July 16, 2019

Trump in Transition (v41): Transition Complete

The president continues to try and convince us he's not a racist. "Not a racist bone in his body" we're told, even though his comments over recent years could inspire a person like me to think otherwise.

What's a person like me? Someone who was born here, someone who votes in every election, someone who tries to pay attention to what's going on locally, at the state level, and in Washington DC. Someone who understands that she has a right to complain about the state of things in this country - a guaranteed right to do exactly that, in fact. Someone who is proud of her country, even as it frustrates her.

Three of the president's four most recent targets were born here - they originally were from America, just like I am. The fourth came here as a child refugee, and has been a citizen longer than the First Lady.  All four of them are duly elected representatives of the districts they live in, whether the rest of us like it or not. They are entitled to their policies, their opinions, and they have the absolute right to express them, just like I do. And just like the president does. (I said the women are his most recent targets; the of them is long, I can assure you; here's one example if you need refreshing.)

But let us, for a moment, take a stroll down memory lane, to a time in the not-so-distant past, when the words you see below were considered to be beyond the pale, so far beyond the pale that they helped cost Clinton the election.
We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,000 people - now have 11,000,000. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks - they are irredeemable but thankfully they are not America.
Almost three years after Hillary Clinton's comments were leaked, where do things stand?
  • Trump continues to act deplorably, to the delight of his deplorable supporters. I will repeat, "just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters"  - not all of them - into that bucket. They are the vocal segment of his people, the ones who repeat and expand upon and embellish his hateful comments like the ones he made the other day. 
  • Not only do his deplorable supporters expand upon those remarks, Trump himself expands upon them. For example, when asked if it concerns him "that many people saw that tweet at racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point" Trump answered "It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me." There was more expansion and escalation, but that one comment pretty much sums things up.
In an opinion piece in The Week last October,  in the aftermath of the bombing at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the pipe bomb mailings, Damon Linker addressed some of this, saying in part
Every president is elected by a distinct electoral coalition, and the coalition that elected Trump included an unusually large number of people with virulently illiberal, extreme right-wing views - the kind of people who normally find both major-party nominees far too blandly centrist to inspire much enthusiasm. 
Trump's messages - birtherism and his denigrating comments against Mexicans and Muslims included - spoke to the deplorables, and he's still talking to them today. Linker also pointed out that Trump speaks to his voters with "what one might call his habits of mind" including hostility to the media, his embrace of conspiracy theories, and his "refusal to distance himself from far-right people and ideas." They love him for that, and he loves them for loving him.

The problem with his habits is the impact they have on the rest of us. Going back to Linker's piece,
We can never know what's truly in another person's heart - and that's especially true when the person lies with the unrestrained abandon of our current president. The question of Trump's "true views" is utterly irrelevant. What matters is what he says, and its effect on the country. And on that there can be little doubt. Trump spews his hateful poison into the civic culture of the country day in and day out.
I think it would be hard for someone to spew this stuff day after day, week after week, month after month, without actually believing it. I don't believe he is an actor of any skill, any more than (at least so far) he's proven himself to be a great deal-maker, or that he's shown he can "act presidential."

He believes what he says, I'm sure - and he believes in what he says, I'm equally sure. And in that regard, his transition is complete. Trump is the president of the deplorables.

He may still be the president of some (or all) of the other 50% that Clinton mentioned, but we will only know them by their condemnation of his blatantly racist tweets.

July 14, 2019

Sunday School 7/14/19

I didn't visit any of the classrooms today, because I saw all I needed to see on the president's Twitter feed.

Three of his tweets this morning collectively garnered at least 348,524 'likes' which, I guess, is better than the tweets themselves. I mean, with almost 62 million followers, most of which are actual people, not bots, that count could be a whole lot worse.

The tweets in question? Here they are.

I have never had a doubt that Trump is a racist. And the "Progressive" women he's talking about? Yeah, they're all people of color: AOC, and Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. Of the four, only Omar was born outside of the United States; she's a naturalized citizen.

And we know he is a sexist bastard, whether it's holding Theresa May's hand or grabbing someone by the pussy, or his strange affinity for his daughter, and of course he's told us that he has a 'type' when it comes to sexual assault.

We know that he does not like being challenged by anyone, but especially not by women in general, specifically women of color, and even more dreaded? Women who have ideals and principles, two things which this president sorely lacks.

His tweets today should have cleared up any misunderstandings regarding any of this.

See you around campus.

July 10, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (V177)

Let's get some wondering underway, shall we?

Is anyone wondering how long Labor Secretary Alex Acosta will get to stick around, now that the Epstein stuff is hitting the fan, and taking attention away from the president? 

Acosta was the US Attorney involved in the plea deal that let Jeffrey Epstein spend 13 months in a  private wing of the country jail, and be picked up by his valet six days a week to go to work and earn money (and do who knows what in his office because no one, including the police, was paying attention). And yes, he had to register as a sex offender, but as someone pointed out, the 13-month sentence is what's recommended for someone possessing less than a teaspoon of crack cocaine, and that seems pretty light for someone who sexually abused over 100 young girls.

And how it is that Epstein, named co-conspirators and unnamed co-conspirators all got immunity from federal prosecution?  I can see maybe Epstein, if that's what it took to get him to take a plea deal on the state charges, but everyone else too?  This is part of why Acosta is in hot water.  And, of course, there's taking attention away from his boss, as noted above.

What else is going on? The president won a round in a court case, which doesn't seem to happen all that often these days. This time, it was the emoluments case that was filed by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, who asserted that the president's hotel was getting business from foreign governments and taking business away from other hotels in their areas.

In addition to not having standing, and to having been spanked for wasting the court's time, there was also a question of what the remedy would have been, had the decision gone the other way.  Here, in part is what the three-judge panel said.
Even if government officials were patronizing the hotel to curry the president's favor, there is no reason to conclude that they would cease doing so were the president enjoined from receiving income from the hotel. The hotel would still be publicly associated with the president, would still bear his name and would still financially benefit members of his family. 
So, we're left wondering whether there is a way to enforce any ethics rules against this president or members of his administration? The Hatch Act is ignored, emoluments cases can't go forward because there's no way to keep him from making money off being president...what's an ethical person to do? Grin and bear it, knowing that this president would be fired from most companies in this day and age?

Staying with the courts, the president did lose one this week, too: he cannot block people on Twitter simply because they disagree with him. In a nutshell, three judges of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said that
The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees... In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public opinion concern is more speech, not less.
Of course, if you read the comments on social media articles, you won't need to wonder how many people actually read the articles before commenting (in my experience, less than 10%) and not only that, won't have to wonder how many of them follow the president. Again, based on the complete lack of understanding on how the president uses his personal Twitter account (hint - it's not just for insulting detractors, antagonizing our allies, and lying to the public).

And about the court's decision? Hear, hear. Chirp, chirp. Tweet, tweet. And if you disagree with the president or any other government official, let 'em know in the comments. It's the right thing to do, and it's your right to do it.  Nothing to wonder about there.

July 7, 2019

Sunday School 7/7/19

I visited two classrooms today, Face the Nation on CBS and Fox News Sunday on the Trump News Network. In both cases, the guest I was interested in hearing was Ken Cuccinelli. He's the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services - they're the folks who decide who can legally come into the country.

Cuccinelli has not been officially nominated to his role, and so has not had any Senate committee confirmation hearings; he's been on the job only since June, but he has a record as an immigration hard-liner and of defending the president on television, so I would presume he's one of those 'only the best people' people. Hopefully, we might be able to find out if that's the case.

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino was sitting in for the "anti-Conservative" Chris Wallace (that according to a social media comment I saw earlier today), and asked about the citizenship question on the census. Cuccinelli said he thinks the question will be on the census, adding
I think the president has expressed determination. He's noticed the Supreme Court didn't say this can't be asked, They said they didn't appreciate the process by which it came forward the first time. So the president is determined to fix that, and to have it roll forward in the 2020 census. 
Perino had played the tape of the president stating his new favorite reason for adding the question, since the Supremes shot down the fake "protect the Voting Rights Act" nonsense the administration tried the first time. Here's what Trump said the other day.
You need it for Congress for redistricting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.
When asked if there was any kind of legal concern the president's statement given that the big question is why they wanted to ask it in the first place, Cuccinelli said
Well, and I think the answer is there are many reasons. He listed a few there, starting with the one you mentioned. But it isn't -- it isn't the only one. There are lots of reasons. For my agency, distribution of work can be considered. I mean, there's all sorts of other things. Right now, we are redistricting our workload among our district offices and our regional offices to level that workload and as it shifts around the country we shift, and knowing where that work is coming from is helpful.
Perino stated, without offering any evidence, "I know that there are some groups that have been trying to help people who are here illegally to be able to not be found by our government," which Cuccinelli referred to as 'harboring.' Perino wondered if the raids could be successful it people knew the feds were coming for them. Cuccinelli said that was a potential threat to officer safety. And, he said,
And the president commented, I don't call these raids, I would agree with him. This is just what ICE is supposed to do. The fact that we've fallen to the point where we're talking about it like it's news tells you how far we have fallen in the enforcement side. I mean, it's the most violated federal court order in America. 

July 6, 2019

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: American Pride

A new Gallup Poll has the folks scratching their heads at the level of pride Americans have in being Americans. Take a look:
As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, their pride in the U.S. has hit its lowest point since Gallup's first measurement in 2001.
While 70% of U.S. adults overall say they are proud to be Americans, this includes fewer than half (45%) who are "extremely" proud, marking the second consecutive year that this reading is below the majority level.
Democrats continue to lag far behind Republicans in expressing extreme pride in the U.S.
This is not new. In fact, we're told, fewer than 60% of us have said we're extremely proud to be Americans since the second George W. Bush term.

Against this data, the Fox and Friends crew asked what we think is causing the decline in the percentage of people who are 'extremely proud' to be an American. Others, too, are asking the question, or are pinning blame on Democrats, because only 22% of Dems express the desired extreme pride.

I'm proud to be an American, but am I extremely proud? Honestly, I don't even know how to  differentiate 'extremely proud' from 'proud' on a question like this, do you? And, how does one exhibit extreme pride, compared to exhibiting plain old ordinary pride?
  • Would I have to wear different clothes, maybe wrapping myself in the stars and stripes, to meet the extreme definition? Maybe always wearing a flag lapel pin, even when I don't have lapels to pin it on?
  • How about having a flag hanging on my porch? Is that ordinary pride, only to become extreme pride if I light it at night, or take it down, as I'm supposed to and as probably 95% of the people who have a flag don't?
  • Is it ordinary pride to support every decision America and her leaders make, and extreme pride if I speak out against decisions I think are contrary to what America stands for? Or do I have that backwards?
To the extent that it matters, I can say from my middle-aged white lady perspective there are a number of reasons why 'extreme pride' is on the decline. Below are some examples that come to mind.
  • A sense that we are losing our ideals, those self-evident truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence: equality for all, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed, among other things.
  • A sense that there is no 'we' anymore, just 'us' and 'them' - even though 'them' are other folks who are proud, or even extremely proud, of being Americans just like 'us' are. I honestly don't remember it being this bad back in the Bush days, but certainly over the past decade, the 'tribal' aspects of everything have become more prominent, and the partisan divide is only growing.
  • A sense that we are losing our standing on the world stage. Rightly or wrongly, we have been  looked up to and trusted, for decades. And while some of our day-to-day policies may change with each election, what 'America' stands for should not change with the political winds.
  • A sense that there is no longer any respect for our governmental and societal institutions, particularly when our leaders regularly question the integrity of government agencies and all of their employees, and calling their patriotism into question. Don't our leaders have pride in America? 
  • A pervasive sense that the ends justify the means, in all cases. no matter what. Time was when how we'd do something, as well as why we would, mattered when it came to deciding if we were going to do something. And it mattered a lot. It seems to matter less now. A lot less. 
Many of us hanker for a different time, when there was more respect for people and ideas and discourse, where thoughts and ideas weren't weaponized by one side or the other.

When we all worried less about what others think - whether it's athletes or celebrities or talking heads - and paid more attention to our own actions and whether we were living up to the American ideals.

When we weren't trying to out-patriot and out-American our fellow Americans, and when patriotism wasn't defined by party registration.

Maybe if we were in that place again, more people would be extremely proud to be an American. Or, maybe they wouldn't. But what if instead of focusing on the difference between the proud and the extremely proud, we focused on listening to the 30% who aren't proud to be American, and see if we can change their minds? 

July 4, 2019

OrangeVerse XLV: Cities and Their State

The president chatted with his Number Two, Tucker Carlson, the other night - Sean Hannity must have been off working on policy papers with Jared, or something.

Carlson got things going,talking about cities they'd seen on the trip to the G-20, with no graffiti, no one going to the bathroom on the street, no junkies. And how that was "very different" from our cities. The president corrected him, saying "some of our cities." Carlson and Trump agreed it was "sad" about cities like New York, San Francisco,  and Los Angeles.

And it is - there's no question about that. We do have issues with homelessness, and drugs, in many cities large and small, in the suburbs, and perhaps even more critically, in rural areas where there are even fewer services available than in our cities.

Where it got poetic, though, was when the president ruminated on why it is that American cities have this kind of issue.

It's On Me
It's a phenomena 
that started two yeas ago.
It's disgraceful.

Seriously Maybe Important
I'm gonna maybe
and I'm looking at it
very seriously,
we're doing some
other things
as you've probably noticed
like some of the
Very Important Things
we're doing now.

Can't Have That
But we're looking at it
Very Seriously
because you can't do that. 
You can't have what's happening
where Police Officers are
getting sick by
just walking the beat.
I mean
they're actually
Getting. Very. Sick.

In Sickness and Mental Health
Where people are getting sick
where the people are
living in hell, too.
Although some of them
have mental problems
where they don't even know
they're living that way.
In fact, perhaps,
they like living that way.

Oh Wait - Maybe It's Not On Me?
They can't do that.
We cannot ruin our cities.
And you have people
that work in those cities.
They work in office buildings
and to get into the building
they have to walk through a scene
that nobody would have believed
possible three years ago.
And this is the liberal establishment.

Fight. Fight. Fight
This is what I'm fighting.
They - I don't know
if they're afraid of votes? 
I don't know 
if they really believe
this should be taking place.
But it's a terrible thing
that's taking place. 

The Situation Room
And we maybe
you know - I had a situation
when I first became president.
We had certain areas of
Washington DC where
that was stating to happen
and I ended it
Very Quickly. 
I said "you can't do that"
when we have leaders of the world
coming in to see the president
and they're riding down a highway
they can't be looking at that. 
I really believe
it hurts our country.

The West Coast Has The Sunshine
San Francisco, I own
property in San Francisco
so I don't care except
that it was
so beautiful.
And now areas
that you used to think of being,
so, you know, being really
Something Very Special,
you take a look
at what's going on
with San Francisco it's terrible. 

Checking Our Equipment
So we're looking at it
Very Seriously
We may intercede.
We may do something
to get that whole thing
cleared up. 
It's inappropriate.
We have to take the people
and do something.
We have to do something.
And you know
we're not really very equipped
as a government
to be doing that kind of work.
That's not really
the kind of work
the government should be doing.
We've never had this
in our lives before
in our country. 

Nope, Definitely Not On Me!
At the same time
most of our cities
are doing great.
But if you look at
some of these,
they are usually sanctuary cities
run by Very Liberal People
and the states are
run by Very Liberal People.

July 2, 2019

Poll Watch: Political Discourse

The Pew Research Center recently announced the results of their survey on attitudes about political speech and discourse and there are some pretty interesting findings.

First, the small print: the survey was conducted April 29 - May 13, and 10,170 respondents out of 13,476 members of the Pew American Trends Panel responded. The survey is conducted online, either via a panelist's own Internet hookup, or via tablet and wireless internet device provided to those who don't have Internet access of their own.

Among the highlights:
  • while 55% say president Trump has made the tone and nature of political debate worse, almost inconceivably, 24% say he's made it better. Another 20% think he's not had much of an impact.
The latter group must have been the ones who complained about Barack Obama's tan suit, his Nobel Prize, or Michelle's bare arms, all of which predate Trump's arrival on the political stage.
  • On an emotional, gut-reaction level, the president's comments generate strong reactions. 76% say he makes them feel concerned, 70% say confused, 69% are embarrassed, and 67% are exhausted. 
I'm alternately in any of those groups, mostly the embarrassed cohort, but I also sometimes find his comments entertaining, as do 54% of the respondents.
    The feelings about how Trump has changed things is pretty consistent across various demographics, except party affiliation, of course. People in all age brackets and levels of education are united in the belief that he has made things worse.

    And even on the right side of the equation, only those identifying as 'conservative' disagree.

    Thinking about the state of political debate overall, things are not all that great. For example,
    • 85% think it's more negative;
    • 85% think it's less respectful;
    • 76% think it's less fact-based;
    • 60% think it's less issues-focused, but 20% think it's gotten more focused on issues, which is kind of a headscratcher.
    What's interesting on that last data set is that there's a great deal of consistency between Dems and Republicans; the widest margin between the two major parties on all of those opinions was only 3%.

    Party differences are wider, though, when it comes to who people think can speak freely. Republicans generally think that educational institutions (at every level) are less open to multiple viewpoints, while Dems are more likely to say that religious institutions are less open to multiple viewpoints, as indicated in the graphic below.

    We also have strong opinions on how elected officials should behave, particularly when it comes to hot-button issues like who's more 'American', as noted below:

    But here again, there's a partisan divide. On the one hand, 42% of Dems and Dem leaners say it's never acceptable for an elected official to say their opponent's policy positions are evil, but only 26% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same. Dig a little deeper, though and we find that
    • only 33% of Republicans think it's never acceptable for a Republican to say this about their Democratic opponent, but
    • if it's a Democrat saying a Republican's positions are evil, 68% of the Rs say this is never acceptable.
    And finally, when it comes to talking to people we don't know well, we'd be more comfortable talking about religion than politics, more comfortable talking about sports than religion, more comfortable talking about the economy than sports, but by far we'd be most comfortable talking about the weather.

    Going on a first date? Now you know what's safe. 

    June 29, 2019

    Dear Democrats (v1)

    Hi Dems, how's everyone doing?

    Listen, just wanted to let you know that, even though I dropped my registration from the party I'm still paying attention. Of course, I'm in New York, my de-Democrating won't officially take place until next year after the presidential election, so we are stuck with each other, at least on paper.

    Yeah, I'm still paying attention, even though many people aren't. I mean, I watched both of the televised talk shows this week - debates, I think you called them?  I not only watched, but I live-commented them for people, so I'm more than doing my part, I think.

    And I need you to do your part, too. So, let's talk about health insurance, shall we?

    Most of the candidates indicated in the debates that they supported Medicare for All. Well, guess what? That's a non-starter for me and for lots of other people - not just Democrats, but also disaffected Trump voters. Do you really want to throw those votes away?

    I mean, think about it:
    • You fought tooth and nail to get the Affordable Care Act passed, and now, a mere 10 years later, you're willing to throw the baby out with the bath water, instead of fixing the parts that need fixing? And can any of you articulate what those parts are, or haven't you looked?
    • Employer sponsored insurance is some of the best insurance around, and good companies are happy to be able to provide it as a way to attract good talent in an increasingly competitive employment market. 
    • Union-sponsored insurance, purchased from and administered by private insurance companies, has long been a selling point for the unions that you all take money from, and helps support those union jobs you all think everyone needs to have. How attractive do you think unions will be when you strip away their biggest benefit?
    • Do you realize how low Medicare reimbursement rates are? If doctors were required to rely solely on those payments, many would not be able to stay in practice. So, either those rates have to go up significantly, or we'll see hospitals and clinics and medical practices start to close, or we'll see them demand ever-larger shares of state and local taxpayer dollars in order to maintain financial viability. I say ever larger shares, because many of the country's hospital systems already receive a significant amount of taxpayer support. Oh - and insurance company support, don't forget - you know, fees like the ones paid here in NY that add 10% or so to the cost of claim payments on the insurer's side alone. And since our middle-class tax dollars are not unlimited, and will already be going up to pay for Medicare for All, will you be taxing the rich to get the financial support to keep these services running? 
    • Private insurers are leaders in community health initiatives, charitable giving, and supporting innovators - they are cornerstones of their communities. When you relegate them to performing breast implants and Botox injections, the negative consequences will ripple throughout our communities, large and small. What's your plan for that? Taxing the rich again?
    • What will happen to the 500,000 people in the industry? How are you going to make up those salaries, or find everyone jobs paying comparable salaries and offering comparable benefits? What's the plan for that? I know, raising taxes again, or giving everyone a monthly stipend or something. 
    • How many more people will have to be added to the federal government payroll to support the administration of Medicare for All? How much will those low Medicare admin costs increase to accommodate all of the additional employees, increased tech costs, higher reimbursement rates, and so on? And who will be picking up that cost, middle class tax payers, or the 1%?
    • One of the complaints about the ACA was that it did nothing to address the doctor shortage, particularly in the areas of primary care, geographic access (particularly in rural areas), and mental health. This is an ongoing issue with Medicare today. How does Medicare for All address that, or address other known issues with Medicare programs? Are you just going to throw people from one insurance plan to another and not address the issues first?
    • In 2018, according to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, about one in three Medicare beneficiaries was enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, and enrollment in these plans, many of which offer richer benefits at a lower cost that original Medicare, has doubled in the past 10 years. These plans are administered by private insurers, which means you're going to throw those away too, even though they may be more cost effective? So, not only are you taking private insurance away, but you're also taking Medicare away?  Good luck with that!
    • And help me understand this part. Pension and retirement funds are heavily invested in insurance company stock. What happens to all of that? How are those investments, which (again) benefit the middle class, going to be protected? What's the plan for that aspect of eliminating private insurance?
    One more thing. Most of the candidates at the debates said they would provide health insurance to undocumented immigrants under their plans. Are you nuts?

    Are you that out of touch with what people really think?  And have you forgotten that we've spent 10 years fighting Republican lies about undocumented immigrants being eligible for insurance under the ACA? 

    That's a lie that will not die -- and now you're going to make it a truth?  Do not conflate health insurance and immigration. I promise you, that's something that we all will regret.

    Please, do not spend this long primary season trying to out-left each other to get the nomination and then spend the general election season tacking right to try and pick up us middle-of-the-roaders.

    It won't work. No one will believe you that you didn't mean what you said during the primary, nor will they trust anything you say if you change your stripes for the general. 

    Don't blow this. 

    Don't. Blow. This. 

    June 27, 2019

    Grains of Salt (v46): Primarily Apathetic

    Tuesday was primary day for local races here in New York.

    Polls were open from noon - 9PM here; I voted around 3:15 and I was voter number 96, which seemed to be a higher turnout that usual. I was feeling pretty good about things at that point.

    I mean, I've been voter number 120-something or 150-something in general elections, voting after work when polls opened many hours earlier, so being 96 barely three hours in on primary day seemed to be a good sign.

    And there was plenty to think about. There were a lot of hotly contested races on the Democratic side, at least. Many of the party's choices faced more than one opponent, which is rare. One race - for my district on the County Legislature - is too close to call still, and will come down to absentee ballots. We won't know until next week whether the returning establishment candidate or the young, passionate newcomer, currently down by 39 votes, will prevail.

    My enthusiasm for the turnout was quickly dashed, though. According to estimates done by Dustin Czarny, the Democratic Elections Commissioner for Onondaga County, only 12.8% of all eligible voters county-wide bothered to vote.

    And in the City of Syracuse, where I live, it was only slightly better - 13.1% of eligible voters made the effort and gave up a few minutes of their time to do their civic duty.

    I'm not sure what the final numbers will be after all of the verification is done and absentee and military ballots are counted, but I have to wonder:

    • Why do people bother to register to vote if they're not going to make the effort?
    • Is it so hard to schedule time to get to the polls, when we have ample advance notice of when the primary will be?
    • Too hard to get an absentee ballot if you know you won't be able to make it on primary day?
    • Too much to educate yourself about the choices, and too afraid to go in blind and pick randomly?
    • Too much to ask that people care about who is going to be leading your community and fighting for your rights?
    • Are people too fed up with the process that they refuse to participate in it?

    What the heck's going on here? 

    If you were registered in a party that had any primaries, and you didn't vote, I'd honestly love to know why.

    June 26, 2019

    Quick Takes (v38): What I Don't Want to Hear

    It's going to be difficult for the debate moderators - Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz-Balart - to maintain control over the candidates and get anything accomplished tonight and tomorrow, that much I know.

    What's also going to be difficult for them is to maintain control over themselves, and keep focused on things that are important.

    These things, in my mind, are NOT important, and I'm hoping that we will not hear any questions related to these issues:
    • Elizabeth Warren's DNA
    • Beto O'Rourke's childhood writings
    • Amy Klobuchar's meanness
    • Kamala Harris' father
    • Pete Buttigieg's husband
    • Cory Booker's girlfriend
    • Joe Biden's son
    • Bernie Sanders' wife's money
    This is not a big version of Meet the Press, it should be an issues-related 'debate'  or conversation, not a personality-based series of interviews.   

    Any questions of that nature will clearly show that the press has learned nothing from 2016 - and they honestly had a lot to learn, according to a study on how the press covered the candidates. For example:
    Here's another interesting finding, that goes to what was reported. For Trump, a mere 12% of his coverage was about the issues, with 43% of the coverage being negative (particularly after the Muslim ban comments). For Clinton, more than double the amount of coverage was issues-related (still a meager 28%) but the negative coverage was an overwhelming 84%.
    Fingers are crossed for tonight - if they bite on the Warren DNA test or anything related to her long-since-addressed family history of Native American ancestry, which is really the most obvious one of the list above to get a hit, we'll know they have learned nothing.

    June 25, 2019

    Pre-debate Jitters

    The Democrats are kicking off the 2020 election season on Wednesday, with Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) Cory Booker (NJ) and Amy Klobuchar  (MN); former Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who also served as mayor of San Antonio; Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI) and Tim Ryan (OH); former Reps Beto O'Rourke (TX) and John Delaney (MD; Gov. Jay Inslee (WA); and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio taking the stage in Miami for the first half of the first debate.

    Thursday night, we'll be treated to the second half, which will feature former Vice President Joe Biden; Senators Kamala Harris(CA), Michael Bennet (CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Bernie Sanders (VT), who is still not a Democrat; Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA); former Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO); South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; self-help author Marianne Williamson; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

    Each of the participants has achieved at least 1% recognition nationally in approved polls, has raised money from at least 65,000 individual donors, including getting at least 200 donors in 21 states, or both (Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Inslee, Klobuchar, O'Rourke, the non-Dem, and Warren).

    Four other candidates - Rep. Seth Moulton (MA), Governor Steve Bullock (MT), former Rep. Mike Gravel (AK), and Miramar, FL mayor Wayne Messam - failed to make the cut.

    There will be no opening statements (yay), but each candidate will have one minute for a closing argument. Answers to questions will be limited to one minute, with 30 seconds  for followup questions, not there'll be much time for them.

    Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart are the talking heads. Holt will be the official moderator of the first hour, with Guthrie and Diaz-Balart joining in; for the second hour, Todd and Maddow will share moderating duties, with Holt joining.  I have not seen the rules for how much time the talking heads (particularly Maddow and Todd) will be able to chew up - that might be one of the more interesting things to keep an eye on. 

    There's no defined list of questions that will be asked, and of course no guarantee that each candidate will be asked the same questions or be given the opportunity to chime in on all of the issues.  It's expected that there will be questions on health care, climate change, education (free college, wiping out student debt, and so on), and of course the great divide between rich and poor people and rich and poor corporations. 

    We should also expect questions on foreign policy, immigration, race, and gender, and on anything critical SCOTUS decides this last week of their session. 

    And, there's the e-word: electability, whatever that means. And impeachment. - don't forget impeachment. 

    Dear lord, this could be cluster with one moderator and only a handful of folks on the stage answering questions.

    20 candidates.
    5 moderators.
    4 hours.
    3 networks.
    2 nights.

    What could possibly go wrong?  Or maybe the better question is, what could possibly go right?

    June 23, 2019

    Sunday School 6/23/19

    Yep, I'm going there: one of my least favorite talking heads, and my least favorite squawk box: Chuck Todd and president Trump on Meet the Press. The interview was taped Friday morning and aired today.

    Here are some highlights.

    They talked about Trump's decision not to go ahead with an attack on Iran, it being a disproportionate response to kill 150 or so Iranians in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned drone. Trump indicated that he has 'ready-made plans', and said
    Oh, I have so many targets, you wouldn't believe. We have targets all over.
    Todd asked if Trump thought the Iranians were trying to provoke him into a military response.
    No, their economy is shattered. Shattered. Their inflation is through the room. They've never had, the highest in the world right now. Worse than any place. They're not living well. 
    On the border, Todd wondered if Trump was frustrated because his border numbers were worse than Obama's.
     No, because the people are coming up because our economy is so good. They're pouring up because the economy is so good. Obama had a lousy economy. It was a dead economy.
    Huh.  All this time, I thought it was rapists and murderers and drug dealers and sex traffickers who were coming here, not people looking to take part if our awesome economy.  I seem to have been misled by someone, someone in the White House, I believe it was...

    On Obama's jobs record and Trump's jobs record (hint: Obama's is better), here's Trump's explanation.
    That's because he started of with a, with such a bad base. I mean, he hit - but Chuck, you have to understand, nobody was working. The whole place was a disaster. And I don't - I'd never take that away. But it's very easy because when that turned around they pumped a tremendous amount of money into the economy. He also had a Federal Reserve person who kept the interest rates low. I don't. I don't have that privilege.
    But wait -- didn't we pump trillions or scadzillions of dollars worth of tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people into the economy? And didn't that trickle down to the average Joe, just like they said it would?  Yeah, no.

    Trump's biggest mistake, the one thing he'd like a do-over on, if he could have one?
    I would say if I had one to do over, it would be, I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. That would be my one.  Yeah, that was my biggest mistake.
    On family separation at the border, that was Obama's fault and Trump ended it. Or something. But it was Obama's fault. This part of the interview was mostly Todd telling Trump to "do something" over and over and over. Eventually. coming back to 2019 and his administration, it's still the Democrats' fault that children don't have toothbrushes.

    On impeachment, it's a crap shoot.
    I think I win the election easier. But, you know, I'm not sure that I like having it. Look, I did nothing wrong. I was spied on. What they did to me was illegal. It was illegal on the other side. I did nothing wrong. So impeachment's a very unfair thing because nothing that I did was wrong. And if you look at the Mueller report, there was no collusion. This was all about collusion. This was about conspiracy.Use the word collusion. Use the word conspiracy. 
    I'll be honest with you, nobody even mentions Russia anymore since the Mueller report. They don't mention it, in all fairness. Nobody mentions Russia anymore. And it was about Russia. It was a hoax. 
    On losing the popular vote in 2016,
    Well, I think it was a -- I mean, I'll say something that, again, is controversial. There were a lot of votes cast that I don't believe. I look at California... Take a look at Judicial Watch, take a look at their settlement where California admitted to a million votes. They admitted to a million votes.
    Todd asked, "a million votes of what?"
    Take a look at Judicial-- Judicial Watch made a settlement, there was much, there was much - there was much illegal voting. But let me tell you about the popular vote. Do you have a second?
    Oh for Pete's sake, he is SUCH a liar!  The Judicial Watch settlement was about inactive voters being on the rolls, not about illegal votes. Similar settlements have been reached with Ohio (a red state) and Kentucky (another red state). Many states to not aggressively remove people from the rolls if they fail to vote. And even in the case of the California settlement, voters have two more federal elections in which to fail to vote before they'll be removed from the rolls. And nothing in the settlement suggests that any of the inactive voters, including the dead ones, actually voted. This, my friends, it a complete line of crap that Chuck Todd basically let him get away with.

    Finally, on Saudi Arabia, Trump says in a nutshell their money's worth it. 
    They buy a massive amount, $150B worth of military equipment that, by the way, we use. We use that military equipment. So Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of America product. That means something to me. It's a big producer of jobs.
    On having the FBI investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and involvement of the Crown Prince in that.
    Well, I think it's  - I think it's been heavily investigated. By everybody. I mean, I've seen so many different reports... Here's where I am, are you ready? 
    Iran's killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East, this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries, I won't mention names, and take a look at what's happening. And they you go outside of the Middle East and you take a look at what's happening with countries. Okay?
    And I only say they spend $400 to $450B over a period of time - all money, all jobs, buying equipment... I'm not a fool that says "we don't want to do business with them" And by the way, if they don't do business with us, you know what they do? They'll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese. They will buy - we make the best equipment in the world, but they will buy great equipment from Russia and China. 
    Chuck. Take their money. Take their money, Chuck. 
    Take their money. And, don't forget, have them take our money too, since we're having them help build some of our more strategic weapons systems.

    See you around campus.

    June 20, 2019

    The Update Desk: Vending Machine Tax Breaks

    On a couple of occasions, I've written about a nefarious tax break referred to as the 485-a. The first time was in this Meanwhile Back in Albany post from August of 2018, in which I noted
    According to reporting by Tim Knauss of the Post-Standard and Syracuse.com, here's what vending machines have to do with anything.
    Three vending machines at a Syracuse apartment building dispense candy, chips and soda. And they serve another purpose. They have helped the building owner avoid more than $3 million in property taxes. 
    The vending machines are the only visible sign of commercial activity at Copper Beech Commons, a sprawling apartment complex for college students.
    Here's why that matters: the property owner gets a lavish tax break that is available only to renovated buildings that have both commercial and residential space.  
    That's right -  vending machines can be considered 'commercial space' under this really tasty tax break. And not only that, but vacant lots can be considered historic buildings. Honest, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
    A few of them, though, are brand new buildings, placed on lots where older structures were bulldozed, which is clearly (to anyone other than a lawyer or developer) not the type of projects the law was intended to help. There are others, in addition to Copper Beech Commons, that are student apartments, including the largest one, Theory Syracuse, which stands to save over $9 million over the 12 year term of the exemption.
    The second time I talked about this, it was to report that the assessors in Syracuse were inspecting the properties to ensure that there really is a commercial operation in the building, or to tell the developers to get one.
    For Copper Beech Commons, however, it seems the leaves have fallen, or something. In an article last week on Syracuse.com, Tim Knauss followed up on his original story and let us know that  Syracuse city assessors have been out inspecting properties claiming the 485-a tax break "where commercial operations were not readily evident from the street."

    A small office at the property has been cleaned up, with new doors added, to try and entice a small business to lease the space and preserve the tax break. Why? Well, as city assessment commissioner David Clifford noted,
    Vending machines are not a commercial use, especially when they're owned and operated by the building owner. As far as I'm concerned, that's just like having a washing machine in the basement.
    The assessors last warned the developer that the vending machines did not count for the exemption four or five years ago, so there should have been no surprise that there could be problems once the last (and only) tenant of the space moved out in 2015.
    I'm happy to do another update on this one: The NY State Assembly has passed a law designed to reign in abuses under section 485-a, as Bill Magnarelli, one of our local Assembly members (but not mine) announced on his Facebook page. Take a look:
    Property Tax §485-a Property Tax Exemption Reform
    Legislation passed the NYS Assembly today to stop abuses of the §485-a Property Tax Exemption Program. Assemblyman William Magnarelli, 129th District (D- Syracuse, Van Buren, Geddes) sponsored this legislation along with Assemblyman Sean Ryan, 149th District (D-Buffalo). Both Syracuse and Buffalo have seen some of the worst abuses under this program.
    §485-a of the Real Property Tax Law allows municipalities to offer a 12-year exemption on property taxes to developers that renovate old buildings that include a mixture of commercial and residential space. However, localities have been granting exemptions to projects that should not receive them under the program. Examples of abuse include: projects with minimal or no commercial or residential uses, buildings that are nearly totally demolished and rebuilt, and projects built on vacant lots. These exemptions are costing participating localities millions of dollars each year and placing a heavier burden on other property taxpayers.
    As the assessors have mentioned in the past, the law was so loosely written that they had very little guidance to go on, and at times felt their hands were tied. Going forward (assuming passage in the Senate and a signature by our Sonofa Gov), things will be different, according to Magnarelli.
    The abuses under this program are egregious. §485-a exemptions should not be going to projects where the only commercial uses in the building are vending machines or storage units, or where the developer essentially demolishes the underlying structure for new construction. Local governments and assessors say the current law does not give them the authority to deny these applications. This bill gives them that authority. This program was developed to help our downtowns redevelop old buildings into useful mixed use structures. The bill passed today will return the §485-a program to this purpose. I also want to thank Assemblyman Sean Ryan for working with me to get this bill done this session.
    Assemblyman Ryan echoed Magnarelli's thoughts.
    Unfortunately, too often we've seen large development corporations take advantage of taxpayers by exploiting this program with facilities that clearly violate the intent of the original bill. The changes we've made will be instrumental in ensuring the redevelopment of our cities can continue, while protecting taxpayers from footing the bill for large developers who willingly misuse the program.
    So, what's going to be different? Generally,
    • there will be limits on the commercial purposes and uses that can quality, and they must be publicly accessible;
    • at least 50% of an eligible building must be for residential units, and at least 15% of the space must have a commercial use;
    • no 485-a exemptions will be given on land that was vacant prior to construction;
    • at least 75% of the floor area of an eligible building must be a pure-existing structure;
    • requiring the commercial portion of the building to be currently used as commercial, or to be 'in good faith contemplated' which would exclude the three vending machines in a room;
    • annual certification of properties to ensure the developer is in compliance; and
    • revoking the tax benefits of non-compliant properties, as well as penalties if someone makes a material misstatement on their application for the tax break.
    These are common-sense changes that are needed to protect property owners in our aging cities, where local government economic development agencies and departments are too quick to offer huge property tax breaks with little regard to how that impacts residents.

    Particularly here in Syracuse, where nearly 50% of our property is not taxable because the owners are eds, meds, and non-profits, we need all the help - and restraint - we can get. 

    June 19, 2019

    Wondering on Wednesday (v176)

    Well, well, well. It's Wednesday again already? I'm so not ready.

    But the president's ready, yes he is - ready to Keep America Great, now that he's made it grate.  Oops - made it great, sorry. Great, not grate. I heard someone who was at his rally say his most enthusiastic comments came when he was complaining about everything, rather than when he was talking about his accomplishments.  Hence the whole 'grate' thing (well, that's part of the whole 'grate' thing, anyway.) I guess I don't have to wonder whether he can make it through a rally without mentioning the Fake News - he hit that within seconds of beginning his speech, and so I stopped. I'll watch later, with a jug of wine or something.

    Who else is running for president, and complaining about it?  That would be none other than Bernie Sanders, who of course, is still not a Democrat. I replied to a tweet of his that maybe if he joined the party he's trying to represent, he might have something to complain about. And of course, I have no reason to wonder whether the complaining and whining will continue - -that's a given, It could be his new campaign slogan: I'll stop whining when I win!  Think that's gonna have legs?

    What else is going on? Well, it seems New York State will not legalize pot this legislative session. Our newly officially declared to be full-time Assembly members and State Senators are winding up their session, and there's really no reason to think they'll come back for a special session just to make weed legal for recreational use. Staten Island's Sen. Diane Savino said
    Everyone who was opposed to it had a different reason. The two sponsors did everything possible to appease the concerns of members, and I'm sure they are going to continue to try but with each passing moment it gets harder and harder.
    Now, I'm one of those who thinks that acting with such ridiculous urgency on this issue is crazy, so I'm not crying any tears here. But I wonder why we didn't act with as much urgency to, I don't know, add mental health and substance abuse beds across the state, which will address a real need, or adding regional treatment centers for autism, so that New York parents don't have to send their kids out of state for intensive treatment, or here's a fun one - why didn't they cut some spending plan with extreme urgency, one that might benefit a significant number of New Yorkers?

    Oh wait, I know the answer to that last one, sorry. There's no progressive merit badge for spending cuts, silly me.

    I again call on Republicans across the state to get out of the gate and get some candidates, get a plan, get a platform that includes meaningful reforms (not taking their toys and running) that moderates can get behind. I wonder if they're listening?

    And finally, I'm wondering (because I haven't checked lately) if there are any moderate Democrats left in New York?  If yes, I'd love to hear from them, too.

    Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v32)

    Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
    There's so much debate these days around legal immigration, illegal immigration, pro-crime Democrats, racist Republicans, and more. All of it has a few thousand gallons of gas poured on it daily or even more frequently on social media, traditional media, and alternative media.

    The debate, such as it is, is also all helped along by the actions of politicians at the state, local and federal level, for sure. Donald Trump announced his campaign for president by saying that Mexico was going to build a wall. He's ready to announce his re-election bid by tweeting a "vague threat"  of nation-wide sweep to find and deport "millions" of illegals, which according to some reports caught even his own administration officials off guard - no surprise there.

    And meanwhile, back in Albany, the New York State Legislature has passed a bill, and our Sonofa Gov has signed it, making the Empire State the 12th in the country to allow undocumented immigrants the right to obtain driver's licenses. This, as you might imagine, is inspiring not only celebration on the side of the Yeas, but deep consternation on the part of the Nays - of which I'm one.

    The bill includes multiple modifications to NY's Vehicle and Traffic laws that are designed not only to define how illegal immigrants can obtain a learner's permit or non-commercial driver's license, but also to specifically to protect applicants and their information from being shared, to every extent possible, with federal officials. The licenses are not valid for federal identification, and can be  marked somehow (color-coded, for example) to show the holder is an undocumented immigrant.

    According to supporters, here's why we need the bill:
    • rural and heavily agricultural areas of the state, where there's a concentration of immigrants, have a lack of options for public transportation. That causes immigrants to just get in a car and drive when they need to -- doctors, grocery stores, and the like - putting the rest of us in danger; 
    • the number of leaving-the-scene accidents will decrease, and everyone's insurance rates across the state will also decrease;
    • the state stands to take in millions of new revenue - dedicated for infrastructure improvements -  from the fees associate with getting the documents; and
    • the law will help the undocumented to go about their business just like other New Yorkers, and keeps them from being pushed into the shadows.
    Some people point to the fact that this is a 'restoration of rights' for people who are here illegally. Prior to an executive action by former Governor George Pataki after 9/11, it was not necessary to present a social security number to obtain a driver's license. Former Governor Eliot Client #9 Spitzer tried to fix this back in 2007, but failed in the face of opposition from, among others, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, now our junior senator, and then-Erie County clerk Kathy Hochul, who of course is Cuomo's number two.

    Opponents of the bill suggest that
    • legitimizing illegal immigration will promote more of it;
    • it directly violates federal law, which is dumb;
    • it's 'off track' from what our priorities should be;
    • the safety benefits are questionable and ill-defined at best, and, of course
    • it sends the wrong message to the majority of New Yorkers who are hardworking, law-abiding citizens who do things the right way.
    And me? I'm a fan of treating people as human beings. I believe the majority of immigrants are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family. That said, I'm a fan of legal immigration, and of a path to citizenship for folks brought here as children by their parents. I'm not a fan of deporting people we have allowed to stay here for decades, those who have made their regular check-ins with immigration officials.

    And I'm not a fan of encouraging people to break the law.

    I'm also not a huge fan of sanctuary laws, and isn't that what this really is? Sure, we don't call it that, but that's the premise, and the promise, of this bill: you'll be protected if you have this documentation. The reality is very different. Sanctuary laws only serve to create a patchwork of rules and protections that arbitrarily change at an interstate highway mile marker. Welcome to New York? You're good. Welcome to Ohio, or Pennsylvania? Yeah, not so much.

    I'm also not a fan of state laws that jeopardize New York by putting federal dollars at risk because we are in-your-face daring the current administration to withhold funding. 

    And, I'm never convinced when a politician promises generic positive benefits from a law.
    • How much money are New Yorkers going to save on auto insurance? When will the reductions begin? Will we see an itemized line on our car insurance bills showing the impact from this bill, so we as taxpayers can truly see the benefit?
    • Outside of New York City, where there are some 30,000 - 40,000 'leaving the scene' accidents annually, how many occur in the rest of the state? What are we really looking at here in terms of our safety on the roads? And what percentage of those is projected to be caused by an illegal immigrant?
    • How many of the illegal immigrants are going to be able to afford car insurance? Notably, in California where subsidized insurance was offered as part of their driver's license for immigrants program, fewer than 1,000 people took advantage of the offer. Over half a million illegal immigrants received driver's licenses in the first couple years of the California program; not all of them would have been eligible for the subsidy, but still...
    Nope -- I'm not a fan of this law, and neither are the majority of New Yorkers. 

    But in the end, if our esteemed legislators are willing to sell their souls for a few million bucks a year in licensing and permitting fees, and to flash their 'look at how progressive I am' lapel pins - and they are - what the rest of us think doesn't matter. 

    June 16, 2019

    Sunday School 6/16/19

    Two quick classroom visits today: CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper, and CBS' Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan.  Those were two of the three conversations with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who of course is running for president along with some 20-odd others on the Democratic side, including still-not-a-Democrat Bernie Sanders, which, well, you know how I feel about that.

    Anyway -- let's see what Mayor Pete had to say. Several topics were addressed on both shows, so I'll incorporate both answers on those.

    On the Democrats not having much of a consistent foreign policy over the past many years, he told Brennan
    I think it's been difficult, even confusing, to figure out what our foreign policy is because Democrats became so absorbed in opposing whatever the Republicans were doing - now, often, rightly so. What the Republicans were doing often was terrible. But we got so sucked into that. 
    ...take the Iraq war, which I opposed as a student and continue to think was a terrible idea. We were so horrified by the way that democracy promotion was done at gunpoint then, that it nearly made our party into isolationists when actually we've often been the ones who believed in more international engagement. 
    Turning that into what Dems need to do, he offered this to Tapper (and similarly to Brennan)
    And so I think now is a moment, given that, in some ways, the politics around foreign policy have been scrambled for my entire adult life, I mean, really, ever since the end of the Cold War, that we establish a new set of foundations for how American values, American interests, and American relationships are going to interact with each other. 
    On Trump's comments about accepting dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, listening to it first and maybe turning it over to the FBI, he Told Brennan, in part
    We're talking about foreign interference in American politics. And by the way, this isn't hypothetical. This isn't theoretical. We were attacked by a hostile foreign power that decided they could damage America, destabilize America, by intervening in the election to help him win. And they did and he did, and now America's destabilized. 
    He told Tapper that Trump's comments were "both unbelievable and all too believable" and that the answer is not hard.
    If you get an offer of material help from a foreign government, you call the FBI. This shouldn't be difficult. This shouldn't be complicated. 
    Both asked about pursuing prosecution of Trump after he's out of office. The main point Buttigieg made here, similarly in both interviews, is that no one is above the law, but that, as he told Brennan
    I also believe that the last place you look for guidance on how to conduct a prosecution is to the Oval Office. The less our law enforcement and prosecution has to do with politics, the better. 
    On a related note, Brennan asked about  a presidential pardon (Buttigieg is not a fan of the pardon being used in this circumstance), including whether Gerald Ford should have pardoned Richard Nixon.
    You know, I don't know what I would have done in the 70s and that historical counterfactual, other than that I'm bothered by the possibility that public corruption went unpunished and the idea that that could happen in the future is equally problematic. 
    On Iran the most interesting conversation was with Tapper. Buttigieg has a unique perspective among all the presidential candidates, and among many in Congress - he's a veteran. Here's what he told Tapper.
    As somebody who felt five years ago, when I left Afghanistan, that I was one of the last troops leaving, and five years (later), notes that we're still there... And pretty soon you're going to be old enough to enlist and be sent over and not even been alive on 9/11...
    I think we  have learned as a country in my lifetime just how hard it is to end a war. We'd better be working very hard to make sure we don't start one. 
    Brennan asked about his position that we should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, and pointed out that some of the arms provisions coincide with our election and the next president's inauguration. She asked what he would do.
    Any negotiation is going to have to meet the needs and the realities of the moment. Unfortunately, the moment we're in is one where the United States' influence in this region has diminished because of the-- the way that we have withdrawn. So what we're going to have to do is re-engage with our partners, re-engage with anybody who has an interest in stability in the region and do whatever we can to once again meet the objective of stopping Iran from developing nuclear capabilities which is exactly what that deal was doing. Even this administration certified that that was the case.
    Tapper asked about the border, mentioning this call-out in a NY Times op-ed:
     "In short, it is time for Congress to stop dithering and pass emergency funding to deal with this nightmare. Democrats are standing in the way of this. They don't agree with it."
    His question? Was it possible that Democrats were putting politics above what the migrants need, and pressed Buttigieg on what needs to be done right now to deal with the emergency.
    I'm not against directing more funds in order to help with the issue at the border. But I think part of the reason why there's such frustration and concern and even resistance among congressional Democrats is that it's not doing anything about the bigger problem.
     We have got a president who got elected on a promise to fix immigration, whatever that meant to him. And what we have seen is that all of the issues that were with us then are with us now, and issues at the border, including a humanitarian crisis, created by this president through cruel policies, like family separation, are only getting worse. 
    Meanwhile, the one thing that would really help the issue of increased migration flows from Central America -- the words of one migrant, who said: "I'm not here to seek the American dream. I'm here because I'm fleeing the nightmare in Honduras." We're actually, under this president, seeing a threat to take funds away from stabilizing those Central American countries. We have got this completely upside down.
    And measures that are designed to put out fires in the near term would be a lot more convincing if they were set up in the context of an actual immigration reform, which, by the way, if you're talking about Americans, people on both parties want to -- in both parties want to do it. If you're talking about Congress, not so much. 
    And I think the real dark fact behind all of this is, if immigration were solved, if we had comprehensive reform, this administration could claim it as an achievement, but it's more useful to them as a crisis unsolved than it would be as an achievement if they actually did something.
     Interesting conversations, both of them.

    See you around campus.