Archive for the ‘National’ Category

A MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT AND CEO JOE BOARDMAN ON TRAIN 188

Friday, May 15th, 2015

 

A MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT AND CEO JOE BOARDMAN ON TRAIN 188
The derailment of Northeast Regional Train 188 was a terrible tragedy that we are responding to with every resource we have available. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation to determine the cause of the incident, and Amtrak is providing full cooperation.
With truly heavy hearts, we mourn those who died. Their loss leaves holes in the lives of their families and communities. On behalf of the entire Amtrak family, I offer our sincere sympathies and prayers for them and their loved ones. Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event.
We recognize that for everyone onboard the train, including those who suffered injuries, the healing process may be long. Within 24 hours of the incident, Amtrak set up a Family Assistance Center in Philadelphia to work closely with the family of passengers and crew on the train. We are also working with the individuals and families affected by this event to help them with transportation, lodging, and of course, medical bills and funeral expenses.
Amtrak is ever grateful to the City of Philadelphia—its first responders who bravely worked in difficult conditions, including the dark of night, to rescue and provide aid to hundreds; its hospital personnel who went into full alert as patients arrived at emergency rooms; its officials who quickly implemented a response plan; and its citizens who opened their doors to offer assistance.
Although our current focus is on the passengers and employees affected by this incident and the resulting service disruption along the Northeast Corridor, we must also take time to learn from this event. Passenger railroading is at its core about people; the safety of our passengers and employees was, is and always will be our number one priority. Our goal is to fully understand what happened and how we can prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future. We will also continue to focus on completing Positive Train Control implementation in the Northeast Corridor by December of 2015.
Thank you for your support of America’s Railroad during this difficult time.
Sincerely,
Joe Boardman President and Chief Executive Officer
Amtrak.com
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NTSB to Hold its Last Media Briefing on Amtrak Accident in Philadelphia

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEDIA ADVISORY

An independent federal agency

NTSB to Hold its Last Media Briefing on Amtrak Accident in Philadelphia

May 15, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold its fourth and final media briefing on its investigation into Tuesday night’s Amtrak accident in Philadelphia.

Event: Media Briefing by NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt
Date/Time: 4:30 pm ET, May 15, 2015
Location: Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel (Bromley Room)
Address: 1 Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

NTSB media contact in Philadelphia: Peter Knudson (202-557-1350, peter.knudson@ntsb.gov)

###

Contact Information

Office of Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594

(202) 314-6100


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NTSB Issues 7 Safety Recommendations as a Result of Its Investigation of the March 24, 2014 Chicago Transit Authority Train Collision with Bumping Post and Escalator at O’Hare Station

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONAn independent Federal agency
RAIL

NTSB Issues 7 Safety Recommendations as a Result of Its Investigation of the March 24, 2014 Chicago Transit Authority Train Collision with Bumping Post and Escalator at O’Hare Station

May 14, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Transit Administration:

Develop a work scheduling program for rail transit agencies that incorporates fatigue science—such as validated biomathematical models of fatigue—and provides for the management of personnel fatigue risks, and implement the program through the state safety oversight program. (R-15-018)

Establish (through the state safety oversight program) scientifically based hours-of-service regulations that set limits on hours of service, provide predictable work and rest schedules, and consider circadian rhythms and human sleep and rest requirements. (R-15-019)

Identify the necessary training and certification needs for work schedulers in the rail transit industry and require the transit agencies—through the state safety oversight program—to provide additional training or certification for their work schedulers. (R-15-020)

Require (through the state safety oversight program) rail transit employees who develop work schedules to complete initial and recurrent training based on current fatigue science to identify and mitigate work schedule risks that contribute to operator fatigue. (R-15-021)

Require rail transit agencies to implement transmission-based train control systems that prevent train collisions. (R-15-022)

Require that new or rehabilitated rail transit vehicles be equipped with event recorders meeting Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standard 1482.1 for rail transit vehicle event recorders. (R-15-023)

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-018-023.pdf

To the Chicago Transit Authority:

Install a transmission-based train control system on all passenger train routes. (R-15-024)

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-024.pdf

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reclassifies the following safety recommendation:

To the Federal Transit Administration:

Facilitate the development and implementation of positive train control systems for rail transit systems nationwide. (R-09-008)

Safety recommendation R-09-008 is classified “Closed–Unacceptable Action/Superseded.” It is superseded by safety recommendation R-15-022.

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-018-023.pdf

# # #The letter is in the Portable Document Format (PDF) and can be read using the Acrobat Reader 5.0 or later from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html).


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Related publications, accident briefs, and aviation accident synopses may be found on the NTSB website(http://www.ntsb.gov/publications/Pages/default.aspx).

NTSB Investigates Train Derailment in Philadelphia

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD NEWS RELEASE

An independent federal agency

NTSB Investigates Train Derailment in Philadelphia

May 13, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a go-team to investigate an Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, Pa.

NTSB investigator Mike Flanigon is leading the team as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman during the on-scene phase of the investigation.

Public Affairs Officer Peter Knudson will also be on-scene in Philadelphia to coordinate media-related activities. He can be reached at peter.knudson@ntsb.gov or by mobile phone at 202-557-1350. The team will arrive in Philadelphia later this morning.

Contact Information

Office of Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594

Peter Knudson
(202) 314-6100
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov


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U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Acting for Impaired Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board

Public Affairs     312-751-4777   877-772-5772

Chicago, Illinois  60611-2092       rrb.gov

 

For Publication

April 2015

 

Acting for Impaired Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

 

According to Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) policy, every annuitant has the right to manage his or her own benefits.  However, when physical or mental impairments make a railroad retirement annuitant incapable of properly handling benefit payments, or where the RRB determines that the interests of the annuitant so require, the agency can appoint a representative payee to act on the annuitant’s behalf.  A representative payee may be either a person or an organization selected by the RRB to receive benefits on behalf of an annuitant.

The following questions and answers provide information for family members, or others, who may have to act on behalf of an annuitant.

  1. Does the RRB have legal authority to appoint a representative payee for an annuitant?

The Railroad Retirement Act gives the RRB authority to determine whether direct payment of benefits, or payment to a representative payee, will best serve an annuitant’s interest.  The RRB can appoint a representative payee regardless of whether there has been a legal finding of incompetence or commitment and, depending on the circumstances in a particular case, the RRB can select someone other than the individual’s legal representative to be the representative payee.

  1. What if a person has been given power of attorney by a beneficiary?

Power of attorney is a legal process where one person grants another the authority to transact certain business on his or her behalf; but the RRB, like the Social Security Administration, does not recognize power of attorney for purposes of managing benefit payments for a beneficiary.  For this purpose, the RRB uses the position of representative payee.

  1. Why doesn’t the RRB recognize power of attorney?

The Railroad Retirement Act protects a person’s right to receive benefits directly and to use them as he or she sees fit by prohibiting the assignment of benefits.  Power of attorney creates an assignment-like situation that is contrary to the protections given by this law.  The Act likewise gives the RRB exclusive jurisdiction in determining whether to appoint a representative payee for an annuitant.  If the RRB recognized power of attorney, it would be deferring to a designation made by someone outside of the agency and would, in effect, be abdicating its responsibility to the annuitant.

Also, events often occur which may affect an annuitant’s eligibility for benefits.  The responsibility for reporting these events to the RRB is placed, by law, directly on the annuitant or the annuitant’s representative payee.  When benefits are accepted, the annuitant or his or her payee attests to a continued eligibility for such benefits.  And if payments are misused, they can be recouped from the payee.  This is not true with power of attorney.

  1. How are these representative payees selected?

Generally, the RRB’s local field offices determine the need for a representative payee and interview potential payees.  The field office also advises the payee of his or her duties, monitors the payee, investigates any allegations of misuse of funds, and changes the method of payment, or the payee, when appropriate.

The RRB provides 15 days’ advance notice to an annuitant of its intent to appoint a representative payee, and the name of the payee, in order to allow the annuitant a period of time in which to contest the appointment.

  1. What are the primary duties and responsibilities of a representative payee?

The payee must give first consideration to the annuitant’s day-to-day needs.  This includes paying for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and miscellaneous personal needs.  Beyond day-to-day needs, railroad retirement benefits may be used for other expenses.

The payee is also responsible for reporting events to the RRB that affect the individual’s annuity, and is required to account for the funds received on behalf of the annuitant.

In addition, since railroad retirement benefits are subject to Federal income tax, a representative payee is responsible for delivering the benefit information statements issued each year by the RRB to the person handling the annuitant’s tax matters.

Periodically, the payee will be asked to complete a report which includes questions regarding how much of the railroad retirement benefits available during the year were used for the support of the beneficiary, how much of the benefits were saved, and how the savings were invested.  In order to complete the questionnaire correctly, a payee must keep current records of the railroad retirement benefits received and how the benefits were used.  The records should be retained for four years.

  1. What are a representative payee’s primary responsibilities for an annuitant’s Medicare coverage?

When an annuitant requires covered medical services, the payee must have the annuitant’s Medicare card available.  The payee must also keep records of the services received and the expenses incurred or paid, just as for any other usage of railroad retirement benefits.

  1. What if an annuitant is confined to an institution?

When annuitants are in a nursing home, hospital or other institution, their railroad retirement benefit payments should be used to meet the charges for their current maintenance.  Current maintenance includes the usual charges the institution makes for providing care and services.

The payee should use the benefit payments to aid in the annuitant’s possible recovery or release from the institution, or to improve his or her living conditions while confined.  Payments may be used, for example, to provide clothing, personal grooming supplies, transportation of relatives to visit the patient, trial visits to relatives or to places where the patient can be helped to recover, medical and dental care, and reading materials and hobby supplies.

  1. How should railroad retirement benefits not immediately required to meet an annuitant’s needs be handled?

Benefit payments which will not be needed in the near future must be saved or invested unless they are needed for the support of the annuitant’s legally dependent spouse or child, or to pay creditors under certain circumstances.  It is recommended that conserved funds be held in interest-bearing accounts.  Preferred investments are Federally-insured or State-insured accounts at financial institutions and obligations of, or those backed by, the Federal Government, such as U.S. Savings Bonds.

Funds should not be kept in the home, where they may be lost or stolen, nor can they be mingled with the payee’s own funds or other funds.

  1. How can a person get more information about being appointed as a representative payee, or whether the use of railroad retirement benefits for a particular purpose would be proper?

More information is available by visiting the agency’s website, www.rrb.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.  Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the RRB’s toll-free number or at www.rrb.gov.

Part of the Job: How Engineers Deal With Death on the Railroad

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Railroads have seen a recent uptick in highway-rail crossing and

trespassing fatalities. But the memories of the gruesome events

don’t just haunt families and friends of victims, they stick with train

engineers and conductors as well—sometimes for a lifetime.

By Darren Orf
April 9, 2014 12:39 PM  

 

Kim Davids has been a freight conductor for 39 years. Within those four decades, he’s witnessed 16 grade-crossing accidents, and every year around Christmastime he remembers one in particular. On a winter day in Utah 38 years ago, a woman in a car stuck on the tracks was clamoring out of a window to escape the oncoming train, but she was too late. As the train clipped the vehicle, it flipped onto her.

“The problem is that they come back into my mind in vivid detail,” Davids says

Gruesome death and injury are part of the job, but engineers have a front-row seat. Some engineers and conductors are lucky—they may see only one or two accidents in their career. Others who are involved in multiple accidents are known as having “the curse,” though many in the industry consider it mere coincidence. And for some conductors, accidents are so violent and traumatic they can lead to extended leaves of absence, depression, stress disorders, and even leaving the industry.

A Troubling Trend

It’s not so much a matter of if an accident will happen, but when—and the problem is getting worse. Every three hours or so, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States. In 2013, highway-rail incidents and trespassing fatalities increased compared to the past three years, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. “It’s a small percentage, but it’s an increase and it’s in the wrong direction,” says Joyce Rose, president of Operation Lifesaver, a 42-year-old national organization dedicated to informing the public about train safety. “We’ve seen a 14 percent increase in trespass fatalities just last year,” she adds.

One headline-grabbing incident happened last month when a Maryville, Calif., teenage couple, who were on their way to the local Sadie Hawkins dance, were caught off-guard by an approaching train. The boyfriend pushed his date out of the way and saved her life, but he was killed at the scene. This is just one of hundreds of deaths that occur on train tracks in the United States every year. And for the train engineer or conductor, the worst is just beginning.

This recent uptick in accidents is the reason behind Operation Lifesaver’s “See Tracks. Think Trains” campaign, which launched April 8. This four-word slogan will echo on televisions, billboards, radios, and by the thousands of presentations by Operation Lifesaver almost 1500 members. Of those volunteers, nearly half are retired railroad workers, Rose says.

About 80 percent of fatalities are male with the lion’s share falling within the 16-34 age group, It’s this group that the “See Tracks. Think Trains” campaign hopes to reach. Distraction is a huge concern. A proliferation of smartphones, headphones, GPS devices, are at least one cause of the inclining death toll, not to mention increased population and railway traffic.

However, Rose thinks there’s a more pervasive, underlying problem. “People don’t think that they’re doing anything wrong when they walk on the railroad tracks,” Rose says. “It’s a criminal act to trespass on railroad tracks, but that psychology is not there and it’s a difficult audience to reach in a methodical way…I’m sure people are not thinking when they try to race the train at a crossing at how selfish that is and the impact that it can cause on other people, especially the engineer of the train.”

The Other Half of the Equation

When a train hits someone or something on the tracks, Davids says, the first thing the crew does is record the time and call the train dispatcher to report an incident. Dispatch then alerts emergency responders while the train crew runs back to the point of collision to see if they can help. Davids took first aid classes for that very reason, even though there’s often nothing he can do. Then the long process of investigating the accident begins.

In the aftermath of a train accident, Davids says, news reports understandably focus on the civilian victims. But a major train accident such as a derailment can send trains careening into ditches or shrapnel ripping through a locomotive’s windshield. “About 90 percent of the time when a railroad incident is reported, they never mention if the train crew is ok,” Davids says. “The reporters are only thinking of half the equation.”

That could be said of the train companies, too. Up until the 1970s or the 80s, many companies expected railroad workers to clean up the mess after a collision and keep working, regardless of any nerves or psychological trauma.

“Initially when I was involved in a fatality, I couldn’t believe there was no assistance,” says John Tolman, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, who started his railroading career in 1971. “Now, we’re moving in the right direction after many years of delay.” In 2008, Congress passed the Railway Safety Improvement Act. The law pushed for positive train control to curtail operator error, but also had a provision that required train companies to provide adequate time off and counseling services to anyone involved in a “critical incident.”

Now, Davids says, by law the train crew is relieved from duty after an accident, given time off, and offered counseling services or the option to speak with other railroad employees who’ve experienced similar accidents, known simply as peer support. Many times employees are absent for a few days, sometimes longer, and some never return at all.

How a Few Seconds Can Last Forever

Patrick Sherry, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, has studied the mental health of railroad employees involved in critical incidents. Sherry stumbled upon the subject in 1988 when a man entered his office interested in psychology and explaining how railroad workers were experiencing “anniversary accidents.”

“Every April, several people in a certain workforce of engineers…would have an accident—whether back pain or something else—that would trigger getting time off,” Sherry says. He traveled down to the workplace to interview the engineers and listened to their stories: “I was talking to this one guy and he said ‘I once ran into a minivan, we were coming down the tracks and there was nothing I could do. I had the brakes on full emergency. I’m blowing the horn and blowing the horn, and I can see this minivan. We’re getting closer and closer. We got so close I could see the little kids’ faces against the windows of the cars. There’s nothing I could do. We plowed right into them.’”

Sherry explains that this particular engineer could never get the image out of his head. It was so bad in fact, that the engineer would do anything to not work that day. “I found that many of them have had similar experiences,” Sherry says. “Absenteeism is often associated the post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Sherry’s 54-page report, issued in 2011, uncovered some harrowing numbers. Nearly half (43.6 percent) of all rail transit operators are likely to be involved in an accident at some point, and of that unlucky population, 12.1 percent experienced PTSD. Train crews involved in incidents were also more likely to report physical health difficulties.

“Familiar stimuli can trigger those memories,” Sherry says. He then describes one engineer who frequently had to pass the trackside memorial of a victim killed in a train accident he was involved in. “It makes it harder for a person to overcome and/or suppress those memories if the person is continually re-exposed to the stimuli. The body is saying to go someplace else and forget this, but if your job is to travel over the same places again and again, it can be very painful.”

Respect the Tracks

Train accidents are over in a few seconds. But court cases and deposition hearings can linger for years, forcing engineers and conductors to relive their nightmares. Davids has participated in two such hearings, one in which a prosecutor tried to prove negligence, though the case was dismissed. Davids says the accusations aren’t even the hardest part.

“Details are brought out in a courthouse that we don’t know,” he says. “At one of the depositions, they start talking about the lady’s baby, and she was getting married a week after the incident happened.” Years later while giving a driver’s education presentation for Operation Lifesavers, Davids met that woman’s daughter. “I talked to her after the presentation and she said she didn’t remember her mom, and that she was raised by her grandparents,” Davids says. “Those are the things I don’t want to know.”

Davids joined Operation Lifesavers in 1984. He now serves as the state coordinator for Idaho, the state where the Operation Lifesavers started in 1972. In some ways, the new campaign is fighting the stubbornness of human nature. People are always focused on where they’re going, but not where they are, Davids says. People need to slow down, and they need to think, he says—“because anytime is train time.”

The missing story of the 2014 election

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Brothers:

This article, from the Houston Chronicle, appeared on the web at the link below if you want to share. It makes a lot of sense. Also, I want you to know that Texas is not a republican state, it’s a non-voting state. We are working to change that fact. In this election Greg Abbott was elected governor with 59% of the votes. But his vote total is only 19% of the 14 million voters in the state! Hardly a mandate.

We must stay the course and hang on for two years.

TDB

http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2014/11/the-missing-story-of-the-2014-election/

The missing story of the 2014 election

Posted on November 10, 2014 | By chrisladd

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.

For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, the 2014 election is a prelude to a disaster. Understanding this trend begins with a stark graphic.

Behold the Blue Wall:

2016electionPresidentialmap

http://www.270towin.com/

The Blue Wall is block of states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win. Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.

Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.

This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.

By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149  electoral votes. What happened to that fortress amid the glory of the 2014 “victory?” It shrunk yet again. Not only are New Hampshire and probably Virginia now off the competitive map, Georgia is now clearly in play at the Federal level. This trend did not start in 2014 and it will not end here. This is a long-term realignment that been in motion for more than a decade and continues to accelerate.

The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map. The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of American actually got worse.

A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:

– Republican Senate candidates lost every single race behind the Blue Wall. Every one.

– Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot. None of these candidates ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition the ACA. Rauner stands out as a particular bright spot in Illinois, but Democrats in Illinois retained their supermajority in the State Assembly, similar to other northern states, without losing a single seat.

– Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended. Voter turnout was awful.

– Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.

– Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.

– Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

– Every personhood amendment failed.

– For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress. Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.

– Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.

– In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South. The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.

– Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive. One.

– And that “Republican wave?” In Congressional elections this year it amounted to a total of 52% of the vote. That’s it.

– Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader. For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan. That’s great, but that’s a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in. Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country (less than 30%), a position it has consistently held across decades, but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc. Texas now holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.

– Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.

– For all the talk about economic problems, for the past year the US economy has been running at ’90’s levels. Watch Republicans start touting a booming economy as the result of their 2014 “mandate.”

– McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity. If you thought Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America then you’re an idiot, but these next two years will be a (briefly) happy period for you.

This is an age built for Republican solutions. The global economy is undergoing a massive, accelerating transformation that promises massive new wealth and staggering challenges. We need heads-up, intelligent adaptations to capitalize on those challenges. Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment.

What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.

It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.

Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.

 

 

Terry Briggs, Chairman

IBT – BLET

Texas State Legislative Board

DOT Revised Urine Specimen Collector Guidelines

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

header-DOT_700x90[1]

Official Q&As Published Today  

 

Today – July 3, 2014 – the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance, with the Office of General Counsel, issued 49 CFR Part 40 Question and Answers (Q&A).   Like all ODAPC/OGC Q&As, these Q&As constitute official and authoritative guidance and interpretation concerning Part 40. The Q&As issued today are available at http://www.dot.gov/odapc/part40QandA.  The Q&As explain 1) When may a collector give an employee permission to leave a collection site, and 2) What happens if an employee leaves the collection site prior to the completion of the testing process.

 

 

Revised Urine Specimen Collector Guidelines Posted Today

 

The following are some of the changes to the revised Urine Specimen Collector Guidelines from the previous version [October 1, 2010]:

  • Updated web site addresses/hyperlinks, as needed,
  • Modified language throughout the document to clarify concepts and to identify when actions are required versus simply permitted by the regulation.  These edits are italicized throughout this document and the items italicized, underlined, and bolded from the 2010 revisions to this document were returned to normal text,
  • Removed effective dates in Section 4 that have passed,
  • Section 13 was re-organized,
  • Removed Section 14

The revised Guidelines are available at http://www.dot.gov/odapc/urine-specimen-collection-guidelines.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest 2/4/14

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • Fundraising: In case you haven’t seen it yet, Daily Kos Elections’ massive fourth quarter House fundraising chart is now available. We have listings for over 300 candidates in more than 120 different races, ranging from longshots to top-tier battles, with plenty of hotly contested primaries thrown in as well. You won’t find a more comprehensive—and more succinct—roundup anywhere else. 

    You should also check out our companion chart featuring challengers who have pulled off the difficult feat of outraising incumbents, and the even rarer group of those who have more cash in the bank than the office-holders they’re looking to unseat. Lots of data for election junkies to pore over at both links!

 

4Q Fundraising:

 

 

 

    • MT-Sen: John Walsh (D): $583,000 raised, $436,000 cash-on-hand; Dirk Adams (D): $103,000 raised, $69,000 cash-on-hand; John Bohlinger (D): $20,000 raised (incl. $10,000 in self-funding)

 

    • TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): $1.5 million raised, $6.5 million cash-on-hand

 

  • TX-Gov: Greg Abbott (R): $3.1 million raised (in January), $29.4 million cash-on-hand

 

Senate:

 

    • KY-Sen: Rasmussen: Alison Grimes (D): 42, Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 42; Grimes 36, Matt Bevin (R): 40.

 

    • NH-Sen, -Gov: UNH has some new numbers for New Hampshire’s races for Senate and governor this fall. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leads all comers: 
      • 47-37 vs. ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown

       

      • 47-36 vs. ex-Sen. Bob Smith

       

      • 46-32 vs. ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens

       

      • 48-29 vs. conservative activist Karen Testerman

       

      Weirdly, UNH doesn’t seen any electability gap between Smith and Brown, which is very different from what most other polling has found. This is also the first time UNH has tested any of these candidates except for Rubens, who trailed by a winder 53-28 back in October. Other pollsters have also found slippage for Shaheen, though UNH is notorious for gyrating numbers. 

      UNH also finds Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan on top, leading Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas 45-34 and conservative activist Andrew Hemingway (her only declared opponent so far) 48-27.

 

  • OK-Sen-B: A new poll from Harper Polling of the still-developing GOP primary to replace Sen. Tom Coburn finds Rep. Jim Lankford crushing state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, 54-18. It would be a very different story if ex-Rep. J.C. Watts entered the fray, though, as he’d narrowly lead Lankford 40-37, with Shannon at 8. Shannon, though, used to work for Watts, so there may be a relationship there that might dissuade Watts from making a bid. Watts has also been out of office for over a decade and retired voluntarily, so who knows how interested he is in getting back in the game.

 

Gubernatorial:

 

    • GA-Gov: This new report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution is just an absolutely brutal dissection of GOP Gov. Nathan Deal’s leadership—or rather, extreme lack thereof—before and during the recent ice storm that utterly crippled the Atlanta region, with devastating effects that included thousands of children stuck in schools overnight, and even some trapped on buses. Unfortunately, the piece now appears to be locked behind a paywall, but Better Georgia has a run-down of some of the key excerpts

      Perhaps most symbolic: As the storm began moving in, Deal was busy participating in a “Gone With the Wind”-themed event to promote tourism, and even “posed for a photo with Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.” Later that same day, he attended a luncheon where Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was receiving an award for “Georgian of the Year.” It’s a safe bet that neither man will be in the running for that honor next year, but these little vignettes only tell a tiny part of the story. The full extent of the debacle, which included Deal failing to declare a state of emergency until five hours after snowfall began, is just extraordinary.

 

    • IL-Gov: Though they’ve surveyed the GOP primary countless times, conservative pollster We Ask America hasn’t actually polled the general election, until now. And their numbers are absolutely brutal for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who trails the entire Republican field: 
      • 39-48 vs. state Sen Bill Brady

       

      • 37-46 vs. state Sen. Kirk Dillard

       

      • 37-46 vs. state Treasurer Dan Rutherford

       

      • 39-47 vs. venture capitalist Bruce Rauner

       

      Quinn’s standing is not too different from where the only other recent poll found him; PPP placed Quinn between 39 and 41 percent in November, truly awful for an incumbent. The real difference is that WAA sees the various Republican contenders reaching for the top half of the 40s. Even if you think PPP’s numbers deserve greater respect, neither set is remotely good for Quinn. 

      One thing we want to note, though, is that WAA had a very Republican-leaning track record in 2012. We’ve put together a chart of all the final polls they released from October onward, and if you click through, you can see a clear pattern. WAA didn’t have a ton of awful misses (like, say, St. Pete Polls or McLaughlin & Associates), but 17 of their 22 end-of-cycle polls tilted in the GOP direction, several by double digits. This chart also leaves out a lot of weirdness, like the fact that WAA’s penultimate IL-08 poll (taken just a couple of weeks earlier in October) found Duckworth trailing Walsh by 3 points. 

      If you’re a very keen follower of We Ask America, this probably doesn’t surprise you, since they are, after all, the polling arm of the extremely right-wing Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. But the IMA goes to great lengths to mask their stewardship of WAA, so it’s important that all analysts are aware of this relationship. None of this is to say, though, that Quinn isn’t in a ton of trouble. He certainly is. But polling on this race has been very scarce, and you shouldn’t rely overmuch on the likes of We Ask America.

 

    • MI-Gov: During the Super Bowl, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled one of the strangest television ads I’ve seen this so far this cycle. The 60-second spot features Snyder surfacing from a pool wearing a mask, snorkel, and full wetsuit as a narrator intones: “Some call him a nerd. But Michigan now calls him the comeback kid.” There’s so much weird about this whole ad that I hardly know where to start. 

      First off, the pool imagery is just bizarre in its own right. What on earth is it supposed to mean? Secondly, the narrator has trouble enunciating his Rs, so “nerd” actually comes out sounding like something halfway between “ned” and “newd.” Thirdly, “comeback kid” makes no sense. Maybe Detroit is the “comeback city,” but the phrase “comeback” implies that you’re, you know, coming back from something. It does not mean you assisted in a comeback for someone or something else. So what the hell is Snyder “coming back” from? Bill Clinton earned the nickname because he finished a respectable second in the 1992 New Hampshire primary after polls showed him getting trounced. Is Snyder trying to say he’s rebounding from his own crappy polling numbers? 

      As a slow jazzy tune plays throughout the rest of the ad, the narrator keeps calling Snyder a nehd and rattles of a litany of supposed achievements, though at least from here on out, the camera pans across the Michigan landscape and not the pool at the YMCA. Until the very end, that is, when Snyder’s visage, half cast in shadow, glowers out of the gloom as the narrator informs us that he’s Batman. Well, maybe Aquaman, anyway. 

      Meanwhile, the DGA has a new ad of its own that takes direct aim at Snyder’s long-since worn out “one tough nerd” shtick. Here, the narrator says that a “it doesn’t take a much brainpower to see Rick Snyder’s economic policies are failing the middle class,” then criticizes Snyder for cutting school funding and raising taxes on seniors to give tax cuts to businesses.

 

    • NE-Gov: State Sen. Charlie Janssen is bailing on the Nebraska GOP primary for governor, and in a bit of candor rare for most politicians, he actually admitted it’s because he realized he had no hope. “The way the field was shaping up,” said Janssen, “I didn’t see a clear path to victory.” Gotta respect that. Janssen did say he might run for state auditor, a position that’s open because the current incumbent, Mike Foley, is one of the heavyweights who pushed Janssen toward the exits in the gubernatorial race.

 

  • OH-Gov: In an incredibly un-shocking move, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has announced that he won’t oppose Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination for governor. Portune thought he could take advantage of FitzGerald’s stumble over his initial selection for a running-mate (since dropped from the ticket), but Portune never seemed serious about running, wasn’t able to garner any establishment support, and had no money. With the filing deadline on Wednesday, it looks like Fitz will now have a clear shot at Republican Gov. John Kasich.

 

House:

 

    • CA-33: Break out your Drudge sirens, kids, because Richard Simmons is not—I repeat, NOT—running for Congress! Actually, his response on Twitter to Roll Call‘s Abby Livingston (who cleverly thought to ask) was pretty funny: “i think not lol.” Meanwhile, the two actual Democrats running each announced endorsements from a member of Congress: Rep. Karen Bass for state Sen. Ted Lieu and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard for former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel.

 

    • FL-13: Say what

      “Republican David Jolly said he supports a minimum wage, but doesn’t think politicians should set it.”

       

      Sounds like someone needs a Schoolhouse Rock refresher! Either that, or Jolly believes in the magic of the invisible hand with the fervor of a four-year-old who still hasn’t learned that Santa [spoiler alert] isn’t actually real. The rest of Jolly’s explanation doesn’t make much more sense: 

      “Minimum wage should be indexed to inflation or subject to a cost-of-living adjustment like any other federal income program …” Jolly said in an email. “That means some years it may go up, other years it may stay static. Barack Obama is not an economist, neither is the Congress.”

       

      First off, indexing the minimum wage to inflation is exactly what Obama called for in his most recent State of the Union address. Second off, who exactly would establish this regime? You guessed it: politicians. Someone needs to tell this guy how government actually works. 

      Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times takes a detailed look at David Jolly’s lobbying work on behalf of an obscure but wealthy businessman, James MacDougal, who founded a conservative advocacy group called Free Enterprise Nation. The entire piece is full of denials by Jolly that he actually lobbied for anything, including privatizing Social Security, increasing health care costs for veterans, expanding oil drilling off the coast of Florida, and opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act to fight income inequality between men and women—even though he listed these topics on his disclosure forms. You sort of wonder what MacDougal was paying Jolly for, since he apparently can’t remember doing much of anything. 

      What’s also amusing is that Jolly has been whining about Alex Sink not wanting to debate him—never the hallmark of a winning campaign—but he insists: “I’m not going to confront these questions about lobbying that much further.” Guess he doesn’t want to debate, either (though the two did in fact go head-to-head Monday night).

 

    • FL-19: Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled the dates for Florida’s second special election this year, to fill the seat of ex-Rep. Trey Radel. The all-important primary in this heavily red district will take place on April 22, while the general is set for June 24. To serve a full term, the winner would then have to run again in the state’s regularly scheduled Aug. 26 primary, followed by the November general election. 

      Meanwhile, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who’d already been running ads to boost her name recognition, has finally made the obvious official: She’ll run for Radel’s seat. However, attorney Chauncey Goss has decided against a bid. Two other Republicans are already in the race, businessman Curt Clawson and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

 

  • IA-03: Attorney Brenna Findley, legal counsel to Gov. Terry Branstad, is saying no to a bid for Congress, even though the NRCC had prodded her toward a run. Plenty of Republicans are already in this open-seat race, but presumably establishment types aren’t thrilled with the field since they were hunting for an alternative.

 

Other Races:

 

  • New Orleans Mayor: On Saturday, the Big Easy went to the polls and easily re-elected incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu defeated former judge and fellow Democrat Michael Bagneris 64-33. In 2010’s open seat race, Landrieu won a very similar 66 percent. New Orleans has a long tradition of reelecting its mayors: The last incumbent to be tossed out of office was Robert Maestri in 1946. 

    Despite some early speculation that Republicans would open their wallets for Bagneris to try and wound the Landrieu family (Mitch’s sister Mary is, of course, running for reelection to the Senate in November), this does not appear to have happened. Instead, Bagneris received the backing of many of the city’s once-influential African American political organizations. These groups were very powerful during and in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement but have fallen on hard times recently. 

    Bagneris also had the endorsements of both the city Democratic and Republican parties. However, given Landrieu’s personal popularity and the general sense that the city is moving in the right direction, they were not nearly enough for Bagneris. (Jeff Singer)

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest 2/3/14

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • Party Committees: Both of the major Democratic congressional committees widely outraised their Republican counterparts in 2013, according to newly released year-end numbers. On the Senate side, the DSCC hauled in $52.6 million to finish the year with $12 million in the bank (and $3.75 million in debt), while the NRSC took in just $36.7 million and has $8 million on hand (albeit with no debt). 

    The DCCC also whomped the NRCC, which is perhaps a little more remarkable considering that Democrats are in the minority in the House. Nevertheless, Democrats raised $75.8 million for the year and have $29.3 million saved up. Republicans, meanwhile, raised only $60.6 million and have a much smaller $21 million war chest. (Neither committee is carrying any debt.) 

    Republicans did outpace Democrats by a big margin in terms of how their gubernatorial committees performed, though. The RGA raised $52.5 million compared with $28 million for the DGA. However, the RGA always raises more, largely because wealthy interests can give huge donations at the state level that they simply cannot to the federal committees. That’s why the DGA pre-emptively issued a press release arguing they’ve won eight of nine recent gubernatorial elections where both committees competed, despite getting outspent in seven of those.

 

4Q Fundraising:

 

      Be sure to visit

Daily Kos Elections

      for our giant fourth quarter House fundraising chart, which will go up on Monday morning.

 

    • AK-Sen: Mark Begich (D-inc): $850,000 raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand

 

    • IA-Sen: Bruce Braley (D): $1 million raised, $2.6 million cash-on-hand; Sam Clovis (R): $71,000 raised, $24,000 cash-on-hand; Joni Ernst (R): $203,000 raised, $290,000 cash-on-hand ; Matt Whitaker (R): $331,000 raised, $232,000 cash-on-hand

 

    • KY-Sen: Mitch McConnell (R-inc): $2.2 million raised, $10.9 million cash-on-hand; Alison Grimes (D): $2.1 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand

 

 

    • SC-Sen-A: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): $1.3 million raised, $7.6 million cash-on-hand

 

    • SD-Sen: Stace Nelson (R): $31,000 raised, $34,000 cash-on-hand (said Nelson: “Don’t need as much as those candidates that don’t have my conservative record”)

 

    • OH-Gov: John Kasich (R-inc): $4.5 million raised (in second half of 2013), $7.9 million cash-on-hand; Ed FitzGerald (D): $1.7 million raised (in last seven months), $1.4 million cash-on-hand

 

    • RI-Gov: Angel Taveras (D): $325,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand ; Gina Raimondo (D): $486,000 raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand; Clay Pell (D): $1.1 million cash-on-hand (includes $1 million personal loan)

 

  • WI-Gov: Scott Walker (R-inc): $5 million raised (in second half of 2013), $4.6 million cash-on-hand

 

Senate:

 

 

  • NE-Sen: A group called Special Operations for America (which amusingly refers to itself as “SOFA”) is running an ad touting former state Treasurer Shane Osborne’s role as pilot of the Navy reconnaissance plane that made an emergency landing at a Chinese airbase after sustaining serious damage in a mid-air collision with a Chinese jet back in 2001 (known as the “Hainan Island incident“). There’s no word on the size of the buy, but in a bit of unwanted kismet, SOFA’s founder happens to be none other than Mr. Anti-Christ himself, Ryan Zinke. (See our MT-AL item below.)

 

Gubernatorial:

 

    • NH-Gov: As expected, conservative activist Andrew Hemingway has entered the race for governor, making him the first Republican to challenge freshman Gov. Maggie Hassan. Hemingway ran Newt Gingrich’s New Hampshire campaign back in 2012, when Newt finished in fifth place (out of the five remaining candidates) with just 9 percent of the vote.

 

  • PA-Gov: During his brief campaign for governor, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski had failed to gain any traction in the Democratic primary, so it’s no surprise that he’ll reportedly drop out soon and endorse state Treasurer Rob McCord. Pawloski’s campaign didn’t deny (or confirm) the decision, but it is promising an announcement Monday.

 

House:

 

    • CA-17: Hah, this is great. Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign dug up some video—from less than two years ago—of fellow Democrat Ro Khanna… praising him effusively to a group of community leaders? Well, of course! Everyone loves Mike Honda, except for the newly minted 2013 edition of Ro Khanna. But here’s what Khanna had to say in 2012: 

      My remarks’ll be very brief, but I do want to acknowledge our great congressional team that represents this area. We of course have Congressman Mike Honda. And I think what people—everyone says good things about Congressman Honda, and the one thing that I can add, having been in Washington, is Congressman Honda of course is a outstanding representative for our area. [Applause] But he is also the one person in the entire United States Congress, who, if there’s an issue concerning the Asian-American community, anywhere and—or if there’s an issue the administration wants to know about Asia, they go to Congressman Honda. So it’s a privilege to have him from this area.

       

      Amusingly, Khanna’s campaign called Honda’s release of this video a “silly attack.” I love the idea that pointing out that your opponent once had nothing but kind words for you is a some sort of “attack.”

 

    • CA-31: Ex-Rep. Joe Baca has once again posted joke fundraising totals: $20,000 raised in the fourth quarter, $21,000 cash-on-hand. The real fight to represents Democrats in November seems confined to just Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar and attorney Eloise Reyes.

 

    • CA-33: As expected, state Sen. Ted Lieu declared for retiring Rep. Henry Waxman’s House seat on Friday, making him the second Democrat to enter the race after former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel. Lieu concurrently rolled out a ton of endorsements as well, including from Los Angeles-area Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Maxine Waters, as well as state Controller John Chiang, who is from the district. 

      Meanwhile, former California first lady Maria Shriver, like her brother Bobby Shriver, is saying no, as is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. However, wealthy Republican-turned-independent businessman Bill Bloomfield, who gave Waxman the toughest race of his political career last cycle, says he’s “leaning toward” a second bid. 

      And in case you missed it, we put together the most comprehensive list of potential candidates in the previous Digest.

 

    • FL-13: Both party committees have released new ads in the Florida special. The NRCC accuses Democrat Alex Sink of spending “$400,000 of taxpayer money to jet around in a state-owned plane” and claims she used the plane “so she could get to a vacation in the Bahamas.” (She actually flew from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, then grabbed a commercial flight.) 

      The DCCC, meanwhile, castigates Republican David Jolly for “cashing out” after working as a Congressional aide “to sell his influence.” The only specific charge is that he lobbied “to keep tax loopholes benefitting Big Oil.” The ad features a stand-in for Jolly (neck-down, in a suit) making his rounds through D.C., at one point carrying a slightly silly-looking Redweld folder labeled “DAVID JOLLY LOBBYING CONTRACTS” in large type.

 

    • FL-19: Businessman Curt Clawson, one of several Republicans seeking the seat of disgraced ex-Rep. Trey Radel, made the stunty move of airing a campaign ad during the Super Bowl. (Locally, of course. Unless you live in Fort Myers, you didn’t see it on Sunday.) Mixing the day’s sports metaphors a bit, Clawson says he’s “challenging President Obama to a three-point contest” because Obama’s “been missing a lot of shots lately—not just in basketball.” It’s content-free but not unpleasant, and at least it’s a damn sight better than the last Republican ad released during the Super Bowl. (That’d be Pete Hoekstra‘s.)

 

    • MT-AL: Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke, who’s seeking the GOP nomination for Montana’s open House seat, called Hillary Clinton “the anti-Christ” and “the real enemy” at a recent campaign stop. And Zinke is supposedly one of the more “moderate” Republicans running.

 

    • NY-04: Even though Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has strong name recognition, support from the DCCC, and the endorsement of retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, she may not have the Democratic primary to herself. Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams has filed with the FEC so that he can start raising money to explore a bid. Abrahams’ announcement actually came shortly before Rice’s entry, so he may now be having second thoughts—or he may just want to get his name out there a bit in anticipation of some future bid for higher office. Abrahams would be the first African American to represent Long Island in Congress, but the district is only 14 percent black, and given all of Rice’s advantages, it’s hard to see him wresting the nomination from her.

 

  • NY-18: Fourth quarter reports were finally due in at the FEC on Friday, so visit Daily Kos Elections for our traditional giant wrap-up of House fundraising numbers. Some reports, though, are still worth special scrutiny. In particular, ex-Rep. Nan Hayworth’s haul of just $37,000 is remarkably pathetic, and it calls to mind a tidbit Emily Cahn offered in December: “[P]rivately, GOP operatives also complain that Hayworth didn’t have the kind of professional organization to run a successful bid in 2012. They add that she hasn’t yet learned from that mistake this time around.” Hayworth does have some ability to self-fund (she gave her first campaign over half a million in 2010), but this is a very weak way to wage a comeback bid.