As our long-time readers are aware, M V Consulting Inc. has made many changes over the years. We have ventured into sales of products like our designer clothing line, the Alchemy line of goods, as well as providing coverage of various entertainment/political/news events among other endeavors. At each step, and in each transition, we have been graced with the support of various people at all levels. We have never forgotten any of these people, and thank them often for what they have done to help us be what we are today. Each of these people are part of the extended M V Consulting family, and they matter to us. Thus it saddens me to rely news about one of the members of our extended family.
We have been notified today that Shawn Kennedy is losing his battle with liver cancer, at 43 years old. About 2 months ago he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, which then spread to his pancreas and spine. Shawn has bravely fought this disease, but that battle is soon to end. We are all deeply saddened to hear this news.
In 2009, Shawn Kennedy was selected as our male model for several of our designer clothing lines offered via CAFE PRESS (in our World of Vass store). He was and continues to be our male calendar model. He was supportive of our effect to grow, and patient with an inexperienced photographer (Michael Vass) trying his best. He gave his best efforts to us each time he showed up for a photo shoot, was professional, and a great conversationalist.
We are happy to say that Shawn has received his only two final wishes. We hope that he will find peace and leave us with the thought that he has been a treasure for many. We are at a loss for words beyond that.
As a personal statement, from Michael Vasquez, to the family and friends of Shawn Kennedy I give my condolences. I know that this is a hard time and few words can address how you feel right now. I can only hope that this may help in any way. When I think of my father, and grandmother, and all those I have lost I believe that they are all in a better place now. They have no pain, no suffering, no day to day travails of the grind that we all endure. They are beyond all these things, and for that we can smile as they are ok. Shawn will be ok. And we will have the benefit that in our hearts we shared some time with him at his best.
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez for Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com on October 1, 2015 **
In recent weeks there has been much said about the poll positions of very different candidates for the 2016 Presidential Race. For Democrats, the growing popularity of the self-avowed Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been a display of rebellion from the mainstream of the Party and a surge among the extreme of the Party. With Republicans, the dominance of Donald Trump after 2 debates of mixed performance and numerous gaffes that would pummel a normal candidate have left many wondering what will be the future fate of that Party. But in looking at these candidates from a fiscal perspective, the nation would suffer if either were to take the reins.
Starting with both candidates, neither has presented a complete or detailed tax plan. As of August 30, 2015 Sen. Sanders campaign presented Forbes with the “Real Tax Reform Means Making the Wealthy and Large Corporations Pay their Fair Share.” His economic policy has been calculated to cost $18 trillion. The plan from Donald Trump was released on September 29, 2015 via an op-ed in the NY Times. It too was an outline of what Mr. Trump is looking to do. The cost of that plan is $12 trillion. Neither plan is affordable for the nation.
What is known of Sen. Sanders plan is that it would increase taxes by $6.5 trillion over 10 years. To put that into perspective, total tax revenues for the nation as of September 30, 2015 are about $3.1 trillion (up 61% versus 2000), with about $1.5 trillion coming from income taxes on individuals alone. The current tax revenue, as of August 14, 2015, was on track to be a historical high point, due in part to Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Sen. Sanders would hit this new high-water mark with a combination of ending several corporate loopholes, a 35.2% base increase in estate taxes (and it allows for more taxes from the base level), taxes on stock market investments on a per trade basis while also increasing the tax on dividends and capital gains by 13%. There are also calls to increase individual tax rates and raise the maximum level for Social Security tax.
Before the far-left salivates too much consider a few things. This means that taxes on retirees will be increasing. Many people have IRA’s and other retirement plans that rely heavily on dividends and stocks. Both on a per transaction and total account basis, retirees will be losing money under the plans by Sen. Sanders. Nearly 49 million retirees exist today, and more will be added under the tenure of the 2016 President. I know of none that would enjoy losing their hard earned money to taxes, at any income level. The same can be said of anyone who pays income taxes. This directly affects the middle class.
Speaking of hitting everyone, Sen. Sanders wants to add $15 trillion in Medicare spending. Even if he could raise taxes as he hopes, which would be impossible with Republicans holding any elected office and retirees considering their nest eggs, it leaves him $8.5 trillion short. Where the difference comes from is unknown but it would represent some 13% of all current Government spending. But you still need to add to that $75 billion a year for college tuition, and $100 billion a year for infrastructure (a term all but abandoned since the “shovel-ready jobs” debacle).
In fact if you factor in all the things Sen. Sanders wants to have the Government spend on, it would increase Government spending by 30%. That means even bigger Government. At a rate of growth that dwarfs any Presidency since the nation was created essentially. It puts a new meaning on the old mantra that Democrats only have “tax and spend” policies. Or as Jim Kessler, of the Democratic think tank Third Way, said
“There’s no such thing as free college; somebody is going to be paying for it.”
As for Donald Trump, well things don’t get much better. The raw analysis of the “plan” as stated thus far equates to a $12 trillion price tag over 10 years. Luckily, the plan does improve the economy and productivity. Two elements that are vital for the nation that are absent Sen. Sanders dream of big spending. Sadly, the growth in Mr. Trump’s plan falls massively short as well.
Factoring the positive benefits of a decrease in personal and corporate taxes there are several positives from the Trump plan. The economy would grow by 11%. Wages would increase some 6.5%. It would even likely add 5.3 million jobs for an effective unemployment rate (U-3) of 1.7% based on current labor force figures (or 7.2% based on U-6, at current labor force figures)! That’s astoundingly good, but since the nation continues to grow the figures for unemployment would be somewhat higher, yet lower than current unemployment rates.
Given this great news it would seem that the Trump plan should be loved by all. Except it’s not enough. Even after all the benefits are factored, there is still as $10.2 trillion dollar shortfall according to the Tax Foundation. To put into perspective, Obamacare cost $500 billion over 10 years and not a single Republican voted for it as it was considered too expensive with too little benefit. The Trump plan would cost twice as much, EVERY year for ten years. As outlined in the article by Alan Cole, Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Will Not Be Revenue-Neutral Under Any Circumstances,
“…economic growth—moderate or otherwise—cannot restore federal revenues to current-law levels.”
Thus, under plans by candidates that are wildly popular with large segments of their respective political parties, America as a whole will lose. College and health care will not be free. Businesses cannot be created and/or grow fast enough. Growth of the national debt would skyrocket, and the credit rating of the US would likely plummet. Under either plan, Americans will be worse off than they are today. America just cannot bankroll the radical economic policies of a Sanders or Trump presidency.
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez for Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com on September 23, 2015 **
On September 17, 2015, we received mailings from both candidates in the 2015 NY 52nd State Senate special election. The following will be a review of the mailings received and the websites of each candidate as they exist at the time of this article.
First we will delve into the mailings. Starting alphabetically, there is the most recent mailing by Undersheriff Fred Akshar (see photos attached to article). In that mailing, Akshar takes on the issue of Common Core. He states that he will work to end overtesting students and fight for State funds to ensure “first-class education” for students. The mailer goes on to promise a return to local control of schools and empowering students and teachers.
In looking at the website, fredakshar.com, on the issue of Common Core there is just an 87 word statement, among 7 other issues. That statement does not mention returning control to parents or teachers. Nor does the statement on the website ensure a “first-class education” as the mailing does. Instead the website stops short of the mailing and states, separately of Common Core, to fight to “eliminate the budget-cutting Gap Elimination Adjustment.” On Common Core itself, it is simply stated Akshar wants
“…our schools to be the very best, more valuable class time is used for learning—not testing—and parents are encouraged and welcomed to be more involved in their children’s education.”
In comparing the website to the mailings, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being completely separate of his election platform and 10 being completely inclusive, we would rate the issue of Common Core as a 4. The website has massively more tame language promising no substantive efforts and calmly looking for change. The mailing on the other hand is a far more aggressively worded attack on Common Core, with promises of actions and results. We do not know the actual stance on the issue that Undersheriff Akshar holds, but if he takes on the interview he personally promised to us in July, it will be one of the questions we will discuss.
For Barbara Fiala, the mailing delivered on the same day as the Akshar mailing is very different. Instead of a single issue, Fiala focuses on 3 subjects – Jobs, Education, and Women’s Equality. The flyer summarizes Fiala’s position on all three issues as
“She will fight to secure our fair share of funding for business investments, public infrastructure and job training programs…She will work to reform high stakes testing and the flawed teacher evaluation process… She will fight to finally pass the Women’s Equality Act…”
On Barbara Fiala’s website, fialaforsenate.com, only 3 issues are presented as her campaign platform. Those 3 issues are almost word for word what is found in her flyer (with the items quoted being exactly the same on both). In rating on the same scale as for Fred Akshar, Fiala scores an 8. This is because there is almost no difference in what is said in the mailing and the website.
But the mailings, and how that relates to the websites, are not the full story. There is more to the candidates than just the mailings. What is really being said on the website and mailings?
Again, in alphabetical order, Fred Akshar provides more information on his website about the issues he plans to address. Given the wording on the website is overall very tame and seeks to not rock the boat. Even Akshar’s Fair Share plan on jobs is a meek statement mostly relying on State Government funding and job training. Though it does highlight cutting taxes and “red tape”, in keeping with Republican ideals for the last 20+ years in New York’s blue control.
But the sum of all 8 issues on his platform breakdown to just the 3 real issues. They are the economy (split into the Fair Share plan, jobs, and personal taxes), listening to voters, education (split into schools and Common Core) and fighting heroin (which has a separate news announcement going into somewhat more detail). The sub-headings do not really separate different issues. In addition, none of the issues have any real plan behind them. Just ideals that Fred Akshar advocates.
For Barbara Fiala, things are far more simple. As stated, she has just 3 issues that are on her platform. Jobs, Education, and Women’s equality. Nowhere on Fiala’s website does she delve deeper than the titles of the issues and her personal experience, other than on jobs. On that issue Barbara Fiala focuses on State Government providing funding, cutting taxes, and State spending to support the unfunded mandates required by State Government.
For both candidates, the more hardcore of their Parties will take issue. For Akshar, he is sparse on describing his efforts to reduce taxes and regulation. For Fiala, she is seeking more Government control without addressing environmental, LBGT, or minority issues that are the staple of the Democrat Party in NY State. Supporters will emphasize Fred Akshar on his focus on removing Government from education and reducing taxes; while for Barbara Fiala equal pay for women will be the rally point.
In short, both candidates are severely lacking in substance. Neither is presenting, in their mailings or their websites, any substantive reason to vote for them. Neither has revealed any plan (thus far) for change or an actual platform they stand for. Both justify the arguments of individuals like Denver Jones and others who objected to the selection (for Democrats by Gov. Cuomo, and Republicans by Broome County Chairman Bijoy Datta) without input from the public.
It is not the purpose of this article to take a side in the race. Supporters of each candidate will find portions of this article to be objectionable. Nor is the purpose to alienate voters. Instead, the point is to highlight what the candidates must discuss and the public should learn more about. Greater details needs to be revealed. Overall we cannot rate either candidate on any scale as they have yet to provide enough substance to rate them on.
** Note – Michael “Vass” Vasquez is a former Republican candidate for Congress and current Republican Committeeman for the 18th Election District in Binghamton, NY, and a political commentator since 2007. Both candidates campaigns have been given open invitations to interview at any time. Neither campaign was contacted about the mailings or websites in this article. **
As written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez for Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com
In politics there may be no plea for a candidate more desperate than ‘but the other person is worse.’ As dumb as that may sound, much of modern politics has devolved into exactly that mindset. Perhaps nothing makes that more clear than the September 21, 2015 article by Ryan Cooper at The Week.
The article in question equates voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont with a moral imperative for Democrats. This is at once making it clear that the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, is far less an absolute choice for the nomination than at any time since 2008. It equally makes it clear that former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have about the same chance of the nomination as Republican former Governor Rick Perry of Texas or Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Thus, as Mr. Cooper implores, the centrist and moderate portions of the Democrat Party must suck it up and rally around the self-avowed Socialist Sen. Sanders.
“Still, in America, tactical voting must always be a consideration… The question is whether moderates are willing to swallow such an argument if Sanders manages to clinch the Democratic nomination. It’s still an extreme long shot, but it’s not completely out of the question.”
In fact, Mr. Cooper goes so far as to quote – as a justification of his logic – a 2013 Washington Monthly article by Mark Kleinman. The theory is roughly that since the far-left voted for President Obama (in 2008), it is time for the moderates to quid pro quo and vote for Sen. Sanders. Any other action is tantamount to political suicide in the apparent opinion of these men.
“… “Barack Obama” the political persona is the leader of the Democratic Party (and thus, effectively, of the entire progressive coalition) in a battle with a well-organized, well-funded, and utterly dedicated plutocrat-theocrat-racist-misogynist-obscurantist-ecocidal Red Team, whose lunatic extremism is now actually a threat to republican governance… it’s not because I’m in love with “The One:” it’s because, for good or ill , the political fortunes of the cause I care about are now tied to Obama’s political fortunes.”
And thus the marching orders are clear. The growing consensus is that Hillary Clinton will once again fall short. The back-up plan is in place for Sen. Sanders and Democrats must accept him. If not the all but devil Republicans will turn America into some kind of mash-up of China, Iran, and 1980′s South Africa.
The only concession to free will among Democrat votes is Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It would seem that even in one of the bluest of blue States, the corruption of NY politics exceeds even the ability of the far-left to justify support. According to Mr. Cooper,
“Centrist hack Democrats like Andrew Cuomo do not care about left-wing… In Cuomo’s case, it is worth risking a potential loss in order to change the political incentives in New York at the state level.”
But the real issue here is bigger than Clinton self-eviscerating herself. It is bigger than an avowed Socialist. The issue facing Democrats is free will. The very thing they claim that a Republican win will take away.
The problem is not limited to the 2016 presidential race. In 2015 it has shown itself as well. In the special election for the NY 52nd State Senate race, Gov. Andrew Cuomo all but directly picked the choice for the Democrat Party. Using the exact same justification and mindset offered by Mr. Cooper and Mr. Kleinman.
Hours before a single public statement, without a single public word prior from Barbara Fiala on the issue, Gov. Cuomo had already hit all the major airwaves about Fiala being the Democrat choice. By the afternoon of July 23, 2015, Barbara Fiala accepted the Governor’s mass media statement. All this without the Democrats of the NY-52 having ever said a word prior, nor interviewing a single candidate.
This is, for all purposes, the Democrat Party of the 21st century. An organization that demands obedience and capitulation. Decisions come from the top levels of government and the Average Joe citizens are expected to dutifully toe the line. It’s “tactical.” It’s for the causes you believe in, even if that Democrat candidate does not believe in your cause. It’s the only answer to the worst evil you could ever imagine personified by the word Republican – even if they do believe in the causes you believe in.
Mr. Cooper proclaims, from the very title of his article, that it is a moral obligation to support Sen. Bernie Sanders (only assuming that Hillary Clinton implodes as expected). Mr. Kleinman spews a vitriolic sermon virtually equating a non-vote for whatever Democrat as the path to hell. Hillary Clinton has all but assumed victory since 2014. Gov. Cuomo got the candidate he wanted. But in all this, where are the people?
When people and politicians wonder why just 36% of voters turned up for the 2014 mid-term elections, why voter apathy has risen so high, they need only remember the marching orders of Mr. Cooper, Mr. Kleinman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Hillary Clinton. The public is no longer being offered a choice from Democrats (and in some instances Republicans), but instead are being given commands to be dutifully fulfilled on election day. It can be argued that voting is a moral obligation of every citizen, but to say anything more is to actively kill the very freedom this nation is built upon.
Maybe that’s why Democrats lost en masse in 2014, and why there were 17 Republican candidates for President. Maybe it’s why Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump are the talk of the nation and not any Democrat candidate. It may even be why Democrats might just lose in 2016 just as badly as 2014. No citizen is obligated to vote for any candidate, and until political parties remember that our Government cannot improve.
Recently you may have noticed that Barbara Fiala has been complaining about the internet. Specifically she has stated, on September 8, 2015, that on the issue of Facebook ads against her campaign,
“I consider it cyber-bullying”
The full story is that several Facebook ads have been purchased by private individuals – not connected to the Republican Party or the Fred Akshar campaign – that hold a negative view on Barbara Fiala and he effort to be elected in the special election for the NY 52nd State Senate race. Fiala has said she wants the Facebook ads to stop. Because she feels that ads aren’t true.
In the world of the internet, political campaigns often find this kind of resistance. It happens to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Bernie Sanders, et al. The reality is that in a world of texts, tweets and a 24/7 news cycle, every candidate in any noteworthy race gets to see ads and memes and articles that are both favorable and negative. President Obama, and before him President Bush, endured tenures with this kind of positive and negative attack daily. But no one ever heard them cry foul.
That is not to say that mud-slinging in a political race is acceptable. It happens in every race, but it is frowned upon. Candidates generally are expected to be thick-skinned enough to endure the negatives from the public, and if they can’t well it is a pretty good indication of how they will react under pressure if they were to be elected to the position they are running for. But this really isn’t the problem that Barbara Fiala has. The problem for the Fiala campaign is Fiala.
Without looking any further into the past than this special election for the NY 52nd State Senate, a race that is barely 2 month old, the Fiala campaign has problems. It started with how Barbara Fial was selected. Not by local Democrats, or even the head of the Broome County Democrat Party. She was instead selected from the top of the State Government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, killing the spirit if not the wording of the special election rules. And then things got worse.
Barbara Fiala, it has come to be revealed, was Chairwoman for the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). It was a new political party created in July 2014 by… wait for it… Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Who selected Barbara Fiala as the interim chairwoman. The position was apparently largely on paper only. The resume fluffing position was vacated by Fiala soon afterwards, until Gov. Cuomo again picked her for a position he wanted filled by a Democrat he was friendly with, apparently. Oddly enough the brand new political organization supports Barbara Fiala in her efforts to win the special election. When supporters of her opponent Fred Akshar sued to remove the party line nomination, the Fiala campaign called it an act by corrupt Albany politicians.
Again, Barbara Fiala was selected by Gov. Cuomo to run (who is under investigation by US District Attorney Preet Bharara) and was his pick for the impotent Chairwoman position. To allege involvement by corrupt politicians in Albany, wouldn’t most people start at the top? Perhaps that’s why 56% of New Yorker’s polled by Quinnipiac believe that the current NY Government is corrupt.
But perhaps the biggest problem is something so obvious that it blew past the Fiala campaign and the major news media. On September 17, 2015, the Fiala campaign stated to WBNG News and Time Warner Cable News, in regard to a plan to combat heroin,
“I agree we cannot arrest our way out of this problem and my plan addresses this crisis comprehensively. I believe that I am the more qualified candidate to deliver on funding for treatment and prevention programs and I am laser focused on a root problem of drug addiction, which is a lack of good jobs and economic opportunity in the Southern Tier.” [Bold added for emphasis]
The key words in that statement are, “my plan.” Barbara Fiala has no plan. She did not detail a plan in discussing the issue of heroin on September 17th. The Fiala campaign ignored the very same question when asked August 18, 2015 by Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com (which I write as well). On the campaign website fialaforsenate.com, as of this being written, there is not a single word about fighting heroin addiction or any plan of any type.
It may have escaped the mainstream media, but how can Barbara Fiala be “more qualified” if she can’t even recognize she has no plan that she is touting. Perhaps the less observant or more liberally biased will accept that a non-existent plan is as good as real details if it’s your Party involved. But those of us that follow politics are more than a bit outraged at trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.
Thus, it’s not that the internet is unfair. It’s not that private citizens are involved (and happen to not support Barbara Fiala). It’s not Republicans or the media. It’s Barbara Fiala. She is the biggest reason why some would connect her to corruption, and inaction. That can’t be blamed elsewhere. Gov. Cuomo just picked a bad candidate it seems.
This is a reprint of my Facebook comment:
“Have you ever had a friend that decided to just make up a position to fill out your resume. You know, a job were you never went to work at, had no responsibility, but the title looks fantastic on your resume and would help you get the job you really want?
If you haven’t, well then NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not your friend apparently. Because Gov. Cuomo picked Barbara Fiala to be chairwoman of the Women’s Equality Party. Never heard of it? Because it didn’t exist before July 2014. In fact, according to a judge now, it might not really exist at all. But it was around exactly long enough to allow Barbara Fiala to be named chairwoman.
Then she was hand picked by Gov. Cuomo as the Dem challenger in the NY 52 State Senate Special Election (which violates the spirit of the special election rules if not the regulations itself). As soon as she got the nomination she quit the non-job and is running for office. Surprised?
You shouldn’t be. This is the same Governor that eliminated the Moreland Commission on Corruption because it was too close to his own corruption apparently. The same Governor that has been and continues to be under investigation by US District Attorney Preet Bharara for corruption. The same Governor that hand picked Fiala and padded her resume in a way that likely would get any regular person instantly fired from their job.
Make your own decision, but don’t be fooled that Barbar Fiala is not deeply connected to the same NY political machine that got Sheldon Silver arrested for corruption, in my opinion.” – Michael Vasquez, September 21, 2015
Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez on Sept. 18, 2015 at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com
Sixty-one percent of the nation believe the country is on the wrong track as of September 16, 2015. This figure has not been below 50% since June 24, 2009. The approval rate for Congress is 15.2% as of September 15, 2015. The highest approval since January 2009 has been 37%. The overwhelming belief of Americans is apparent that the national leadership is failing the people. Some would say that the “American people are fed up with inaction and political theatre,” and in fact Rep. Richard Hanna said exactly that on September 18, 2015.
But what is the root cause of this anger with those leading the nation? Is it a partisan issue? Is it a control issue? Is it something far more simple? Or is it simply a hypocritical statement meant to distract attention and protect re-election prospects.
Numbers don’t lie. Since President Obama has been at the helm of the nation, and even before him, the majority of Americans have felt consistently that the nation is on the wrong path. Whether it was a war in Iraq, or Obamacare, or relentless scandals from IRS abuse of power to NSA spying to an increasing number of veterans dying due to lack of medical care, most Americans have an issue or 3 that prove that partisanship in the White House is not the sole culprit.
In fact, under a Democrat supermajority and under a Republican led Congress, the public has had the same overall opinion. Congress is failing. That’s not partisan. Neither political party has the high ground. Whether it’s the deception of keeping your doctor, or the failure to repeal Obamacare, or the failure to pass a budget, Congress has not been perceived as doing its job.
So where is the real source causing the public to be “fed up”? It could be said it is the hypocrisy of the politicians themselves. The “political theatre” of individual members of Congress. You can point to Rep. Nancy Pelosi as she implored the nation to “Pass it to find out what is in it.” You can look at Rep. John Conyers as he proudly defended, “What good is reading the Bill if its 1,000 pages and you don’t have 2 days and 2 lawyers to find out what it means after you read the Bill.” But there is also Rep. Richard Hanna who said,
“To make America the exceptional country it has been, and should be, our elected leaders need to stop pandering, engaging in political theater and start doing the job we were hired to do.”
Pandering, political theatre and not getting the job done. These are the focal points of the New York representative of the 22nd Congressional district. At least that is what his voting record and public statements convey. As an example, on the issue of the infamous “red line” for Syria in September 2013, where President Obama sought military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Pew Research polls showed 74% of the nation felt a military strike would cause a backlash against our nation. A Washington Post poll at the same time showed 59% of the nation opposed attacking Syria. Rep. Hanna for his part sat on the fence,
“When the use-of-force resolution is finalized, I will review it closely to determine whether or not actions enabled by it advance vital interests of the United States and are in the best interest of upstate New Yorkers” – Rep. Richard Hanna, 9/4/13, Press & Sun Bulletin
In the issue of the NSA essentially spying on Americans, an issue that as of May 29, 2015 shows 54% of Americans and 59% of Republicans oppose. In 2014,a clear 74% of Americans opposed restricting their freedom and civil liberties. Rep. Hanna, on July 23, 2013 voted NO on H Amend 413 (Amash Amendment) to restrict the power of the NSA and protect American freedoms. Yet on July 25, 2015 Rep. Hanna publicly stated he voted to ensure the NSA would not “target a U.S. person or acquire and store the content of a U.S. person’s communications, including phone calls and e-mails,” which is exactly opposite the vote on the Amash Amendment.
In 2013 Rep. Hanna promised that his efforts, as part of the Drone Caucus, to bring a Drone Testing Site to Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, would, “… generate nearly $700 million in New York and Massachusetts. As many as 2,744 jobs will be created in the two states to support the project.” As we have reported in several articles since that time,
“In addition we filed FOIA requests to the office of the Mayor for the City of Rome, New York Department of Labor, and the Commerce Dept., National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), among other institutions to determine the real impact of drones on job creation in New York State since August 2014 when the test site at Griffiss International Airport became fully operational. The net result as of May 2015 was the creation of 6 jobs and in excess of $6 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of grants and direct funding.”
Most recently, on the issue of Planned Parenthood and late-term abortion, Rep. Hanna has once again taken the side of abortion. Since taking office in 2010, Rep. Hanna has voted 7 out of 9 times to support abortion, late-term abortion of a baby in womb 5 months or more, and funding Planned Parenthood, while publicly claiming to oppose abortion. He has received political donations from Planned Parenthood for his 2012 and 2014 re-election campaigns. With the emergence of the videos that highlight questionable and potential violations of ethical standards, Rep. Hanna came under fire to return the political donations made to him. Thus far Rep. Hanna has made no indication of returning the campaign donations. Further, over the congressional break for the summer of 2015, Rep. Hanna sent out his staffers to meet constituents (as detailed in letters mailed to voters and received by us from the office of the Congressman), and remained out of the public eye as pressure grew against Planned Parenthood.
So in summation, why is the public upset with Government? It’s not partisan per say. It could be argued that it’s a failure of leadership. But it may be that the very “political theatre” Rep. Hanna is claiming exists in Congress, outside of his actions, is the exact thing that he and other Representatives are doing as a part of Congress. Sitting on the fence on critical issues where the voice of the public is clear and well known. Voting in opposition of clear public preferences on hot button issues. Making promises of jobs, and spending taxpayer dollars on that promise, with an outcome that utterly fails all expectations. Acting in a manner that raises questions about ethics and accountability. These are all the actions that the voters and citizens oppose, and reject unanimously. Yet, these are all things embodied, based on the record of votes and public statements, by Rep. Richard Hanna.
The “inaction and political theatre” is not some disenfranchised consequence of Government that affects the nation. It is a direct action from members of Congress and Government, seeking to preserve their political power and status. Rep. Richard Hanna may want to distract voters from his votes and actions, but that should not be taken as a principle of the Republican Party, nor the fault of Government as a whole. All it is, at the end of the day, is an attempt to cull votes at the expense of the low-information voters, and the short-term memory of the American public and his constituents.
Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez on Sept. 17, 2015 at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com
After a month to think of answers, the candidates for the NY 52 State Senate District have finally decided upon plans for addressing the heroin epidemic plaguing the Southern Tier and much of the Northeastern States. Both Democrat Barbara Fiala and Republican Undersheriff Fred Akshar presented plans on September 17, 2015 to a question first asked by the Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com on August 18, 2015.
It was on August 17, 2015 that President Obama first announced a joint task force of healthcare professionals and law enforcement to target and combat the growing heroin use in the US. The need is apparent as over 1500 bags of heroin have been recovered in arrests just in 2015 alone in the Binghamton, New York area alone. In 2014 alone 41 people died of heroin overdoses as stated by Binghamton Mayor Rich David in March 2015, as we reported in August. Nationwide deaths due to heroin overdoses have quadrupled, and heroin users have increased by 62% in the past decade.
In August, we requested comments on the task force, with the exact following questions:
- Do you believe that using health records will help to stop heroin trafficking (or any drug for that matter)? If so, please describe how you think it would help.
- Do you believe that this violates 4th Amendment rights, or HIPPA legislation?
- Since you are running for the 52nd State Senate seat, if you were in office right now would you support or oppose this program? Please explain why.
- As a State Senate member, if elected, are there any initiatives or programs that you seek to promote/expand/create to help combat heroin and other illegal drugs in NY State?
We failed to receive a response from Barbara Fiala or her campaign. We reached out to Denver Jones and Richard Purtell, who at the time were potential contenders for the State Senate seat, and they too failed to respond. We did receive a response from Fred Akshar, which was, in part,
“… I’m convinced that strong enforcement alone cannot solve the problem, without ensuring access to more education, prevention and treatment… side by side with law enforcement and treatment experts to ensure that they have the resources we need to face the problem…”
Virtually 30 days later, the Fiala and Akshar campaigns both have somewhat different views on this same hot button issue, that has only grown in the interest of voters since we asked our questions. In that time, Barbara Fiala has made this statement on the subject, as provided to WBNG on September 17, 2015,
“I agree we cannot arrest our way out of this problem and my plan addresses this crisis comprehensively. I believe that I am the more qualified candidate to deliver on funding for treatment and prevention programs and I am laser focused on a root cause of drug addiction, which is a lack of good jobs and economic opportunity in the Southern Tier.”
It should be noted that while the quote from Barbara Fiala mentions a plan, the article mentions no details of the plan. Review of FialaforSenate.com equally fails to mention any reference to a plan to combat heroin, or even the issue as a campaign platform.
Undersheriff Akshar also had growth to his description of his original position. He is cited in the same WBNG article as having developed a 3-point plan that focuses on treatment of addicts, education to prevent new addicts, and arrests of “kingpins” dealing the drug. There appears to be no substantive difference in the quote made in August and the details provided to WBNG in September 2015. Undersheriff Akshar does have statements on his website, FredAkshar.com, about heroin and other issues. As of September 17, 2015, there is an article that outlines a more detailed plan on the website.
We are still awaiting a response from the Akshar campaign on a date for interview promised by Fred Akshar directly in July. We are still awaiting any response from the Fiala campaign. Any response on our questions, from either candidate, will be published verbatim after being received.
Far too often we all look at politics as an insurmountable mountain of regulations and laws that are near-indecipherable to the average person. In fact, this was the point brought up by Rep. John Conyers on July 29, 2009 when he said,
“What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
But this is not how Congress must be. No member of Congress should get a pass for not reading a Bill. If the Bill is too long, or too convoluted to be understood, then that Bill should be re-written as it is too flawed to be of use. Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act if you prefer) is proof of that, even if you are a supporter of the legislation.
In addition, when I ran for Congress in 2013 – 2014, I spoke on the campaign trail and stated that I supported changing the way Congress is paid. I said then, and now, that Congress must be accountable to constituents, from the Bills they introduce and pass to perks they receive and their pay. I have thought about this, and in listening to the Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election I was reminded that action must be taken.
Thus I present the Congressional Accountable Pay Act, or C.A.P. Act. This is my solution to the pay of Congress. I believe it is fair, simple to understand, and takes into account both the benefits of members of Congress doing their job as well as modifications for when they do not.
I am sending a copy of this Bill to Rep. Richard Hanna, my representative in Congress. At the same time I am presenting this to you, the public. Please let me know in the comments if there is something I can improve in this Bill. Did I forget anything? Can it be better?
Please feel free to send this (version 1) to your representative in Congress if you agree with it. Post it on social media, tweet it. Let us draw so much attention to this Bill, that Congress must enact it. Because WE are the Government. WE elect members of Congress, WE pay Congress, and therefore WE ultimately get to decide what and how they are paid.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Update – The proposal has been sent to Rep. Richard Hanna, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer, on 9/19/15 at 11:38pm. I will publish any response. Please let me know if there is any other member of Congress this has been sent to and when, and I will add it to the list.
** PDF of the Bill can be printed from here – C.A.P. Act PDF **
Congressional Accountable Pay Act
Purpose – In an effort to reduce the national debt and the annual deficit, and at the same time improve the accountability of members of Congress with respect to their constituents, this Act will regulate the pay of members of Congress.
1) Regardless of the base salary for any member of Congress, duly voted upon and passed by act of Congress, in the event of a deficit in the annual fiscal budget no member of Congress shall be paid the full base salary, but will have it modified. The result in modified pay are:
A) At any time that a deficit in the annual fiscal budget exists, all members pay will be adjusted from January 1st of the calendar year that said deficit occurs. Thus in Fiscal year 2016, all pay for members of Congress is modified from January 1, 2015, retroactively, with any difference to be paid to the IRS as a voluntary repayment of the National Debt.
B) If conditions under a) exist then the base pay of any member of Congress will be modified as follows -
B1) A maximum of two times (2x) the average income of constituents of the home State of the member shall be paid in that fiscal year. The average income will be determined by the Census records of the most recent applicable year published.
C) In the case that a member is found guilty of any campaign finance regulation violation; and/or misrepresents, misstates, or otherwise inaccurately reports their personal and/or campaign finances; such member will have their pay, retroactive to January 1st of the year of the offense (if in office at that time, or the first day of the start of their term of office as applicable), reduced to the State minimum of the home State or the national poverty level, whichever is the lower.
C1) Any member of Congress affected by C) will be required to repay any and all amounts paid above the retroactive modification in pay to the IRS as a voluntary repayment of the National Debt.
C2) Any member of Congress affected by C) will be eligible to have their pay reinstated to the normal base salary, as modified by 1), upon satisfactorily qualifying under the following conditions:
a) Payment of all fines and fees from the original offense and C1)
b) Cessation of their term of office, though all fines and fees from the original offense and C1) remain in place until paid.
Termination of Office
2) If a member of Congress ceases to maintain their position due to loss of (re-)election, they may qualify for retirement benefits, modified as follows:
A) If a member of Congress ceases to maintain their elected position due to conviction of a legal offense (other than a traffic misdemeanor) or ethical violation of rules for members of Congress, such member will have all retirement benefits forfeit and applied to pay the National Debt.
B) In addition, the pay of a member of Congress that qualifies under A) will be retroactively reduced to the State minimum of the home State or the national poverty level, whichever is the lower, from the date of the start of such members term(s) in Congress. Such member of Congress is required to repay any and all amounts paid above the retroactive modification in pay to the IRS as a voluntary repayment of the National Debt.
Death of member of Congress while in office
3) If a member of Congress dies while in office, benefits to spouse and decedents will remain in place as current law without modification.
4) A member serving 10 years in Congress or 2 consecutive terms, whichever is the longer, will be entitled to retirement benefits, the nature of those benefits being as per existing law, with the following modifications:
A) The member of Congress must be in good legal standing at the time of cessation of office
B) The member of Congress must serve the full time requirement of term of office
C) Retirement benefits will be calculated based on the average income of the home State of such member, per year for each year served as determined by the Census for applicable years, times two (2x).
D) A violation of Federal law, and conviction on such offense, will cease all future payments of retirement pay starting on the date of conviction.
E) Any member of Congress whose personal retirement income, from all sources combined, upon reaching 68 years of age, as verified by the IRS Taxes filed, that exceeds $200,000 annually separate of any Congressional retirement benefits, will forfeit their retirement payments to the IRS for payment of the National Debt, for as long as this criteria is met.
5) Will be paid as per the terms of Retirement as applies.
6) If any provision of this Act, or the application thereof to any person, partnership, or corporation, or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of this Act, and the application of such provisions to any other person, partnership, corporation, or circumstance, shall not be affected thereby.
A) Home State average income – will be determined by the US Census as the average income of a resident of a particular State, as published, in any particular year in question.
B) Deficit – is defined as any shortfall between the funding for the Federal Government as outlined by the annual congressional budget, and the tax revenues available in that fiscal year the budget applies. In addition, in any fiscal year where a congressionally approved budget is not passed and/or in force, automatically qualifies as a deficit regardless of the difference in funding and tax revenues.
C) Payments to the IRS – in any case where the pay of a member of Congress is modified under any of the stipulations enumerated by this Act, the difference and any applicable penalties will be use to pay the National Debt directly and to the full amount of that difference, immediately as the funds are received by the IRS. These payments to the National Debt cannot be deferred or repurposed or delayed in being received by the IRS, nor in being applied to the National Debt immediately.
The first round of the CNN Republican Presidential debate featured 4 candidates. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (prior to the debate at .5% national polling average), Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (.3%), former Gov. George Pataki of New York (no average available), and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (.8%). The debate was only an hour and 17 minutes, but was a fierce display competition and Republican values. The goal was to make the cut as the candidates for the Republican nominee get fewer and fewer. Two succeeded in this effort.
There is no question that all four candidate brought their A-game. There is no question that each is acutely aware that failing at this debate is almost an assured sign that they will be joining former Gov. Rick Perry on the sidelines of this political battle to win the presidency in 2016. The spoils of a win means more donations, more air-time and interviews, and potentially a shot against the Democratic nominee (presumably still Hillary Clinton).
The win, in my somewhat humble opinion, goes to Sen. Graham. He had the most demonstrable turn around since the August Fox News debate. He moved himself from a single statement – we must beat ISIS – to a more well-rounded candidate. He still is full locked into fighting ISIS and threats to America in the Middle East, but at least this time he addressed the other issues and questions in a manner that didn’t end with what felt like the phrase, ‘I will beat ISIS if you elect me,’ which is how he seemed to come off in the first debate.
There were several notable quotes in the first round of the CNN debate from Sen. Graham. The following are the statements that I believe were the most worthy of remembering and signatures of the type of candidate that Sen. Graham may be.
“Here’s my problem with Secretary Clinton. Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack? How did you let it become a deathtrap to begin with; and why did you lie about what happened to these people?”
“If you are a waitress out there wanting more money, I’m not going to increase the minimum wage. I’m going to try to create an environment where somebody else will open a restaurant across the street to hire you away. At a higher rate. Or they will have to pay you more to keep you.”
“The tax code is a complete mess, but nobody has talked about the elephant in the room which is debt. Not one more penny to the federal government until we come up with a plan to get out of debt.”
“A weak economy. A military in decline. The world on fire. Does that sound familiar to you?”
“Bobby [Gov. Jindal], we’re running to be the President of the United States. The most important job in the free world. With it comes a certain amount of honesty. I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I know we can’t do.”
“I get my foreign policy from being on the ground. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Mid East, 35 times in the last decade trying to understand how we got in this mess. Our leading candidate gets his policy from watching television. What I heard last night is a cartoon network. ‘Oh I’m big, I’m strong, I’m going to hit ‘em in the head. That’s not foreign policy. That’s a cartoon character.”
Winning the second place prize, and likely to make the cut to the main stage for the next debate, is Gov. Jindal. While Gov. Jindal was far less of a single issue candidate than Sen. Graham, he was not as polished in addressing each issue. While he had several good comments and quotes, many were honestly throw away comments that every candidate in the Republican field made to some degree or another. Gov. Jindal did not mince his words, and stood his ground on his opinion of Donald Trump, the apparent passivity of Senate Republicans, and the potential ills of a Clinton Presidency.
“He’s [President Obama] declared war on trans-fats and truce with Iran. Think about that. He’s more worried about Twinkees than he is about the Ayatollah having a nuclear weapon.”
“It’s not that he [Chief Justice Roberts] got a minor ruling wrong, this is twice he re-wrote the law.”
We’ve [Republicans] got the majority, what good has it done us. You see they say they’re going to stop amnesty, they say they are going to repeal Obamacare, they didn’t do either. Now they aren’t even willing to fight to defund Planned Parenthood. [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell’s already waived the white flag of defeat. They’re not willing to stand up to fight for the issues that count. I think it is time to have term limits. I think it’s time to have part-time citizen legislators.”
Across the world dictators walk all over this President [Obama]. He treats our friends like dirt, he lets our enemies walk all over us. The only group he is able to out-negotiate are the Senate Republicans.”
From here on are the 2 candidates that won’t make the cut in my opinion. It may not happen immediately, but after 2 debates they have been so lackluster that I am sure the campaign financing woes that plagued Gov. Perry will soon be dogging them. Unless there is a substantial and dramatic event, very very soon, these two men will not be around for long. But it should also be said that this is not a reflection on their ideas or passion. It’s just the reality that campaign donations will not flow everywhere, and media attention is like a moth to a flame – the brightest lights get the most moths.
Former Sen. Santorum, is passionate. There is no doubt that he hopes to see America as a manufacturing giant of the world again. It is clear he wants to help the middle class. But beyond that, he gets a bit more fuzzy and the notches drop noticeably on the other issues of the day. It’s not that he can’t lead, he just doesn’t feel like the best choice. Two presidential election cycles have taken their toll on him, and his drive as well as his proclamation as a political outsider feel dated and behind the times.
“When people say, ‘You’re going to start a war,’ my response is, NO I’m going to stop a war. Because a nuclear Iran is the end.”
Lastly, there is former Gov. Pataki. Again, the question is not the resume, intelligence, or capability of these candidates. It’s their appeal as a President, as a leader of the world. The vision of Gov. Pataki feels worn. Like someone who has missed his time. He gets the issues, he is relevant in his answers, but he feels just a step behind the pack. In fact, his presentation was such that while he had notable comments, there wasn’t one thing he said that I felt necessary or impressive enough to quote. There is no greater death knell in politics than being unquotable. He was far better than in the FOX debate, but CNN may be the last time we see him on any debate stage.
Other hopefuls for the race, like Gov. Gilmore, failed to make an impression on the FOX debate and have done nothing worth mentioning since. They didn’t clear the hurdle for CNN, or in the case of Gov. Perry, have left the race. They are not factors, I believe, under any circumstance.
As for a quick overview of my thoughts (after only the first viewing) of the second round of the CNN 2016 Republican debate, I present my response I offered on a Facebook comment. I will have a more detailed commentary soon.
“Well in the second debate, in my opinion Trump jumped the shark. Gov Kasich lost ground. Sen. Paul confirmed his isolationist view and is weak. Gov. Huckabee was ok, but broke no new ground. Gov. Christie came off mostly bull headed. Sen. Cruz was very preachy and Presidential but not powerful. Dr. Carson improved on his last performance but is not a commanding presence and perhaps too dependent on intellectual options over all else. Carly Fiori justified being on the stage and was strong but balanced with good clear positions. Gov. Bush mostly distanced himself from his family, without insult to them, took on Trump well (low hanging fruit in my opinion) and defended being the most centrist – left person on the stage. But these are my opinions after one watching. On YouTube watching first debate now.” – Michael “Vass” Vasquez, September 17, 2015 @ 1:20am