In the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, April 18, 2015, a small crowd of residents from across Broome County gathered at the VFW Post 478 in Binghamton, NY, to discuss an on-going issue facing the State of New York. The issue is the 2nd Amendment, specifically how the NY Safe Act affects that inalienable right. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Shooters Committee On Political Education (SCOPE NY), a 2nd Amendment advocacy organization created in 1965, and the NY Revolution, a grassroots civil rights advocacy organization.
The meeting started at 1pm. Within fifteen minutes, all other members of the press had left, missing the bulk of what was discussed. The first part of the meeting was conducted by Steven Aldstadt, president of SCOPE NY. Mr. Aldstadt reviewed 7 lawsuits currently challenging parts and/or the totality of the NY Safe Act. Several of these legal challenges are either lead by, or supported by, SCOPE. In addition, Mr. Aldstadt highlighted 2 Bills to be addressed by the New York State Assembly on April 22, 2015.
Bill A-2651, seeks the full repeal of the NY Safe Act. It is supported by 17 Assemblymembers including: Blankenbush; Crouch; Friend; Lopez; Nojay; and Tenney. Bill A-3350, supported by 18 Assemblymembers (including all those mentioned prior), also seeks the full repeal of the NY Safe Act, via a differently worded Bill. Those attending the meeting were encouraged to attend the session on April 22nd, and to spread the word among other 2nd Amendment advocates across the State.
Mr. Aldstadt also took questions from the audience, addressing concerns on legislation including the status on the ban on magazine capacity. Further Mr. Aldstadt answered the question of Michael Vass, the writer of this article, in regard to the usage of federal funds to enable NICS database increases resulting in a loss of gun ownership, and the Bill offered in March by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. The NICS issue, Mr. Aldstadt stated, is being further looked into as more reports are being investigated. As covered in our article Assemblyman Brindisi want to repeal the Safe Act, but why should you care?, Assemblyman Brindisi suddenly sponsored a repeal of much of the Safe Act after 2 years of silence on the subject. Though there appears to be little traction on that Bill, SCOPE NY also supports the Bill. As Mr/ Aldstadt stated,
“SCOPE realizes that in this atmosphere, with the Governor being re-elected, full repeal may not be a reality. Thus we support any Bill that would restrict or repeal this restrictive law.”
In the second half of the meeting, NY Revolution spoke to the audience. The discussion turned to the issue of constitutional militias. A subject that few in the audience were very clear on. The lead speaker, George Curbello, spoke at length about the need for the public to be aware of what is happening in local neighborhoods, legislation affecting the State, and to legally and rationally take part in both. We were able to speak with Mr. Curbelo after the meeting.
In addition to sharing details on the on-going legal battle on the NY Safe Act, and the effort to promote the civil liberties of New York residents, the meeting at the VFW Post 478 also was an effort to help raise awareness for Operation Hunger Smash. This is a national volunteer effort to provide veterans with food and supplies when they are in need and/or homeless. Mr. Curbelo made a statement on Operation Hunger Smash,
“Our Constitution and the 2nd Amendment are supported by our soldiers and our veterans. The fact that there are vets that are homeless, that have medical issues that aren’t being addressed, if we can find out who these vets are, we can help them through the process of becoming more viable in their local communities.”
** April 17, 2015 – original post at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com, written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez **
Local residents living around the intersection of North Street and Mather Street in Binghamton, NY were startled Friday, April 17, 2015, when a car caught on fire. The incident immediately drew a crowd of onlookers as police and fire departments arrived on the scene to deal with the situation.
A vehicle, driven by Mr. J. Watson, began to give off smoke while he was driving at about 4 P.M. Friday afternoon. Mr. Watson stated that he stopped the vehicle to investigate, whereupon he learned the vehicle had in fact caught fire. He contacted authorities, with the police department first to arrive on the scene some 3-5 minutes later. Two police cars proceeded to block off North Street from oncoming traffic as a crowd of residents gathered to watch and video tape the proceedings on cell phones. Shortly thereafter the Binghamton Fire Department arrived with a single fire truck.
Within 15 minutes the car fire was put out, with no collateral damage to residential property in the area. There were no reported injuries from this incident. According to Binghamton Fire Department Lt. Hardy, on the scene,
“The preliminary investigation appears to show that this was most likely an electrical fire. The vehicle is 12 years old, and it appears that the fire started at the rear of the engine in the wiring of the car.”
The intersection of North St. and Mather St. is no stranger to incidents. On April 2, 2010 a postal van was struck and flipped in a car accident at this same intersection. No injuries were reported that the time of that incident as well.
The headline may seem strange to some, but that is exactly what Fredric U. Dicker proposed in the NY Post on April 6, 2015. Richard Hanna, currently the incumbent of the NY 22nd Congressional District of NY, was one of 4 Republicans that Dicker suggests might oppose Sen. Charles Schumer in 2016. The choice begs review.
Rep. Richard Hanna originally was elected to the NY-24 in 2010, and due to redistricting came to preside over the newly formed NY-22 in 2012. In 2014, Rep. Hanna won re-election to his third term after a slim win versus challenger Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Rep. Hanna is know predominantly for his large personal wealth, and opposition to Republican issues.
The strongest statement that was made for Hanna to run for the Senate in the NY Post article was that Hanna fears another primary challenge. The other positives, for an election in NY, are that Hanna is pro-choice on abortion and pro-gay marriage. In the ultra-blue of New York City, these positions add to the appeal of Rep. Hanna while in the strongly Republican NY-22 these positions detract from Hanna. The Aurburnpub.com added a bit more about what would make Rep. Hanna a good choice for Senate – he has the cash, personally, to take on Sen. Schumer.
What is interesting, about the NY Post article, is that Dicker only commits 28 words to directly support Rep. Hanna as a candidate. Even that was comprised primarily of a quote from an unnamed source,
“Hanna, 64, who is known to fear another challenge from Tenney, “could go out on a high note if he takes on Schumer,’’ said a prominent GOP strategist.”
Fear is rarely a positive motivation for anything. Fear of defending the voting record of an elected politician is not only worse, it implies a weakness that one would assume would prevent a win in any elected office. Likewise, being a cash-cow is hardly an enticing resume point in any endeavor except politics. If these are the high points, a run for Senate seems foolhardy. In fact that does not seem reason enough to run for a city council seat, let alone re-election to Congress.
Rep. Richard Hanna’s record is that of a flip-flop politician. He has supported abortion each time it has come up for a vote in the House of Representatives – in opposition of the Republican party line, the stated position of constituents of the NY-22 according to Rep. Hanna, and the publicly stated position of Rep. Hanna himself. Rep. Hanna has supported President Obama’s 2012 Executive Order on Immigration, while objecting to the 2014 Executive Order on Immigration (which essentially expands the reach of the 2012 Order). Rep. Hanna has claimed to be a fiscal conservative, and yet has voted for unlimited debt ceiling increases.
In addition Rep. Hanna has few achievements to tout. In the 3 terms he has been in Congress thus far he has been able to name a post office, pass two Bills for baseball coins, passed a technical regulation on bonds, and nothing else. He has failed to pass any other Bill that he has submitted, and of those Bills almost all have failed to garner more than a handful of Representatives in support.
Given that track record it is obvious why Rep. Hanna narrowly won re-election in 2014. It is also clear why the GOP strategist quoted by Dicker implies the exit of Richard Hanna from elected office. Still, other than being able to spam television ads and flyers (which was the strategy employed in the 2014 primary race), even NY Democrats have little to grasp in Richard Hanna as a candidate for Senate.
As a comparison of the 2 other Representatives mentioned as possible GOP challengers to Sen. Schumer, Rep. Chris Gibson who has served 2 terms has sponsored 39 Bills (10 more than Rep. Hanna in less time). He passed 1 Bill on Tick-Borne Disease research, and most of the other Bills equally failed to garner support as did Rep. Hanna.
Rep. Peter King, who comprised the bulk of the article by Dicker, is perhaps the most likely challenger. He has a high public profile. While his goal of a run for the presidency is unlikely as there is no national GOP support, his public criticism of top Republican presidential candidates could be a boon in a New York race. He is a moderate, like Rep. Hanna, and has passed 19 out of 321 Bills sponsored in the House of Representatives in his 25 year career. Of those Bills that passed the House, 7 have become law (although 4 were naming post offices).
The reality is that currently, none of the moderate Republican Representatives from New York have anything substantial to showcase in a run against Senator Schumer. The best that can be offered is a politically schizophrenic cash cow who can self-fund what would be an expensive race, and a publicly visible dissenter with 2 decades of political wheeling and dealing under his belt. Based on the potential to actually promote legislation, while each Representative mentioned can easily compare to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (the junior NY Senator), all pale in comparison to the record of Sen. Schumer. But in New York politics visibility is as important as actual success. Thus Rep. Peter King seems to be the best choice with the most credible chance, and likely why he was the first and main subject of the Dicker article.
Richard Hanna for Senate may sound attractive to an incumbent that is not well liked by his own Party, and struggling to hold onto his District. The fact is that beyond sounding attractive, there is no substance to the idea – much as some may summarize the voting record of Rep. Richard Hanna.
UPDATE – Rep. Hanna has since this article’s publishing, stated that he has no intention of seeking a run for the Senate. Given the voting record and support within the NY 22nd Congressional District, this comes as no surprise.
** Originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez. **
For even those in America most disinterested in politics, Iran is a name known and disliked for two generations. Among that very same group of Americans, the thought of nuclear war as a reality is more akin to a sci-fi movie script than an event to occur in our lifetime. The confluence of these two facts is abundantly evident in the agreement announced by President Obama on April 2, 2015.
For those that only read the headlines, or pay attention only to the 30 second soundbites, President Obama was a force to be feared as he spoke in the Rose Garden of the White House. America had made a deal to crush the ability of Iran to get nuclear weapons. Iran would be hounded by the international community, cowed into submission by the force of will alone. The threat of terrorists with nuclear weapons, or a Middle East aglow with radiation would remain the fiction of Hollywood.
“Today the United States… has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon… It is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives… If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.” – President Obama, 4/2/15
Tough talk. In fact it is virtually the same thing said in 1994 by President Bill Clinton in regard to the North Korean pact. President Clinton called the deal, “a good deal for the United States.” North Korea’s chief negotiator, Kang Sok Ju, said at the time that “We [North Korea] have neither the intention nor the plan to develop nuclear weapons.” That deal in 1994 was backed by “The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments.”
In October 2002 North Korea admitted it had a secret nuclear program that had been on-going for several years. In 2006 the first nuclear weapon test was conducted, with additional tests in 2009 and 2013. When North Korea entered the agreement with America it was not as close to a nuclear weapon as Iran is today (a mere 2 months from development). Key to the North Korean secret program was nuclear material alleged to have been provided by Russia and Pakistan – the former being critical to any UN inspections to be conducted in Iran, the latter having a troubling history with Al Qaeda and terrorists.
Lest this be considered a singular breach, or the capabilities of a uniquely defined nation of military readiness, there is of course the history of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. After the 1990 Gulf War, a near unprecedented amount of access and inspection was initiated in Iraq. Perhaps only the Versailles Treaty had more intrusive safeguards and controls.
Not only was there the IAEA, but a new group of UN sanctioned inspectors were created just for monitoring Iraq called UNSCOM. These watch guards had unlimited access and were stationed in the country (2 things among many that Iran will never agree with). After a decade of activity they still had no concrete knowledge as to whether or not Saddam’s Iraq had given up its nuclear and chemical weapons programs.
Perhaps most troubling is the issue least discussed at this time. An issue that those reading headlines and listening to soundbites have likely never heard. Iran has admitted, and is not questioned, as being 2-3 months from having enough nuclear material to create a nuclear weapon. By the time the June 2015 deadline for an actual “binding” deal is reached, regardless of if a deal is actually made by that time, Iran could be imminently nuclear capable. This of course assumes that Iran is being deceptive, using the current negotiations as a smokescreen to buy itself time.
According to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the deception on the agreement to make an agreement that President Obama touts so strongly is coming from America itself. He states that the US has promised complete termination of all sanctions related to the nuclear question. In addition, he has asserted, just hours after President Obama spoke (though not covered in any degree close to that of when President Obama spoke), that
“We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”
These statements mimic, as does the speed in which they were made after announcements by the US, the views of Iran in November 2013. It was at that time, just after an agreement about the capabilities of Iran enriching uranium was made, that Iran asserted it had full intention and right to continue on the path it was on – which considering the near completion of their nuclear weapons program was exactly what they have done.
Still, for those of short memory in the White House and across the nation, it was a mere 6 years ago that Iran was forced to disclose it had built a secret nuclear facility. A fact that then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a “serial deception of many years“. The response from Iran, via then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the time was, “What business is it of yours to tell us what to do or not?“
But those adverse to international politics, and absolutely confident in the promises of President Obama, might wonder why this all matters? North Korea gained nuclear weapons and the world has not succumbed to World War III. Iraq stopped making new WMD’s. President Obama even gave an outline of the worst-case scenario, that Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be delayed by 10 years, they might say.
Consider what is at stake. Iran has sworn the eradication of America since the 1970′s. As recently as February 2015, crowds chanted the death of America and denounced any restrictions to the nuclear program. In March 2015 the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, supported the agreement for an agreement, on the basis of removing all sanctions, even as chants of Death to America were supported.
Further, if Iran gains a nuclear weapon, it sways the balance of power in the Middle East. Iran is already a power base for several terrorist and rebel factions involved in fighting in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other hotbeds in the region. Nuclear arms only increase the threat that Iran can pose to its neighbors. This says nothing of the financial support that the lifting of sanctions will allow Iran to give to terrorist organizations.
It is unlikely that regimes that have proven to be capable and willing to use chemical weapons against their own people, will be idle as the threat from Iran increases. An escalation of conflicts, both supported by and as counter to Iran is an obvious and credible outcome. Only the most fool-hardy and naive would believe that such increased violence would remain isolated to the Middle East. Given time, understanding that the goal of Iran remains the elimination of America from the face of the globe, the United States will assuredly be a victim at some point.
Thus, the result that has actually been accomplished is hardly worth lauding. America, once the guardian of nuclear proliferation worldwide, has now become a mere voyeur. With a glee spawned via mass media that has largely avoided any analysis of the proceedings in an effort to reach an ever lower bottom common denominator, low information voters and die-hard supporters of President Obama are watching an edited play-by-play of the long-term escalation of violence that will encompass and affect the nation in ways that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined never reached.
** Originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com, where Michael “Vass” Vasquez is a contributing writer. **
President Obama announced Thursday afternoon (April 2, 2015) that a deal to agree to a deal by Jun 30, 2015 has be reached with Iran and several nations including the U.S. This caps a series of talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions. The technical terms of the deal will start to be fleshed out from here, but some actions will take place immediately. The question many will ask though is if this deal is good for anyone besides Iran.
First, the background must be understood. Iran is actively engaged in a nuclear program. The reveal in 2099 of a secret research facility solely for the purpose of developing nuclear arms confirmed that, regadless of claims from Iran to the contrary. Iran has over 13,000 confirmed centrifuges, the vast majority that are designed to enrich weapons grade nuclear material. Add to this the fact that Iran is known as being less than reputable and more than willing to re-interpret any agreement made. This was the case in November 2013
“Let anyone make his own reading, but this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before.” – Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Second let’s look at the success of previous nuclear talks with nations of a less than spotless reputation, in other words North Korea. It was 1985 when North Korea joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In 1994 North Korea sign the Agreed Framework in Geneva. By 1998 North Korea conducted long-range missile tests, and by 2002 North Korea admitted they violated the Geneva Framework and had secretly enriched uranium. In 2003 North Korea claimed to be a nuclear power. This was all after multiple rounds of talks, inspections, serious violations of agreements, and the world watching intensely.
So given these critical concerns and the reality of the world, what does the agreement to make an agreement resulted in? Israel, the only stable and pro-West nation in the region, hates the deal. In no small part because Iran will be left with 6000 centrifuges, of which 5,000 are capable of enriching nuclear material. In addition we know that Iran controlled the discussion, as has been reported. While the deal claims the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have the ability to inspect, history has proven that is no safeguard.
Most critically, the deal will lift sanctions that have hurt Iran, especially with the drop in the price of oil. Thus Iran with have greater financial stability, allowing it to continue to spread its influence in the region. Were Iran to follow the lead of North Korea, it would also be able to further fund any secret and agreement breaking research to further its nuclear ambitions.
But President Obama has hailed the agreement to make an agreement as a success. Considering the failures of international policy in Yemen, the continued growth of ISIS in Iraq and across the Middle East, the worsening relations with Israel, and the increase in anarchy throughout the region, this could be seen as a high point of the Obama Administration’s policy efforts. But when you start from underground reaching the surface is still not the same as reaching the stars.
** Update -
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has announced that
“We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”
He went on to state that Iran plans to sell excess enriched uranium to the international marketplace. These items appear to be in direct conflict with the agreement as declared by President Obama earlier in the day. Most notably Zarif directly disputes the “phased” removal of sanctions as described by the United States. These actions appear to be a repeat of what occurred in 2013 and directly call to question exactly how good this deal is, and for whom.
Stephen A. Smith is probably best known for his work on ESPN. But on March 18, 2015 he was speaking at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. In that discussion he provided insight on the status of Blacks in politics. It was an eye opening commentary for some.
Mr. Smith stated that the well-known and at this point institutional pattern of African Americans voting almost uniformly for Democrats has eliminated the relevance of the Black vote. The voting aspect of that is relatively easy to prove. Since 1964 there has not been a presidential election where a Republican has garnered more than 17% of the Black vote. Since 1976 there has not been a Democrat that has ever received less than 83% of the Black vote in a presidential race. As a comparison, from 1936 – 1960, Republicans had never received less than 24% of the Black vote in a Presidential race with 1948 being the peak at 44%.
It is also fair to say that politicians are hyper-sensitive to the electorate. Politicians are quick to try to quell any negative impressions that might affect their re-election prospects. They are also quick to jump on whatever bandwagon that will boost their political standing. On a State level, there are the examples of Rep. Richard Hanna, who in his 2014 primary challenge was confronted with his lack of policy platform consistency. Starting in 2015 Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22) has sent out 2 flyers, at least 2 robocalls, and held semi-public meet-and-greets with selected voters to emphasize a political platform in advance of challenges for the 2016 election. Another example is Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (119th District, NY), who has jumped on the bandwagon of repeal of the NY Safe Act after 2 years of absolute silence on the subject – which may be a likely effort to kickstart his 2016 challenge of Rep. Hanna. Pretty standard fare in politics.
But, one key point of what Mr. Smith said is that
“Black folks in America are telling one party, “We don’t give a damn about you.” They’re telling the other party, “You’ve got our vote.” Therefore, you have labeled yourself “disenfranchised” because one party knows they’ve got you under their thumb. The other party knows they’ll never get you and nobody comes to address your interest.”
That is far harder to define. Still, there is the fact that Black unemployment has been, and remains, virtually double the national unemployment rate since 2009. So far in both terms of the Obama Administration, nothing has been done to address this disproportionate unemployment rate. In 2011, the Black Congressional Caucus spoke out about the issue,
“Can you imagine a situation where any other group of workers, if 34 percent of white women were out there looking for work and couldn’t find it? You would see congressional hearings and community gatherings. There would be rallies and protest marches. There is no way that this would be allowed to stand.” – Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, 9/6/11
Since that statement, the Black unemployment rate has gone from 16.2% to 10.4%. Most of this decline can be attributed to the decrease in the number of people being counted as unemployed, as millions have left the labor force, and the increase in part-time jobs as opposed to full-time employment. Even with the decrease, Black unemployment is more than double that of Whites (4.7%) and just shy of double the national average (5.5%). But does this correlate with what Mr. Smith states is a disenfranchisment of the Black voter?
Based on the study by George J. Borjas (Harvard University), Jeffrey Grogger (University of Chicago), Gordon H. Hanson (University of California, San Diego), in 2009 – which the White House should be aware of, and likely has other sources to confirm the data – there is a direct connection between immigration and Black unemployment and incarceration. The study states,
“As immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular skill group, the wage of black workers in that group fell, the employment rate declined, and the incarceration rate rose.”
Since being elected, President Obama has not directly address the concern of Black unemployment. There has been no initiative specifically targeting this national issue. But, consistently since being elected President Obama has focused considerable political clout and action on immigration. This culminated in the 2012 Executive Order (DACA) and again in 2014 with the expansion of DACA. Immigration is a significant issue among the Latino community – a voting block that is publicly known as a target of the Democrat Party.
It would seem that President Obama, and Democrats in general, have dismissed the long-term concerns of the Congressional Black Caucus in favor of the growing Latino community and its votes. This appears to be an example of the concrete depiction of the disenfranchisment that Mr. Smith described. While this is a positive for the efforts of the Latino community in getting its concerns heard and acted upon, it is also a telling statement about the disregard for the concerns of the Black community. Which brings us to Mr. Smith’s wish.
Mr. Smith advocated for all Black Americans to vote Republican for 1 year. The goal would be to shake up the status quo. In effect it would be a reminder that the Black community, and its votes, should not be taken for granted. This, Smith relates, would motivate a resurgence in the needs of the Black community and relevance in politics.
What Mr. Smith fails to note is that attempts to invigorate the Black communities voting status has long been under way. From the prominence of Herman Cain in the 2012 Republican presidential race, to the surge in publicly known Conservative Black voices across the nation like Dr. Ben Carson, an alternative is being offered. But the biggest blockade to political diversity comes from the Black community itself.
“This is very emotional, and it is, from my perspective, a factor in this, a woman, an African-American woman. We don’t step back from that.”
As a community, Black voters have shunned and outcast any voice that claims a perspective different than that of the Democrat Party. At the same time, we are using the crutch of race to prop up nominations and elections, without due regard for the quality and credentials of the individuals in question. They are effectively an obsolete part of the Democrat machine that goes unheeded. By choice they have politically stagnated, having lost the momentum created by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to name just a few.
Because of this, what Mr. Smith suggests, by just voting one year as a block vote for Republicans, is not an openness to political diversity but a change of political masters. To exchange the useless cog from one political machine and inject it into another. In effect the result would be negligible in the long run. But, at the heart of what Mr. Smith stated is the reality that needs to be embraced,
“My point is, when you go buy a house do you look at one?… When you want to buy some clothes, when you want to buy some shoes, when you want to buy anything, you are shopping around… Let me see what you have to offer? We don’t do that with politics… I do not understand, for the life of me, why we as a people don’t draw that conclusion.”
Like all things in life, the Black community cannot remain politically stagnant. African American voters cannot cling to a mindset that is enslaved to a singular party or bound by the color of a candidate. The constraints of segregating political options should be cast off, because as is apparent embracing such subjugation has resulted in obscurity and obsolescence. Stephen A. Smith’s point is clear, but the question remains if it will be heard.
CEO Howard Schultz has started a wave of conversation with his announcement that coffee servers at Starbucks will now engage customers in discussions of race. Not to be outdone, expect the President Obama to announce that Ebonics will be the official language used by the IRS. Both make about equal sense.
I can hear all the far-Left kumbaya singers getting their thumbs limber to tweet me to hell. I’m awaiting various comments asking why I sold-out, or informing me of how brainwashed I am for just stating the obvious. A dumb idea doesn’t get smarter because of good intentions or marketing ploys.
At the most basic level, this is dumb because it is fundamentally flawed. Through no fault of their own, the vastly overwhelming number of employees at Starbucks are not qualified to hold the very discussion that Mr. Schultz has effectively forced on them. Whether it is a lack of training (which is exorbitantly cost prohibitive to the level coffee severs are at), a lack of ability (not everyone is eloquent, and some are shy to talk about difficult subjects with strangers), or a lack of knowledge (how many people in America know where Rosewood is?) the result is at best a flawed conversation. At worst, an attempt to engage conversation can easily escalate to worse problems than whatever was the case at the origin. Don’t doubt that violence could also be a result, considering you are mixing sensitive issues with people who haven’t had their morning coffee yet.
I’m sure some academic will try to strike down ever word I am saying, But I dare that same person (or anyone else bold enough) to strike up a conversation about reparations. Not only is there not enough time to say anything intelligent while waiting for a cup of coffee to be made, but outside of any Starbucks more than 5 blocks from any college (San Francisco and Berkley are generally excluded from this distance limit)it is likely to create a shouting match. In fact that is yet another major problem, time.
Anyone who wants to discuss any issue facing the world at this time cannot do so in 3 minutes – let alone the time to get a cup of coffee. Sure you can spout a couple of soundbites or the latest pundit bullet point. That’s not intelligent conversation. That’s just parroting, and not constructive. Which is the next issue.
If I say the sky is purple, and I talk to you for hours about why the sky is purple, what do I achieve? Nothing. The sky will still be blue. Most likely you will still be sure the sky is blue. Neither side of the conversation will have their lives improved. This is Starbucks version of that conversation.
Here is my example. Coffee sever X decides to write “Reparations are good” on every coffee cup they serve. Customer Z sees a cup and says what does that mean? In the next 5 minutes Coffee server X needs to convey the economic impact of slavery on modern America. Server X then needs to convey the moral imperative for reparation. Lastly X should try to convey how such reparations are to be distributed and what benefit it can provide to America on a moral and economic level.
Only at that point can Customer Z have any way of making an intelligent conclusion, which they might later research and confirm or change their mind on. Or Customer Z might have a question. Remember, this is while waiting for one of several cups of coffee Server X is preparing. It takes about 30 – 45 seconds just to read these 2 paragraphs without doing anything else. I am sure thousands have questions and opinions just on the prior paragraph alone.
In reality the conversation ends up being more along the lines of:
“Reparations are good” – Hey what is that about – Slavery. White people owe Black people trillions of dollars – I don’t own any slaves – That’s great! Here is your latte, have a good day.
But I am sure Howard Schultz envisions something far more beautiful. Say a conversation about Ferguson. Or maybe Oscar Grant (anyone remember him?). Server X tells Customer Z that Black lives matter. Customer Z agrees, but says criminals attacking police is no excuse. In the mind of Starbucks this will lead to a fast and simple discussion about race in America that will only take as long as making a latte. Reality says that it might end up in a brawl.
But I think that sums it up. In the minds of some just saying something is bad is enough to generate rainbows and have unicorns appear magically. They live in a world where their grand ideology is all that is needed to change the world. That was the logic behind gun restriction Executive Orders by President Obama and the NY Safe Act. But in the real world legislation (far stronger than a few words at Starbucks) grounded in feeling good about ourselves can’t prevent a single crime – and it hasn’t.
Doing a thing, just for the sake of saying something was done, might let some people sleep well at night but it doesn’t make the world better. It just glosses over problems and lets them fester. Which has been the problem with race relations in America, in my opinion. We glossed over the real root causes of problems with feel good words and let the whole thing fester.
I’m happy Dunkin Donuts, and small mom and pop stores, serve coffee. Because they deserve my money, maybe even more now than before. Starbucks can hold the rainbows, unicorns and racially monogrammed coffee cups. My mornings can spent better, as will my cash.
On March 18, 2015, at 10:35 AM, I was interviewed by Bob Joseph on WNBF News Radio. The live, on-air interview discussed the exclusive coverage of Rep. Richard Hanna in Vestal, NY on 3/13/15. The exclusive Examiner.com coverage of that event can be found at Exclusive: Rep. Richard Hanna has non-public public event in Vestal, NY.
During the interview, the question of what might be the impact of a survey handed to the select voters invited to the Vestal event was covered. The survey contained questions on the economy, hydrofracking, and gun control legislation. The survey has not been distributed to the majority of the constituents in the NY-22 as of this time.
Rep. Hanna has proclaimed his support of the 2nd Amendment and touted his rating by the NRA in the past. Yet the survey requests feedback from constituents about possible additional gun control measures. It is unclear if those measures are isolated to New York State (which has the NY Safe Act) or on a national level. It is also unclear what kind of gun restrictions are being considered by the self-proclaimed 2nd Amendment advocate.
The interview included discussion of the potential run for Congress by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Oneida County with is in the northern portion of the NY-22 (Rep. Hanna is also from that county). The Assemblyman recently created a Bill to repeal the NY Safe Act. This move comes after 2 years of silence about the unpopular legislation. Assemblyman Brindisi did vote against enacting the NY Safe Act. Mr. Vasquez found this action to be a precursor to a run for Congress. Mr. Vasquez stated he believes that the survey distributed at the Vestal event was also for the benefit of a re-election run for Rep. Hanna.
At one point in the interview, Bob Joseph noted the unusual nature of a meet-and-greet event, held in a public space, that disallowed news media the ability to record the event. It was clarified that this demand to bar any recording came from the staff of Rep. Hanna. The radio host noted,
“I’m wondering if they treated you differently than say somebody from Action 12 News showed up… if somebody tipped them off… if they would have treated someone from the so-called traditional news media differently than they treated you…”
In response I stated that it is impossible to know, as the news media was not invited to the event. Further, I noted my reputation and credibility built over 8 years of political commentary and interviews with elected politicians at all levels of Government.
“So this would be the first time, if it’s based on that [credibility], it’s the first time anyone has ever done that [deny news coverage].”
At the conclusion of the interview, Bob Joseph inquired if I was again considering a run for Congress. I previously was a candidate for the New York 22nd Congressional district on the Republican ticket from April 2013 until April 2014. I withdrew from the race to endorse Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Ultimately Assemblywoman Tenney lost the Republican primary in a close race by 2000 votes. Currently I am considering if I will run in 2016.
Very quietly, Rep. Richard Hanna has been apparently attempting to rally Republicans since the beginning of the year – after votes on abortion and Executive Orders via Department of Homeland Security funding drew strong negative attention. Already there have been selective robocalls and at least one mass mailing (taxpayer funded) sent out to some constituents since February. In addition, at least one semi-private meet-and-greet took place, March 13, 2015.
Without fanfare, and directly avoiding the press, Rep. Hanna contacted select individuals in the Broome County area to join him at the Plaza Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015. These cherry-picked individuals were invited for an event from 7:00 AM until 9:00 AM as we were able to learn. While there is no information on the number of people invited, a total of some 30 individuals, all apparently in their mid-forties or older, none people of color, attended the event.
At 7:35 AM, Rep. Richard Hanna arrived at the diner with the compliment of 6 of his staff. It was at this time that authorization was denied, by the staff of Rep. Hanna, to tape or otherwise record the event – including any photos of the event. Permission was given to sit at the event, and that the Congressman would try to take some time to speak with Michael “Vass” Vasquez, president of M V Consulting, Inc (who wrote this article, and was a former candidate for the same seat as the incumbent in 2014).
Rep. Hanna did the usual meet and greet, without speaking to the group as a whole. He shook hands, smiled, and took the opportunity to speak with the gathered exclusive invitees with his ever present staff hovering close by. Each person at the was given a “Congress in your community” flyer. Press secretary Renee Gamela advised that the flyer and event were to share with constituents the services and capabilities available via Rep. Hanna’s office.
The message to constituents – which appears that the overwhelming majority have never received – highlighted several items that seem to be disputable. They include:
- Rep. Hanna promotes his votes to cut wasteful spending - but does not mention or address his vote to allow unfettered debt ceiling increases in 2014, or his votes to fully fund Obamacare (which many consider wasteful, especially considering the botched launch and continuing issues). The only Bill he sponsored to cut wasteful spending was HR 6324, in 2012, that died in the Senate.
- Rep. Hanna promoted his efforts to lower taxes for individuals and businesses - but neglects to mention that the last time he tried to lower corporate taxes was in 2011 (HR 609 – Bill died in House, 32 sponsors).
- Rep. Hanna promoted his support of the 2nd Amendment - but fails to mention his declining to attend a 2014 anti-NY Safe Act rally, and vote for HR 4660 that paid States $19.5 million to add people to the NICS database to deny them gun rights (discussed at length in article House of Representatives passes Bill, enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right). Also see below about the survey.
In fact, Rep. Hanna fails to mention that of the 28 Bills that he has sponsored since 2011, only 4 have been enacted (2 for baseball coins, 1 to name a post office, 1 for a technical regulation change). In addition only 2 Bills passed the House, both in 2012 an election year. One was another technical regulation change, the other was the above mentioned wasteful spending HR 6324. Both of the Bills died and only the technical regulation change has been resubmitted since that time.
The flyer also contained a brief survey. It asked the selected audience to provide an answer to the top economic issue in their opinion. Based on our observations, some answers would likely include Food Stamp legislation – a question asked that Rep. Hanna deferred to his political aide – and jobs for those 55 and older. Another question included whether or not to support natural gas (fracking) in New York. Also whether or not to support additional gun control measures – which seems an odd question for a Representative that states he is a 2nd Amendment advocate with a constituent base that largely is in opposition to gun restrictions such as the NY Safe Act.
Eventually we spoke with Rep. Hanna for a few minutes. He cordially noted that the event was focused on serving the public. He also mentioned strongly that his office was one of the most effective at addressing and resolving concerns of constituents in Congress. There is no known dispute with that claim.
Rep. Hanna responded to our question on his views about the letter to Iran by 47 Republicans, stating,
“I disagree with that. I felt it was inappropriate. When our nation acts and appears divided, especially when the terms of the deal are not final, it does help us. And several of the Republicans have retracted their position already.”
The letter, though essentially correct in its legal standing, has been subject to some backlash and negative media hype. But as of March 11, 2015, none of the 47 Senators who signed the letter have recanted it and it is unclear what Rep. Hanna meant by “retracted.”
Rep. Hanna also answered a speculative question about a potential challenge by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi to run in 2016 for Congress. Rep. Hanna stated,
“Yes I do know Michael… I mean Anthony. I’m not aware if he will run, but I’m open to it. I welcome and admire anyone that has the guts to run for this office. A lot of people talk because everyone wants this job, but if they look at it, it’s a lot harder than they might think. But it’s not something we are focused on, we are here to help the people, and the people will pick who they want.”
As we noted in the article Assemblyman Brindisi wants to repeal the Safe Act, but why should we care?, it does appear that Brindisi may be in the early stages of establishing a run for Congress. There are also indications that Rep. Hanna has been taking action, as noted previously, to shore up his own re-election chances and to fend off challengers both from Democrats as well as Republicans and Conservatives.
When asked for a the opportunity to have a one-on-one in-depth interview, Rep. Hanna neither confirmed nor denied the request. Rep. Hanna deferred to Ms. Giameli to consider arranging a meeting. When advised that he ultimately makes the decision on an interview, Rep. Hanna stated, “We will see.”
Rep. Hanna went on to speak with the rest of the selected audience individually. At about 8:45 AM, we left the Vestal Diner. As of this article
being written, we are awaiting photos [We received photos from Ms. Gamela after publication of this document on 3/13/15] from the staff of Rep. Hanna that were taken of the event. In addition we are awaiting official response on several questions, including our request for interview.
While it is not uncommon for any elected politician to hold events for selected groups of constituents, nor for those events to be on occasion restricted from the news media, the public venue and nature of the event was odd. We thank Rep. Hanna for the access to the event, though it was highly limited in nature, as we believe the public deserves to know what actions our elected politicians are taking. This especially true when so little time has been spent by Rep. Hanna in the Southern Tier since he became the representative of the 22nd Congressional District of New York.
When I first heard that Rep. Hanna has been selectively inviting individuals to meet with him at the Vestal Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015 I had some reservations. Not because I wasn’t invited to the public event but on Rep. Hanna. I was reminded of the 2014 election, and the votes to-date in Congress. I was also reminded of the flyer that suddenly was sent just weeks ago, again selectively, to voters and the actions of Assemblyman Brindisi this month. The picture it all paints is anything but a benefit for residents in the 22nd Congressional District of New York.
Elections, at all levels, are supposed to be a lightning rod. They are the combined message of constituents and their views on the issues of the day. From these elections, politicians are supposed to recognize exactly what their directive will be for the tenure of the time in office – whether they are newly elected or re-elected. An election is a mandate from the people to Government.
Well, that is the ideal at least. In reality it is far from that. As our President has clearly demonstrated, elections can be taken as merely an indication of how many people need to be handed 30-second soundbites and political propaganda to sell whatever vision the politician may decide unilaterally is best for them (and by extension their constituents). Yes, elections have turned in marketing leads. If an election goes badly, it just means that a new ad campaign needs to be rolled out – by both political parties.
I say that especially when I consider the race for the NY-22. For a year, 2013 until 2014, I ran for Congress. I traveled across the District, speaking with the public directly. At the same time I challenged Rep. Hanna to a debate, or at least to even address the issues that the people were telling me they were concerned about. Rep. Hanna ignored every question and every challenge.
In 2014, Assemblywoman Tenney, with far more access to the media and an existing base of supporters stepped into the race. She holds many of the same positions that I and most of the people in the District hold. She too called on Rep. Hanna to speak about his “schizophrenic” voting on abortion, immigration, veterans, fiscal responsibility and more. Once again Rep. Hanna turned a deaf ear and amped up his advertising on everything but the issues (mostly on mudslinging if we are honest).
But after a narrow win, by a mere 2,000 votes, Rep. Hanna won the Republican primary. In November 2014 he faced no one, as Democrats abandoned their Party in hopes of protecting the Senate majority they had. The Democrats lost and Rep. Hanna won the general election. But 26% of the votes in the general election voted for “Blank”. That is a critical statement. It’s a clear indication of the public lacking confidence so much that they would rather have Mickey Mouse or Goofy in Congress than Rep. Hanna.
If this were an ideal world, then Rep. Hanna would have learned from these election results. He would have realized that Republicans, and Conservatives that had rejected him since 2012, were fed up with a politician that actively says one thing and votes another. His own party was tired of a politician that claimed to hold their values, only to toss those values aside every time a critical vote took place.
Someone that was there to represent the people of the NY-22 would have changed, or at the very least stood talk and publicly explained the definitive stance on the issues that they held. That is my opinion.
Instead, Rep. Hanna apparently learned about advertising and marketing. He learned that the number one asset for any sitting politician, his name, was unknown in vast portions of the NY-22. While he would not release the results of his internal polling, I believe he found out that in some portions of Broome, Tioga, and Chenango counties there were as many people that thought he was the Democrat that he inherited the District from (former Rep. Maurice Hinchey) as knew of him directly.
Rep. Hanna learned that he was weak. A man with no political background but a clear understanding of the issues and defined positions (myself, without being modest or overly self-promoting), was able to take a race that in 2013 was thought of as a foregone definitive win and change the situation. With $5,000 the awareness of the issues and reality of a choice was enough to have people from Herkimer to Washington D.C. take notice and question if Rep. Hanna could win. In the end, I raised the bar enough to let another candidate, Assemblywoman Tenney, step in and nearly win the race.
Another lesson Rep. Hanna learned. When faced with someone who actually had enough money to stand up to him, and enough status that he could not scoff at her credentials, he had no plan B. Rep. Hanna only won by slinging a lot of mud, and the good graces of PAC’s that hold positions the people of the NY-22 don’t believe in.
Rep. Hanna knew, or was told by his staff I would imagine, that in a year where a Democrat was running and he was challenged again, he would lose unless he did something. He could have sided with the people. He could have come clean with the positions he held convictions in. Instead he chose soundbites.
Rep. Hanna, after voting for and against President Obama’s wildly unpopular grab of power via Executive Order decided to vote in favor of abortion. Rep. Hanna further capitulated on the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. But to make up for it, he spent taxpayer money to send out flyers telling half the story of what he was doing. PT Barnum would be proud. If the truth won’t work, sell only the parts of the truth that will work for you.
But the staff of Rep. Hanna were likely not the only ones to notice how weak he was. Democrats saw an opening, and leapt forward apparently with Assemblyman Brindisi. The race for 2016 had started. Rep. Hanna responded with robocalls (again paid for by taxpayers to my knowledge), talking up his highly edited voting history.
The next phase appears to be Vestal, NY. Without doubt there will be appearances, to selected voters, in Tioga and Chenango counties before the summer and candidates officially signal their intentions to run. Rep. Hanna is spending money (taxpayer money) to make sure in 2016 he has name recognition – the biggest weapon in the arsenal for a politician. It doesn’t make him better at his job, just better known. Kind of like why Glozell Green (search Youtube for her name and fruit loops if you don’t know who she is) got to meet President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t.
I wish I were wrong. But in my opinion, I see no change in the chaotic voting that is Rep. Hanna’s history. I see no more credibility in his sitting on the fence, or actively voting against the wishes of his constituents that he is keenly aware of by his own admission, than I did in 2013.
Still, I will be at the Vestal Diner on March 13th. If Rep. Hanna dares, I will speak with him (again, though for the first time in public). I will give him the chance to explain his apparently self-serving actions, and his vision for representing the NY-22. I am a fair man, and while I have reservations, based on my opinion as described above, I will hear him out objectively.
What I hope to hear is how Rep. Hanna’s actions are helping the nation and the NY-22. What I want to hear is that he has taken a position, and a willingness to let the public know what he actually plans on doing in our collective names. If I were to demand anything, it would be to have him declare that he has learned to represent the people that narrowly elected him as that is his first priority in the job the public gave him.
Whatever the outcome, I will present it. Objectively, with the same passion and honesty I have provided in every article I have been writing for years upon years now. I have never had anyone question or deny a quote I have written, I will not lose that reputation in covering Rep. Richard Hanna in Vestal, NY. Yet, at the same time, I cannot be bought nor can I be distracted with 30-second soundbites and political double talk.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Former 2014 candidate for Congress
President – M V Consulting, Inc.