June 30, 2018

The One on Justice Kennedy's Resignation

The retirement of one of the Supremes, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is causing both glee and concern across the land. I mean, serious glee and even more serious concern.

On the glee side, of course, Mitch "Don't Pick on Me or I'll Sic My Wife on You" McConnell, the Senate majority leader and chief scaredy cat (won't bring legislation to the floor unless he knows Trump will sign it), the destroyer of the Senate rule requiring 60 votes on important stuff like Supreme Court nominees, has proclaimed that there will be a vote on Kennedy's replacement before the midterms and he has already declared that whoever the president picks will be confirmed, no matter what. He's already lining up his ducks, including Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the two most likely to deviate from the plan. John McCain is still at home, battling brain cancer, although my hope is that he makes it back to the floor to throw his honest-to-goodness American hero thumb down, way way down, on Trump at least one more time.

On the dismay side, things are much darker. Woe and hand-wringing abound. Chuck Schumer is speaking with a distinct lack of fire and brimstone about specific cases that will almost certainly be overturned should one of the conservative ideologues get approved by the Republican controlled Senate. Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and the right of unions to organize are on that list.

To me, fighting about the dangers of ideology by using ideology is going to fall on deaf ears, unless he's trying to sway Collins and Murkowski to not make it easy for McConnell and Trump. Those arguments will surely energize Trump, who's now spending as much time on the stump as he used to spend playing golf in Florida. But will it energize the Dems?  I don't think so.

What he should be doing is hitting hard - over and over and over (like David Gest talking about Liza Minnelli, I mean) about the fallacy of having the vote until the makeup of the next Congress is determined. Why?

There are four lame duck senators in McConnell's gang: Jeff Flake (AZ), Bob Corker (TN), Orrin Hatch (UT) and Thad Cochran (MS).  That's four people who should NOT be voting for the next Supreme, because the people need to speak, just like the people needed to speak in 2016 when, in March - not July, in March - President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland was stopped dead in its tracks. These four are are reason enough to wait until after the election to see who will be representing those states. If they're replaced by four Republicans, so be it - hold a hearing on whoever Trump nominates. But if any of them end up being replaced by Dems, the vote should NOT be held until the new Congress is seated in January.

Now is not the time for playing nice in the sandbox. All of the Dems need to be speaking at every single opportunity - on the floor, in committee meetings, in the hallways and cloakroom and in their dormitories - about this being the wrong thing to do. They need to get on the Sunday shows, knock on the doors of the press, volunteering to talk about this, and getting the word out whenever they can, however they can.  Newspaper editorials, billboards in their districts -- I don't care what they do, but they have to start now, and not stop. 

One thing the Dems simply cannot do - in public, at least - is play the blame game. You know, if so-and-so hadn't have done such-and-such, Hillary would have won and we wouldn't me in this mess right now.  All of that is water over the dam, under the bridge, and down the toilet as far as I'm concerned. 

Now is also NOT the time to be fretting about the past --now is the time to be laser-focused on the future, and on making the point that doing this right, and honoring the voice of the electorate after they make their choices in November  matters.

Because if it's not now, it's never.

June 27, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v138)

Wondering, wondering, wondering... about hypocrisy, tonight.

I wonder if the people who are outraged - outraged, I tell you! - about Sarah Sanders being asked to leave a Virginia restaurant were equally outraged when gays were refused services? It's funny, because some of the same people who think the latter is OK think the former is not. And suggesting that 'we' (meaning liberals, or Democrats) would be outraged if a gay person was denied services, when we all should be outraged when that happens, right? And not for nothing 'we' already did the outrage thing on this, resulting in marriage equality, among other things.

I also wonder about people who think protesting administration officials is 'discrimination' - what particular protected class might Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen represent?

And how about Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao rising to the occasion and defending her man, Kentucky's Republican obstructionist Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here -- and the article raises some interesting points, too, about how conservatives in particular reacted the incident. I can't help wondering if they get how bad they look?

Speaking of how bad they look, I wonder if the folks who think it's wrong for a business owner to refuse service to someone think it's OK when the president calls upon his followers to boycott American businesses? You know, when he gets mad at Amazon, or Nordstrom, or anyone else? Is it OK for him to do that in his official capacity, I wonder?

Thinking about the Supreme Court decision today that people can't be forced to pay fees to support non-political activities of unions, even if they directly benefit from those activities, made me think about another Supreme Court decision: the one about companies having deeply held beliefs.

Consider the argument about people working for companies like Hobby Lobby, which doesn't believe in providing certain types of contraception that are required benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  It's been said many times on my social  media pages and possibly yours as well, that a person doesn't have to take a job if the benefits aren't to their liking, and if you go to work for Hobby Lobby you know what you're getting, blah blah blah and you don't have to work there if you don't like it yadda yadda yadda. 

I wonder why a person who thinks it's OK for someone to be denied a benefit based on a company's belief thinks it's OK for person to get (for free) a benefit their coworkers pay for? How can both of these be OK?

I wonder about civility in the age of Trump. You know: talking about penis size during a presidential debate, and about the physical appearance of his female opponents, and of course the Access Hollywood tape, and promising to pay anyone arrested for assaulting protesters at his rallies, and all of that stuff and of course,lying about President Obama's birth certificate.

When the president says stuff (and by stuff I mean outright lies, abusive comments, insulting comments, derogatory comments, denigrating comments, racist comments, sexist comments, abject falsehoods and the like) it's OK, it's all rah rah and #MAGA and #AmericaFirst and the like, with not the slightest concern for civility or honesty or humanity, but when an FBI guy does a little reassuring pillow-texting with his paramour, all bets are off and he's nefarious and everything is deadly serious and he has to be lying about it being innocent? Why is that, I wonder? Why does nothing the president says or does matter, but everything everyone else says and does matters as if it were life and death?

And I'll stop after this one: why must the Mueller investigation end, I wonder, when it's been going on for not even 14 months and is producing results -- indictments and guilt pleas -- when the Benghazi investigations - 7 or 8 of them, I think? -  lasted years, cost millions, and resulted in nothing?

I wonder about all of this, I do. I could keep going, but I think you get the gist.  The outrage! Oh, the outrage!

No -- make it faux, the outrage.

About that, I don't have to wonder.

June 24, 2018

Sunday School 6/24/18

In the interest of my own sanity and yours, I only visited one classroom today - Face the Nation  on CBS.  How did I choose that one?

A complicated, random process that starts with "who hasn't really bothered me lately?" which leaves Chuck Todd out of the mix automatically. I then checked ABC to see if George Stephanopoulos was actually hosting his own show, and he was - but Senator Jeff Flake (Lame Duck -AZ) was on, and he's on Sunday more than your average televangelist, so that dropped George from the running.

Of the remaining shows, I used good old alphabetical order, which led me to Margaret Brennan and Bob Corker (R-TN), he of the 'cultish' comment about his fellow Republicans leading off the immigration discussion. First off, Brennan asked him if what was going on at the border amounted to human rights violations.
Well, Margaret, it obviously is not something that is realistic. It's not something that appreciates these young children, and certainly was done in a 'ready, fire, aim' way, obviously.  There was no preparation for it. I can't imagine any American's heart not going out to these families, knowing these children are being separated. And then where were they going? 
After appreciating the Trump administration for the executive order changing things, Corker noted
That's led to another crisis, if you will, because of the 20-day rule that exists. And so, you know, the administration obviously made a large mistake. I know that some in the White House want to use the immigration issue as a -- as a force to activate the base for elections, but obviously the president realized that was a mistake. And now it's up to us in Congress to work with the to come up with a longer-term solution.
Brennan asked him about legislation he supports, which she equated to indefinite detention at taxpayer expense. He noted that he wished the Senate could have passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, but
We keep trying to deal with these micro-issues, all of which are important, whether it's DACA or this issue. I realize that, before the election, that's very unlikely to occur, but we need to deal with the whole of the issue...we need to look at the whole thing. In the interim, between now and November, it's likely we will only deal with some of the micro-issues, and the issue just raised is a problem. So, we have go to deal with them. 
They talked about a poll showing that 73% of Rs think anyone crossing the border illegally should be dealt with harshly, and only 23% thinking they should be treated well; Corker thinks that's backwards.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) would most certainly be on 'treat them harshly' side of the equation, as evidenced by this one statement on the whole separation of families thing and House Republican efforts to fix things.
But mostly, what we want to do, Margaret, is the mandate from the 2016 election was real clear. The American people made Donald Trump president, made Republicans the majority in the House and the Senate to build the border security wall, stop chain migration, end the sanctuary city policy, reform our asylum laws, get rid of the visa lottery, and then also deal with the DACA population. 
If that wasn't clear, there was also this statement:
Senator Cruz has a bill. But Chuck Schumer says no, no, no, we're not going to bring is up, because the Democrats, really deep down, what they care about is catch and release. What they want is open borders and what they want is the political issue. They don't want to solve the problems. They don't want to keep families together and adjudicate this and have it go through the hearing process and do it in a way that's consistent with the rule of law. They don't want to do that. 
Womp, womp, as they say.

Finally, Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was next up. Brennan asked Cummings what the Dems stand for on immigration, given that Trump considers them purely resistant, obstructionist, being pro-criminal and pro-open-borders.
That we want to be humane. We want to make sure that these families are reunited after the president created this false crisis. And we want to get these families back together again. We want to get rid of this zero tolerance policy that has been announced by the president. And we want to make sure, as Sen. Corker says, that people are given an opportunity to pursue - and legally pursue an opportunity to be part of the United States of America. 
They talked about changes made by AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to remove gang and domestic violence as valid reasons for asylum, and about the old way of doing things, the 'catch and release' process. Cummings noted that a huge percentage of the folks released with an ankle bracelet did return for their hearing, and that process is more humane than what's been going on. And that it was cheaper, certainly - and that "we have no clue" what the current processes are costing.

Brennan then asked about civility, or the lack thereof, referencing the Sarah Sanders incident.
Over the weekend, Sarah Sanders... was refused service at a restaurant in Virginia because of who she works for. Her father, the former governor of Arkansas, also tweeted out a photo showing MS-13 gang members, or claiming that's who these men were, and called them Democrat Nancy Pelosi's campaign committee. Some heard that as racist. What do you make of this kind of discourse right now?
Cummings felt that Sanders should have been served,
But this tone is horrible. But again, I think president Trump has created this. Since he's become president, and even before, he's basically given people license to state things that are ugly, and those things then turn into actions, as we can see now. 
But we have got to get away from this, and we have got to concentrate on what is important at this moment. And we have got to get a -- he's got to be more competent. 
Even the policies that he likes, he has not been very good at executing. And so we have got to find a way to address that. 
That's a good place to leave things, don't you think?

See you around campus.

June 23, 2018

Grains of Salt (v36): JPW for... Whom?

Grains of Salt
Juanita Perez Williams, who lost to Independent Ben Walsh to be mayor of Syracuse, was a late entry into the NY-24 Congressional race to replace Republican John Katko.

Perez Williams (JPW) initially supported SU professor Dana Balter to represent the party, but then entered the race herself, with considerable outside support (and what she just described in a televised debate as something of a groundswell of support from local friends and strangers encouraging her run).

She and Balter have the same positions on just about every issue, so what distinguishes them for voters? Where Balter is building her campaign on her grassroot support as well as the support of all of the party folks in the district, and she's been working on this since last September, meeting voters and listening to them, and she had a ton of signatures,  JPW says she's the one who's most able to beat Katko in November, and our district has national attention and that can only help us. Plus, she's battle-tested.

I've been getting at least a couple mailings a week from her or from her supporting organizations for a while now. They all have the same tone - beating Trump, fighting Trump, supporting a woman's right to choose and Medicare for all - but I don't recall a single one really talking about our district. You know, us?  The people she's fighting to represent in Washington? I mean, shouldn't we be front and center, or at least in the lower left-hand corner? And are abortion and universal health care really the most important issues for us?

The latest campaign piece I received was actually paid for by her committee - Juanita for Congress - which lists a Syracuse street address and a local PO box for donations. Per her website, her priorities are:
  • Health care: quality, affordable care; guaranteed access to coverage for all; lower drug prices; protecting the ACA, no 'age tax' in premiums, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as full funding for Planned Parenthood and defending a woman's right to choose.
  • Education: full resources for public schools; technical apprenticeships as an alternative to college prep; no funneling tax dollars to private schools; advocating for teachers.
  • Jobs and wages: smart infrastructure investments; skills training to help diversify the economy and keep young people close to home; sensible tax policies; wage protections; innovation.
  • Environment: passing policies to ensure a vibrant planet for future generations; clean energy initiatives here in CNY to provide meaningful jobs.
However, per the fancy mailing (which speaks in the third person except for the one statement show in the picture below), here's what's important:

And here are the priorities for that mission, as described in the piece:
  • Taking Back Congress: Trump distracts/divides; Republicans in DC tried to take our healthcare, gave tax breaks to Wall Street, ended environmental protections. 
  • Protecting the Right to Choose: Trump & Washington Rs are waging a war on women;  protect the right to choose; full funding for PP; ending gender discrimination; harsh penalties for sexual harassment.
  • Fighting for Medicare for All: affordable healthcare is a right; universal health care is Medicare for All; stopping measures to repeal the ACA.
  • Keeping our Families Safe: gun violence must end; common sense gun reform including universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole; keeping assault weapons off the streets and out of schools. 
If you flip the campaign piece over, you'll find a list of her endorsements, none of which are local.  Here's a little about the organizations listed, which are shown at right:
  • VoteVets.org, a group with the mission of using public issue campaigns to give a voice to veterans on national security, veterans' care, and other issues affecting those who served and their families. Neither JPW mentions vets.
  • Latino Victory: this progressive group seeks to empower Latino voters, develop a pipeline of Latino donors, and develop Latino candidates. JPW does not appear in the list of candidates or any press releases from this organization.
  • Congressional Black Caucus PAC (CBCPAC): you can find her here, including reference to what she's fighting for. In addition to what's on her own website, we find equal pay for women and citizenship for Dreamers, plus overturning the Trump tax plan.
  • Red to Blue, an arm of the DCCC, which aims to turn Republican districts to Democratic districts by arming diverse 'top-tier' candidates with organizational and fundraising support. Here, JPW's bio includes her children, grandchildren, career, and charitable work.
  • RWDSU, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union, part of the UFCW.  The website for this organization is months out of date, listing candidates they had endorsed for 2017, nothing more current, and I don't find a local of this union anywhere near the 24th district.
  • Bold Action (BoldPAC), which says is the fastest growing Democratic PAC and is dedicated to increasing diversity in Congressional leadership. It champions progressive candidates. Here, her bio emphasizes her immigrant grandparents and her activist parents who worked with the farm workers movement.
My concern is this: which JPW would I be voting for on Tuesday?  

Grains of Salt (v35): Throwing Good Money After... Good?

Grains of Salt
Regular readers of veritable pastiche likely have seen that I'm not a huge fan of how governments, including Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse, make economic development deals.

You know the kind I'm talking about, right?  The ones where we give money to profitable companies who would have us think that, absent a taxpayer subsidy, they would be unable to move less than a mile to new office space, for example. The post I've linked has several other examples of how happy this stuff makes me.

So - knowing I'm a fan, you can only imagine my delight upon learning that we're now giving even more money to two city projects that have already tapped the taxpayer well. The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) voted unanimously to the increases

One of the projects is the State Tower Building renovation, which created 61 apartments and new office and retail space; the project was originally budgeted at $27.5M, but had overruns of $14.2M.  The Pioneer Companies, the project's developer, blamed water damage, asbestos caulk, and repairs to part of the building's iconic features as main contributors.

Across the city, costs on a project by BVSHSSF Syracuse LLC (an offshoot of the country's largest builder of luxury student housing) to build 244 student housing units rose from the initial $66.6M - a bad omen right there - to $71.5M, because they spent more on materials, furniture and the like than budgeted, and because the pesky Syracuse Fire Department made them bury their overhead power lines.

So - the State Tower Building project's exemptions went from $803,886 to $1.4M, and the alphabet soup LLC's exemptions were bumped up to $1.72M from $1.36M.

Rents at the State Tower building are not cheap. According to this preview,
Monthly rents range from $1350 - $1500 for the studio apartments, from $1450 to $2200 for the one-bedroom units, and from $2700 to $3200 for the two-bedroom units. In addition, there is a $100 monthly 'amenity fee' which provides wi-fi, cable TV and access to a roof terrace and fully-equipped fitness center.
For student housing units, rents run upwards of $900 per bedroom, with some projects getting prices similar to the State Tower apartments - per bedroom.

I get that we benefit from having our downtown buildings renovated, repurposed, and rejuvenated - I really do. But what are these projects 'creating' other than a profit for the developers at some point, assuming they manage them better than they managed the projects?  OK, that was a little harsh, I know, but you get the point, right?

Yes, we'll have more people downtown, and they'll spend money at the bars and restaurants and they'll have their groceries delivered from Wegmans, and they'll call their Lyfts and Ubers and all that. And we'll probably get some property tax dollars from these projects. But they're not creating any significant number of jobs for the long term, or opportunities for entrepreneurs. And sometime, maybe not all that far off, we'll reach the point where the benefits of center city vibrancy will be far outweighed by the poverty that's already pressing its nose up against the windows.

And up on the SU hill, where for decades there's been a cottage industry of renting to students - whether it's landlords buying properties and renting the entire house, or folks like my grandmother back in the day, who rented rooms in her house on Stratford Street to grad students, forming lifelong connections with many of them - progress for builders and developers is not necessarily progress for us all.

Hopefully, SIDA and economic development professionals will get to a place of comfort saying no to rewarding cost overruns, and with saying yes, differently, on development projects. We'll look at that last part in an upcoming post.

June 21, 2018

Grains of Salt (v34): One Corner at a Time

Grains of Salt
When My Sweet Baboo and I both worked in downtown Syracuse, we'd get to the center city in time for my 7AM start; I'd stick around until his 5PM end, and we'd meet at the car for the short ride home to The Valley.

We parked in two different lots back in the day - the Trolley Lot behind the Armory (before it was closed to put in a floatables collection station), and then the lot on the corner of Salina and Onondaga, across from the Hotel Syracuse, where we moved when the first lot closed.

The Trolley Lot reopened after three years or so of work, much nicer than it ever was before, but MSB continued to park at Salina/Onondaga until he retired a couple of years ago. Now, that lot is going to get an extreme makeover of its own, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Allyn Family Foundation, a local philanthropic organization.

Early last month, the AFF announced the formation of a new nonprofit organization, the Syracuse Urban Partnership, which will develop our old parking lot into a mixed-use building with apartments, space for philanthropic agencies to collaborate (the AFF will have offices there), and a 'food hall' similar to those we get to see in larger cities like Philly's Reading Terminal Market. The market is designed to help make it possible for folks to get into the restaurant business, such as the ones who have been featured at the With Love project.

The $22M project, which will break ground next year, also involved the City of Syracuse and CenterStateCEO, the local business development organization formed when the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Agency merged a few years back.

Why the plans to repurpose the lot?  Meg O'Connell, the AFF's executive director, explained it in this interview with WVRO. She noted that "the idea of a downtown public market has been floating around for years" but no single organization had taken the lead.
It came to a tipping point where the board of the Allyn Foundation said, we could do this. We could leverage the funds that we have and we could bring all the partners in together and create this great new entity in downtown Syracuse...
You've seen so much great vibrancy going downtown. But this corner, that is really the nexus for where you enter the southeast side of the city, as well as the southwest side of the city, is just kind of crying out for some development. The are clearly challenges with that site, but we really felt that was part of our commitment to downtown to do it specifically on that site.
The challenges O'Connell mentioned? The lot, a couple of blocks from Armory Square, is not far from the Rescue Mission complex, and right down the street from the troubled Clinton Plaza Apartments. A young man was murdered near the lot a few years ago; there have also been reports of drug dealing, solicitation and the like not only during the time the lot was the used solely by folks working on the Hotel Syracuse project, but since.

These challenges are not insurmountable - or, I should say, we cannot consider them to be insurmountable. If we did, there would be no development anywhere other than in the suburbs. And, back to O'Connell,
We have to recognize that the core of the city is important. People ask  "Why this investment in downtown?"  You can't be a suburb of nothing. 

June 20, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v137)

Well, here we are, a Wednesday again, and we're talking and wondering about immigration, and separation of parents and children, and lots of other things, too.

As you likely have heard, the president used that horrible power, the Executive Order, to attempt to end family separation, the ugly outcome of his administration's ill-thought-out zero tolerance policy of arresting and detaining everyone who tries to cross our southern border illegally, instead of giving them an appearance ticket and letting them go, with their children, to either appear as requested or to run and hide.

Why did the president blink, you wonder?  I'm pretty sure he was looking at the revolt within his own party and his base - heck, even his fixer, Michael Cohen, let him have it on this.
As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart-wrenching. While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips. 
The handwriting was on the wall, and the hand-wringing was going on behind closed doors, and on the Sunday shows, and there was that horrendous press conference in which the DHS secretary seemed blissfully unaware (or else she was 'Hucakbeed') of the position of the DOJ, the Chief of Staff and everyone else in the administration -- so I really think he had no choice except to blink, and use the Executive Order -- something he promised not to do - to do something he said was impossible, not up to him, and not his fault.  And now, everyone has to figure out how to get out the mess into which they got themselves. And that's a whole nother post entirely.

There was a bit of good news for the president, though -- he'll get to meet the Queen in July when he goes to London for a working visit (not a state visit) in July. In case you're wondering how that's going to be received, here's a sample from lawyer/commentator Peter Stefanovic:
In the last 3 days president Trump has backed the caging of children, talked of migrants 'infesting' the country, withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council, made repeated lies about crime in Germany and we are honoring him with a visit to Windsor Castle to meet the Queen.
Not so warm and fuzzy, right?  Well, maybe he'll get the adoration he seeks at a rally in Minnesota, who knows.

What else am I wondering about tonight?

Well, on the local front, the battle to see who will go up against Congressman John Katko is coming to a close, with our primary just around the corner. The candidate of the organized Dems is Dana Balter; the candidate of the national Dems is Juanita Perez Williams, notable around here primarily for her loss to Independent Ben Walsh in the race for mayor of Syracuse.

About this race, I wonder how on earth much money the national Dems and their supporting funders are going to invest in this race? I honestly think I get at least two mailings for JPW every 7-10 days.  And they're not convincing me of anything, to be honest - because I don't want Washington anyones picking my candidate, and I want my candidate to represent me, not the people who are pulling the strings.

And, Walsh's predecessor Stephanie Miner has declared her candidacy as an independent, to face either her one-time ally, NY's Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo or Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon on the Democratic ticket, and Dutchess County exec Marc Molinaro on the Republican line, in the race for governor of NY.

What is she thinking? That's something we're all wondering, to be honest. It's late in the game, Cuomo has tens of millions in his account and is moving further to the left with each passing day to counter Nixon, and Miner's tenure as mayor did not really work out as well as anyone had hoped. Her motivation, like Trump's with his about face on the family separation issue, may remain a mystery.

And finally, tonight, something that I've been wondering about for a couple of days now - has ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee ever reported from the Bridge formerly known as the Tappan Zee?

June 19, 2018

Space:The Economic Military Scientific Frontier

I confess I was almost certain My Sweet Baboo was kidding when he told me the president was going to create a sixth branch of the military.

Sadly, he was not. Monday, the president told us that he wants a Space Force (Force, not Farce, although...)

At a meeting with the National Space Council, after doing his usual "I Love Me" speech (economy great, numbers great, I'm great, womenblackhispanic employment great) and after hammering home his lies on immigration (including the Dems not cooperating because they aren't being invited to the discussion and their ideas aren't being considered) there was this:
You take a look at the death and destruction that's been caused by people coming into this country, without going through a process. We want a merit-based immigration so that Boeing and Lockheed and all of the people - Grumman - all of the people that are here today, the heads of every company, so that you can hire people on a merit-based -- you know they're coming in -- they're people that came on merit, not on a lottery, or not people that snuck across the border. And they could be murderers and thieves and so much else.
So yes, the president just promised business leaders in the aerospace and defense industries to just sit tight and they'd be able to not hire Americans and instead hire all the smart or meritoriously endowed immigrants, #MAGA #winning and all that jazz, but I digress.
And, you know, just a great group of other executives are here from the top companies. And it's patriots like you that are the reason why America was first in flight, first to the moon, and why America will always be first in space.
You know, before I got here, it wasn't looking so good. Before we came in, I will tell you, they didn't have such big plans for space. Now they have plans. And it's great not only in terms of jobs and everything else; it's great for the psyche of our country.
Which is taking a beating from every ally except Israel, and every trading partner bar none, and every religious demographic bar none, and a majority of reasonable people everywhere who think beyond their own pocketbooks, so yes, our psyche is bigly important. And then he babbled about 1776 economic statistics before getting back on track, or whatever.
I want to also say that when it comes to space, too often, for too many years, our dreams of exploration and discovery were really squandered by politics and bureaucracy, and we knocked that out. So important for our psyche (Where are you? Where is she? Our psyche?)
It's going to be important monetarily and militarily. But so important for right up here (pointing to his 'wherever' -- you know, where the blood comes out) - the psyche. We don't want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We've always led - we've gone way far afield for decades now, having to do with our subject today. We're going to be the leader by far. We're behind you a thousand percent. 
 Our "vital interest in space lost out" he told them to special interests -- "except, of course, for the senators and congressmen here," of course. But the times, they are a-changing.
My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest space-faring nation. The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers (like mail order steak, and for-profit education). But our destiny beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identify, but a matter of national security. So important for our military. So important. And people don't talk about it. 
No - not so much. But again, the times they are a-changing, bigly.
When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. So important.
Very importantly, I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to eemeediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth brand of the armed forces.  That's a big statement (like my hands, right? Like my hands?) So big.
 We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force - separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important. (dare I say bigly?) General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored, also. Where's General Dunford? General? (Bueller? Anyone?) Got it? 
And from a corner of the room, "(oh crap...) We got it!"
Let's go get it, General (loud bursts of orgiastic glee, described as 'applause' in the official transcript, can be heard in the room). But that's the importance that we give it. We're going to have the Space Force!
After that it got really boring, as he went back to doling out opportunity to those immigrant-hiring American patriots, as paraphrased below:
  •  we're going back to the moon, but it's about jobs and the economy, and establishing a long-term presence on the moon, and an eventual mission to Mars (it's not just about flags and footprints). Got it?
  • rich guys love their 'rockets' and can't wait to launch them and we'll be happy to give them the real estate to do that, they love their rockets, it's all good as long as the rocket is launched by a rich American, har har har.
  • there'll be timetables and they'll be aggressive and we'll charge cheap rent for you to use government facilities and let me tell you about the regulations, right? There'll be almost none, I tell you, because record regulation-cutting leads to record-setting profits. They can be really big when no regulations go uncut. 
  • we'll be in charge of space traffic management, but don't get too carried away with regulations, again, because (and I quote) "We have regulation. We have a lot of regulation. We have good regulation."
  • congested conditions in orbit?  Yeah, we're going to take care of that too.
And then he went back to lofty stuff, about the first astronauts who walked on the moon., and their fearless bounding and impossible doing.
This is a very important day. This is a very important gathering. A new generation of young people seeks to challenge -- really challenge hard - to get their talent and their skills to work (provided there'll be jobs left over after all those meritorious immigrants are hired). And now we're giving them a forum and a platform from which they can put that genius to work.
But fear not, American workers -- you'll be needed to weld things and work metal and build stuff - rockets and spaceships. And there was more, eve loftier stuff.
Once more, we will launch intrepid souls blazing through the sky (hopefully riding a rich man's rocket or something)  and soaring into the heavens.. And once more, we will proudly lead humanity - and that's what it is, humanity -- beyond the Earth and into those forbidden skies, but they will not be forbidden for long.. 
What you're doing has been incredible, but it will be even more incredible - far more incredible - because we are giving you a platform, the likes of which nobody has ever been given before. 
(then I saw her face and) I'm a big believer. 
You will go out there and you will take that frontier (move on it like a bitch and grab it by the asteroid, as it were) which is largely unknown by man or woman, and you will learn everything there is to know about it. And what you're doing is so important - remember - economically, militarily, scientifically.  In every way, there is no place like space.
There is no place like space... 

There is no place like space...

There is no place like space... 

June 17, 2018

Sunday School 6/17/18

Since it's Father's Day, I spent time in the classrooms where there was discussion on the issue of separating kids from their parents at the border. I managed to sit in on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week, where we'll start with white nationalist and former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Jonathan Karl was in the host's chair today, and asked Bannon how, amidst all the criticism from both the left and the right, the separation policy can be justified.
I don't think you have to justify it. We have a crisis on the southern border. But the elites in this city - and this ties into Korea, ties into everything that took place this week - the elites, the permanent political class in this city want to manage situations to, you know, to bad outcomes.  And Donald Trump is not going to do that. He's just not going to kick the can down the road...
We ran on a policy, very simply, stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration, get our sovereignty back, and to help our workers, OK? And so he went to a zero tolerance policy...
Bannon went on to make a completely misguided point about some other immigrants, completely unrelated to the issue at hand.
And by the way, I don't see the mainstream media, and I don't see the liberal left embracing the Angel Moms, those people that were permanently separate from their children because of illegal aliens that came over here and committed crimes and killed people. 
You know, the way the Republicans do. After attacking the pope, Catholics in general (he is one, he said) and saying that no way should DACA recipients ever get citizenship, he chiefly offered his immigration strategy.
I strongly recommend that we just wait until 2019, right, to address this, because I think we're going to have a big November... I would definitely shut down the government over the wall, absolutely... So yes, I would say on - in September, if they have not allocated money for the wall, let's shut down the government, and by the way on November 6, let the voters decide.
 Had enough?  Well, maybe not so fast.

Let's take a listen as Kellyanne Conway chats with Chuck Todd on MTP. Todd asked if the president was ready to pick up the phone and stop the separations,which Lindsey Graham said he could do.
The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board. And Chuck, let me tell just tell you, nobody likes seeing babies ripped from their mothers' arms, from their mother's wombs, frankly. But we have to make sure that DHS's laws are understood through the soundbite culture that we live in...
Like Bannon, she made an invalid connection, in her case to say that prior administrations have also struggled with this.
Secretary of DHS under President Obama told the New York Times this weekend that this was the bane of his existence for three years. He was describing the fact that they had to detain families in these large facilities for very long periods of time. Why? Because in the summer of 2014 we saw the surge, particularly from Central America, tens of thousands, if not more, unaccompanied minors coming to the border and trying to gain entry.
Which begs the question, if they were unaccompanied minors, from whose arms were they being ripped?  Anyway - she went on to echo the administration's argument, that we're treating these illegals the same way we treat citizens who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail (after arraignment, a bail hearing, a trial, a determination of guilt, and sentencing).  

And then she blamed the Democrats for not having ESP.
Chuck, I don't remember a single Democrat, I could be mistaken, maybe one murmured it, but in the one hour meeting back in January in the cabinet room where the president invited senators and congressmen from the Republican and Democratic parties to the cabinet room... Did the issue come up? The Democrats only want to talk about DACA, the Dreamers. Why weren't they talking about this?
To his credit Todd pointed out that the separation policy was issued in April, which on most calendars is after January.
What they should have said is, "Look, we had a surge over the border in 2014, Mr. president, under President Obama, and it shocked everyone, and we simply didn't have the capacity. We want to avoid that in the future and work with you." 
And, she added,
...if the Democrats are serious, and if a lot of Republicans are serious, they'll come together. The won't just talk about this week, 'the Dreamers,' or just 'the wall,' or just 'catch and release.' It's all of the above.
And insisting on that, of course, is what's been preventing comprehensive immigration reform for decades. 

Finally we hear from Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins, whose interview was aired on CBS' Face the Nation. Her conversation with Margaret Brennan included her disagreement with the separation policy.
I do not (agree with it). Senator Jeff Flake and I have written tot he administration to ask for more information about the policy, but we already know two things. First, from the experience of previous administrations it does not act as a deterrent to use children in this fashion. And second, and much more important, it is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents unless there's evidence of abuse or another very good reason.
Collins is not a softy on immigration - not at all. She called out the administration for saying they would not separate children from their asylum-seeking parents, but that is what's happening. As she pointed out,
What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try and send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you. That's traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims and it's contrary to our values in this country.
That's not to say we shouldn't act to try to curb illegal immigration. We should, and I support the president's proposals for border security. We do need to strengthen our security at the border. We need to work with those countries in Central American from which these families are coming to end the gang violence that is encouraging them to leave. And in some cases we need to repatriate the whole family back to the home country. 
But we know from years of experience that we need to fix our immigration laws and that using children is not the answer. 
We'll leave it there for this week. See you around campus. 

June 15, 2018

TGIF 6/15/18

Thank freaking goodness it's Friday!  Have you had enough of this week yet? I sure have - let me count the ways.

First, we had the painful G7 meeting in Canada, in which, we're told, president Trump said that he could send 25 million Mexicans to Japan and Prime Minister Abe would be out of office in no time; that all the terrorists are in Paris, and of course, all the nonsense about Canada, and attacking our other allies, and suggesting that Russia get back in, and that Obama is to blame for, well, pretty much everything.

Net neutrality officially ended, leaving it open for service providers to slow down traffic for people who don't want to pay more for faster moving bits and bytes; block or otherwise demote content from competitors, and so on -- all things the Trump administration argued were ridiculous and would not hurt consumers because they probably wouldn't even happen so we need to just let net neutrality die.

Then we had the highfalutin' rootin-tootin' holy salutin' summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, of whom the president said, he's a great negotiator. Coming from the Artist of The Deal, them's some pretty strong words of praise. And it must be true, because it doesn't appear Kim gave up anything in return for a lifetime of handshakes  - and that salute - and a movie trailer. Don't forget the movie trailer. Now, the fact that North Korea has previously promised some level of the 'denuke' process that Trump says we will get. And there was that whole war games comment. All I could think of was Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and that computer...

We had the pro-net neutrality administration all up in arms when a federal judge decided that an AT&T-Time Warner merger was just fine (even with Fake News CNN in the mix) and it wouldn't hurt consumers in the least, honest.

We've got all those kids in detention along the border, because the Bible tells us it's OK or something like that. Or maybe it's because it's the Democrats' fault, not the Bible's. The story changes so many times in a day or two, it's hard to keep track. But as long as we fully fund the border wall that Mexico's going to pay for, it's all good.

And the IG report - the one that proves that there was "no collusion" even though the report had nothing whatsoever to do with determining whether or not there was collusion? Yeah, that happened too.

Finally, I think every single media outlet said something along the lines of 'Trump said numerous things that were misleading' or 'not totally accurate'  or 'maybe incomplete', with only people on Twitter calling out the lies - repeated lies - about North Korea, kids ripped out of the arms of their parents, and the IG report, among other topics.

And only people on Twitter were calling out the media's complicity in allowing Trump to lie with impunity each and every day. Today was just like the first 500 or so days of this administration, after all.

I don't know about you, but I could really use a drink. Or, whatever it is that Rudy Giuliani's having.


June 13, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v136)

Well, well, well, another Wednesday has appeared as if by magic on the calendar. 

What do we have to think about tonight? We've got your DoTruKiJoNoKo summit,which surely dropped a whole lot of wondering in my lap, I have to say.

There was the "Baby, you can spy my car" part, where Trump and Kim wandered out to take a look at Trump's limousine, then turned around and wandered back inside. My first thought was that Trump wanted to prove his 'car' was bigger than Kim's, but then I started wondering how long it would take for Trump to start having the Secret Service run alongside Cadillac One the way Kim's security folks trot alongside his car. I mean, after all, we might be getting a $30M parade just because Trump was in France on Bastille Day...

And of course that was the somewhat weird comment about how fast Kim would start de-nuking.  Here's what Trump told Sean Hannity, his personal talking head:
I just think that we are now going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea. I believe that he's going back and will start it virtually immediately. And he's already indicated that.
So -- I wonder, are we only going to get 'virtual' denuclearization, or will we get the real thing?

And if  denuclearization is going to happen, and once they get a little bit into the process, they won't be able to stop, and we're going to have lots of people around to verify that it's really happening, I wonder (again) why Trump just had us walk away from the Iran deal, which we had been verifying all along?

And what about that whole 'war games' thing? Stopping our joint training exercises with South Korea because they're provocative - and even worse, they're EXPENSIVE! We can save A LOT OF MONEY if we stop training our military, for sure we can. Just ask the Navy, who lost 17 sailors in preventable ship accidents in 2017 alone.
The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation.
And, I have to wonder, how much could we cut out of the hundreds of billions in additional military spending Trump got in his budget, if we just stopped our war games and practicing and other not fighting all over the world? It's got to be tens of billions of dollars, right?  And we could devote that money to the Wall that Mexico's building for us, right? It's a #winning-#winning situation right there!

And finally, there was The Movie.
Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity...  A new story. A new beginning. One of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny.
It's got all the kitsch, all the imagery, all the shots of Ego 1 and Ego 2, giant flags and giant pyramids... I mean, the anti-fake news administration pulled out all the stops for their fake movie trailer. No irony there, right?

In the end, could this summit have been anything other than an episode of the Celebrity Apprentice, I wonder?  Dennis Rodman crying in an interview; Trump showing off the toys, all kinds of over the top 'deals' and 'feels' and 'touches' and surprises... the only thing missing was Omarosa. 

Oh darn, she's already been fired.

June 11, 2018

Quick Takes (v26): Drone Wins and Losses

Quick Takes
Have you heard of the NUAIR Alliance?  If you pay attention to progress being made on drones in upstate and Central New York, you might be familiar with it. Here's what the Alliance is all about, from their website:
The NUAIR Alliance is a New York based not-for-profit coalition of more than 200 private and public entities and academic institutions working together to operate and oversee Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing in New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Headquartered in Syracuse NY, NUAIR supports the NY UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, one of just seven FAA-designated UAS test sights in the United States. We are at the forefront of public policy development, commercialization, and integration of UAS technology.
Rome is a key site in the drone world, as we learn from this article in the Rome Sentinel last fall.
Griffiss, with high-definition air traffic surveillance, state-of-the art data collection and analysis capabilities, is the foundation for testing and certification of drone detect-and-avoid systems to meet future FAA standards and support the safe integration of commercial drones into US airspace. 
It's also home to two projects that are important locally and nationally: U-SAFE, to "further catalyze and expand the economic opportunities being created" by the UAS industry, and NUSTAR, which "will offer independent performance and safety benchmarking testing for drones and drone related products."  Both should help bring more drone activity to the area.

So, too, will the 'drone corridor' which will eventually stretch 50 miles or so from Rome to Syracuse, the partnership with NASA, and the investment of millions of dollars by the state. As our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo noted in September,
The development of the drone corridor is expected to unlock a trillion-dollar global industry and attract businesses, development and new drone technology to the state, specifically in Central New York. Dividends are already paying off, as regionally-based SRC Inc. plans to initially hire 50 engineers following its announcement of a $65M contract with the US Army to develop a system to detect and defeat small drones. Additionally, the company plans to add up to 1000 new hires over the next five years thanks in large part to the state's investment in the UAS industry which is working to create an ecosystem that will attract companies to CNY. 
Sheesh -- with all of that energy and investment from educational institutions, businesses, and both the state and federal government, you would think that our area would have been a perfect spot to test package delivery drones with Amazon, right?


Maybe it's because it's the feds, and we all know how much the president can't stand Amazon, or maybe it was just bad luck, or maybe it was a poor proposal, but we were passed over by the US Department of Transportation to be one of 10 national test sites for drone technology. Amazon had teamed up with NYS and NUAIR on the proposal, but in a decision called "highly confounding" by John Katko, who represents Syracuse in Congress,
... federal official instead selected 10 other locations as test sites for a program launched by president Donald Trump last year to speed the safe integration of drones into the national airspace. The ten projects approved by Trump's administration include other high-profile technology companies - such as Google parent Alphabet and Uber - that will team up in public-private partnerships. 
Katko said he'll try and get to the bottom of it, and of course there's always a chance we'll get picked if there's a next time. Or if we partner with someone other than Amazon, maybe?

We do have some good news on drones, though.

The Syracuse Fire Department will use drones, when it's appropriate, to help with firefighting efforts. Potential uses could be identifying hot spots in fires, or fighting fires in large commercial buildings where it's hard to get a good view of where issues are.

And, Beak and Skiff, the apple people, are the first in the world to pollinate apple trees using drones; they tested the technology on a small section of their 300 acres, with help from Dropcopter, a local start up company.  The firm had previously used their technology on cherry and almond trees, but never before on apple trees.  The company's co-founder, Adam Fine, sees a lot of potential for drones in agriculture.
We know that agriculture is one of the most significant points of entry for the commercial use of drones, and it holds the most opportunity to impact the industry and economy.
If you ask me, there's a whole lot more potential with this than there is with delivering packages to my porch - and probably much more benefit as well. It will be fun to see how things turn out.

June 10, 2018

Sunday School 6/10/18

Oh dear - the classrooms were quite boisterous today!  There was a whole lot of posturing going on, and name calling, and tit-for-tatting and all that kind of stuff.  Let's take a look, shall we?

There were two Trumpeters making the rounds today: Peter Navarro, who's the president's trade advisor, and Larry Kudlow, the director of Trump's National Economic Council.

Navarro was the more over the top of the two, speaking with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday about that backstabbing, traitorous blankety-blank we used to call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Wallace led into Navarro's tirade by mentioning Trudeau's statements about going ahead with promised retaliatory tariffs, which are to take effect on July 1st. Trump responded as he usually does (my words, not Wallace's) by calling his opponent names - 'weak' and 'meek and mild' and 'very dishonest'.  And Wallace asked if that was really how we wanted to deal with our 2nd largest trading partner. I recommend fastening your seat belts for the response.
Chris there's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with president Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door. And that's what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That's what Weak, Dishonest Justin Trudeau did. And that comes right from Air Force One. 
Well, except Navarro admitted those were his special place in hell words, not Trump's.
And I'll tell you this, to my friends in Canada, that was one of the worst political miscalculations of a Canadian leader in modern Canadian history. All Justin Trudeau had to do was take the win... Trump did the courtesy to Justin Trudeau to travel up to Quebec for that summit. He had other things, bigger things on his plate in Singapore... He did him a favor and he was even willing to sign that socialist communique. And what did Trudeau do -- as soon as the plane took off from Canadian airspace, Trudeau stuck our president in the back. That will not stand. 
Whoa.  The United States participating in a G7 summit is a 'courtesy'? What did he have on his plate that is more important than representing our country at a meeting of our closest allies? I mean, it might have been a courtesy if Melania had attended, but I'm not sure at what point the president of the US doing his job should be considered a courtesy, especially since he has nothing else on his plate, by his own admission.

But wait - there's more!
And as far as this retaliation goes, the American press needs to do a much better job of what the Canadians are getting ready to do because it's nothing short of an attack on our political system and it's nothing short of Canada trying to raise it's high protectionist barriers even higher on things like maple syrup and other goods.
Well, cheese and crackers, not maple syrup!!!  I don't know where Navarro's been lately, but Canada retaliating against the US in a trade war is not an attack on our political system. That's actually what Russia did, but you know, these pesky details are hard to remember, if you've been living under a rock.

Navarro went on to bash Canada for NAFTA, saying we'd have a great deal on that existing deal, if only the Canadians would deal with Trump instead of trying to deal with Congress, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda.
They are just simply not playing fair. Dishonest. Weak.
 Navarro was reminded of his earlier statement that no one would retaliate against our new tariffs, with Wallace pointing out Canada's $13B, and the EU's $3B in tariffs since our announcement. In response, Navarro talked about Germany, where we says we have a $151B annual trade deficit, and not only that - not only that, but
Germany has tariffs on autos four time higher than our tariffs on the equivalent German imports here and they sell us three times as many cars as we sell them.
Because we like German engineering almost as much as the Germans do, maybe?
So on the issues alone, we have allies strategically. But when it comes to these trade disputes, these allies basically are robbing us blind. The president is not going to put up with that.  
Nope -he's going to tweet about it, and send minions out to yell at our allies.

Kudlow, for his part, didn't declare a final resting place for Trudeau; in fact, he made it a point to talk about how directly involved he was with the Prime Minister, as if tooting his own horn would make everything right with the world. Here are some of the high points of his conversation on Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan.

Regarding why the president called Trudeau weak and dishonest:
Well, to be honest with you, Prime Minister Trudeau - by the way, I respect. I have worked with him in good faith, getting through a good communique on Friday and Saturday. So, he holds a press conference. The president is barely out of there on a plane to North Korea, and he starts insulting us. You know, he starts talking about US is insulting Canada. We are not -- we, Canada, are not going to be pushed around. 
Brennan noted that Trudeau was talking about the trade tariffs.
That's correct, and in general, OK, it was an attack on the president. "We're going to have retaliatory tariffs." Now, these are things that the prime minister said before, basically, but he didn't say them after a successful G7 communique, where president Trump and the others all worked in good faith to put a statement together, which, by the way, almost nobody expected to happen. In fact, reporters were asking me before the trip whether the president was going to show up at all. He did. He negotiated. He directed his team, myself and others. We worked it out. We used good language that was acceptable. 
At which point Brennan noted
And the the president reneged on that G7 statement.
No, No, I'm sorry.  And then Trudeau decided to attack the president. That is the key point. And yes, you know, if you attack this president, he is going to fight back.  But here is the key point, Margaret. The president is going to negotiate with Kim of North Korea in Singapore. It is a historic negotiation. And there is no way this president is not going to stand strong, number one. He is not going to allow other people to suddenly take potshots at him hours before that summit. And number two, Trudeau should have known better.
On and on it went, and it went on and on on CNN's State of the Union as well.  Let's pick up when Tapper reminds Kudrow that Trump is known for this kind of thing.
JT: But president Trump does that all the time, though, doesn't he?
LK: No, he doesn't.
JT: He doesn't say things for domestic consumption? 
LK: No, the point is, if you are going through a treaty process, a communique, and you have good faith... And those leaders were together. I mean, I was right smack in the middle of it on Friday night and Saturday morning. You don't walk away and start firing bullets. Now, look
JT: I can't believe that an adviser to president Trump is saying that - because president Trump does that all the time.  He does things for - for domestic consumption.
LK: Jake, not in -- not after you pull a treaty or a deal together...
 JT: Why walk away from it just because of something Justin Trudeau said for domestic consumption.
LK: No, not something. Look you -- yes, for domestic political consumption. But it was a global statement. The whole world listened to what he said. Look, you're reporting it here in Washington, as you must.  
 JT: Sure.
LK: I get that. You just don't behave that way, OK? It is a betrayal, OK? He is essentially double-crossing -- not just double-crossing president Trump, but the other members of the G7, who were working together and pulling together this communique. You know, you never get everything you want. There are compromises along the way; president Trump played that process in good faith. 
So I ask you, he gets up in the airplane and leaves. And then Trudeau starts bashing him in a domestic news conference? I'm sorry, that is a betrayal. That is a double-cross. It pains me, because I like Trudeau. I was working with him. We were together putting words on paper.... 
It pains me to keep going, to keep paying attention. It pains me that none of them realize, or admit, that if the president hadn't acted like a two-year old and resorted to name-calling, no one would be paying any attention to the fact that the Canadian Prime Minister reiterated comments he had made previously to everyone, including government officials, media outlets from both countries, and to Kudrow himself. 

It pains me that the president of the United States is a big crybaby, a big bully...  I can go on, but that pains me too.

See you around campus. 

June 9, 2018

Grains of Salt (v33): Quietly, A Budget Passes

Grains of Salt
It's almost sad that I'm still catching up on things that happened at home when we were on vacation last month, but it's true.

One of those things that almost slipped by was the passage of the Syracuse city budget, unanimously and with no changes, by the Common Council.

This is in stark contrast to what has happened in the recent past; former Mayor Stephanie Miner's last budget, for example, saw the Council reallocate funding for the Greater Syracuse Land Bank (GSLB) to fund Syracuse Police Department recruits. The mayor's veto of the changes was overridden by the Council - which had a Democratic majority; the mayor was of their own party when all of this happened.

Ben Walsh, our new and improved mayor, ran as an independent, with strong support from Democrats, and as a collaborative executive willing to work with any willing partners to try and make things better for our city. According to council members, they were brought into the budget process early on, had meetings with the mayor's team, got answers to their questions, and helped craft the budget.  The goal of all of that?  I'll let the Mayor explain:
Our goal when we started this budget process was to make sure there were no surprises in the budget when it reached the councilor members' mailboxes, and I think we achieved that. 
Not only did he invite councilors to participate, he made a budget presentation to them, in person, instead of sending minions to do it for him. That kind of respect and cooperation between City Hall and the chief executive is what we'll need to solve our difficult challenges - something Walsh is not afraid of tackling.

His budget freezes salary increases and non-essential hiring; it also funds new firefighter and police recruits, and restores the GSLB funding, all of which make me happy. We will need to take another $11M from city reserves, and the school district budget, also approved, will tap Syracuse City School District reserves for $14M.

And, also important for us, a plan to have the state's Financial Restructuring Board review spending and operations and provide some non-binding recommendations for city leaders to review and act upon. If we do, there's state money to help implement the changes. I'm hopeful this review, coupled with the efforts of Walsh's Fiscal Summit Advisory Committee (a report is due in time for next year's budget planning), will identify what we can do to right our financial ship and keep the city moving forward.

This non-confrontational budget process is a really good start.

June 6, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v135)

Here's what's spilling out of the wondering taps tonight.

I can't imagine if anyone's actually wondering whether the mass of suit-wearing white folks who attended the celebration at the White House yesterday were actually Philadelphia Eagles fans. Because, of course, they were not.  They were staffers, interns, and other people who, hopefully, were given God Bless America lyrics in advance.

Anyone else wondering who will be the next celebrity to visit the White House asking for a pardon or sentence commutation for someone?  Sly Stallone was successful in getting the president's attention to the case of Jack Johnson -  and Kim Kardashian somehow struck a chord with her plea for Alice Johnson, and of course the president himself has talked about maybe pardoning Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich, so those two might not need a celebrity endorsement. In fact, Blago has filed his clemency papers. But for any number of others, it might just take a B, C, or D-lister to help. 

 Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is holding meetings about school safety and the culture of violence, but those discussions will not include conversations about guns, it seems. Violent video games, violent movies, violent TV shows are all probably in, if we're looking at the whole violent culture thing, but I wonder if her group will be looking at people like Kris Kobach, who rode into Swanee, Kansas on a red, white and blue Jeep with a replica of a machine gun on the back, much to the dismay of may in attendance. As an apparent proud promoter of the culture of violence, Kobach noted that
The outrage over the replica gun on the back of a patriotic jeep is the left trying to attack guns and your #2a rights. I will not back down in the face of a snowflake meltdown and outrage culture.
She also is not, per se, going to be looking at other countries with heavy social media use and lots of video games that don't have school shootings at the same level of ours to see what she can learn.  I wonder why not?

And, I wonder, did anyone know the swamp tastes like chicken?

June 5, 2018

Quick Takes (v25): A New Scarlet Letter?

Another day, and more reports of Americans being harassed by patriotic fellow citizens, or by law enforcement officers, for being black or for looking or sounding less than American.

I could try and recap some of these incidents for you, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to let Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tell you.
It’s hardly news that people of color are continually harassed, but what’s been making the news lately is the frequency with which upwardly mobile, middle-class people of color are being targeted. From the two black men waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks, to a black Yale graduate student napping in her dorm’s common room, to three black women facing down seven cop cars and a helicopter as they checked out out of an Airbnb house they were renting, the victims’ faces on the news are not just the hoodied street thugs that white America expects and can then dismiss. 
Here's another recent example, again involving a law enforcement officer, except this time the people of color are two women of Hispanic heritage buying groceries. One was born in Texas, the other is from California.

Two American citizens were at a convenience store in Havre, a town in northern Montana. They were speaking Spanish - the horror! - and were overheard by a Border Patrol agent. Speaking Spanish was enough of a scary thing that he decided he needed to determine whether they were legally in the United States because You can check out the local news story, and a video of the officer explaining he reasoning, here.

You hear the agent deny racial profiling; it's just that in Montana you don't get a lot of people wandering around speaking Spanish, that's all. And you can say he was just doing his job, I suppose.

But would he have asked my and my husband for our ID if we were in the convenience store buying eggs and milk at midnight, chatting in English? Of course not. And probably not if we were speaking any other of the predominantly white European languages. At least, he didn't say he would; it would have made for an interesting clarification, I think.

Here's another example, this time from right here in Syracuse. Border Patrol agents randomly questioned people on an Amtrak train if they were citizens. I say randomly because, according to a person of color who was questioned, the white people were randomly excluded from questioning. And I have no reason to doubt that account, because it's similar to so many others.

Why would the Border Patrol be questioning people on a train in Syracuse?  Well, we snuck into the 100-miles-of-a-border range, by a mere three miles. Actually, that's the 'how' not the why, right? How they're able to do this is because we're 97 miles away from the Canadian Border. Why they were doing it, well, that's another question, I think.

Is speaking (or maybe just looking) Spanish really enough of a reason to ask someone for their papers? Is being black enough of a reason to call the police on someone? Apparently, in our presidentially-enhanced, hyper-racial, hyper-patriotic, hyper-MAGA society, the answer is yes.

We once had the fictional scarlet letter, signifying an adulterous relationship. Now, it seems, we have a have a letter of a different color - any color (other than white, of course) for American people of color to wear. 

June 3, 2018

Sunday School 6/3/2018

I wandered around the Sunday School classrooms with mixed results today. My mission was to try and get a sense of how each of them were covering the 'she said, she said' of Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee, and I have to say, things were not entirely as I thought.

Where to start? Well, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos didn't mention either Barr or Bee, which is interesting given that ABC was the network which fired Barr for her racist comment. 

It was a little different on Fox New Sunday with Chris Wallace, who talked about the vastly different treatment of the comments with his panel. Brit Hume noted that the c-word is right up there with the n-word, "the ugliest words in contemporary parlance" he said. And Hume noted
So, I think the two remarks were basically on par and what's not on par was the disparate treatment by ABC News towards Barr and by TBS toward Samantha Bee. Vast difference and it's pretty hard to argue therefore there's not a double standard.
Juan Williams, who is familiar himself with words, and consequences, disagrees about a double standard.
...when you think about what Roseanne Barr had to say in terms of calling Valerie Jarrett an ape - a black woman - this is something that's very deep and speaks to race in our culture. Dehumanizing people, it speaks to oppression, slavery - I can go on.
Brit Hume asked if calling someone the c-word wasn't dehumanizing.  Williams agreed, but
I think that calling -- two white women having an argument over immigration policy and separating children from parents and the like is, as I was going to say, vulgar and rank and unnecessary. It does not speak to the idea of tearing apart the social fabric around the most central and difficult issue in America, race. And that's what Roseanne Barr did not only in this instance, she had done previously with regard to Susan Rice, another Obama official, and I think --
Wallace interrupted, noting
Well, Samantha Bee has sad all manner of horrible things about all manner of women, yes, white, who were working in the Trump White House.
Williams was not having it.
I'm telling you, one of these items speaks to tearing at the social fabric in a way that can't be undone and puts us all in great danger. And therefore, it's not about team sports in terms of, oh, I'm a Trump supporter and I'm there to support Roseanne Barr, or I'm an Obama supporter, and therefore, you know, support Samantha Bee 
That's really juvenile compared to the seriousness of what's taking place. You think about the NFL players, you think about Charlottesville. I could go on. You understand that they are playing -- separating us as a society. 
On CNN's State of the Union, Dana Bash discussed the issue in the larger context of 'culture wars; and politics.  Linda Chavez, who worked in the Reagan administration, took a shot at liberals.
But I have to tell you, liberals walk right into the trap when they have a Samantha Bee out there not just using the most vile, vulgar word to describe a woman but going after her in such a personal way, going after her relationship with her father. Look, I have not a whole lot of use for Ivanka Trump, I don't think she should be in the White House. But you don't go after somebody in that kind of really nasty vile way, in a way that frankly the word and the fact that it was scripted and, you know, essentially she may have read it from a teleprompter says a world about liberals and their values.
In response, Karine Jean-Pierre, from Moveon.org, mentioned the president as a key figure in the culture war.
But here is the problem. You have the president himself who has used that word. It's been reported that he used the c-word to describe Sally Yates. Here's the thing. It is - it is really bizarre and wild that the president makes himself a victim and - he and his administration makes him a victim when he is the bully in chief. He used the bully pulpit to attack...racism was here before Donald Trump and sadly it will be here after Donald Trump. So that is a fact. But he has -- what he has done is he has normalized, he has given license to people to make it OK... And that is the problem we're in with this culture war, because it's coming from the White House.
On Face the Nation, CBS's Margaret Brennan had the discussion with her group as well. The gist of it there? The new expectation that a business will deal with things like this, whether it's boycotts or firing or accepting an apology - it all comes down to a business decision. The talking heads did note that conservatives who were just up on arms about the White House Correspondents Dinner and how the Trump gang was hammered were too busy calling for an apology to make any comment about what Roseanne had said.

Finally, on Meet the Press, again the round table group talked about the culture wars, and whether there's a double standard.

Katy Tur, a Trump target during the campaign, thought that while we were talking about Samantha Bee "using a word she shouldn't have used" we weren't paying attention to the story she was talking about -- the administration's policy of separating families at the border. Peggy Noonan reminded Tur that what Bee said was an obscene personal attack, and perhaps she wasn't as serious about the border issue, if she herself obscured it by her choice of words.

Joshua Johnson was more worried about something else.
I am more concerned about the fact that the same culture current that gave Roseanne Barr cover to tweet this and Samantha Bee cover to broadcast this is is the one that gave Stephen Colbert the cover to say that the only thing Donald Trump's mouth was good for was being Vladimir Putin's you-know-what holster. I mean, it's the exact same current that the Russians exploited to influence the 2016 election. It's out hate. It's our misgiving. It's our fear. The fault is not in our TV stars but in ourselves. And that's where the problem is. We have the power to change this...
And that's where we'll leave it for this week. 

See you around campus.