January 31, 2019

The Update Desk: One Corner at a Time

Last June, I did a Grains of Salt post about changes coming to a highly visible corner in downtown Syracuse, where a new non-profit corporation had proposed putting up a city market/office/residential structure that would offer a number of opportunities:
  • a 'food hall', along the lines of what we see in other cities like Philadelphia; here, there'll be spots for local chefs who were unable or not yet ready to open their own restaurants;
  • office space for non-profit organizations, allowing for greater learning and collaboration between them, and
  • housing for a mix of incomes, instead of everything being in the $2K/month range, as seems to be the case lately with our new downtown units. 
Last fall, the Allyn Family Foundation (AFF), which is running this project announced that things had been moving along and they'd come up with a couple of names for the market, and they asked for a community vote.

That's where things got interesting - and today we have an update.

January 30, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v162)

I'm wondering, here in our winter wonderland, whether weather forecasters have more fun during times like this, when the polar vortex is bearing down on tens of millions of us, the windchill is literally leaving them breathless, their green screens are lit up like the sky over Sydney on New Year's Eve, than they do in the summer when the skies are blue and everything's just ducky?

And I'm also wondering how it must feel if you get this one wrong. For example, a friend lives up in NY's Tug Hill Plateau area, home to monumental amounts of lake effect snow thanks to wind blowing across Lake Ontario. She posted a screenshot yesterday of a local TV station's weather map showing her area of the Tug should be getting maybe 4 inches of snow before midnight -- and yet, she said they had gotten 18" in four hours before her post.

What else is going on?

Well, the president is sticking our nose into the mess in Venezuela, declaring opposition leader Juan Guaido the real president and election winner Nicolas Maduro basically persona non grata. Maduro responded by kicking all US diplomats out, and SecState Mike Pompeo responded by saying, basically, hell no we won't go. And now we're fighting back against Russia and anyone else that supports Maduro...

And that brings me to wonder two things: first, Trump has long maintained that America doesn't need to be sticking her nose in everyone else's business and it's always America First and everyone else somewhere on down the line. So, I wonder, why this, why now? Isn't this sort of the opposite of his mantra?

And, (knowing that this is not the same situation), I can't help wondering what would have happened if another country decided that Trump, having lost the popular vote by roughly the population of Jamaica, was not legitimately the American president, and then that country decided to rally the troops and bring others along in thinking that he was not elected fairly, and started calling Hillary Clinton the legitimate president, propper her up, imposed sanctions,  and so on?  Just wondering...

January 29, 2019

The Update Desk: STiR Projects

Back in November, I wrote in this Grains of Salt post about a new innovative program the City of Syracuse was participating in.
What's a city to do when there are more services needed than it can possibly provide?

Try something completely different, that's what.  And that's what Syracuse is looking to do, by joining the Startup in Residence  (STiR) program.
STiR connects governments with start up companies via a 'challenge' process; when there's a match between a governmental jurisdiction and a startup willing to work on the problem, a sixteen-week 'residency' begins, with the goal of having a viable solution at the end of the collaboration.

Syracuse put five challenges out for review, and we just learned which ones will be moving ahead:
  • Camino will develop a permit management platform that allows for collaboration and communication between both permit applicants and city employees.
  • Vite Labs is tasked with creating a crowd-funding platform to connect low-income renters to people willing to provide short-term no-interest loans for security deposits.
  • Local company Zivics will work on a citizen engagement tool for the city's Trauma Response Team (TRT) to engage residents after traumatic events, such as violent crimes. 
Two other challenges, related to waste management and autonomous snow removal technology, did not get selected to move forward.

January 28, 2019

Quick Takes (v32): A Clean Slate

Quick Takes
I have to confess, it's not often that I'm pleasantly surprised by Onondaga County's District-Attorney-for-Life William Fitzpatrick, but that's exactly what I am after reading that he is moving to expunge old marijuana convictions for folks in our area.

As reported locally as well as nationally in High Times magazine,
Fitzpatrick has ordered his staff to dismiss all new and pending marijuana charges this year. The policy shift is just part of the district attorney's broader plan to wipe decades of cannabis convictions from the record. 
This comes in advance of the expected legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use in New York State this year. Fitz's team is going back 20 years, looking for convictions that can be wiped clean. And this is pretty cutting-edge stuff, we're told.

Again, from the article in High Times
As legalization and decriminalization expand around the US, there's a growing chorus of elected officials and policy advocates calling for record expungement. But according to the New York State District Attorney's Association, Fitzpatrick's plan is the first of it's kind in the region. Other Upstate counties have floated the idea, especially since Gov. Cuomo announced a plan to legalize adult-use cannabis by the end of the year. So far, however, no other counties have started the expungement process. 
So, how big a deal is this?

January 27, 2019

Sunday School 1/27/19

Lots going on this morning on the talk shows, most of which will not be addressed in today's post.

For example, I won't say much of anything about Roger Stone's TV appearance but he was asked this absurd question by George Stephanopoulos:
You're in good shape but you're not a young man, 66 years old. Are you prepared to spend the last, best years of your life in jail?
The point of the question, which must have been a plant, was to allow Stone to plug his legal defense fund. If ABC has an ombudsman, I hope that person looks at this interview. Shame on the network for giving Stone this platform. And shame on Stone for having a tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back. That's just wrong.

Also on with George today? Former NJ Governor Chris Christie, an ABC News contributor and now the author of  "Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey and the Power of In Your Face Politics" (a book not to miss, according to USA Today).  Here's a snippet of that interview:
What I outline in the book, though, is garbage in, garbage out. And the problem for the president has been at time, and especially the people he had around him in the beginning, were just not suited to be there. And when you're getting advice from those people, lie the executive orders we talk about right in the beginning, with Steve Bannon and others writing them on the back of an envelope essentially, not vetted... you know, when you do that kind of stuff, when you have people who think they can be rogue actors like that, that ill-serves the president. They got him off to a really bad start in that regard, and it drove me crazy because I knew we had a plan for him that would have gotten him off to a good start with good people. 
It's important to remember that while Steve Bannon formally fired Christie, it was Jared Kushner who gave the order.

January 26, 2019

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v27)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
In Thursday's post, the first in a series on our Sonofa Gov's State of the State, we looked at the accomplishments of the Cuomo administration, covering a whole lot of bases.

Today, we start looking at what's on the new progressive agenda Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate plan on bringing to us.

Some things have already been delivered, as the legislature got right to work as soon as they were sworn in. Here's what was called for in the SOTS:
  • Reproductive Health Act
  • Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Updating the SAFE Act
  • Voting Reforms
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Child Victims Act
  • Dream Act
  • Legal Adult Use Cannabis
  • Campaign Finance Reforms
  • Green New Deal
  • Sports Betting
  • Pro-Labor Protections
  • Tax Reforms
  • Rent Regulation Reform
  • Continuing the Build New York program
  • MTA changes
Cuomo appreciated that there's a lot of stuff in that wish list.
It's a lot. No doubt about it. But there's been a lot that has been bottled up for many, many years that we couldn't get done. And in many ways I feel the state is now liberated with the Senate Democratic Caucus and we can get these things done and we can get them done together and pass a new budget and I believe we can get them done within the first 100 days to show this state a new reality.
Some of it already has been done, or will be done soon. Let's take a look.

January 25, 2019

TGIF 1/25/19

Wow -- what a week this one was!

I don't know about you, but I got a little tired trying to keep up with who was staring down who, and who was or wasn't blinking, and stuff like that.  Let's take a look.

Covington Catholic had a down and up week when a video appeared to show their #MAGA hat-wearing, women's rights-protesting students engaged in what appeared to be a racist, tomahawk-chopping, chanting in the face of a Native American elder and Vietnam War veteran.

Even their diocese pounced on them, promising a full investigation of their behavior.  And then, more video cropped up, and the race to condemnation turned away (somewhat, but not completely) from the kids and onto the vet, and more particularly onto the media.

There was lots of condemnation to go around on this one, for sure. In the end, the kids were not the instigators; the veteran was of the Vietnam War era, but never served out of the country, and the media? Well, yeah, there's still plenty of condemnation for them, all around: for the original reporting, for being too slow to respond when additional videos were made public, for their treatment of the Native American elder, for their interview with the start of the protest, and for their explanations and apologies, or the lack thereof.

No one was happy, I think - or, maybe I should say no one should be happy.   I expect the students will be invited to the White House, as survivors of the war on religion AND the war against the #fakenews.

But someone definitely had a worse week than the entire city of Covington, Kentucky.

January 24, 2019

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v26)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
Here in Syracuse, our mayor just delivered his second State of the City address (you can read about that here and here), setting the stage for what we can expect locally as we move into the new year.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo delivered his ninth State of the State address last week.

This is the first in a series of posts about the SOTS - because it never fits into only one. We're New York, after all.

It's important to know going in that, for the first time in quite a while, a single party controls the governorship, the State Assembly, and the State Senate -- and that party, of course, is the Democrats.  Almost uniformly, there's some salivating and chomping at the bit to get to work on a new, even more progressive agenda, and they are promising to waste little time in doing exactly that.

As is typical for this kind of speech (they honestly can't help themselves, I'm convinced), Cuomo started with introductions,  mentioning Tish James, our new Attorney General. James is the first African-American woman to win a statewide race. Also mentioned? The first woman - and the first African-American woman - to lead one of the legislative chambers, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Carl Heastie, the Assembly leader. These two will be instrumental in helping push the agenda.

After the callouts to folks in the room, this was how Cuomo set the stage:
This year, we think it's the year to fully enact a justice agenda, in the broadest sense of the word 'justice.' Social justice, economic justice, and racial justice. And that this is the time to do it. We face real challenges in the state of New York. We have a federal government that is assaulting our values, our liberties, our rights, and our economy. Literally our economy. The federal cuts to our budget would be devastating and the federal effect on the values and liberties of New Yorkers would be devastating. And this is the moment in government that we are leading. And it is up to us to bring this state forward. We have no allies who are going to help us. The federal government is not going to help us. It's up to this legislative body to lead this state at this crucial time. 
He then turned to several 'good news' items, including having a "functional government" that is "competent" and "accomplishment oriented" - in fact, he said, "we're the most progressive government in the United States of America."  Social accomplishments mentioned include:
  • NY as the first big state to pass marriage equality
  • being the first state to pass $15 - the highest minimum wage
  • having the most aggressive building agenda
  • being a national champion for organized labor
  • implementing the first free college tuition program
  • having the best paid family leave program in the nation and
  • being a leader on gun safety
But there's more, much more, in the look-back.

January 23, 2019

Grains of Salt (v42): The State of the City (pt. 2)

Grains of Salt
In yesterday's post, I took things a little out of order and focused on what had been accomplished in Mayor Ben Walsh's first year in office.Today, it's all about the future, and the Syracuse Surge.

What's that, you might be wondering? The Syracuse Surge?  Well, here's how the mayor set the state:
As is customary in a State of the City address, I've prepared a report on the past year and information on plans ahead in 2019. Something exciting, though, happened earlier this week in Albany. In his 2019 State of the State, Governor Cuomo took special note of what is happening in our city. He reported on a "resurgence" occurring here. And he committed strong support for the Syracuse Surge, a new strategy to ignite growth and economic opportunity in Syracuse and the region. So, before going into what we accomplished in 2018, I'll begin with the story behind the Syracuse Surge and how we believe it will help us achieve our vision of being a growing city.
Walsh talked about technology, and how different things are generally ("the future promised in the Jetsons is finally here."), as well as specifically for Syracuse.
Change is hard, but we've risen to the task of embracing new technology before, and I'm certain we can do it again.
Those 'before' changes included the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, where Syracuse as a leader, Walsh said, but we lost ground in the Third Industrial Revolution as we "struggled to capture the progress offered by new technology" and that's had a decades-long impact on us. But it can be changed.
Today, Syracuse has a once in a generation opportunity to leap into the future, to avoid decades of further division, growing income inequality and declining quality of life. 
Enter the Syracuse Surge.

January 22, 2019

Grains of Salt (v41): The State of the City (pt. 1)

Grains of Salt
Last week, Syracuse's Mayor Ben Walsh gave his second State of the City (SOTC) address. I was not able to attend, but I've captured some of the highlights below.

After opening with a great story about a Syracuse kid who found a career path through a city-supported program, and introductions of dignitaries and invited guests, Walsh dove right in.

For starters,
... I am pleased to report that the state of our city is stronger than it was when I stood before you a year ago.
He's not blind to the problems we faced then, and now, but feels overall we understand them better, and pointed to the foundation that's been built to address them, as well as incremental progress that's been made.

He also referenced the vision for the city, and the objectives which were tagged to help realize the vision. I discussed that in a recent post quoting a couple of interviews Walsh has done. The objectives focus on fiscal sustainability, delivery of city services, economic investment and stable neighborhoods, and constituent engagement, and were chosen because
they epitomize government's responsibility to have a meaningful and positive impact on our lives. There is a direct connection between the way we execute the daily business of managing this government and they way each one of you experiences the city as a contributor to you own personal and family well-being. 
Let's look at how things went in year one.

January 20, 2019

Sunday School 1/20/19

Boy, it was a tough decision today on which lectures to attend.

On the one hand, my senator Kirsten Gillibrand was on three out of five shows, missing only NBC's Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday. On the other hand, Rudy Giuliani was on MTP and veep Mike Pence was on FNS. The one bonus is that Lindsey Graham wasn't on any of the shows, so that made them all a little more palatable.

In the end, although I try and stay away from MTP because of Chuck Todd, I caved today and went with the worst lawyer in the nation, even though it made me feel more than a little like an ambulance chaser myself.  Let's take a look at how the conversation went, starting with the BuzzFeed story that Trump told former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
Chuck Todd: Are you 100% confident that the president never once asked Michael Cohen to do anything but tell the truth to Congress?
Rudy Giuliani: 100% certain of that. And also, I, you know, I should add the BuzzFeed story was a story that the president had counseled him or told him to lie and that there were tapes, and texts, and federal law enforcement sources, two of them, were cited for it.  And I spent a great deal of the day on Saturday with that because I knew from the very beginning that it wasn't true. But, I mean, to their credit, the Justice Department and the special counsel's office said that the story was inaccurate. And the inaccuracy is that there's no evidence that the president told him to lie..I can tell you his counsel to Michael Cohen throughout that entire period was, "Tell the truth."...

January 18, 2019

Poll Watch: It's All About That Base

Ruh roh.

Seems that in at least one recent poll, the president's base is cracking. A recent NPR/Marist poll shows degradation in Trump's support across all of his key demographics.

Among Republicans (-10), white men without college degrees (-7), white evangelicals (-13), suburban men (-18) ,and even white women without college degrees (-24), his support in the January poll is down compared to December. According to Lee Miringoff, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion's director,
For the first time, we saw a fairly consistent pattern of his base showing evidence of cracking. Don't know if that's temporary - tied to the government shutdown - or a broader problem the president is having. 
The numbers shown for each group reflect the net change in support between the two polls. So for example, in the December poll, white women without college degrees had a +20 favorable rating (54% approve of Trump's job performance vs. 34% disapprove) but in the January poll, the disapproves (47%) outnumber the approves (43%), for a net loss of 24 points.

Overall, the president's approval rating in this poll stands at 39%, compared to a disapprove rating of 53%, with the number reflecting strong disapproval at 45%.

What else did this poll tell us?  Let's take a look.

January 16, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v161)

Wednesday.

Wondering Wednesday.

And tonight, I'm wondering about hamberders. Do they taste better, you know, with covfefe? Do they multiply, almost as if by magic, going from 300 to 1000 in only the amount of time it takes you to eat a handful of french fries?

And just out of curiosity, I wonder how the president managed to personally pay for all of the fast food he ordered for the Clemson University Football team?  Estimates range from around 800 bucks to maybe as high as $3K - and the food came from a variety of all American fast food companies, not sure exactly many separate locations were involved. But did they send someone to deliver to the White House, and Trump answered the door with a handful of cash? Did he use loyalty points? Or maybe he ordered via Grubhub? Inquiring minds want to know...

I'm also wondering what would happen if the president refused the request from Nancy Pelosi to either delay giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, or to simply deliver it in writing. First of all, I'm surprised Pelosi made that move to remind Trump that she's in charge of the House, and it is the House Speaker who invites the president to deliver his SOTU,  but I don't know if the president is in the mood for this type of shenanigans at the hands of "MS-13 Lover" Pelosi.  Even though delivering it in writing would not be a bad thing - after all.
Although George Washington and John Adams delivered the State of the Union in person, presidents for over a century delivered it via writing. It wasn't until 1913 that President Woodrow Wilson began the practice of delivering a speech to Congress as a way of rallying the nation behind his agenda. 
He does have a couple of other options - three that I can think of off the top of my head, actually. He could tweet the darn thing, which I think would be bigly hysterical. He could deliver it on the state television network, releasing it in dribs and drabs starting with Fox and Friends, and finish up with his advisor Sean Hannity acting the part of benevolent assistant or something. Or, he could simply post it on whitehouse.gov and anyone interested could find it there.

What else... Oh, yeah - Rep. Steve King, the racist American nationalist from Iowa? He was stripped of his committee assignments by House Republicans as a show of distaste for his latest comments in an interview with the NY Times. King says he was misinterpreted, or something - after all, he noted,
There is no tape for the interview that I did. It was 56 minutes. There are some notes on the other end, but there is no tape. There's no way to go back and listen. The NY Times has a different version of this. They make a habit of attacking the president, as a matter of fact. 
Which is meaningful how, I wonder, to his comment and the actions of his own party against him?  And if you're being accused of being a racists and saying things that are horrible and reprehensible and all that, do you really want to claim this president as a soul mate?

I have to wonder about that, I really do. Iowans should wonder about that, too, I think.

January 15, 2019

Grains of Salt (v40): Ben Walsh Reflects

Ben Walsh, the Independent mayor of Syracuse, will give his second State of the City this Thursday at the Red House, the newly renovated arts center on Salina Street.

In advance of that address, he had a Question-and-Answer session with Chris Baker of the Post Standard/Syracuse.com, and an interview with India Miraglia of SU's The Daily Orange, In both of those interactions with the media, Walsh shared his thoughts on his first year in office. The information - and quotes - below came from both of the articles linked above.

Among the highlights, he said:
  • hearing from people that there's a new energy and renewed sense of optimism for Syracuse;
  • establishing a strong vision for the future - for Syracuse to be a growing city that embraces diversity and creates opportunity for all;
  • having a very diverse team, at all levels;
  • identifying strategic 'building blocks' of fiscal sustainability; neighborhood stability and economic growth; constituent engagement; and finding effective and efficient ways to deliver city services;
  • holding spending flat, as well as identifying savings opportunities;
  • the new sales tax agreement with the County; 
  • focus on public safety (new police chief, new recruits for the SPD, and a new fire chief); and.
  • and the summer jobs program.
What else was on his mind?

January 14, 2019

The Update Desk: Casino Gambling (again)

Can it really be time to do another update on New York's ill-fated decision to allow non-Native casino gambling?  Why yes, yes it is - and this update is about the same as the last one, and the one before that.

As has consistently been the case, the news is not good for our Vegas-style casinos in the Finger Lakes area, the Southern Tier, the Capital region, and the Catskills.  Leading the way, again, is the del Lago Resort and Casino down the Thruway a bit from Syracuse.

We're told of another downgrade in their credit rating and a likely continued 'negative' outlook.
If the two-year-old del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes is to survive, it's going to need new cash investment or face a difficult restructuring of its debts and finances.
The issue? Lower than expected revenue growth and, oh yeah -- too many other opportunities for throwing your money away. The same issues confound the other three, which are not meeting their revenue estimates, either. del Lago was about 57% short of projections. Here's what Moody's said, in part.
The downgrade and the negative outlook consider that despite a slight pickup in del Lago's monthly gamin revenue, this improvement is not enough to alleviate Moody's concern that Lago will be challenged to support its annual fixed charges of about $50M going forward.
And there's more news on the casino front, which is not necessarily going to be helpful to the cause, either.

January 13, 2019

Sunday School 1/13/19

Our Sunday School logo has shifted to the left today, because we've got a couple of announced Democratic 2020 presidential candidates in the lecture halls. At some point, we'll see just how far left we'll move, depending on who the Dems end up picking as their standard-bearers.

Today, we'll hear from former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos) or former San Antonio mayor and Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro (Face the Nation on CBS with Margaret Brennan).

In case you were wondering, yes - Lindsey Graham (R- White House)  and Dick Durbin (D-IL) were both on television this morning - it is Sunday, after all. Others making appearances included Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ted Cruz (R-Wolverine), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). From the House side, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) were out and about.

If I were one of the folks who watched the Super Bowl for the commercials, I might have known about John Delaney. My bad, I guess - honestly, this is the first I've heard of him but lots of folks probably can't say that. Delaney indicated he's been to Iowa 21 times and New Hampshire 12 times already, sharing his message.

On the other network, Margaret Brennan asked Julian Castro about the statement from the RNC that appeared "almost immediately" after his candidacy was announced:
Julian Castro has made history by becoming one of the biggest lightweights to ever run for president. He was a weak mayor who couldn't even handle being HUD secretary. This is obviously just another desperate attempt to become someone else's running mate."
These sound like they're going to be fun. Let's take a look.

January 12, 2019

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v25)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
New York is about to get a taste of the Democratic trifecta when the Legislature gets to work on Monday.

First up? Voting and campaign reforms, according to news reports. For example, here's how the NY Times set the stage:
For years, the ways in which voters in New York have been stymied by the state's antiquated voting laws have stood in start contrast to the state's liberal reputation...But with Democrats now in control of both chambers of the State Capitol and the governor's office, things are about to change.
And here's how the Tribune News Service  presented it:
The Legislature will look to hit the ground running beginning Monday with passage of a number of long-anticipated voting and campaign reforms, including the closure of a controversial loophole that allows companies to give virtually unlimited amounts of campaign cash.
The voting reform package will be the first major undertaking by the Assembly and Senate, which are now controlled for the first time in a decade by the Democrats. The package and a host of other issues set to be taken up in the next few weeks have all been routinely blocked in previous years by Republicans, who long controlled the Senate.  
Let's take a look at the plans.

January 11, 2019

TGIF 1/11/19

Well, happy Friday, everyone! How's your week going?

NY's junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand seems to be having a good week - she's hired some new folks and rented some new office space, and she's also traveling to Iowa, we've heard. Based on all of  this, it seems the senator is staring at 2020 on her calendar. Even though, we remember, she made it clear during her 2018 campaign that she had no designs on a presidential race. "I will serve my six year term." she said.

But if she's planning on serving her full Senate term, maybe all of her work now is really just to get her better name recognition for 2024? Of course, at that point, she might be joined in the race by our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo - he's also not running in 2020, he's assured us, but he sure sounds like he's running sometime soon.

Staying in New York,  I really can't tell if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is having a good week or a bad week. She seems just fine being in the public eye for, well, for being in the public eye. Giving as good as she gets when people say something about her, whether it's an attack from the right or a nudge from the left; whether it's a response to an interview, an attack on her college dancing, even pictures of naked legs (that aren't hers) or just someone deciding to talk about all of the attention she's getting. Which generates more attention, which generates more responses, which generates more attention, and so on.

I'm going to get yelled at for this, I'm sure, but I'd love for her to be getting attention for her work in Congress, not because she is in Congress. And yes, I know it's early, and I know this new class of Dems is the loudest bunch of folks the media has seen since, well, that orange cur rode the escalator, but the proof is not in the press, it's in the pudding.

January 9, 2019

Trump in Transition (v35)

As expected, everyone's fact-checking statements made by the president while he read tweets from the Oval Office last night on national television, and by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, speaking from a hallway somewhere, I think,  after Trump was done.

You can check out the AP, WaPo, NY Times, Fox NewsCNN and Politico fact-checking yourself - not a lot of new ground broken in any of this, because there wasn't a lot of new ground in any of last night's comments. That said, it seems there's consensus that we don't really have a security crisis at the southern border.

In addition to the fact-checking, pretty much everyone is also chiming on 'how he did' or 'who won' in last night's series of uncomfortable conversations. Trump was obviously constrained by having to look and act presidential, instead of being able to unleash his rally-carnival barker persona, the one we hear from most days. For their parts, Chuck and Nancy did their best to appear stern, as if disciplining a misbehaving child, which to a large degree, they were.

Let's take a look at what folks are saying.

January 8, 2019

A Crisis by Design

The national news media has succumbed to the threat of being yelled at by the biggest bully in the whole damn valley, and all of the major networks will give free airtime to the president so he can tell us all about the crisis at the southern border that, frankly, is entirely by design - his design.

Now, don't get me wrong - we have long had an immigration problem, and it needs to be fixed - about that, there should be no question. But, that immigration problem is not defined by the need for a wall, and it won't be fixed by the construction of a wall, whether it's a big beautiful concrete one (about which the president knows more than anyone) or some variation on a theme of steel slats that is equally aesthetically pleasing (about which the president knows more than anyone) or even just concertina wire and chain link fence (about which the president surely knows more than anyone).

Since he announced his candidacy, "Build That Wall" has been the cry around which his supporters will reliably rally, because we are meant to fear the dark skinned people who cross the southern border.

It matters not whether they have crossed legally or illegally really - because just by looking at them, we are unable to tell which is which, just like we can't tell a good black person walking down the street, or shopping in a store, or making a phone call in a hotel lobby, or swimming in a pool, or hailing a cab, or driving down the highway or doing any number of other things that human beings do, from a bad one.

That's the point of fear. And that's the basis of this 'crisis' that the president has created, embraced, and exacerbated, and which he now must trying and convince us is real.

January 7, 2019

OrangeVerse XL: Cabinetry

You've heard, I'm sure, that the president had a cabinet meeting last week. You may have heard that he was all over the map with his comments, both in the pre-meeting discussion and also in the portion of the meeting when he invites the press to play along with him.

What you probably didn't hear that his being all over the map makes for great poetry.  Here's how some of it looked during his statements. We may take a look at the portion where he took questions from the press, and at how poetic his cabinet members are, as well.

Thanks for Coming
It's going to be a very exciting year. 
I think it's going to be a very good year.
Some people think
it'll be controversial and tough
and it probably will but
we're going to get a lot done.

The 1st Part About the Shutdown
We're in a shutdown because Democrats
refuse to fund the border security. They try
and make it like it's just about the wall, 
and it is about the wall.
I said, over the weekend, 
to a number of people that, you know
the wheel, the wall - 
there are some things that never get old...
If we had a wall - and we will.

The 2nd Part About the Shutdown
We're in the shutdown because of the fact
that the Democrats are looking to 2020.
They think they're not going to win the election. 
I guess a lot of signs point to the fact
that they're not going to win the election.
And I hope they're not going to win the election.
But they view this as an election point for them.
I actually think it's bad politics, but I'm not thinking 
about the politics. I'm thinking 
about what's right and what's wrong. 
And we need a physical barrier. 
Everything else is bells and whistles. 
I know more about drones than anybody.

January 6, 2019

Sunday School 1/6/19

Our Sunday School logo is firmly anchored in the upper left hand corner today, as we hear from four freshman Dems and Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation (CBS).

Also on the show this morning were Sunday show regulars Senators Lindsey Graham (R-White House) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). You can find their comments in the transcript linked above.

Let's get to the Dems: Jahana Hayes, former national Teacher of  the Year and Connecticut's first African-American in Congress; Max Rose of New York, a decorated veteran who fought in Afghanistan and in the Brooklyn DA's office; Mikie Sherrill, a Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor, now a New Jersey Congresswoman; and Colin Allred, of Texas, a former NFL star who worked for HUD under the Obama administration.

First up? Voting to reopen the government, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Trump) says that's just a waste of time, and that Trump's stuck on his $5B.
Sherrill: We voted on the most bipartisan bill we could vote on, the one that was passed recently by the Senate, within the last month...what we're asking Congress to do is its job, and pass a bill that's going to reopen the government.
Allred: We have border security in this bill that we passed and we are willing to negotiate on border security. There is a difference, though, between border security and building a wall that we don't need and that will be a waste of money. A $5B price tag is a lot of money. There's a lot of things we can do instead of that.  
Allred also noted that, in Texas, there's a "significant amount of fencing" and that "fencing in certain places is absolutely appropriate" but there's a big difference between wasting money on a campaign promise and actually doing something.

January 5, 2019

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v24): Cuomo Pardons

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
The government shutdown, allegedly over border security, is looking more and more like it's about testosterone and backbone more than anything else.

We're hearing of foul-mouthed outbursts, and concerns of a certain someone "looking silly" if he were to back down on his demands, and of course we know that the Senate doesn't care what anyone says, they're not doing their job no matter what. 

The president is spending an inordinate amount of time in the White House, instead of in Florida, which is saving us millions of dollars, so I guess we should be happy that he's contributing in a positive way to the situation.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, 2018 came to a close with NY's Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo issued pardons and sentence commutations to 29 people, 22 of whom are immigrants. And he did it with a dig at the president:
While president Trump shuts down the federal government over his obsessions with keeping immigrants out, New York stands strong in our support for immigrant communities. These actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.
So, who benefited from this, the fifth occurrence of Cuomo protecting immigrants in this fashion?

January 3, 2019

Quick Takes (v31): Where are the Problem Solvers?

Quick Takes
My local paper had a short piece on the three minority House Republicans who voted for changes to the House rules today
rules changes today.

And it seems this is a very unusual circumstance; according to the article it's been 18 years since anyone crossed party lines to support rules changes at the start of a new Congress.

One of them was John Katko, who represents me in Congress. The other two were Tom Reed, who represents Corning NY, and Brian Fitzpatrick who represents Pennsylvania's district 1, near Philadelphia.

The three are members - actually, Reed is the Republican chair - of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Dems and Reps who are committed to working together in a bipartisan fashion. They went along with the new Dem majority on the rules change because the changes, according to new House Speaking Nancy Pelosi,
will make it easier for bills to reach to the House floor, and allow for more votes on bipartisan bills. 

January 2, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v160)

And just like that, it's Wednesday again - time flies when you combine vacation with back to back holidays, I guess!

So, what are we wondering about this first Wednesday of the new year? Let's take a look.

The president decided again to abuse the trademark of Game of Thrones, putting an outdated, ridiculous poster the table at his cabinet meeting. I'm not sure how long it stayed on the table - he could have pulled it immediately after the press left the room. When he posted this on social media back in November, HBO noted they're prefer their trademark not be "misappropriated for political purposes."

So I'm wondering how a guy who IS a brand - nothing more, nothing less - would react if we all made posters that completely stole the Trump brand, mocked it up to meet our own designs, and then published them, maybe on billboards, or TV ads? Would he sit idly by? Oh wait: that would be unethical, so we wouldn't do that. Never mind.

What else is going on? A Romney family feud,  Elizabeth Warren grabs a beer, and a governor roars.

January 1, 2019

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v23)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
Some of us might have started the new year here in New York relaxing, binge-watching TV, tackling a hangover, or other similar New Year's Day activities.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, others are hitting the ground running in new roles, including Attorney General, Letitia 'Tish' James, the Empire State's first black AG, and the first woman elected to serve in the role.

James has been involved in politics in New York City for years, most recently as the Public Advocate. Before that, she was a Council member, representing folks in Brooklyn, and she previously headed the AG's regional office there.

Her list of accomplishments in those roles is a long one, according to her bio:
  • she passed more legislation than all previous Public Advocates - combined
  • as a Council member, she passed the Safe Housing Act, helped uncover corruption, and pushed through multiple recycling laws
  • she investigated predatory lenders, helped investigate the 'stop and frisk' policy, and took on businesses for human rights and environmental laws and scams targeting immigrants in the Brooklyn AG office.
Even with all of those accomplishments, and her stellar resume, there's one 'first' that's missing: James is our second female AG.

Barbara Underwood was the first.