosperity. Whose prosperity? Look for the stamp of the Koch brothers’ influence machine, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), on attempts to sell you on this scam.  And remember that our own Congressman, Leonard Lance, who acts the part of a moderate on TV, earns an impressive 83% approval rating from AFP! That swamp that needs draining?  It is a red lagoon!  Join us in banishing these creatures and restoring the promise of American democracy.   
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Lance Doodled While the Nation Shook

It’s been five years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School where twenty precious first graders and six educators were gunned down in cold blood as they were seated in their classrooms. It was a moment that shook me to my core. It was a moment that shook the nation. It was a moment that surely would change our nation’s gun laws, right?  It was that moment that changed so many of us. But would it be enough to change the mind of our Congressman Leonard Lance? These children didn’t have a chance, nor did the adults protecting them. They were shot multiple times in their tiny bodies by a mentally ill young adult with a Bushmaster AR-15, magazine-Fed, gas-operated semi-automatic rifle with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. On a cold February morning in 2013, two months after the massacre, a group of accidental activists who organized shortly after the massacre waited in an office for a meeting with Congressman Lance. We had waited a month for this appointment. With those children’s faces imbedded in our souls, we were ready! We did our homework. We knew that in 2011, Lance had voted for H.R. 822, a Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill allowing gun owners in states with lenient gun laws to carry concealed weapons into the gun-controlled state of New Jersey. We knew that Lance had an A- rating with the NRA. We knew he received $2,000.00 from the NRA every election cycle. We knew he needed to appease his ‘hunting base’ in Hunterdon County and we knew that 90% of New Jerseyans—including NRA members-- ‘favored’ federal background checks on all gun purchases. As he entered the conference room with his Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell, our goal was to encourage him to vote YES on a Federal Background Bill in the House of Representatives.  Congressman Lance sat at the head of the table, graciously welcomed us in to his office and began doodling on his yellow legal pad.  He made little eye contact with his concerned constituents and refused to give us a definitive response to our questions on his position regarding background checks: Constituent: Congressman Lance, do you believe there should be national background checks on all gun purchases as is law in New Jersey? Lance: I would need to see the legislation. Constituent: Respectfully, Congressman Lance, we are asking you to give your informed opinion on federal background checks on all gun purchases. Lance: I can’t answer that without seeing the legislation. Constituent: How much do you receive from the NRA? Lance: I think that is public record. I receive 2,000 every campaign cycle. Constituent: Those children’s lives are worth far more than that, Congressman.  Are you aware that 90% of New Jerseyans support background checks on all gun purchases?  Lance: Yes! One hour and a half later, it was clear Congressman Lance did not feel he had to answer to his constituency and was only loyal to a lobbyist group and his Republican Party. We questioned him on his Conceal Carry vote, his alliance to the NRA, and tried to appeal to his empathy for the victims. Congressman Lance was still doodling on his pad, and it was very clear that he would never protect his district or the American people against gun violence.  Little has changed nationally since those angels were slaughtered in their classroom, but this district has! WE ARE WOKE! And we are moving him. But it is not enough! He has lost all of our trust. We need a strong leader in this district. We need someone who will not be bought by lobbyist groups, who will protect and defend his constituents and put them first before party. We need a strong leader who will represent us and demand safe gun laws nationally! We need Congressman Lance voted out of office! It is our moment. Marci Bandelli Marci Bandelli is the Co-Founder of Westfield 20/20, a New Jersey grassroots activist group with over 2,000 members; the group has been featured on the PBS NewsHour, The Rachel Maddow Show, and in The New York Times.
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Lance Disappoints NJ with Repeal of Net Neutrality

Last week, the GOP took our Net Neutrality away and Congressman "I'm not a Moderate but I play one on television" Lance signed off  to kill it. Don't let his moderate vote fool you: he supports the Trump agenda 90% of the time. If you would like to see more videos like this, please consider making a DONATION. Enjoy viewing and please SHARE-SHARE-SHARE! 
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The Women are Coming, the Women are Coming!!

Take back the House is Job#1 for 2018. And we can help right here in NJ7, where Representative Leonard Lance is up for reelection.  For certain, women will be front and center in this, and every other congressional race, next year. Women are mad.  Mad at the misogyny and hypocrisy on full view in the Administration and Congress. At a President who thinks “good people” march for white supremacy.  At a tax scam that is a massive transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the haves.  Mad that five years after Sandy Hook, no progress has been made on gun control.  That we can’t fund CHIP, because of those who believe needy families “won’t lift a finger” to help themselves. Mad about health care, the economy, the environment, and more. But women are doing something about it!  They were thefirst on the streets post-inauguration in the Women’s Marches. They’ve been in the vanguard of the Resistance ever since. The local on-line “resistance” community I belong to has over 2000 members, and over 80% of them are women. When those women turn out to vote, the effect can be dramatic.  In Virginia, Ralph Northam won a decisive victory in a race seen as a referendum on Trump. Northam won the female vote by 22 percentage points.    In Alabama on Tuesday, women went sharply for Doug Jones, by a margin of 57 to 41 (the majority of them African-American women, with an awe-inspiring 98% turn-out). Women are lining up to run for office.  Emily’s List, an organization devoted to electing female candidates, saw the number of women contacting them grow from about 1000 before the election in 2016, to more than 22,000 today. And they get elected.  Democratic women represented one-quarter of all Dems who filed for House contests in 2016, and they were one-third of all Democratic winners.  I don’t know who our candidate will be in NJ7; may the best person win!!  But whoever that is, they need to listen to the women of the Resistance and end the madness!
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What Past Voter Turn-Out Teaches us about the 2018 Midterms

As we head into 2018, we in the Resistance should all be thankful for the strength and resiliency of the movement in New Jersey Congressional District Seven. Our marching and candlelight vigils at Lance's offices, our rallies at his town halls, and our phone calls and emails have put Leonard "I'm-not-a-moderate-but-I-play-one-on-TV" Lance on notice that we are watching him closely and will not let him misrepresent our district without a vigorous fight. And with the 2018 midterms less than a year away, we have to strategize our path to unseat him. With that in mind, here is some instructive data from the last several Congressional elections. Lance's Margin of Victory Has Leveled Off to 36,000 Votes. Leonard Lance has won the last two election cycles (2014 and 2016) by ~36,000 votes each time. This is a decline from 2012 when Lance defeated Chivikula by ~52,000 votes. Democratic Participation Dropped off in the 2014 Midterm Election by 59,000 Votes. Democratic turnout in our Congressional District dropped 47% from the 2012 presidential elections to the 2014 midterm elections. That's 59,000 Democrats that voted in 2012 during Obama's re-election then did not bother to vote in the 2014 midterms. Did anyone notice that 59,000 Democrats > 36,000 Lance's recent margins of victory? Yes, one way to close the gap to Lance is to get out the vote among Democrats that voted in 2016. So where are the Democrats in NJ7?  Municipalities with most Democratic voters in 2016   Rank County Municipality Democratic voters 1. Somerset Bridgewater 9,367 2. Somerset Hillsborough 8,832 3. Union Westfield 7,500 4. Union Union 6,575 5. Union Scotch Plains 6,139 6. Union Cranford 5,909 7. Somerset Montgomery 5,637 8. Somerset Bernards Twp 5,301 9. Union Summit 5,159 10. Essex Millburn 4,945 11. Morris Mount Olive 4,779 12. Somerset North Plainfield 4,531 13. Hunterdon Raritan Twp 4,282 14. Union Springfield 4,049 15. Morris Roxbury 3,860   Municipalities with greatest midterm turnout declines from 2012 to 2014, by % Some of the biggest Democratic strongholds in NJ7 experienced some of the greatest midterm drop-offs. The median for the district at the last midterms (2014) was a whopping 47%. Rank County Municipality % midterm drop-off 1. Union Union 84% 2. Union Scotch Plains 70% 3. Morris Dover 59% 4. Warren Phillipsburgh 58% 5. Morris Mount Olive 55% 6. Somerset Millstone 55% 7. Union Winfield 55% 8. Warren Pohatcong 53% 9. Warren Alpha 53% 10. Morris Wharton 51% 11. Somerset Branchburg 50% 12. Somerset Bridgewater 50% 13. Somerset Hillsborough 50% 14. Morris Netcong 50% 15. Warren Greenwich 50%   Municipalities with greatest midterm turnout declines from 2012 to 2014, by # of votes   Rank County Municipality # midterm drop-off 1. Union Union 7,535 2. Somerset Bridgewater 3,957 3. Somerset Hillsborough 3,677 4. Union Westfield 2,852 5. Somerset Montgomery 2,165 6. Morris Mount Olive 2,080 7. Union Cranford 1,875 8. Somerset Bernards 1,864 9. Somerset North Plainfield 1,838 10. Hunterdon Raritan Twp 1,725 11. Union Summit 1,696 12. Essex Millburn 1,495 13. Morris Roxbury 1,460 14. Morris Dover 1,417 15. Union Springfield 1,204   Mid-Term Democratic Voter Drop-Off Exceeded Lance’s Margin of Victory. Add up the midterm drop-off for these fifteen municipalities and you get…drum roll…nearly 37,000 votes, just north of Lance's margin of victory in 2016.  What We Need to Do: It's unlikely that we'll get 0% drop-off in these fifteen municipalities though, so we need to work to reduce midterm drop-off all across the district if we want to defeat Lance in November. We in the Resistance know how important this midterm is. Our challenge is convincing our Democratic and left-leaning moderate family and friends that it is important enough to vote inNovember. And make no mistake - that is a big challenge. Voter registration and get out the vote drives will be key. Source of Data: New Jersey Data Book(SM)  Rutgers Center for Government Services, New Brunswick, NJ    John M Flores is a digital marketing consultant and volunteer for NJ7 Citizens for Change
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Net Neutrality=Free Speech

Net Neutrality is free speech for the 21st century, the ability of individuals and organizations big and small to communicate their ideas online. It's as simple as that, and any efforts to curb net neutrality is an attack on one of the founding principles of this country. We aren't the only ones saying this - organizations that cherish and defend free speech support this view.  Consider the views of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation:  "'Net neutrality' is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat online data equally, by not discriminating based on user or content. It is essential to the free, open internet that we know and love. Without equal access to the internet, we lose our rights to be heard and to hear others. But, today, net neutrality is under threat." American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  “Preserving net neutrality is essential for equitable access to online information and services and thus a vital concern for our nation’s libraries. Now that the internet has become the primary mechanism for delivering information, services and applications to the general public, it is especially important that commercial Internet Service Providers are not able to control or manipulate the content of these communications. Libraries, our patrons and America’s communities will be at risk if the FCC repeals all protections contained in its 2015 Open Internet Order with no plans to replace with any enforceable rules. We strenuously disagree with the FCC’s actions and will continue to advocate for essential net neutrality protections.”   Jim Neal, American Library Association President      "Because the (FCC) draft order repeals net neutrality rules altogether, it allows ISPs to block or throttle lawful content, or give the highest-paying websites and apps a better ability to reach customers’ devices, or to favor Internet traffic from the ISPs’ own subsidiaries and business partners, all without any legal repercussions. It paves the way for an Internet that works more like cable television, where wealthy insiders decide which speakers can reach a broad audience. A pay-to-play Internet means that smaller sites and apps, or startups without major funding, will be forced to negotiate with multiple ISPs to avoid their content being buried, degraded, or even blocked." Electronic Frontier Foundation   But Congressman Leonard Lance does not see things this way:  "The Federal Communications Commission has voted in favor of a net neutrality plan that is the most dramatic government intervention in the Internet in two decades.  The FCC’s proposal to regulate the Internet will hurt consumers and discourage new investment and innovation in broadband.  It is Congress, not an unelected federal commission, that is tasked with modernizing our Nation’s telecommunications laws and today’s action is a blatant overstep of authority that threatens to stifle one of the Nation’s most important economic engines." And here is Lance explaining his position at a May, 2017 town hall: Notice that Lance does not once mention the interests of the public and the importance of net neutrality. It does not even cross his mind. Maybe that's because these figures are crossing his mind: Donations to Leonard Lance from Telecom and Telephone Utilities 2018 - $29,500 2016 - $47,500 2014 - $54,000  Source: OpenSecrets.org Without net neutrality, Comcast, Verizon, and others will be allowed to charge extra for dissenting voices - like yours and like ours and everyone critical of this administration - essentially putting them on mute. Ajit Paj, a former Verizon lawyer appointed to head the Federal Communications Chairman by Donald Trump, sides with Lance on this issue, and there's a good chance, despite the calls and the rallies, that the FCC is going to vote to take away net neutrality. Lance may play a moderate on television but he supports the Trump agenda over 90% of the time. When the GOP has enough votes to pass regressive legislation, they let Lance cast a  dissenting vote to burnish his moderate image. Let us not forget this in November. Trump and the GOP are systematically attacking all the progress that we've made in the last fifty years and fake moderate Leonard Lance is part of their scorched Earth plan.
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A Washington Morality Play

Someone once said, “Politics is ethics in public.”  Don’t you wish!  For the Republican party, ethics are out the window and morality has been shown the door.  They have been replaced by political expediency and crony capitalism.   We saw it in the 2016 election, when the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged with public denunciations followed by a decision to brush the subject under the rug. We saw it in when allegations by 19 women of sexual harassment by their presidential standard-bearer were ignored.   We are seeing it now with the decision of the RNC and the President to resume support for Roy Moore, rather than give credence to the women who have come forward at personal cost to expose his criminal predation on teenage girls.   We saw it in the statement by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah that he thought children and pregnant women who receive federal healthcare assistance did not deserve such help because they “won’t lift a finger” to help themselves. We saw it when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” We are seeing it now, when after eight years of preaching financial rectitude, fiscal responsibility is tossed aside in favor of rewards for the donor class. We see it in our Congressman, who makes “principled stands” when allowed to, but does what he is told when it counts. But many Americans, on both sides of the political divide, have had enough.  Can’t we come together and hold our representatives to a higher standard?  Can’t we assert that we want America to provide moral leadership in the world?  Can’t we insist on good government, effective government, efficient government, while recognizing that some citizens have more needs than others? Can’t we agree that we all want to give all our children the possibility to succeed in realizing the American Dream? We can, and we must.  Let’s find and support a candidate for NJ7 who will bring to Washington the ethics and moral standards we all try to bring to our private lives.  
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Make America Dumb Again

It’s hard to throw a brick at the tax “reform” legislation ricocheting around the walls of Congress without hitting something malignant, malodorous or both.  Let’s have a look at education.  Does anyone seriously believe that college education is a bad thing?  Does anyone deny that the chances of getting a university education significantly improves the prospects for a well-paying job?  Is there serious debate about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in improving our global competitiveness?  Why, then, would any administration roll logs in the path of those seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees?  A Bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime.  Bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than those with just a high school diploma. Wouldn’t we want to encourage students down this path?  Yet initial versions of the tax legislation would eliminate a deduction on interest paid on student loans, include major reductions in the tax credits for tuition that help students and their families offset college costs, and move to treat employer-provided tuition payments as taxable income.    And if you think it is bad for undergraduates, it is a disaster for graduate students – those pursuing PhD’s, or other higher degrees. A graduate student on a stipend from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes $23, 844 a year.  To help out, Universities often waive tuition fees.  At MIT, that would be $49,000 per annum.  The average is more like $16,000.  Under the proposed legislation those waived fees would be counted as taxable earnings, and would add thousands of dollars to a student’s tax burden.   And all this for the sake of what? Increased corporate profits?  Elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax for the President and his family? Repeal of the Estate Tax for the Koch brothers?  If we do not nurture and value higher education in this country, we will reduce to rubble a pillar of American competitiveness and become a “me too” player in the global economy.  Is that what “Make America Great Again” means? Really??  Support education, and hold our Congressman accountable for this disastrous legislation.  
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“Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn!”

     When it’s tax cut season, deficit hawks fly south for the winter. But we may be sure that when spring arrives, those birds of prey will be back, looking for easy pickings amongst the "poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind" (Luke 13: 21).   Although we may focus on the iniquity of the trillion-dollar handouts to the donor classes, the sucker punch is in the direct and indirect impact the legislation will have on the rest of us.   Without the ability to deduct SALT, and with a cap on mortgage deductions, state and local governments will be constrained in their ability to support local infrastructure projects, public transportation or social services. That is why the National Governors Association, the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of State Legislatures have denounced the measure.   Only the Wizard of Oz believes that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. And when Congressmen are shocked-- shocked!-- to learn that the Wizard was dreaming in technicolor, you may be sure the talons will be unsheathed.   Medicaid, we know, is already targeted to pay for reducing Mr Trump’s intolerable tax burden. Those 89,000 Maine residents who think they gained coverage in the recent State ballot will probably discover that the package is largely empty when theytake off the ribbons.   We know that some 13 million people will lose healthcare coverage if the Individual Mandate is eliminated, and Insurance premiums are expected to rise by 10 percent.  Wait, there’s more. The Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that a law passed in 2010 would necessitate cuts to Medicare of as much as $25 billion next year and could reach almost a half trillion dollars over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  This legislation is a one-two punch, designed to entrench a plutocracy and establish a permanent underclass.   And Congressman Lance, I am sure would echo Rhett Butler in saying, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
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