September 29, 2017

TGIF 9/29/17

Earlier this week, president Trump lost his first election since being elected last fall. And he lost his patience with just about everyone, it seems.

You'll remember, 'he' was successful in winning all of the replacement elections for the folks who left Congress to become cabinet members; the results of those elections I think were as much attributable to  Democrats struggling to get a message out vs. just throwing dollars from all around the country at the different races.

Over the past several weeks he had been running a full-bore Twitter campaign, and even held a rally in Alabama in support of Big Luther Strange, the 'loyal' candidate in the race against Constitution disregarder Judge Roy Moore.  Moore, with the support of Trump's former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, took the primary race.

The outcome for Trump? He started deleting his Big Luther tweets, although he may or may not have time to get all of them taken care of between his "we're doing great in Puerto Rico" messaging and his yelling at his cabinet members and his stumping for his once-in-a-lifetime tax reform for the rich program and threatening #NoKo with war and whatnot.  (In case you're wondering, here's some analysis on the legality of him deleting his tweets).

The outcome for Bannon? Tossed from the White House, reinvigorated at the helm of Breitbart news, and boldly defying his former boss. And oh -- attacking any candidate that has the support of Mitch McConnell (Strange had that, you see), even if it means going on the air against Trump to tell people the best candidate for Trump's agenda. Which, of course, is fascinating -- the guy who has the agenda doesn't even know who best will support it?  Or maybe the better question is, which agenda are we supporting, anyway?

Arizona Senator John McCain confirmed earlier this week his doctors say his prognosis is poor, which is not stopping McCain from doing his job in the Senate, nor is it stopping the president from continuing to bash him for his 'no' vote on the last best hope to make a mess of the Affordable Care Act while not repealing and replacing it.  Trump tweeted a montage of McCain saying the ACA needed to be r-and-r'd. And, according to Axios, Trump is physically mocking McCain's thumbs down vote in July.  Which simply can't be true, since he has never and would never mock anyone who has a disability, or, you now, serious injuries incurred as a POW.

One final note:  a while back, I expressed my dismay that SCOTUS Justice Neil Gorsuch was going to be giving a speech - at Trump's Washington DC hotel - a few days before the start of the 2017-2018 court season. The speech, which was given yesterday at a luncheon for the Fund for American Studies, was met with a few dozen protesters trying valiantly to create the 'din of democracy' that Gorsuch mentioned. He also included this comment:
To be worthy of our First Amendment freedoms we have to all adopt certain civil habits that enable others to enjoy them as well.
Civility? That thing we're seeing none of from the White House these days?

The hotel, of course, is the subject of a number of lawsuits, many pointing at the Emoluments Clause forbidding a president from accepting foreign 'gifts' - and it's possible that these cases will end up before the Supremes at some point...along with all of the other Trump related cases that might be end up there... which is why I was not thrilled with Gorsuch participating in the speech there in the first place.

On the plus side? The president will be relentless in expressing his displeasure with "his" Supreme Court Justice should Gorsuch rule against him at any time -- so I'll hold out hope for that.

In the meantime, TGIF.

September 27, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v105)

I wonder: can you tell, just by looking at the average person, dressed and acting in an unremarkable fashion, whether they're religious? Liberal? A Nazi? Trans? Patriotic? Can you see into their heart of hearts just by looking at them?

And I wonder, looking at the average member of the military, can you tell whether they're in the service to defend the flag, or to defend our Constitution, or just because they want to take out a bad guy?

Wondering further, when you hear me talk about "American ideals" are you thinking what I'm thinking? And, wondering most, what exactly is the 'correct' definition of patriot? Of American? And who gets to define that?

Does the president have the right to define it for us? Do you have the right to define it for me? Or me for you? Or is it the most American ideal of all, that we each have the freedom - and the responsibility - to be the best kind of American we can, as we define it?

I wonder, when people watched or heard about what happened at NFL games on Sunday, whether they questioned the motivation of  the players who participated? Are they on board with the real reason for the protest - racism, discrimination, blacks dying at the hands of the police - or are they just pissed that the president called one of them an SOB and so they're all SOBs?  And I wonder, are the people who were booing all upset about the same thing? Can we be sure, without talking to each of them?

Are the owners really standing in unity with the players? And, I wonder if they're united for something, or if they're united against someone? Because there's a real difference there. Shannon Sharpe had some interesting opinions on all of this.

So did the wife of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed by friendly fire back in 2004. She found her husband the subject of a meme suggesting that he would have been against those 'anthem protesters' which is not the case.

Speaking of standing united, the president is going to head to Puerto Rico soon, to view the horrific damage from Hurricane Maria. I supposed, if Melania goes with him, we'll have to put up with more questions about her footwear -- and for the record, she wore her heels on the walk from the White House to the helicopter, but she never wore them in Houston. Those who said she did were saying it on purpose.

On Twitter, the Governor of Puerto Rico said he "briefed @POTUS in the Situation Room and thanked him for his leadership, quick response and commitment" which of course both @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS retweeted. But most of the quick response, it seems, came before Maria actually hit. And a pre-landfall emergency declaration, and post storm disaster declarations can only go so far, as Rosello noted in an interview with Bloomberg.
Administration, they've been helpful up until now. But we need more help. We need more help. We need more resources. And at the same time, Congress solidarity and all of the help they've pledged through social media and phone calls with our staff. Now is the time to materialize it.
For his part, Trump noted
We've had tremendous reviews from government officials. This morning the government made incredible statements about how well we're doing.
This, as we watch folks stand in water lines, food lines, gas lines, and gather around random working cell towers trying to reach the outside world. 

But united we stand  - including the five living presidents. As they did for Harvey and Irma victims, they're fundraising for Maria victims.

United we stand, where locally the Boys and Girls Club is collecting donations for Puerto Rico; the same thing is happening across the state of New York, which has long had the largest population of Puerto Ricans in the US (that's now being challenged by Florida), and across the country.

United we stand. And wondering again: when you hear me talk about "American ideals" are you thinking what I'm thinking? And, wondering most, what exactly is the 'correct' definition of patriot? Of American? And who gets to define that?

September 26, 2017

There You Go Again, Again

How's that quote go?  Those who can't remember the past are doomed to repeat it?

Above, you can see that the president retweeted a picture of the late Pat Tillman,who was killed by friendly fire while serving in Afghanistan in 2004; the comment from the original user, who calls himself a Trump supporter 110%, suggests that it's dishonoring Tillman, himself a former NFL player, to kneel during the national anthem.

Do you think anyone thought to check with Tillman's widow, to see what she thinks about her husband's name and likeness being used in this manner? Uh, that would apparently be a no.

Here's her statement:
As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.
Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that.
Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day. The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one's heart - no matter those views - is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn't always agree with those views. 
It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat's life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.  
And yes, this is not the first time or even the second time this has happened. Much as Trump co-opted music that he liked or thought made a statement throughout his campaign, without permission of the artists, he and his allies have also done this type of thing with others whose lives were lost.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in Benghazi, has been a frequent pawn in the Republican playbook.  His mother was forced to issue a terse statement asking them to cease and desist the "opportunistic and cynical use" of his name.

The family of Kate Steinle had the same problem, when "Kate's Law" starting making the rounds after she was killed by an illegal immigrant. Her family didn't want her name to be "in the center of a political controversy" and, as is the case with Tillman and Stevens, the family does not hold the same beliefs as those taking her name in vain.

Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. And repeat it. And repeat it, it seems.

But I guess you can do that when you think you have exclusive rights to defining patriotism and what it means to be an American, and when you think that you have the right to enforce that opinion on American citizens, companies and organizations.

I guess.

I looked for, and did not see, a note from the patriot in chief to his 39 million real and fake Twitter followers that he apologizes for yet again using someone's name for his own political gain. I'll keep an eye out, and will let you know if I see it.

September 25, 2017

The Update Desk: TGIF 9/22/17

One of the topics in last week's TGIF post was the latest attempt by the Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  News had broken that Arizona Senator John McCain was going to vote no, and I had hoped that others would join him and Kentucky's Rand Paul to kill the bill.

Over the weekend, and really to no surprise at all, the authors of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill sweetened the pot, ostensibly to help states and balance the distribution of funds for the block grants that states would get and use to develop a health care plan that made sense for them. Except that the states to benefit included homes of the announced or expected 'no' votes, such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

There were updates for us today, including

  • some 50 disability activists were arrested after protesting a Senate Finance Committee hearing (the only one scheduled on the current bill)
  • a report from the Congressional Budget Office noting that millions more would become uninsured under the GCHJ plan. The CBO report will not be comprehensive, because they simply don't have time given the September 30th deadline to get something done under 'reconciliation' which requires only a Mike Pence majority to pass legislation.
  • Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, announced her opposition to the revised version of the bill, joining McCain and Paul who had previously said no - and making the bill Pence-proof.

So, what happens now?  That's up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man who will decide if it's worth it to actually put a losing vote to the floor, to publicly shame the defectors and put them at risk in their next election. 

He might do that, or he might not, since at the same time he shames those who are agin him, he exposes himself  -- again -- as a poor leader unable to rally his troops, and sets himself up for even more bigly criticism from the president. 

Maybe he withstands that criticism, and thinks about what it seems Americans want: corrections to the Affordable Care Act. The majority of us, according to poll after poll after poll this year, want to keep and fix the ACA, not repeal it and replace it with something that doesn't even begin to come close.

Democratic and Republican governors have a plan they say will work -- 10 of them sent McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a letter a week or so ago, asking them to drop their nonsense and take a look at something reasonable. 

If McConnell is half a leader, he'll sit down with those governors - Democrats Hickenlooper, Bullock, McAuliffe, Bel Edwards and Wolf, and Republicans Kasich, Walker, Sandoval, Scott and Baker - and Schumer, and get to work accomplishing something that will actually do some good, rather than just crossing off a campaign promise - even one that's seven years old, and counting. 

September 24, 2017

Trump in Transition (v21)

I keep thinking that I'm going to be able to retire the TiT theme; after all, Trump's been president for a few days over eight months now.   Shouldn't he be done transitioning from a blowhard NYC real estate developing, serial bullying, failed reality TV show hosting, crowd-counting, name-calling, frequently golfing, constantly rallying, Hollywood elitist (with a bought-and-paid-for star on the Walk of Fame to prove it) who uses the government to pad the coffers of his family business by now? 

The last time I did a post in this theme was when Trump talked with his generals and decided that everyone else's transgender people shouldn't be allowed to serve our country because they were too expensive from a healthcare perspective - which, of course, was a complete lie, as are many of Trump's declarations. Screw your patriotism, you volunteers who stood up to defend our country. We don't need you, we don't want you, you cannot serve. Screw you.

And once again, Trump is on the 'screw your patriotism' bandwagon with his latest pronouncement that the NFL should fire anyone who does not stand for the national anthem. And, by extension, that Colin Kaepernick should continue to be unemployed. 

As a private individual, using his personal @RealDonaldTrump account, not his official @POTUS account,  Trump has been vocal on this subject for the past couple of days:
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect...
...our great American Flag (or Country), and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED! Find something else to do.
Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our Country. Tell them to stand!
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place. Fire or Suspend!
...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games, yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.
Those SONSOFBITCHES, they out to be FIRED! And we should BOYCOTT! And the NFL owners are FRIENDS OF HIS, dammit! And bloodthirsty supporters in Alabama LOVED what he said, yessiree they did! He's the PRESIDENT and don't you FORGET IT!  #AMERICAFIRSTGODDAMMIT! And those players, they're paid with TAXPAYER DOLLARS! And SCREW THE FIRST AMENDMENT! And SCREW YOU, black athletes! And SCREW YOU STEPH CURRY even though you play with a round ball not one of those funny ones! Just SCREW YOU!


No, really, I just sat here for a moment, after catching my breath - for that was quite the explosion of capital letters and exclamation points!  And, I thought, it's SAD (quoting the president, here).

 It's sad that he feels his personal patriotism, and the well-being of our country, are threatened by some athletes behaving differently, but respectfully, during the national anthem. 

It's sad that the president, who is divisive both in his own language and his administration's policies, seems to think that Americans need to be in lockstep in order to, well, be Americans. Will we be receiving national uniforms? Holding parades along the inauguration route? Are we going to have to learn a special salute? I'm willing to start now, I guess, or should we wait until the patriotic pictures are painted on buildings across the land?

I last stood for the national anthem (because that's what I was taught to do), last Friday night, at the symphony. Only at the first concert of the series do we get to hear the orchestra play it; they don't at every single performance. The audience, which trends older, sings along, and claps when it's over - not with a stanza or two to go, but when it's actually over. I assume anyone who was able stood, but I don't worry about whether they did or not, and I'm sure no one was waiting, pen and notepad ready, to take down the seat numbers of people who didn't and kick them out of the hall. 

I don't mind the kneeling or the raised fists. I mind the drunken shouting that passes for acceptable patriotism in stadiums and arenas across the land much more than I do the protests. My husband is not a fan of the kneeling, so much, but a raised fist doesn't bother him. 

Do I feel threatened, as our still-transitioning president appears to, by people who are willing to take a stand on a very public stage? 

Hardly. Truth be told, I'm encouraged by their actions, and by their patriotism
  • It IS patriotic to question your country and actions taken on her behalf by people in positions of authority.
  • It IS patriotic to ask your country to be better, to do better.  
  • It IS patriotic to ask your country to take a hard look in the mirror, and to try and think differently about things. 
  • It IS patriotic to ask others to consider doing these things, too. 
It's much more patriotic to do that than it is to stand, drunkenly or soberly, with or without removing your hat, with or without placing your hand on your heart, in a stadium shouting over the national anthem.

It's significantly more patriotic to do that, than to have an American flag waving between your cab and the trailer you're hauling, like the guy I saw on the NYS Thruway last week. The flag was in despicable condition - filthy dirty, gray with soot and road dirt, stained, the colors barely discernible. The ends were shredded; perhaps as much as a third of it had gone into the wind, and it was torn in several spots where the stripes were sewn together. It looked like something you'd find in a dumpster, to be honest. But the truck driver sure is patriotic - he's displaying the FLAG!

It's also a whole helluva lot more patriotic than standing on the world stage engaging in a third-grade, name-calling pissing match with foreign leaders, which is how president Trump spent the rest of last week.

Yeah, it's too early to retire this theme.

September 22, 2017

TGIF 9/22/17

Random thoughts as we cross off another Friday on the calendar:

Is it a thing now, for people to drive cars that are clearly so low on blinker fluid that their turn signals simply cannot signal their turns? (Asking for a friend.)

Now, on to more weighty subjects: Arizona Senator John McCain must truly be channeling his dear friend Ted Kennedy again. McCain and Kennedy were tied together in politics, and now in health -McCain's brain tumor is the same kind that Kennedy had.

Late this afternoon, McCain went on record as a no vote on the "last, best chance" for Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. I can't help thinking that he's remembering the passion with which Ted Kennedy fought to bring health insurance to millions of Americans, even as he fought his own diagnosis, and that he can't imagine being responsible for taking health insurance away from millions of Americans.  Kudos to you, Senator McCain. Hopefully a couple of other Republican senators will follow in your footsteps and do the same.

News broke yesterday that the brain of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot who was convicted of murder and then took his own life in jail at the age of 27, was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Based an examination of his brain tissue, he was at stage three of the disease (stage four is the max); his was the "most severe case they had ever seen for someone his age" according to attorney Jose Baez, who is suing the Pats and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez' daughter. This suit is outside the class action suit in which the NFL is paying a billion dollars to retired players from whom the league allegedly hid the risk of CTE. The league has promised a vigorous defense; the Pats have not yet responded.

Also, speaking of the NFL, Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. There was an interesting discussion on WBUR's On Point radio show today (you can listen to the podcast here). Kaepernick is a better quarterback than many of the 28 starters and their backups - it's foolish, some say, to pretend that he's not qualified to play.

One thing is different now than it was in the past. Today, NFL players are not afraid to speak out in support of Kaep and are not afraid to show their own activist streaks. And some are even comfortable continuing to protest this season, after Kaep paved the way for them. There's more courage around speaking out, albeit silently, about injustice and discrimination and racism, which ARE a fact of life in America whether we're willing to admit it or not.

It's quite a bit different than it was a year ago, when Myke Tavarres was an unsigned rookie looking to make the team for the Philadelphia Eagles. As I noted in my post at that time, Tavarres announced his decision to participate in a protest, saying this:
In this situation, I've really got nothing to lose. I'm a rookie free agent, haven't signed any major contract, so there's not a lot of money on the line, I don't have any big endorsement deals on the line. Really what's at stake is my pride and what kind of man would I be and what kind of African-American would I be if I didn't stand my ground on this issue we have today?
Until his agent sat him down and read him the riot act, and Tavarres apologized for being a distraction.
I want to make change in this world but sitting down during the national anthem just isn't the best way to do it. With that being said, I do plan on finding a better way. 
He ended up being cut by the Eagles in 2016, and by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the CFL earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Kaep's jersey continues to be a best seller, even though he's not even in the league anymore. And I continue to be pretty darn sure that people are not standing in their living rooms during the national anthem.


September 20, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v104)

The Republicans in the Senate are working hurriedly to try and rustle up enough support to drag Mike Pence in for a potential tie-breaking vote, by September 30th, on a last, best chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something that I heard Kentucky's Rand Paul describe as merely taking money away from blue states and giving it to red states.

Jimmy Kimmel, whose son was born with a congenital heart defect, met months ago with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the coauthors of the current bill. At that time, Cassidy coined the phrase 'the Jimmy Kimmel test' which any bill would need to pass, according to Cassidy: coverage for preexisting conditions, no lifetime caps, and insurance had to be affordable. Fast forward to this week, where Kimmel called Cassidy a liar on his show. 

Cassidy says Kimmel doesn't understand the bill. 

No one understands the bill, least of all the people who will be expected to get insurance coverage under it. And the people who are working on the bill don't understand anything other than they said they're repeal and that's what they're going to do, dagnabit. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office hasn't chimed in, and may not have the chance to - but pretty much everyone - except 15 Republican governors, that is -  is against it, or afraid of it, or, to Cassidy's point, doesn't understand.

Paul is a no vote already. Susan Collins of Maine, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Arizona's John McCain are the other three who should vote against the bill as well, and free up the Senate to enact bipartisan reform to fix the Affordable Care Act and stop trying to bullshit their way into destroying one sixth of the US economy. 

I wonder if they - or any other Republicans - will have the courage to vote no?

Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump machine - the campaign and, perhaps, the administration as well - is barrelling along, with Paul Manafort clearly in its sights. Reports have said Manafort can expect to be indicted; that the feds picked the lock on his house early one morning to gain entrance for a search; that he met with close Putin allies during the campaign to update them about the campaign; and yes -- there were phone calls that were recorded, and the president is on the recordings. 

Someone suggested there was now no turning back -- Mueller's investigation will result in outcomes, of that there was certainty -- "even if Mueller was fired" by the administration. 

And I wonder two things here: would Trump really have the audacity to fire Mueller?  And will Manafort be the only one?

Finally, and sticking with the investigation aspect of tonight's post, the former Office of Government Ethics (OGE, now known as the OTBE - Office of Turning a Blind Eye) appeared to say it was OK for administration folks to receive anonymous donations - from lobbyists or other interested parties with money to burn - to cover legal fees related to Mueller, Inc. Some will say this is all OK, because Clinton. William Jefferson, that is, not Crooked Lyin Lock Her Up Hillary. 

Seems this question was posed back in the 1990s, and it was deemed to be technically legal, but people were subsequently advised not to take any contributions from lobbyists, anonymous or otherwise. The OTBE clarified that the original decision from 1993 stands, and strongly encouraged a deeper dive for each case. 

Not to worry, though. The RNC has stepped up to offer assistance, and has paid close to $450,000 (so far) to assist with Donald and Donny's legal fees; Trump is also dipping into his campaign coffers to help pay the bills, bless his heart.

And I can't help wondering, again, where is the swamp and who's pulling the plug?

September 19, 2017

OrangeVerse XVI: So-So-Sovereign

The president spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations today. Poetry abounded.

First, America First
the United States has
done very well since Election Day last
November 8th.
The stock market
is at an all time high - a record
Unemployment is at its
lowest level in
16 years and
because of our
regulatory and other
reforms, we have more 
people working in 
the United States today
than ever before.
Companies are
moving back, creating
job growth the likes of which
our country
has not seen
in a very
long time.

What time is it?
To put it 
simply we meet
at a time
of both immense
promise and great
peril it is
entirely up 
to us whether
we lift
the word to new
heights or let
it fall into a
of disrepair.
We have it 
in our power
should we choose, to
lift millions
from poverty to help
our citizens realize
their dreams and
to ensure new generations
of children are raised free
from violence

For the
diverse nations of
the world 
is our hope:
We want harmony
and friendship
not conflict
and strife.
We are
guided by 
outcomes not ideology.
We have a policy 
of principled
rooted in shared 
goals interests
and values.

their sovereignty
peace, sovereignty, security
their sovereignty
core sovereign duties
other sovereign nation
strong, sovereign nations
strong, sovereign nations
strong, sovereign nations
people are sovereign
of sovereignty. Our
be sovereign
the sovereignty
our sovereign duties
threats to sovereignty
the sovereign rights
the sovereign rights
to sovereignty, security
respect for sovereignty
strong, sovereign and
their sovereignty
of sovereignty, security and
prosperity for all.

September 18, 2017

Grains of Salt (v25): The Syracuse Skyway

In the 9/3/17 Syracuse Post-Standard there's a headline that reads:

A loftier vision for I-81:
The Syracuse Skyway

The headline is tied to a commentary piece that also appeared on on August 29th. The author, Jacob Alan Roberts, is an artist, entrepreneur and community developer, according to the bio published in the paper. 

He notes in his piece that the suggestions to date on the I-81 project, which include a new, wider viaduct, a tunnel, and a torn down viaduct with a 'community grid' in its place
...won't result in anything cathartic, or even remarkable, if we modify the next iteration of our "great wall" without having a clear, mutual priority of healing the community and revitalizing its longstanding socio-economic depression...
Although "community grid' advocates contend that a complete tear down and replacement boulevard would cost almost half a billion less, would avoid the demolition of 20 downtown buildings, require fewer years for construction and would free up land for development, I don't share their vision.
I say, let's go further and make a bold statement about our future. What if, instead of demolition, we "recycle" that epic eyesore and convert the elevated infrastructure into a raised, linear park with placed to enjoy the outdoors, play, stroll and lounge while viewing Syracuse's historic and fast-developing skyline?  
Roberts goes on to talk about how his Skyway could function: jogging paths, outdoor art, an environmental marvel with gardens fed by porous pavement, a treed canopy, and such.  His ideas are similar to what's currently being done with New York City's Skyline and other projects, including 18 in the US.

He closes by saying:
I understand my proposal for the "Syracuse Skyway or the "Peacemakers Pathway" is a long shot but some long shots pay off big. Hopefully, in the name of a cool, clean and green future, full of innovation, sustainability and outside-the-box thinking, local I-81 stakeholders will pause for deeper consideration.
NY DOT photo
I love this idea! In fact, I proposed the same thing --  back in June 2014 --  except I called my version Viaduct Park.

The park could be located somewhere in the general neighborhood of the red box on the picture shown here.

The actual boundaries would be determined  by where the viaduct was cut off from traffic on the north and south.

Once that's done, here's how I envisioned this could work:
  • Add access points at each end and in the middle, using a combination of ramps, stairs, and pedestrian bridges.  At least one access on each side would need to be an elevator. 
  • Engage the folks from local colleges, most importantly SUNY-ESF and Cornell, because we'll need landscape designers, maybe even a contest, to come up with the best plan which would ideally include a combination of covered and uncovered places, seating areas,  a measured walking path, and native landscaping. Maybe a portion could be used as an educational space where master gardeners help community gardeners?
  • Engage the Save the Rain people to make sure we are incorporating re-use of rainwater and snow runoff, similar to how we're doing it at the War Memorial.
  • Engage local engineering firms to assist with the project, particularly those with green building and alternative energy experience, so we can figure out two things: (1) how to make it brighter underneath the park, one of the big concerns with the existing viaduct (and in part why the new viaduct options include making it so much higher) and how to use solar energy to light the park itself. 
  • The primary mode of transportation in the Park would be feet, but if necessary incorporate a couple of spots so that folks on bikes won't be forced across the busy Boulevard, but could go up and over it to get to the other side.
I encouraged engaging people as a goal of the new I-81:
Seriously -- if we're going to spend  over a billion dollars, let's get something out of it that will bring people to Syracuse, rather than having them just fly on by. Why don't we think about engaging people rather than only on getting them from A to B as fast as possible?
And, I wondered, what could our new Viaduct Park become?
  • A place to hold our city festivals that doesn't require shutting downtown streets for multiple weekends each year, causing nightmares for businesses, pedestrians, and motorists. Or, if we were bold, a way to have multiple festivals downtown at the same time, with Centro shuttles running between them...  
  • An elevated place from which we could watch fireworks over downtown...
  • A place that people would come to, on purpose, and then branch out into the city for food and other entertainment, spending much needed dollars at our local businesses...  
  • A complement to the downtown historic district and to the renewed Inner Harbor, connected via marked walking trail to the Creekwalk...

Yeah, I like this idea --  I like it a lot.  

September 17, 2017

Sunday School 9/17/17

So, let's do a quick run through the halls and see what was on tap in the classrooms today.

First up: NBC's Meet the Press where Chuck Todd entertained Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, and they spoke about immigration, Trump dealing with Democrats, Cotton working with Mitch McConnell, and Cotton serving with a transgender soldier.  

The highlight for me from this section? When Cotton said Trump didn't have a leadership problem, he had a membership problem. 

Vermont Senator "I'll Become a Democrat When I'm Good and Ready to Become One and Not a Minute Sooner" Bernie Sanders was also on the show, talking about Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare, cutting costs, replacing private insurance premiums with Medicare premiums, and saving 10- 16% in admin costs; and about how much he helped Hillary Clinton after she beat him in the primaries. 

The Bernie highlight was when he basically said if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. I kid you not. 

On  ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, George talked in a taped interview with British Prime Minister Teresa May about the bombing in the Parsons Green station, president Trump's unhelpful tweets about the incident, and about her upcoming visit to the UN where she'll talk about how terrorists use the Internet not only for planning but for spreading extremism.

HR McMaster, Trump's National Security Advisor, joined Stephanopoulos and talked about the travel ban, and how that's a good way to keep bad people out and the possibility that we'll see a stronger travel ban here in the States. And they discussed Trump's upcoming address during UN Week, and his prior comments about the UN not being a friend of the United States. McMaster said Trump would address the need for reform, otherwise the UN can't be effective. Extra popcorn for that speech has been ordered. 

Adam Schiff, the California Democrat, also joined. The highlight of his comments came after viewing the gif of Trump hitting a golf ball which then supposedly hits Hillary Clinton in the back, causing her to fall down. Schiff noted, in response to the question on whether the retweet may have impacted the perception of Trump's outreach to Democrats (a dumb question, I thought), Schiff answered generally that there was no reason to think that Trump's outreach was anything other than "purely transactional" and that Trump is a man free of ideology. For me, that's the high point of This Week.

There was more on the other networks, but this was enough for me. See you around campus.

September 16, 2017

The Update Desk: Grains of Salt (v24)

The other day I told you that Onondaga County's District Attorney-for-Life William Fitzpatrick did not have sex with that woman.

Oh - sorry - my bad. I told you he "did not endorse" Derek Shepard, the incumbent County Legislator for the towns of Elbridge, VanBuren and Baldwinsville, in the primary against challenger Ken Bush Jr. (Bush won.)

What Fitz did, rather, was to "criticize those policies that undermine public safety and support those policies that advance it, by freely and vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individual involved in those issues" which he's entitled to do under a code that he helped write.

Here's the transcript of the message, which you can listen to here:
Hi. This is District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick. I'm sending you this message on September 11th, when many of us are remembering the horrible events of sixteen years ago. And I of course think about the death of my cousin who was a firefighter in New York City and died on the 40th floor of the North Tower. Jeff Olsen was a man who loved public service much as I do. I've been lucky enough to be your DA for 25 years, and I care passionately about public safety.
One of my great allies in that concern has been Derek Shepard, your county legislator. Derek is a great American who has allied with me on many, many issues involving your safety and the betterment of this county. He understands that fiscal responsibility has to be balanced with a goal of keeping us safe, and no one has done that better, in my opinion, than Derek.
Thank you, Derek. I look forward to working with you for many, many years in the future. And thanks to all of you for your support over the years in keeping me your district attorney. And remember, on Tuesday, when you pull that lever, how lucky we are to live in the greatest country on the planet Earth.  (Paid for by RLCC.) 
Now, I've listened to Fitz's message a few times, and I've gotta tell you, it's far from vigorous. Does that recording even remotely resemble any of these 'vigorous' synonyms and related words?

Come on -- Fitz is a guy who will scream in court until he's hoarse - and we're supposed to believe this is him criticizing anything? Or speaking out about any kind of policies?

Heck no. This is him endorsing Derek Shepard, plain and simple.

The fact that he was oh-so-careful to actually say 'public safety' in the message was him doing exactly enough to pass 'official' muster, but it just as clearly shows how close he will get to crossing the line and doing something he, as a DA with 25 years of experience, knows he's absolutely not allowed to do.

Anyone in the ethics business understands that perception is reality - and the damage from the perception can be even worse than damage from the actual bad act.

If you get caught doing something wrong, you can apologize, try and convince people you didn't know better, throw yourself on the mercy of the court and public opinion, and generally people will forgive you. You can even do your time and come out on the other side as a better person.

It's much harder to change a perception - especially when you don't even recognize the possibility that it might be correct.

September 15, 2017

TGIF 9/15/17

Finally! It's time for a random thought or two to end the work week.

We've talked before about Texas and how everything there is, simply, bigger. Bigger conservatism, bigger interference in the doctor-patient relationship, bigger everything.

And now, we have another example of 'bigger', one that I am not sure how exactly to characterize.

Apparently, in the Lone Star state, you can have a sign put up along the highway to memorialize someone killed in a motorcycle accident. You pay your $350, and you  provide the victim's name and some other info, and up goes a blue sign with a red cross on it, along with the information you provide. The sign stays up for a year, and it must have the cross, regardless of the victim's religion.  Why? Because a law passed in 2011 says so.

The symbol was suggested by the motorcycle community, which worked with legislators on the bill. The bikers don't consider it a religious symbol; to them, it's a 'motorcycle' symbol.

And the legislators who worked on the bill? They either didn't care that the motorcycle folks wanted a cross on the signs, or they took advantage of it as a way to advance a cause, and now, here it is.

I have to admit, my first reaction upon seeing one of the signs would be that the cross denoted the Christian faith of the victim, and I'd expect at some point to see one with a red Star of David or other religious symbol.

But, that's not going to happen. Because this is Texas, and everything is bigger there. Or something.

Speaking of things that go 'or something' in the night, let's go to Florida for our next random story.

It's now legal for a parent, or any resident, to challenge the instructional material used in schools. The law was pushed by the Florida Citizens Alliance, which objected to a number of things they've seen in textbooks or on reading lists, including such things as:

  • political indoctrination
  • religious indoctrination
  • revisionist history
  • distortion of our founding values and principles
  • pornography
  • downplaying of individual liberties, and
  • promoting reliance on the federal government

And that's before they even get to evolution and climate change. Guidance is being developed by the Florida Department of Education to help school districts deal with the inevitable challenges. It should make things interesting, that's for sure. 

Finally, speaking of making things interesting, the long-awaited book from Hillary Clinton has arrived; I suspect conservatives in Texas, Florida and elsewhere are not as enamored of her multiple explanations on What Happened as some others. (The book has been fact-checked for what's it worth.)

She's starting a book tour next week, and on all the shows that matter ahead of that - but I think I'll wait a bit before pulling the trigger on Amazon Prime.

I can't help thinking that the book and the tour and the interviews will serve to somehow overshadow the people who are working to get things done, and that focusing attention on what didn't happen is much less important than focusing on what will.


Grains of Salt (v24): Fitz and Starts

I find it hard to believe it's been almost nine full months since I last talked about William Fitzpatrick, our District Attorney for Life in Onondaga County.

Fitz has been a frequent topic of conversation around here, most of the time in posts about ethics, campaign finance reform, and, I have to admit, possible over-exertion in the line of duty.

The latest activities bringing him back to these pages fall into the first and last of those linked buckets.

According to this report, Fitzpatrick apparently went door to door with Derek Shepard, candidate for Onondaga County Legislator, who lost in Tuesday's primary to Ken Bush Jr. Fitz also also made a robocall on Shepard's behalf.

Both of these actions would at least appear to be conflicts, or appear to be ethical violations, or at the very least, appear to be examples of poor judgment. After all, The Right Thing: Ethical Guidelines for Prosecutors states, in part:
District Attorneys and their assistants may not endorse political candidates, except that in some counties assistants may be permitted to engage in political activity in support of the re-election of the District Attorney by whom they are employed. 
And, Rule 3.8, Special Responsibilities of Prosecutors and Other Government Lawyers (Amendment Effective July 1, 2012) notes, again in part:
...Thus, it is reasonable and proper for District Attorneys and members of their staffs to engage in activities that do not compromise their office’s efficiency or integrity or interfere with the professional responsibilities and duties of their offices.
District Attorneys may engage in the following conduct (emphasis added): 
  1. Register to vote themselves, and vote. 
  2. Have membership in a political party
  3. Contribute money to political parties, organizations and committees.
  4. Attend political/social events. 
  5. Participate in community and civic organizations that have no partisan purposes.
  6. Sign political petitions as an individual. 
  7. In order to demonstrate public support for the nonpartisan nature of the District Attorney’s office, a District Attorney should consider accepting the endorsement of more than one political party when running for office. 
  8. District Attorneys are entitled to criticize those policies that undermine public safety and support those policies that advance it, by freely and vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individuals involved in those issues.
Fitz believes his actions on behalf of Shepard, a County Legislator representing the towns of Elbridge, VanBuren and Baldwinsville since 2011, meet the requirements of number 8 in the code, in that promoting the candidacy of one person over another is "criticizing policies that undermine public safety and supporting those policies that advance it" or else it's "vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individuals involved in those issues."

Specifically, (again, emphasis added) 
Fitzpatrick said he considered Bush a threat to public safety because as a legislator Bush would likely fight against funding for the DA's office. "I consider that a danger to the office in terms of our budgetary needs."
And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.   But wait - there's more!

Note that Fitzpatrick's son was involved with Shepard's campaign, and also note that the DA threatened to sue Bush because of a Facebook page that, according to the DA, could have confused someone that they were looking at the official Town of Elbridge page, when in fact they were looking at a page Bush has maintained for years. About Bush's Facebook page (which he had been maintaining for years), Fitz said
While the page did not claim to have an official affiliation with the Town of Elbridge, it had that appearance, and it did not disclaim affiliation.
Rolling on the floor laughing now!  Hold on... Hang on... OK OK - sorry. Had to catch my breath...

Let's review:

  • A candidate running against the guy the DA's son is consulting has a social media page that is truly not something it that it does not claim to be, but in the DA's eyes it could possibly be confused with some other page (with literally thousands of fewer friends, by the way), so the DA threatens to sue the candidate.
  • The DA goes door to door with the candidate his son consults for, greeting voters and all, and also does a recorded message for that candidate, which was paid for by the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, and which launches the day before the primary, but that's not an endorsement of the candidate.

Seriously - I laughed and laughed.

At the zeal with which the DA protected voters from the outside guy running against the candidate supported by the Republican party leadership (and Fitz's son).

At the nonsensical nature of Fitz's concern for my personal safety as a resident of Onondaga County.

At his apparent lack of appreciation of the irony in threatening someone over the appearance of a conflict, while participating in not one but two very 'conflicting' acts himself.

At the insanity of designating someone who might cut the DA's budget as a threat to public safety, a term previously reserved for gang members, predatory sex offenders, and drug kingpins. How things have changed.

At the absurdity of him thinking we'd actually believe that he wasn't endorsing a candidate.

At how little he understands (or cares) how the crap he does undermines public trust in elected officials.

At how glibly he's able to justify his behavior at each and every turn, from a legal perspective, while being completely tone deaf to the optics, and the ethics.

At how stupid he must think we are.

(Oh, crap --  I hope he doesn't consider me a threat to public safety for disagreeing with him... )

September 13, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v103)

So, I wonder what Donny and Chuckie and Nancy are having for dinner, this Wednesday?

No -- actually, I don't care what they're having. (FYI, if you're interested, we had hot dogs and pasta salad; I suspect the three of them are likely eating better, don't you think?)

Another thing I don't care about is pundits and other folks falling all over themselves to talk about Trump being presidential by talking to people from the other party, or say this is the (latest) 'pivot' from candidate to officeholder to president.

As I've noted before, we have allowed the bar to be set so low that it's almost impossible for him to fail. It's time for us to hold him to the same standard as every other president - and that means we don't have to fawn all over him every time he does something, if only for a fleeting second, that makes sense.

I've wondered before exactly why it was that Congress required the US Postal Service to prefund 75 years worth of retirement benefits, something not required of any other part of government or by any private businesses, for that matter.  That decision, made back in 2006, has imperiled the USPS ever since, making it nearly impossible for the agency to succeed.

So, even though we have states doing some, most, or even all of their elections by mail, and even though we're seeing an increasing trend in the use of mail order pharmacies for prescription drug insurance plans, the USPS may need a 20% increase in the price of stamps to stave off bankruptcy, and to "improve delivery service.

I'm wondering how much of an improvement we need? Here in The Valley, we get mail delivered six days a week, seven if I count how amenable Amazon is to getting me my stuff. in a hurry. But what I wonder even more is, why does Congress seem to spend so much time naming post offices?  Check out these comments (from 2010) made by former Speaker of the House Crying John Boehner:
With all the challenges facing our nation, it is absurd that Congress spends so much time on naming post offices, congratulating sports teams, and celebrating the birthdays of historical figures. It's time to focus on doing what we were sent here to do.
The same article, published in 2015 notes that since 2011, post office naming bills made up 16 percent of all legislation passed, dropping to only 13% in in the most recent Congressional session. And, it points out, the cost of 'naming' is covered by the Post Office -- as much as $5000 for some of them. I gotta tell you, that takes some real cojones, doesn't it?
We're going to make you set aside money for retirement benefits in advance for three quarters of a century! And then, we're going to rename your stores - and make you pay for the new signage! But wait, there's more! We're going to make you beg to raise prices! And, this is the best part, it really is - we're going to listen to our lobbyists and campaign donors instead of you when we make a rate increase decision!  Isn't this great?!
Isn't this great, you wonder?

Yeah, not so much. But it does clearly illustrated what we're up against, doesn't it?

September 12, 2017

Grains of Salt (v23): Primarily Thinking

For those of us in New York today, September 12th is primary day. Here in the city of Syracuse, Democrats had a big decision to make: we had a three-way race for mayor, which is unusual.

Regardless of today's primary outcome, there will be at least four candidates on the ballot for the general election: a Democrat, a Republican, a Green, and an Independent. It's possible the Democrat could also be on the Working Families line, but it's not guaranteed - meaning, we could have five in the general. It's a mess this year -- an interesting mess, for sure.

At the beginning of the campaign season, I believe there were seven candidates vying for the Democratic Party's designation to succeed Stephanie Miner, our current term-limited mayor. The one who ended up winning the designation had run unsuccessfully four times before, including in 2009 when he lost in a primary to Miner. The other remaining candidates are the current city auditor, and the former chief lawyer for the city.

I admit I took longer than usual to make my decision, and I'm not sharing it here, of course, but I do want to share a couple of observations.

First, I always take advantage of the opportunity to sign a petition; I've signed for people who are not my favorite, over the years, to try and ensure had a choice. This year, no Democrat petition carriers came to the house - or if they did, the didn't manage to do it when we were home - and work from home several days a week. I waited for calls, I waited for door knockers and door stuffers, and nothing.

I ended up signing a petition for the independent, exercising my right for the only person who seemed interested. And then, I never heard from him again - for weeks and weeks, I heard nothing. And, when I thought I had finally heard from him, the mail was actually for my husband, who's registered as an Independent.

I got lots of mail from the Democrats, the three that stayed in the race. (I think I got more from the candidates for City Court Judge than I did for the mayoral candidates).  I would say the volume of mail favored the former corporation counsel more than the repeat candidate. I answered polls about the race a couple of times, happily offering my honest opinion on a scale of one to seven, one being most favorable (or maybe seven was most favorable, I can't remember).

Last night, around dinner time, I answered the phone and spoke with a nice gentleman who wondered if I planned on voting today. I answered yes, and he asked me if I was going to vote for his candidate. I answered that I was not sure yet what I was going to do. He sounded surprised -- shocked, actually - - and then simply encouraged me to vote. I promised I would and almost as an afterthought, he asked if I needed a ride to the polls. I told him we were set (we usually walk) and he said "OK, remember to vote" and hung up.

I held the phone in my hand after he hung up, wondering why on earth he didn't even try to convince me to vote for his candidate. He didn't ask why I was undecided, and didn't ask if I wanted more information. He just said "Candidate A is a great person," as if that alone was enough of a reason for me to vote for A.

This afternoon, we voted. I was number 80, which is actually pretty good for a primary at my polling place. When my husband and I arrived, we joined three other people in line, and the election workers noted that we five had formed the longest line of the day.

Tonight, two hours before the polls closed, I received a robo call from the former corporation counsel, reminding me it was primary day, and offering me a number to call if I needed a ride to the polls.

And now, as I finish this post, polls are closing across the city. It's going to be interesting to see who ends up winning; whether that person will have the support of their vanquished opponents; and whether the will of the party is strong enough to quash two insurgents.

As a friend of mine has asked, haven't Democrats learned anything in the past couple of years? Are we going to splinter and faction ourselves out of City Hall?  Let's sit back and see what happens.

September 10, 2017

Quick Takes (v21): Now is Not the Time

Quick Takes
I opted not to attend Sunday School today, but I did want to check in with a quick take on timing.

As in, how one defines a good time for something, vs. a bad time for something, vs. the possibility that there will NEVER be a good time for something. Ready?

I'm not sure anyone is making a direct connection between climate change and hurricanes, but there may be some correlation, some of the science suggests: water temperature. The warmer the water, we're told, the stronger the hurricane.

And there seems to be at least some agreement that the waters in the gulf and the Atlantic are warming, whether it's a cyclical thing, or the result of man-influenced climate change. But - we're not allowed to talk about that: it's one of those conversations.  

You know - the kind we're not supposed to have right now. Because the Heritage Foundation told us it would only make things worse.

Here's why, according to a study referenced in the link above:
The bottom line in this analysis is that both observations of the past decades and models looking forward to the future do not suggest that one can explain the heavy rains of Harvey by global warming, and folks that are suggesting it are poorly informing the public and decision makers.
So: now, as we are trying to deal with the aftermath of two massive hurricanes, with potential rebuilding costs of $180B (Texas) and perhaps $200B (Florida), not counting the rest of Harvey and the damage to other US territories in the Caribbean, we shouldn't be gumming up the works, the conservatives tell us.
Further, these policies (addressing climate change - ed.) will destroy economic wealth, meaning fewer resources would be available to strengthen infrastructure to contain the future effects of natural disasters...
But, while this is not the time to talk about climate change, it is the time to talk about economic wealth.  Because the president said so, at his Camp David Cabinet meeting on September 9th (emphasis added):
To create prosperity at home we'll be discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now with what's happened with the hurricane I'm going to ask for their speed up. I wanted to speed up anyway but now we need it even more so. So we need to simplify the tax code, reduce taxes very substantially on the middle class and make our business tax more globally competitive. We're the highest anywhere in the world right now...
So, to recap: it's never a good time to talk about climate change and man's possible impact on it, certainly not when we're dealing in the moment with two catastrophic hurricanes, because talking about "climate change" puts wealth at risk and without wealth we can't recover from disasters which might be influenced by man's impact on the climate.

But, it's always a good time to talk about reducing taxes on human people, and especially on bricks and mortar people, because that helps take our minds off two catastrophic hurricanes that are particularly devastating to those who already have so little.

Got it?

September 9, 2017

The Sins of their Parents

While some of the conversation around the ending of the DACA program has centered on the constitutionality of President Obama's executive action (or the lack thereof), a lot of the discussion has focused on the fact that these folks are here illegally and therefore they need to be sent home, or that they're taking jobs away from Americans and for that reason they must be sent home; or even that they're criminals and for that reason, they need to be sent home.

Here's a snippet from the statement by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on the "orderly transition and wind-down" of the DACA program making those points:
The decades-long failure of Washington, DC to enforce federal immigration laws has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid by US taxpayers. Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system. Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers and job seekers.
No one really thinks that any significant portion of the Dreamer population is made up by gang-banging drug dealers who are stealing jobs from Americans.  And, if Congress is again unable to craft and pass immigration reform legislation,  I see no reason to punish this particular segment of immigrants for the sins of their parents.

Seriously -- under what other circumstances do you think it's appropriate to punish children for the crimes of their parents?
  • What would be the correct punishment for children of people who operate meth labs, partake of child pornography, or rob banks?
  • What would be the appropriate punishment for college-graduate, gainfully employed, tax-paying children of gang members?
  • How, exactly, would you punish Henry and Nancy, whose father murdered their mother, my friend and former coworker, eleven years ago next month? 
I know, I know -- there's nothing to worry about. The administration has promised that deporting the DACA people will not be a priority, but who can believe that? 

Why should any of these people trust the government now, when it was the government that promised them they would be safe if they came out of the shadows, gave their information, paid the price to obtain and renew their temporary green cards, got jobs or started companies, paid their taxes, and maybe enlisted and served honorably defending our country in the military?

Speaking of the military and trusting Trump, maybe someone should ask the LGBT community about that?

September 8, 2017

TGIF 9/8/17

Here are this week's random thoughts; deep thinking is coming tomorrow.

We ran into a friend at a festival here in town this evening, who told us the story of getting a ticket for running a red light on his commute to work. He said he immediately, without prompting, started explaining to the officer that he was listening to news radio and it was at the time that they were talking about Trump's decision on DACA that he got so angry and frustrated that he stopped paying attention land that's how he ran the red light.

Sadly, the officer wasn't having any of it, and our friend got no relief for the infraction. But, this is New York, and we historically have a hard time not acting on stuff that doesn't need action. How long before we codify 'listening to the radio' becomes a specific category of distracted driving, like texting or talking on the phone or taking a selfie? Or better yet, how long before we see 'It Can Wait - News Radio Stop" signs on the Thruway?

Speaking of New York, we're one of the states that has sued president Trump for his decision to end the DACA program. There are now 15 Blue states and the District of Columbia involved in the suit. Am I the only one who sees comedy in this? After all, one of the alleged reasons for the administration's decision to wind the program down was the threat of a lawsuit by Red states.

What's interesting is that neither the Red nor the Blue states are suing the right people: that would be the 535 member of Congress who can't, or won't, come to term on legislation that 'fixes' integration. Can the Attorneys General get together and take on Congress in court?

We learned in an earlier TGIF post that Wisconsin is 'investing' three billion dollars in incentives to bring Foxconn to Paul Ryan's district er - I mean - to a depressed area of the Badger state. Which is fine, I guess; I mean, if you're willing to take 250 million bucks out of the education budget and put it into keeping a professional sports team in Milwaukee, why wouldn't you be willing to bet the farm for a foreign company promising to bring jobs to your state?

Why is what's happening in Wisconsin relevant tonight? Well, because we're about to see a battle royale across North America for rights to bet a totally new farm on the new second headquarters for Amazon. Per the company's website:
We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition to Amazon's direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.
Now we all know how much time the president has spent talking about the Foxconn project - #jobsjobsjobs and #MAGA and all that -- but how much time has he spent talking about an American company looking to make an investing in an American city and hiring American workers?

That would be zero. Zip. Nada.

Why?  Because Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, owns the Washington Post. 'Nuff said.


September 6, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v102)

It's Wednesday, again? OK, here comes the wondering.

As thing slowly, oh so very slowly start returning to some semblance of pre-Harvey normal in Texas, the costs to rebuild are simply staggering: $150 to $180 billion, Governor Gregg Abbott has estimated - and that dwarfs the $110B Hurricane Katrina cost. Where does one get $180B in a time of need? That's a great question on which to do some wondering. 

I mean, today a deal was reached in Washington to quickly pass FEMA some $8B - literally chicken feed -- and we had to raise the debt ceiling to do get that done. The agency is spending millions of dollars an hour on Harvey relief; Irma is heading towards Florida, and wild fires are burning in nine states out west. Look at this in the framework of the Trump budget, which has suggested significant cuts to FEMA, as well as to other agencies involved in disasters in some way, shape or form, and we've got a real disaster on our hands if Congress can't figure something out. Are you feeling confident, I wonder?

And speaking of Congress, I wonder how long House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader will be licking their wounds, after president Trump agreed with #ChuckandNancy on that FEMA bankroll and a three month bump for the debt ceiling, instead of the 18 month deal the Rs were looking for, or even the six months they would have settled on.

Here's Jim Newell, writing on about the 'deal' Trump made (which included zero negotiation by the dealmaker in chief):
It is, to the letter, the request the Democrats had made and that Ryan and the leadership team had decried as an affront to God immediately after. Trump's move forces congressional Republicans to have to make multiple, painful debt ceiling votes ahead of the midterms and it preserves the Democrats' leverage in the December spending negotiations.
Was it because Trump can't stand a meeting that lasts more than a New York minute? Is it that he finally figured out he's going to need Dems to get anything accomplished, because the Republican leaders have shown they have no control over their own ranks? We may never know, but Trump thinks he made a deal and that's all that matters, I guess.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who has come to terms with the arm-twisting that got him to take a government job after he told us all he didn't want one, was also talking about Harvey, in his usual childlike manner.. In an interview with Rachel Martin on NPR's Morning Edition, Carson told us HUD had people on the ground in Texas, breaking through red tape and trying to help the tens of thousands of families who need help, and figuring out what properties are OK and which need rehab.

Martin asked about the red tape comment and wondered what was different this time compared to Katrina and Sandy and Rita. She asked him for specifics.
Specifically, we sent many agents out into the field with the specific charge of determining how things can be done as opposed to why they can't be done. If you're familiar with bureaucracies, you know that as soon as you come up with a good idea and you're ready to do something, someone says oh, you can't do that because of this. And, you know, I hate that. 
Wonder with me, if you will, what look Rachel Martin had on her face when she heard that answer?
I'm sure she has a fantastic poker face; anyone who does interviews must have one, unless they're a late show host, in which case all bets are off. But that's why they have follow up questions, right?
And so you believe that by putting your agents in the field to just come up with solutions - and then you can just green light them? I mean, there are some real obstacles. there are real reasons that...
Obviously (said Carson), you look at those things. But anybody who's familiar with government bureaucracy knows exactly what I'm talking about.  
Um, OK. Sure, the government moves as fast as molasses in winter, and we all know there are lots of barriers to getting good things done, but those barriers also serve to keep awful things from being done, too.  Especially in the midst of a disaster, where fraud is rampant and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a scam is only a flooded basement or fake charity away.

So where does all of this leave us, this Wednesday?

Let's recap: part of Texas and Louisiana are still under water, and another massive hurricane is threatening Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Parts of the northwest, usually rainy, are bone dry and on fire. Republicans control all three branches of the government and have literally no control over anything.

And the president? Is it any wonder he's left Washington, after the great day he had? Nah. He's off selling his tax plan, his own full basement, if you will, to the folks in North Dakota.