September 30, 2016

Grains of Salt (v15): Incentives

The last Grains of Salt post I did, v14, was about the top 50 fastest growing companies in Upstate NY. The list of our region's companies was culled from the Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest growers.

In that post, I lamented that, with one distant exception, there were no Syracuse-area companies listed - not in the top 50, and not in the top 5,000. In fact, for several years running, there haven't been any Syracuse companies on the list.

That post is behind me -- it's from 25 days ago, for heaven's sake, which is a lifetime in today's 24/7 news cycle. Tonight, I do have a story about a successful local company, but as with that earlier post, this one too has a less than ideal ending.

Last July, Skaneateles Falls-based Welch Allyn was sold to Chicago's Hill-Rom for a couple billion dollars, ending 100 years of family ownership of the medical equipment company, and putting quite a bit of fear into the local community. Shortly after the sale - Joe Biden literally only days after - 50 people were laid off, which added to the angst people were feeling.

Earlier this week, though, we learned that our Sonofa Gov was coming to town to make an announcement at the company, and we all knew what that meant: money was coming along with him.

Hill-Rom will be adding 100 jobs at Welch Allyn, in manufacturing, marketing, and R&D, over the next couple of years. And in return (this is where the Gov comes in) the company will be eligible for some $13.5 million in incentives from New York State. For example, there's potentially $6M in tax credits over ten years via the Excelsior Jobs Program, and a $6M grant under the state's Upstate Revitalization Initiative, contingent upon the creation of the 100 jobs. The company also noted they'd be seeking property tax and sales tax relief, plus job training dollars, from the local government - for another $1.5M or so.

I'm all for job growth our area - we can use all the help we need -- so I shouldn't be cynical about the announcement, I guess. I would be less cynical, though,  if it weren't for a couple of statements from Welch Allyn president Alton Shader.  Here's the first one:
I hope that people understand that we want to invest here in Skaneateles Falls. We want to invest in Welch Allyn. The incentives are there to ensure that we live up to our commitment.
Huh. We want to invest, we really do - we're committed to doing so, we really are. As long as someone's going to pay us to do it.

But wait - there's more. Again, according to Shader
The team here at Welch Allyn has done a great job and we are experiencing quite a bit of growth within our business.
In fact, business has been going so well under Hill-Rom that this will be the best year in the company's 101-year history, we're told.

That's right: business has never been better, the team is doing a great job, and we are committed to investing in the neighborhood - as long as you reward us for doing so through tax credits, grants, and so on.

I really don't like blackmailers, which is what these businesses are, the ones that hold communities like Skaneateles Falls hostage, or who threaten to pull up stakes and go somewhere else if they don't get what they want from the taxpayers. And I really don't like that politicians, whether it's at the local, county or state level, feel that they have to succumb to the demands of profitable companies, companies that are having their best year ever, and hand over grants and credits and incentives.

While I know that, in the overall scheme of things, the package of ransom being paid to Hill-Rom to keep Welch Allyn going isn't much, especially when spread out over 10 years, the mere fact that they asked for a package is insulting. After all, you're the guys having the best year ever; the same can't be said for most of the taxpayers in New York.

What's more, it seems the Excelsior Jobs Program has some issues, including an inability to ensure that we're getting what we pay for. Companies are not being held to their commitments - in some cases, that commitment is for as few as five net jobs - and are not meeting their job creation goals, or they have their goals lowered, and so on, according to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Let's hope we don't see those same issues with the package we're handing over to Welch Allyn and Hill-Rom.

September 28, 2016

Wondering, on Wednesday (v65)

Well, well. well.  We're only a few months short of the end of the current administration, and today Congress decided to override an Obama veto.

The bill that Obama vetoed is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA), which
...grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on US soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government.
Obama's veto stemmed from concerns that American soldiers, companies or assets could be jeopardized should other countries follow our lead and pass similar legislation. He also expressed concern that JASTA would alienate allies,with whom we have long had the reciprocal sovereign immunity rules in place.

On the other side, families of the 9/11 victims have long fought for this legislation, and as this was the 15th anniversary - and an election year - hopes were high that the bill would pass and that, if Obama vetoed it, there was enough support to override the veto. He did, and there was.

It's hard to imagine the pain felt by families of the victims, but I can't help wondering whether we have opened a can of worms that we will not be able to close.

Drone strikes that killed civilians? Hospitals bombed accidentally? Sanctions that put innocent citizens in untenable situations? Armed occupation of someone else's country? Spying, or taking out bad guys on the sly like happens on TV shows all the time?  Yeah, all of these could be turned against us by someone who claimed terrorism or extremism or nose-where-it-doesn't-belong-sticking.

Tonight on the PBS NewsHour, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey echoed points he and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton made in a column in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
America has diplomats, military personnel and intelligence operatives serving in greater numbers in more places than any other country.  They -- and we -- are sheltered in that good work by sovereign immunity, which protects them from being hauled into court by those who oppose US policy and would use judicial proceedings to frustrate it, especially in countries where courts are puppets of the regimes. 
We have far more to lose than other nations from creating exceptions to sovereign immunity that others could use against us.  
Hope is not lost. There are a number of folks who want some changes made in the bill, and that could conceivably happen at some point after the election.

Having accomplished the veto override for what I'm sure were good intentions, Congress moved on to working on funding the government for a while longer.

Knowing how critical it is to get this done, I was a little surprised to see this opening paragraph in an article tonight in the International Business Times. (Full disclosure: the article came across my Twitter feed; I'm not a regular reader of the IBT).
As lawmakers frantically negotiate a last minute budget deal to avert a government shutdown, Republican lawmakers are attempting to use the standoff to help corporations hide their political spending. Any agreement to keep the government running, GOP leaders insist, must include a provision that blocks regulators from requiring companies to fully disclose their political spending to their own shareholders.
I am simply breathless with astonishment that we - and by we, I mean Senators who are beholden to the tens of millions of dollars in political contributions made by corporations - apparently cannot even comprehend funding the government of the United States of America without making sure this protection is sustained.

We've got Zika funding that needed to get done, and we have funding to help take care of the people who were poisoned by their government in Flint, and our number three priority, per the Republicans, is keeping transparency out of the political money game?

Do you wonder, as I do this Wednesday, what the hell these politicians are doing down there in DC? And do you wonder, will anyone remember this stuff come November?

Finally tonight, I'm wondering who will win the chance to punch Martin Shkreli in the face?
Shkreli said on Twitter this week that he would offer the chance to hit him to the highest bidder on eBay. After the eBay listing was removed he said those donating to a fundraiser would be entered in a raffle to punch him.
Or, maybe, have dinner with him - he's open to that as well.

What's the point? Well, ostensibly it's for charity, to provide for the son of Shkreli's PR guy; the dad died of cancer. If you're cynical, like I can be on Wednesdays, it's to make sure that your name stays in the public eye.

Pretend you win the raffle.  Punch, or dine? I wonder.

September 26, 2016

Presidential Debate Questions (v1)

Tonight, NBC's Lester Holt will be the moderator of the first 2016 Presidential Debate.

Much has been said about what a moderator shouldn't do (repeat Matt Lauer's horrid performance hosting the Commander in Chief forum a while back; don't ask questions just to hear yourself talk; don't cut off the candidates unnecessarily; don't play favorites; don't be the star of the show, and so on) and what a moderator should do (fact-check Donald Trump; call him a liar when he lies, which he will; keep the candidates on the clock; ask Hillary about her emails, and so on).

We can expect that the rules will be broken, quickly - and that there'll be some squabbling, and Lester will likely have his hands full with these two candidates.

Personally, I have only one ground rule: answer the questions you are asked, and do so without talking about your opponent.  Meaning, talk about what you believe, and what you propose to do if elected, rather than wasting time talking about what you think your opponent believes or will do.

I know, I know, that's actually two ground rules, sorry. Mostly, I just want to have some questions answered. And none of them have anything to do with emails.

Here are five questions for Donald Trump:
  1. You have so far refused to release your most recent tax return, which we've been told are hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and that you are under a routine audit for the twelfth year in a row. Instead of telling us why you won't release your taxes, can you please truthfully answer these three questions: What was your adjusted gross income? What was your tax liability (the amount you owed the government)? How much did you personally donate to charity?
  2. You have made creating American jobs one of the cornerstones of your race for the Presidency. Please explain why your and your daughter personally brand items that are not made in America, and why over the past decade you have sought permission to bring in over 1,200 foreign workers to be waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and housekeepers for properties such as Mar-a-Lago and the Jupiter Golf Club?
  3. You have talked in your speeches about immigrants needing to 'assimilate' if they want to stay. Not far from me, there's a two or three mile stretch of road that is anchored at one end by a Slovakian Baptist church and by a mosque at the other end. In between are an Antiochian Orthodox Christian church and a Macedonian Orthodox church. Given that they maintain their own houses of worship, would you consider any of these populations to be 'assimilated'? If yes, which one(s), and if not, what would you do about their lack of assimilation?
  4. You have mentioned that we need to very extremely vet refugees and potential immigrants from Syria and other countries to prevent terrorism. Given that the several recent acts of what you refer to as radical Islamic terrorism have been committed by American citizens, should American citizens be 'extremely vetted?  And if yes, how would you identify the people who would be subject to this vetting?
  5. You have said, when talking about the Second Amendment, that our broken mental health system needs to be fixed, and that "we need real solutions to address real problems." However, you offer no proposals on how to fix it.Name three specific things you believe we need to do to solve this problem.
And here are five questions for Hillary Clinton.
  1. As part of your plan to combat terrorism, you make reference to an 'intelligence surge' to get security officials the tools they need to address both foreign terrorism and terrorism committed by American citizens. What is this surge, how would it be implemented and what are the expected outcomes?
  2. You have talked about cutting the wasteful subsidies that oil and gas companies have enjoyed for far too long and instead invest in clean energy. Given the widely publicized failure of Solyndra, how would your plan differ from efforts undertaken by the Obama administration?
  3. You mention creating incentives for companies to bring jobs back to America. Specifically, what incentives would you offer, and what are the specific job gains those incentives are designed to achieve?
  4. Please provide some details on your plan to fundamentally reform veterans' health care and explain how you would pay for this program?
  5. Name three specific things you would consider to be legitimate reasons to send American soldiers to war.
After each answer, they can argue at each other for a bit, and then move on to the next question. Now these questions won't likely be asked, but it would be interesting. 

As will tonight's real action - hope you'll be watching!

September 25, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v4)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times
When we last checked in on doings in Albany, we were looking at the issue of a possible legislative pay raise, with something in the neighborhood of 47% on the table.

My earlier posts touched on the recent legislative session, the pros and cons of a big raise, and good people.

I had hoped, by now, that the transcript from the September 13th meeting would be available, so we could see how the Commission tackled the part-time vs. full time issue, which they touched on in the July meeting and were to address in more detail this month, Alas, nothing's been posted yet.

But that's OK, because there have been even bigger doings in Albany than something as inconsequential as a monster pay raise for the Leg, the Gov, and the various commissioners who do those things about which we often hear little and know even less.

Our old friend Preet Bharara, the US Attorney in Manhattan and the person most actively interested in getting rid of corruption in Albany, has struck again - in a big way.  He has indicted several people on bribery, bid-rigging and other charges. Here's who made the list this time:

  • Joseph Percoco and Todd Howe, both former aides of Andrew Cuomo and his father, late Governor Mario Cuomo. Percoco was referred to as "Mario Cuomo's third son" by the current governor - "and the one he loved the most." Percoco allegedly accepted bribes arranged by Howe from a couple of development companies.
  • Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, of Syracuse-based COR Development, who were alleged to have paid bribes for help in avoiding a labor agreement, getting paid by the state for work done, and obtaining a raise for Aiello's son, who worked for Percoco. The company was not charged.
  • Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr, the lobbying guy for Competitive Power Ventures; the company wanted help on a project in the Hudson Valley, and paid bribes to Percoco's wife. Again, the company itself was not charged.
  • Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laepple, and Kevin Schuler, of LPCiminelli. The goal of these bribes was to ensure that the company (itself not charged) was the sole eligible bidder on a project.
  • Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, head of SUNY Polytechnic, who was the mastermind behind high-tech economic development projects across the state.  NY Attorney General Eric Schneidermann also charged Kaloyeros last week for other corrupt actions

Naturally, everyone did nothing wrong, they will all be exonerated, this is a sham, Bharara has designs on something bigger, and on and on. I like to think he has designs on continuing to clean up Albany, something that the Governor and the Legislature are unable to do themselves. JCOPE is an example of that.

JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, is more of a reporting organization than anything else, and like other commissions, is lock stock and barrel comprised of representatives of the people it oversees.
The Commission consists of 14 members, three appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly and six appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. 
As with the Commission looking at the pay raise, none of the members are appointed by the people of the Empire State. None answer to the people of the Empire State. None are looking after the interests of the people of the Empire state. The fox is overseeing the hen house, with the full commitment of the hens.

This is ridiculous, but it's not as ridiculous as Cuomo's personal attempt at rooting out corruption.

I've done a number of posts on the reasonably well conceived but poorly executed and prematurely shut down Moreland Commission. This commission would have been a complete waste of time and money, except that it really put front and center our Sonofa Gov's lack of interest in getting ethics reform. He's been talking reform for a number of years, but the reality of what he's accomplished pales in comparison to his rhetoric.

Cuomo has always maintained that he's clean as a whistle, and so far, he's not been touched by Bharara's investigations, which also took down Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos. But now, the investigations have closed in on people who are extremely close to the Governor, who are huge donors, who are actively involved in the Buffalo Billion and in the other signature projects that came from the Gov's porkfest, the Regional Economic Development Councils.

I suspect Cuomo may be having a little more trouble sleeping at night.

September 21, 2016

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: Who Should Leave?

I think I've seen the Tomi Lahren video telling Colin Kaepernick he should leave America if he doesn't like it here, and oh by the way, that he sucks, come across my Facebook feed over 100 times. And tons of memes, and other angry posts echoing that sentiment. And every time I see the video, and the memes and the other angry posts I want to tell them the same thing: why don't YOU leave, if you don't like it here?

Here in America, where corporations deserve protected freedom of speech rights, athletes don't have the right to stay if they want to complain about their perceptions and beliefs about the treatment their fellow Americans receive?  And where a person who hasn't 'directly experienced' what they're protesting, or who 'has money' doesn't deserve to live here if they choose to protest?

People who are angry with the anthem protesters are quick to point out that America's soldiers fought for the flag, and for our country, and that it denigrates and belittles and makes a mockery of their sacrifice to protest the flag or the anthem. And while it is undeniable that nearly three million Americans have been killed or wounded, counted as military casualties of war, were those sacrifices made so that people who dare protest on a very visible and national stage should be told to get out of the country? Is that really the American ideal our soldiers took to battle?

Some will say the sacrifices were made by order not by choice, because many of those injured and lost were drafted; that they fought for their own lives as much as they did for our country. Others maintain that the majority of the battles we've fought since our founding were not so much defending our freedoms but instead, trying to give our freedoms to others around the world. And whether or not you believe either of those theories, can you deny that the people who fought the hardest for our freedoms were those who outlined them in our Bill of Rights and the Constitution?

Even many veterans say that, while they may disagree with the nature of the protest, the right to do it belongs to all Americans, including those who are dissatisfied with the government, or aspects of our culture, or with the police, or with institutionalized racism, or any of the many things about which we protest.

Further, I maintain that if we were to ask them, our veterans would more likely say they fought for the rights of Colin Kaepernick than those of Hobby Lobby and other corporations, would you agree?

The people who want anthem protesters to leave America, or who feel this is just one more insult and abomination of the Obama Administration might want to look at our history, and a couple of Supreme Court decisions  that contained language relevant to what we're looking at today. The cases were highlighted in this article on The New Yorker's web page last week.

The cases both involved children of Jehovah's Witness families who refused to salute the flag or pledge allegiance to it, those activities being incongruous with their faith. In both cases, the children were kicked out of school for their actions.

In the first case, 1940's Minersville vs. Board of Education,the family sued because they had to pay to educate their children at private schools, after they were expelled and because their First Amendment rights were infringed.The court ruled 8-1 that kicking the kids out of school for not pledging and saluting did not violate their freedoms of religion and speech. Writing the opinion, Justice Felix Frankfurter noted, among other things,
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion of restriction of religious beliefs... National unity is the basis of national security... The influences which help toward a common feeling for the common country are manifold. Some may seem harsh, and others no doubt are foolish. Surely, however, the end is legitimate.
Bottom line: your deeply held beliefs notwithstanding, all children must pledge their allegiance, or else. Sort of sounds like Tomi and The Memes, doesn't it?

The second case, West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, was decided only three years later, in the build up to World War II. The decision this time? Six to three in support of the Barnette sisters that their expulsion was wrong. From the majority opinion, written by Justice Robert Jackson, we learn this (emphasis added):
To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.
What (slaps head as if in a V8 commercial)? How simple is that concept, that patriotism will not come to an end simply because Colin Kaepernick doesn't stand for the national anthem?
We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great.
Sitting or kneeling, raising a fist or linking arms during the National Anthem? Are those harmful acts, to others or to the State? Of course not. They're not harmful when done in the NFL, or in Major League Soccer, or in one of my local high schools.

They are acts that jeopardize nothing, other than perhaps some sponsorship dollars, maybe some beer sales if people actually get mad enough to stay at home instead of going to an NFL game. Staying at home, mind you, where no one will ever know whether they're patriotically standing for the anthem in their living room.
But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.  
The 'existing order' is that everyone stand, regardless of the fervor of their patriotism, or how much they truly value our freedoms, or the extent to which they believe those freedoms extend to all Americans. We have no idea, looking around, who really believes what, or who loves our country - except Colin Kaepernick and those who protest with him.

The substance of freedom is not kicking out those who would publicly protest the symbols of our country, rather than hiding in a corner somewhere out of sight, out of mind and airing their grievances to no one. No - that is the shadow of freedom Justice Jackson told us about in 1943.

From my middle aged white lady perspective, perhaps it's the people who cannot differentiate between the shadow and the substance who are the ones who should leave.

September 14, 2016

Wondering, on Wednesday (v64)

Hydrating Hillary, 1995/Getty Images
And what to my wondering eyes did appear, this Wednesday?

This slide show from Politico, in which we are offered a chance to enjoy Hillary Clinton hydrating with water, soda, or beer, or preparations for Hillary Clinton to hydrate, with water and a cough drop. I wonder how the heck I survived the past few years without having seen these pictures?

We learned about the #basketofdeplorables, which was remarkable only in that, according to polls, Clinton under-grossly-generalized - it's actually closer to 60% on some issues. And I wonder, does anyone else find it funny that Donald Trump can say whatever the hell he wants, sometimes changing the point he's sort of maybe thinking about trying to make several times in the same sentence, and nothing sticks to him, but Hillary makes an honest statement, only half of which is reported, and she becomes pilloried Hillary?

First, let's look at the entire comment Hillary made about that basket:
You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,00 people - now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of these folks - they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
But the other basket - and I know this because I see friends from all over America here - I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas - as well as, you know, New York and California - but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what will happen to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but the seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead end.  Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well. 
Now, I think we all know that if Trump had been the one who said the first part about the basket when he was talking about Hillary supporters, he would have been cheered by his fans, and the press would have done their best "there he goes again, and that would have been it. Here, if you're wondering whether that's true, is someone's collection of the Top 25 Most Offensive things Trump has said. And, in case you're still wondering, here is another collection, this one of Every Donald Trump Insult, which I'm sure is not even close to a comprehensive list.

One more thing I'm wondering about: why we need to know what Colin Powell thinks about either Trump or Clinton? He's a private citizen who had the misfortune of having his email hacked. That he thinks Trump is an international pariah, or a racist, or a national disgrace? Yeah, lots of people think that.  That he would rather not have to vote for Clinton? Yeah, lots of people think that, too. Publishing the hacked emails doesn't serve any real purpose, other than to get eyes to websites and newspapers. It doesn't advance the conversation, at all.

By the time many of you read, this we'll be under 54 days until Election Day. I'm wondering, finally, when we will learn something that will really be useful in helping us make our decision.

September 13, 2016

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Last night on the  PBS News Hour, Gwen Ifill spoke with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, about Hillary Clinton's pneumonia, the "basket of deplorables" comment Clinton made at a fundraiser, and about two related Trump scandals: his $25,000 bribe of the Florida Attorney General to encourage her to not join an action against Trump University, and about his propensity to donate other people's money and take credit for it.

Discussion on the health issue were standard issue -- why didn't she come clean last week when she was diagnosed, why won't she tell us everything under the sun that we need to do, and, oh yeah, there was that little mention of Donald Trump and Clinton's health.  Here's Tamara Keith (emphasis added):
There was already a lot circulating about her health that was completely unsubstantiated, a lot of rumors, conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump talking about her stamina. So this was floating in the ether, when yesterday at the 9/11 commemoration she faltered as she  was leaving...
Note the emphasis: completely unsubstantiated, rumors, conspiracy theories and Donald Trump, who merely had to raise the question in a speech for it to become an issue, that he wondered whether Clinton had the stamina to be president. As if she herself would be charging into battle to fight the issues facing our country. Trump drove the point home in mid-August, at his 'major foreign policy address' when he read this off the teleprompter:
Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face, not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn our great country around. 
So now it's September, and she's had some allergy-related coughs, laughingly telling people she was allergic to Donald Trump.  And then the 9/11 commemoration happened, and all media hell broke loose. For several hours, the press knew not where Clinton was, why she had left the remembrance ceremony, or what was wrong.  Later, (again, NPR's Tamara Keith):
It was the end of the day (after 5:30 PM) when the doctor, her doctor, released a statement saying she was overheated, dehydrated, and oh, by the way, on Friday, three days earlier, was diagnosed with pneumonia and they hadn't told anyone about that before. 
Gwen Ifill tries to get some discussion going on what we, and by "we" I mean the media and the talking heads, are really concerned about.
Ifill: Well, that's the point Susan. Was this really about -  is our concern really about her health or is it about the fact of the failure to disclose in a timely fashion?
Page: I think both things are issues. I think she will now need to come out and show that she's healthy and vigorous and has stamina.  She has -- the fact that she was diagnosed with pneumonia, and we didn't know about it, and had this incident caught on a video has legitimized some of the critiques that Trump and Rudy Giuliani in particular have been making that she's -- that there's some question about her health.  
Ifill: Donald Trump, who has not released his...
 Page: His own health records.. That's right.
Ifill: OK, just to make that point.
Page: Yes, absolutely.  But I think her failure to disclose it is also an issue. And it goes to a different vulnerability she has, which is, is she straightforward with the Americans whose votes she wants to get?
Ifill:  And they say there is a higher standard for the woman candidate. That's what the Clinton people say.
Keith: Yes. They do. They do say that. And they say they are going to meet that higher standard.... But there was a tweet today from David Axelrod, the adviser to President Obama back when he was running for President, that really sums up what Susan is talking about. He says "Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?"
A bug planted about Clinton's stamina, which Trump had been pushing since June, similar to his 'low energy' attack on Jeb! Bush. A higher standard for the female candidate, which the reporters talk about as if it doesn't exist. Completely unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories, promoted by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, being 'legitimized' because Hillary Clinton didn't tell anyone that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The bottom line is that there surely is a higher standard for the woman candidate - and that's magnified because it's Hillary Clinton. She must be smart but not too smart. Kind but not too kind or she'll appear fake. Empathetic, but not too empathetic or she'll be seen as using people to get votes. She must be personable, and bake cookies. She must be energetic and fiery but not sound harsh and or shrill or show emotion. She must be strong, but she can't be too strong.

She must never make a misstep, whether that's an actual misstep, or a fashion faux pas or a verbal scuff in a speech or, heaven forbid, have to pee - because those make the woman look unpresidential.

I agree with Axelrod that Clinton and/or her team of advisers repeatedly create unnecessary problems - I think that's been proven any number of times. But on this issue, she had two choices: tell, take time off, and be seen as weak, knowing that the media will mention over and over and over that "Trump said" she's not healthy enough to serve. Or, don't tell, and get through it as best you can, as long as nothing goes wrong. And know that something will go wrong.

Between a rock and a hard place, that's where she was. 

What would you have recommended she do about the pneumonia diagnosis? What would you have done in her shoes?

September 11, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v3)

Nathaniel Brooks/New York Times
When we last visited Albany, I had looked at the pros and cons of giving everyone in the Leg a raise.

I promised we’d talk about the proposed increase, and take a look at the Commission that’s been charged with making the decision on any salary increase.

The Commission on Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Compensation was formed to lend an air of independence to decisions on how much our elected officials, including judges and District Attorneys, and our managerial bureaucrats in state government get paid. The Commission gets pulled together every four years (starting in June 2015) to make salary recommendations for these folks, who otherwise would not receive a raise. For example, and as a reminder as you look at this issue, Legislators are working now for the same base pay as they earned 19 years ago.

The thinking is that having an independent commission would be better than having these folks raise their own pay whenever they felt like it. A cynic might question the 'independence' of the group; of the seven members, three were appointed by the Governor, one each by the President Pro Tem of the State Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly, and the remaining two were appointed by the Chief Judge of the NY Court of Appeals - but that's the way of the world in politics.

Judicial wages were tackled first, in case you're wondering; over a short period of time, we'll see judges in New York paid on a par with their federal counterparts.

For the Legislature, there's an increase in the general neighborhood of 47% being discussed.

A frequent argument for giving politicians and bureaucrats a raise, and one that the Commission is trying to deal with, is that we need good people in these positions. It seems important to discuss that when we're talking about lawmakers and managerial folks - and never important to discuss that when we're talking about public employees or raising the minimum wage. I mean, where was the clamoring for ‘good people’ to make the coffee or grab the donuts or flip a burger or offer fries with that? 

A couple of commission members have been vocal on this issue. Roman Hedges, Ph.D., an appointee of the Speaker of the Assembly, has some personal experience with the ‘good people’ thing, which he shared.
We need people who are smart enough, who are knowledgeable enough, who have learned enough that they shouldn’t be listening to their senior staff as the only source of information. They shouldn’t be listening to lobbyists as their only source of information. They should be listening to the people that elect them. They should be listening to their colleagues. They should be thinking for themselves. They should be drawing on all of those influences. They should be smart enough to sort through all of that stuff and read complicated things. And I think that is not a part-time thought, whether it’s a Commissioner or a Governor or a Legislator. I think that is not a part-time vocational idea. I think that is an investment in a career. It is really hard work.
As someone who has spent 20 years as a senior Legislative staff person, I would like to think that the people I have worked for were smarter than I was and that they listened to the advice I gave them but took it as advice and not as direction. I would like to think that when I interacted with lobbyists I didn’t have to worry that the people I worked for didn’t know enough to interact with even more sophisticates than I did.. And I think we are talking flavors like the ones I just outlined, to me that puts me in the right realm, that is going to attract good people.
Those ‘flavors’ Hedges mentions? He’s not talking ice cream, he’s talking gravy: that 47% figure I cited at the top of this post.

Fran Reiter, one of Cuomo's appointees, has experience in Albany and in New York City, in the Giuliani administration, and she seems unconvinced by Hedges' argument. 
The issue about, that you raised, Roman, which I do find interesting and probably take some issue with, is whether or not rewarding legislators so they stick around is something that, that is real in terms of what we see which is most legislators aren’t going anywhere. That the ones we have now get re-elected time after time after time after time. The public is wholly dissatisfied with them, if you could read the mail we get, and yet they keep re-electing them over and over and over and over again. Rather than exercising their right to vote for somebody else. But I haven’t seen a shortage of people who want to be state legislators. I may be wrong about that, but I certainly haven’t seen any evidence about it. Nor, does it appear that those who are serving now, though many of whom are serving for a very, very long time, are leaving because of this issue. 
Two sides of the coin: we need to have a good salary so good people will want to be legislators, vs. we don't seem to have a shortage of people running, and lots of these folks get elected over and over again, even though no one likes them. (How sad is that?)

In reality, there has been some turnover in recent years.
  • Only 36 out of the 150 in the Assembly - a mere 24% - have been in office more than ten years, and only 21 of the took office before 2000.  
  • In the Senate, it's 24 out of 63, or 38%, who've been around more than ten years; only eleven who were around before 2000. 
But are we to assume that all of these new folks are 'bad people' who are not capable of sorting "through all of that stuff" and "reading complicated things" that Roman Hedges describes?

Or maybe they're good people, not pad people. but they're not the best people, because they're willing to work part time for a base salary north of $79K, roughly $20K higher than the median household income in New York state?

One thing that's certain: it would be very hard to convince me to give any really significant raise to these folks given their part-time status, and their per diems for travel to Albany, and the 'lulus' many of them receive for taking some kind of leadership role, to mention just a few things that would influence my vote.

The Commission is trying to deal with those issues too - and I'll take a look at those in the next MBIA post.

September 10, 2016

No Filter? No Problem

Remember back when people on the Right were all upset that conservative topics were not being appropriately included in Facebook's 'trending topics'? Here's a refresher, from back in May:
If you've ever used Facebook, you've noticed the list of trending topics on the vertical navbar along the right side of the page. You may have even clicked one or two of them to see what's happening or why the topic is trending. What you probably didn't know is that Facebook apparently blacklists certain topics from showing up, or certain news outlets from having their coverage seen by Facebook's audience.
The article, which appeared on a conservative website, The Federalist, went on to describe how some of Facebook's "news curators" told people at Gizmodo how their process worked
... and it turns out that Facebook's new coverage isn't based on fancy, unbiased algorithms at all. Nope. Facebook's news service is instead run by people who want to make sure not of that icky right-wing coverage finds its way in front of people's eyeballs...
Including, apparently, protecting all of us poor, incapable-of-making-our-own-news-reading-choices users from sites like The Blaze, WorldStarHipHop (uh, not sure how this fits as an "icky right-wing" kind of thing...?) and Breitbart. The Federalist article uses the example of the (doctored and debunked) Planned Parenthood videos, and ends with this statement.
Facebook's deliberate blacklisting of conservative content and conservative outlets, as revealed by its own news curators in charge of the process, shouldn't come as any surprise. The only thing surprising is why conservatives would trust organizations like Facebook to provide honest and unbiased accounts of what's happening in the world.
Facebook denied the allegations of trending topic censorship, and then a couple of weeks after the Gizmodo report, changed their process, to clarify that topics shouldn't be selected on the basis of "politics or ideology. And because nothing is more important for Congress to address than a social media site being accused of bias against conservative ideology and hip hop guns-and-booty videos, Facebook communicated directly with Senator John Thune, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, who seemed placated, if not completely satisfied.
The seriousness with which Facebook has treated these allegations and its desire to serve as an open platform for all viewpoints is evident and encouraging and I look forward to the company's actions meeting its public rhetoric.
Facebook eventually decided to fire the humans and let the machines do it. Computer algorithms will identify the topics, and humans will have some limited oversight role, they announced.

But that wasn't good enough, either. Topics appeared in the wrong category (the horror) and a fake story about Megyn Kelly (calling her a traitor, no less) appeared in the navbar. And there was that story about a man and his, um, 'love' for his McChicken sandwich. And apparently, Siri will wash your dishes or something if you buy the new iPhone 8 when it comes out..

Which brings us to where we are now: the day before the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we've got a trending conspiracy theory that the Twin Towers were taken down by bombs planted in the buildings.

Given that conspiracy theorists are prominent members of the "icky right wing" - and, apparently, they're very close to Donald Trump - is there really any surprise that a conspiracy theory would appear as a trend, even one about 9/11?

Nope.

Some of the right wing media folks, and politicians, have been known to say things out loud more than a few times that conservatives really wish they hadn't; Trump's position on punishing women for having abortions was a classic example. The 9/11 article (which has apparently been removed by Facebook) might well be another one.

The icky right wingers are all for outrage when their views and ideology are suppressed; it will be interesting to see how loudly they complain about this situation, when their views are presented front and center for a billion or so users to see.

September 9, 2016

If Matt Lauer Were a Journalist

Wednesday night, NBC hosted their "Commander in Chief Forum" from the USS Intrepid.

Inexplicably, they had Matt Lauer do the interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I'm not sure if whoever they really wanted to do it was in the john when the assignment was handed out, or if there are still some pipe dreams over at 30 Rock that Lauer is somehow on a par with Tom Brokaw and able to cross from Today to tonight without flinching. Brokaw, not for nothing, likely would have done a fantastic job with the forum.

The show was doomed almost from the start: barely 27 minutes with each candidate to take questions not just from Lauer, but also from servicemen and women. Each of the audience questions were introduced by Hallie Jackson, who had to tell us who the person was, where they served, what they're doing now, whether they were a Democrat or Republican - and that they had a question for Mrs. Clinton or for Mr. Trump, which was already more than obvious, since they were standing with Jackson.

Before the start of the forum, I wondered on Facebook whether questions to Clinton would focus on the past or the future, and whether questions to Trump would focus on the future or the past. I had my answer pretty quickly, especially on the Clinton side of the equation.

Not being a journalist, Lauer decided that the best thing to do with his limited time Clinton was to spend fully one third of it -- between 10 and 12 minutes, depending on which clock you watched - talking about the emails. (Is that sufficient emphasis for everyone?)

For the record: Clinton has apologized for using a privater server. She has indicated it was a mistake to use a private server. She has said she won't use a private server ever again. She indicated that she never sent correctly marked emails -- those with a header and one of the three 'classifications' from her server. She has said she takes classified information very seriously.  She's said all of these thing dozens of times. It's now up to people to either believe her or disbelieve her, trust her or not trust her.  Oh, she's also talked about the trust or the lack thereof, also dozens of times.  Again, believe her or not, trust her or not.

But can we please stop wasting time on this, and instead let her tell us what she wants to do if elected, so we can decide to trust her on that, or not?

When it was Trump's turn, Lauer asked him how he has been preparing for being Commander in Chief. Trump provided the same basic answer as he did when asked about sacrifices he had made: he built a company, he traveled a lot, he's done "tremendously well dealing with China and dealing with so many of the countries that are just ripping this country"(he actually said that). You know, the kind of stuff everyone does to get ready for commanding the world's police force. And he has good judgment, he's "called so many of the shots" whatever on earth that means. Those statements weren't challenged by Lauer.

Nor did Lauer seriously press Trump on some of his campaign statements, either.
Lauer: so let me read some of the things you've said. "I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me." Was that the truth?
Trump: Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful. ISIS...
Lauer: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?
Trump: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble...
Then they had an exchange on Patton and MacArthur, and grave-rolling, and moved on.  And it got worse.

Lauer decided to ask Trump about the intelligence briefings he now receives, opening with this question:
Did you learn new things in that briefing?
Seriously? That's the question?

Here's Trump's answer:
First of all, I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings.  We -- they were terrific people. They were experts on Iraq and Iran and different parts of -- and Russia. But, yes, there was one thing that shocked me. And it just seems to me that what they said President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite. (emphasis added)
Trump basically said that the President and the current and former Secretaries of State did exactly the opposite of what the intelligence briefers told them, which is an of itself is absurd, since the intelligence people don't tell them what to do (and the fact that having a conversation about the confidential security briefings in this forum is absurd). Instead of probing for more info, we got this:
Lauer: Did you learn anything in that briefing -- again, not going into specifics -- that makes you reconsider some of the things you say you can accomplish, like defeating ISIS quickly?
Trump: No, I didn't learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow our experts and our truly -- when they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason -- what our experts said to do. (Lauer tries to go to Hallie Jackson, but Trump keeps talking) And I was very, very surprised. In almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.
 Lauer: Hallie?
Any reporter -- even the worst of  the worst -- would have asked an actual follow up question.

Fox News or Breitbart would have given Trump time to flesh out his answer, embellish it a little more, give some details on how the intelligence people let him know Obama et al did the opposite of what they recommended. He would certainly have had time to bash everyone a little more, make a few more outrageous statements, which would have been met with the standard "Oh, golly, gee gosh, that Barack Hussein Obama, whatever will we do about him?"  

WaPo or the New York Times, outlets that have "been mean to" Trump, would have asked him why he thought that the people who did the briefings were policy makers or policy recommenders, when that's not their role? Or what kind of body language was used to telegraph their dismay? Was it eye rolling? Was it getting all squirmy in their chairs? And just about everyone would have asked if he truly thought any of his comments were appropriate, given the confidential nature of the briefings he received? And whether he thought it was appropriate to let our enemies know that our leaders ignored their intelligence briefings, especially since he's against telegraphing our next steps, and we need to be unpredictable?

But Matt Lauer? Nah - let's go to Hallie for another audience question.

I tell you, the Commander in Chief forum would have sounded a lot different with a journalist doing the questions.

September 8, 2016

What Does 'Presidential' Look Like?

The Telegraph UK
Do you think any of the moderators in the upcoming debates will ask Trump about his new tag line, that Hillary Clinton does not look presidential?

Here's the comment, or at least here's one version of it:
I just don't think she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look. You have to get the job done. I think if she went to Mexico she would have had a total failure. We had a big success. 
How much do you think it'll cost me to have a moderator ask Trump questions like this?
  • Does she not look presidential because of her pantsuits?
  • Is it her hair? Is it too straight, or too short? No, It's her pantsuits, isn't it?
  • You once said Heidi Klum was no longer a 10. If Klum is not a 10, what number is Clinton not?
  • Maybe it's her wrinkles, is that what you mean that she doesn't look presidential?
  • Is it because she looks like she has blood coming out of her wherever, like Megyn Kelly?
  • Do you think your orange skin makes you look presidential? 
  • Is Hillary Clinton not presidential looking in the same way Carly Fiorina had a face no one could ever vote for? Is it one of those "Look at that face!" things, Mr. Trump?
  • Is it because she's not as 'figurative' as your daughters or your wives?
Now, you may think this is not important, but after all:
  • the British Prime Minister is a woman, Theresa May
  • the German Chancellor is a woman, Angela Merkel.  
  • the Scottish First Minister is a woman, Nicola Sturgeon
  • the President of Lithuania is a woman, Dalia Grybauskaite
  • the President of South Korea is a woman, Park Geun-hye
  • the President of Chile is a woman, Michelle Bachelet
  • the President of Malta is a woman, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
  • the President of Croatia is a woman, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
  • the President of Mauritius is a woman, Ameenah Gurib
  • the President of Nepal is a woman, Bidhya Devi Bhandari
  • the President of the Marshall Islands is a woman, Hilda Heine
  • the acting President of Taiwan is a woman, Tsai Ing-wen
  • the co-acting President of Austria is a woman, Doris Bures
And that's not to mention all of the royals who are women.

Why does this matter?  

Well, if we can't get Trump to define what 'presidential' looks like, how could his staff possibly prepare him for meetings with any of these women?  What on earth would he say when he's sitting across the table from them, or on Twitter as soon as he leaves the room? Can't you just picture him tweeting under the table at a State dinner? 

I think the people deserve to know what he thinks looks presidential, don't you?  And orange you glad I'm willing to stick my neck out and ask? 

September 6, 2016

Quick Takes (v13): Changing Times at The SCSD

Quick Takes
School starts Wednesday in the Syracuse City School District for most students.

Some - those who attend Bellevue Elementary - will have to wait a little longer, as there was some damage from a broken pipe that was discovered this week which needs to be fixed, according to a report on the news tonight.

Students at Grant Middle School started two weeks ago. According to this article, there are a number of changes for Grant.
The extra two weeks of school are part of Grant's ambitious campaign to improve. (Principal Pam) Odom is striving to turn a building known for behavioral issues and some of the worst test results in the state into a school where families want to send their kids for individualized, tech-savvy learning.
The early return is just one part of the plan. Other changes include extending the day by 40 minutes; personalizing curriculum to individual students; assigning eighth graders to mentor their younger peers; rearranging classrooms to better use technology; finding ways to get kids involved in the neighboring community: (and) providing incentives to students who behave well and don't miss class.
There are still many challenges - including funding, as always - to sustain the improvements that have been seen in test outcomes, reduced suspensions, and the other small successes that have been seen, and in turning Grant into a "21st century school for 21st century students" and I'm hoping they are able to keep things going in the right direction.

Not all that far away, another SCSD school has been removed from the "persistently dangerous" list, having been on it for two years. Lincoln Middle School, under the leadership of Principal LaJuan White, has been making changes as well.

Some of the changes center on a 'classroom hierarchy' which outlines expectations for students, and at the same time tries to keep kids in the classroom rather than meting out harsh discipline for little things. Per this article, another spotlight on the SCSD in the local paper, there were also changes made in how the building administration worked.
To start, Lincoln did away with a formal Principal's office last school year. Instead of having a suite of office for the administration, each principal or vice principal was assigned to a hallway and grade level. White also created teacher deans to monitor hallways during their free periods. That helped cut down on students who didn't go to (discipline rooms) when they were told. The teacher deans could also help defuse conflicts they weren't already involved in, and they started to form relationships with students they wouldn't otherwise teach. 
Another innovation? Principals making home visits. Those visits helped establish a relationship between the parents and the school, certainly, but also respect between students and the principals. White notes
I think that almost gave me some street cred -- like, 'she's crazy enough to go to your house, so don't even do it.' I'd say 'I'll see you at your house later' [Students would] say, 'yeah, right.' Then they would see, and it's like, 'oh you were serious.'
As at Grant, more work needs to be done, and some of the changes haven't been easy for everyone, including the teachers, to accept. Progress seems to be coming slowly in that regard, though, as everyone in the school community begins to build bonds that will help everyone be successful.

The biggest change for the SCSD this school year? Sharon Contreras, the embattled superintendent, she who did not have the confidence of the teachers or even some of the Board, is now gone.

In her place in the Superintendent's Office is Jaime Alicea, the district's chief operating officer and a former teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent. He has the respect of the teacher's union, and of the Board of Education; several members of the Board are new as well.

Grant and Lincoln are illustrations of what can be done, and of some of the things that need to be done, in many of the schools within the SCSD. But this seems like a truly new year, one that will bring hope to the students, the teachers, the staff, and the administration, and one where everyone is 'rowing in the same direction' as they say in the business world.

We've needed a start like this for a while.

September 5, 2016

Grains of Salt (v14): Growing Businesses, Upstate Style

Did you see the slide deck showing the fastest growing private companies in upstate New York?

It was posted on NYup.com, a page where you can find all kinds of news that's relevant to our neck of the woods (including the really outstretched neck that encompasses the Catskills and the Hudson Valley).

The rankings come from Inc's annual list of the 5,000 fastest growing private firms, based on percentage of growth over the past three years and 2015 revenue.

So, who's on the up and up in Upstate NY?

IT Service companies (nine), advertising firms and manufacturing shops (seven each), and business products/services companies (five) are the most populated categories for the Top 50.

Regionally, thirteen of the companies are in the Capital district; seventeen are in the Finger Lakes area, and another fourteen are in Western NY.  I'm not surprised to see a concentration in the Albany and Buffalo regions, given our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo's fondness for these areas (the Buffalo Billion and the focus on nano in the Albany area). I hadn't been paying that much attention to what's been going on just to our west, but someone has. Fairport, Henrietta, Pittsford, Rochester, Victor and Webster are all represented.

What's frustrating about the list is the lack of any Top 50 companies in the Central New York area. With the exception of Canastota, there's nothing really close to Syracuse and Onondaga County. Not only that, but a search of the full 5,000 companies reveals not a single company in the Syracuse metropolitan area.

The same is true for 2015. And 2014. And 2013, and 2012, and 2011, and 2010. I didn't go back any further than that, because I was getting depressed.

Are private companies in our  neck of the woods doing something wrong? Are we as a region doing something wrong? How it is possible that not a single company has cracked the list?

Who knows the answer, and (maybe more importantly) what's the solution?

September 4, 2016

You Really Can't Make This Stuff Up

So if the people who paid the taxes were the only ones allowed to vote, we'd have landslide victories, but you're allowing people to vote. This explains everything! People with conflicts of interest shouldn't be allowed to vote. If you collect welfare, you have no right to vote. The day you get off welfare, you get your voting rights back. The reality is, why you are allowed to have this conflict of interest that you vote for the politician who wants to keep your welfare checks coming and your food stamps and your aid to dependent children and your free health care and your Medicaid, your Medicare and your Social Security and everything else?
Oh dear.  I laughed so hard, I think I pulled something.  Seriously.  These are the words of Wayne Allyn Root, Trump supporter and author of the book you see at right. As a public service, I'm including the link where you can purchase it (hard copy or ebook) for the same low price of $24.99. And, I can assure you, I neither want nor receive a single red cent from any purchases. 

I don't even know where to start with this one.  Well, that's not true.  Let's start with Social Security.  Do we really want to call that a welfare program?  After all, we pay for that via a payroll tax. You know. sort of like a savings account that we partially fund, and our employers fund the rest.  

In  July 2016, there were more than 57,000,000 people receiving social security, not including those who receive only SSI or both SSI and social security. More than 42,000,000 of these folks are over 65.  I'd be willing to hazard a guess here that a majority of those folks are white folks, given that the white employment rate has historically been better than the employment rate for people of color; I'd also hazard a guess that a good portion of them were middle class people before they began collecting.  

According to the Pew Research Center,  as of April 2016 there were some 69,700,000 Baby Boomers (age 52 - 7o) of voting age, and another 28,000,000 Silent/Greatest Generation (ages 71 and up) of voting age. Has the Angry White Male done the math here? 

Root was the 2008 Libertarian vice presidential candidate. Back then, and today as well, Libertarians wanted the income tax abolished. So, let's move on then, and look at tax welfare and how that might limit the ability of Angry White Males to vote. 

Raise your hand if you have one or more children. Keeping your hands up, how many of you have taken a deduction on your taxes for those children?  Now, still by a show of hands, how many of you consider your bouncing baby deduction to be a form of tax welfare?  Are there any hands still up? 

My guess there is that better than 99% of parents claimed their available deduction for all of their eligible kids, and that an equal number does not think they took a 'welfare' payment, any more then they consider a daycare deduction to be a welfare payment. 

What about all of these deductions, just some of those listed in the 2015 IRS instructions for filling out your 1040? 
  • Charitable donations? 
  • Mortgage interest? Expenses on a rental property? 
  • Contributions to a Health Savings Account, or health care costs?
  • Home office? 
  • Travel for business? 
  • Student Loan Interest deduction, tuition and fees deduction, education credits? 
  • Educator expenses? 
  • Moving expenses? 
  • Parking reimbursement? 
  • Alimony? 
  • How about the Domestic Production Activities deduction, for putting up a building in the US, or helping design one?
  • Or how about business owners filing personal taxes instead of corporate taxes?
I could keep going here, but the point should be clear by now.

Our entire tax code is a giant welfare system, and there are huge benefits for the Angry White Male, if for no other reason than white men make more money on average than most other demographic cohorts, and frankly, can afford to pay someone to find them all of these welfare handouts. For references, according to the IRS, for tax year 2013, 69% of taxpayers took the standard deductions, and more than 29% claimed itemized deductions. That's a boatload of people who shouldn't be allowed to vote, right?

Farm subsidies, for farming and for not farming (because of course we pay for both), and food price supports?  Yeah, that's welfare too, so they can't vote. And let's not forget all that corporate welfare -- even though companies don't actually vote (because of course, they're not people as we all know), there's huge benefit going to people from that, too.

Listen, Angry White Males, we are all getting some form of welfare from the government; most of us get something not only from the federal government, but also from our state governments, and even localities, in many cases. If everyone who took a penny in government benefits was not allowed to vote, there wouldn't be a single person in line come election day. 

The blurb for Root's current book opens with the statement below. I have added more than a little emphasis. 
The mainstream media and ultra-liberal Democrats can't understand why white voters, especially white men, are so angry. Wayne Allyn Root is an angry white male, and he knows why.  This is his story, his testimony, and a look at what's happening to an entire group of good people: law-abiding, tax-paying, hard-working, middle-class people. They're being targeted, silenced, intimidated, persecuted - virtually wiped off the planet - in order to make guilty, politically correct white liberals feel better about themselves. 
It's open season on white males!!!

If they're intimidated by all of their targeted benefits, so be it, the poor things. If they're so fearful of getting wiped off the planet, maybe they should grab hold of their jockstraps or bootstraps or jackboots or strap on a life jacket or something, and come back to reality. 

Because if they really want to get rid of welfare, they need to get the hell out of the Trump column and get to know the Libertarians, Root's former party -- for they are the only ones who truly want to end welfare for everyone.

September 3, 2016

Quick Takes (v12) Extra! Read All About It!

Quick Takes
Earlier this year, when FBI director James Comey held his now famous press conference with his detailed comments and opinions about Hillary Clinton, her technical expertise (or lack thereof), how she handled her emails, and the ultimate decision that there was insufficient evidence to charge her with a crime - actually, so little evidence that "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring charges - there was more than a little consternation that it was the FBI, not the Justice Department, that announced the decision.

After all, the person who controls whether or not there'll be charges is typically the prosecutor, not the investigators.

And now? There's some additional consternation, albeit perhaps more limited, as the FBI has decided to release information from their investigation.
(September 2, 2016) the FBI is releasing a summary of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's July 2, 2016 interview with the FBI concerning allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on a personal email server she used during her tenure. We are also releasing a factual summary of the FBI's investigation into this matter. We are making these materials available to the public in the interest of transparency and in response to numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Appropriate redactions have been made for classified information or other material exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Additional information that the FBI releases in the future will be placed on The Vault, the FBI's electronic FOIA library.
Ah yes, nothing like fresh meat for the end-of-summer barbecue, for those who have spent the past couple of decades trying to take down the Clintons.

A "summary." A "factual summary." I'm giddy with excitement! I'm so giddy, I'm firing up the grill and it's not even Labor Day yet!

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like Bill and Hillary haven't set themselves up as good targets. Of course, much of what they do is similar to what lots of other politicians do, in terms of toeing the ethical line - excluding Bill's White House sex scandal, of course - it's just that they do the same thing, only better. It's the same precipice, its just that it seems the Clintons have a slightly better view of the bottom, if you believe everything you read.

Congress is due back in Washington next week, having spent a long summer trying to figure out how to support, or not support, their party's nominee for President while raising money in hopes that their own long-term future will be secured, even if that of the country... well, you know what I mean. They're not all bad, these folks, but they're all in a pretty bad spot this year. And now, we'll see how interested they are in governing, versus how interested they are in the reality show that passes for governing in the US today. Will they be more interested in, say, passing some kind of funding plan to keep the country running, or will they be more interested in talking about Hillary Clinton's emails?

I have my guess, but we'll have to wait and see.

Me? I'm not so much interested in reading the Clinton stuff -- after all, we had Comey's self-aggrandizing press conference, and we had the "Look at me, I'm on TV!" congressional hearings, which were not at all about getting more information, they were about the election, just as the Benghazi hearings were not about what happened in Libya so much as they were about the election.

I am looking forward to all of the other investigative summaries that the FBI will now be releasing, since we have this great precedent. They've likely got some really juicy stuff on current and former Congressmen, senators, White House staffers and the like - there must be pages and pages and pages of them.

Democrats, get off your high horse! Quit trying to legislate, or get a Supreme Court Justice confirmed, and get your butts down to the FOIA office at the FBI. The time's a-wasting!