Drones in NY: The Jobs Shell Game

By Michael Vass | May 7, 2015

Predator drone

Back on February we wrote the first in a planned series or articles on the impact of unmanned aerial systems (drones) in New York. Specifically we were looking at the impact this newly developing industry was proposing to have on the State, and the Rome, NY region, via the Griffiss International Airport. As of August 2014, The Griffiss Airport was selected as one of six drone testing sites in the country, and was promised to create jobs and inject revenues to the State coffers.

Our article Domestic drones are coming to our skies, whether you like it or not, looked in detail at the industry, the initial proposed regulations from the FAA, and several of the key players in New York. We delved into the history that led to the creation of unmanned drones. We covered the future potential of the industry. We discussed some of the fears, both physical and legislative, that the industry faces.

It was our expectation that relatively shortly after our first article we would be able to continue the series with the economic impact of drones in New York. The key focus was to be on the costs, from Federal and State sources, as well as the jobs created as a result of those tax dollars being spent. The result was hardly what anyone would have expected.

Our research has revealed a total of 6 jobs being created that we could confirm. We also confirmed grants and funding in excess of $6 million. We are continuing to try to find more information as the 1st anniversary of the well-published announcement of drone testing site approaches.

In speaking with the Office of Mayor Joseph R Fusco Jr. of Rome, NY, we asked Brandon M. Lovett, Director of Administrative Services, on February 16, 2015, questions that were asked of several other institutions as well as the Federal and NY State government. Those questions were:

  1. The total number of jobs created to-date at the Griffiss International Airport test site
  2. The projected number of jobs to be created in 2015 & 2016 if known
  3. The total of Federal/State/local funds allocated to the creation of the test site to-date
  4. The projected Federal/State/local funds allocated in fiscal 2015/2016
  5. If we are contacting the incorrect Department, we ask for the contact information of whatever Department/Agency can answer this request. If there is legal restriction to providing the information requested, we ask for citation of the relevant legislation involved.

The answer we received from Mr. Lovett on February 17, 2015 was:

“In regards to your questions, they would be best answered from the consortium that is managing the UAS program.  Their name is NUAIR, here is their website http://nuairalliance.org/ .”

We will address NUAIR in a moment. In addition to contacting Mayor Fusco’s office, we also sent a FOIA request to the US Department of Commerce. After 36 days from our initial request, the response from the Commerce Dept., National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was,

“NTIA has conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control. NTIA found no records responsive to your request.” – Karen D. Smith, Chief Counsel, March 25, 2015

While the delay from the Commerce Dept. was substantial, the time for the New York Department of Labor to respond to our FOIA request was even worse. Sent at the same time as the abovementioned requests, it took a total of 76 days (from February 16, 2015 until May 4, 2015) to receive the following statement:

“Please be advised that the Department of Labor is not the custodian of the records you requested.” -  Pico Ben-Amotz, Records Access Officer and sent by Itasha Hilton, Legal Assistant – May 4, 2015

The response was troubling. Neither the City of Rome, NY, nor the Federal government could indicate any jobs had been created since August 2014. Yet the news at the time clearly stated that, according to Rep. Dan Maffei, there would be “2,600 new jobs in New York and Massachusetts, with an economic impact of $600 million by 2017.” Worse yet, the NY Dept. of Labor neither had record of any jobs attributable to the Griffiss drone testing site, nor were they able to direct us to any Agency that was better suited to provide the requested information.

This left us with the only source that provided a figure for total jobs created. That was Larry Brinker Executive, Director of NUAIR Alliance. In our phone interview on February 19, 2015, Mr. Brinker acknowledged that NUAIR directly employs 6 people, including himself, on a full-time basis for operations. No figure was given for temporary personnel.

Mr. Brinker did note that there were over 60 private companies and institutions involved in research and development of drones which may have created or saved an unknown number of jobs. Mr. Brinker stated that as of the time of the interview 45 test flights (including those of Logos Technologies and Lockheed Martin) had taken place since August of 2014, and plans to develop a “sense and avoid” safety system were underway that would also provide an undetermined number of jobs in relation to the drone test site.

Given the dearth of information on jobs either created or saved by the introduction of drones to New York State, one thing is clear – there is taxpayer money being spent. So far there has been a total of at least $6 million in grants and funding going to the Griffiss drone test site alone. That includes a $4 million in a grant, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s competitive regional economic development council initiative, on December 11, 2014.  There was the $1 million included in the 2014 New York State budget via Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, and another $1 million in the 2015 NY budget via State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo and Assemblyman Brindisi.

In addition, additional long-term funds are being sought for the drone testing program by Rep. Richard Hanna. The exact amount of funding has yet to be disclosed, but Rep. Hanna has been a supporter of the drone testing program and was a member of the Drone Caucus, as we have previously reported. Griffiss International Airport received $6.3 million in funding in 2014, which may have included funding for the drone test site, via the Federal Airport Improvement program though it has no passenger services. Rep Hanna also supported a transportation Bill to fund all drone testing sites with $11 million in funding in 2014, that passed the House, but did not disclose how much of that funding was dedicated to the Griffiss testing site.

In December 2013 Rep. Richard Hanna stated,

“Helping build a new high-tech economy in the Mohawk Valley is essential to the future of our community. Promoting Griffiss as a hub for new jobs and innovation is a major part of this effort and this news is exciting for our region’s future.”

17 months after that statement, after promises of hundreds of jobs and tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars in tax revenue, the smack of reality has a very different feeling. Thus far, 6 jobs can be confirmed as created – not the 2600 promised by Rep Maffei and Rep. Hanna. Thus far the Griffiss International Airport has generated a net loss to taxpayers of at least $6 million dollars, potentially more depending on exactly how various programs have distributed their funds. In the near future, due to the efforts at the State and Federal level, even more tax dollars are planned to be funneled to this nascent industry that has yet to produce any proof it will live up to the hype it launched with.

**Note – The Federal Aviation Administration was contacted via its website, but no response has been received to our questions. NUAIR Alliance and the Office of Mayor Fusco were offered the opportunity to provide any documents or comment since the time of interview and no further response has been received as of this article.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

A very personal thought of Michael Vass Vasquez

By Michael Vass | May 5, 2015

** Just a personal thought, that I wrote on my Facebook page and decided deserves to be here as well. **

So I’m just sitting here, reading and thinking about Dr. Ben Carson. The claim that he “sold out” isn’t new. Herman Cain got told the same thing. I was told that when I ran for Congress. But the response to that accusation is the same, I think, for all of us – I mean anyone (especially a person of color) that isn’t lock step in the role that has been selected for them.

Michael "Vass" Vasquez
I NEVER BOUGHT IN. I WAS NEVER FOR SALE.

Honestly, and I doubt many will ever read this, who sold out? The guy who believed they could be more than an entertainer, or the guy who never went beyond that. The person who strived to create their own path, or the one who found their success in the niche given to them?

Yes Richard Pryor was a genius. Stevie Wonder is incredible. Tiger Woods (at least used to be) fierce. Michael Jordan was incredible. Michael Jackson could sing. And Muhammad Ali was the greatest.

But there are tens of thousands – no hundreds of thousands – of doctors, police officers, members of the military, business owners, managers, teachers, mentors, and just damn good people that happen to be people of color. They mean more than ANY entertainer.

Muhammad Ali was great. But he does not touch the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, or George Washington Carver. That does not demean Ali, but it does put it in perspective. Given that perspective, where does Beyonce, or Jay Z, or Biggie Smalls, et al. figure in? They don’t even get to compare. Because they haven’t done more than be exactly what they are supposed to be. Distractions and entertainment. A passing flavor that ultimately does nothing, but they “got paid” well for their time.

Some won’t like this, but that won’t make it less true. In my lifetime people of color have gone from striving to improve their communities and themselves, to striving to be ghettofabulous as their community crumbles. But if you dare say, ‘don’t buy a pair of $500 jeans when you need a suit to get a job‘ you are called a “sell-out“. We have more kids (of all colors) that are more interested in going to jail to get infamy, than growing their mind to become productive and prosperous. The goal is to “get paid.”

But if someone is paying you, especially for the lifestyle you lead, haven’t they bought you? Isn’t that selling out; and on the cheap? I think that is understood, but pushed way back in the minds of those afflicted with the goal. Which is why ANYONE that acts otherwise has to be ostracized. Because some can’t look in the mirror and not realize the only one who sold out is the one “getting paid.”

Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain, (I believe) millions of Conservatives of color, haven’t sold out. We just never put ourselves on sale. The price for our minds and lives aren’t worth “getting paid“, because what we have is priceless. Not everyone can appreciate that. Most don’t WANT to appreciate that. It is that very truth that is the true enslavement of millions.

It’s the reason that Dr. Carson, Mr. Cain, and in a small way I myself and so many others, must be labeled and shunned. Because it’s easy to burn something down, but it’s hard to create. It’s easy to be appeased and given a token to tide over a tantrum. It’s damn hard to create something, and nurture it to last. It’s damn hard to be responsible and accountable. It’s damn hard to stand up for what you believe.

George Washington knew that. So did Jefferson, Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. King, Malcom X, and many others. I think Mr. Cain and Dr. Carson understand that. I like to believe I do too. But too few will ever read this. Even fewer will get to this point. Still I will end it here for those that get this far – Don’t be for sale. The price you get will never be worth what you have sold.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

The latest concern in Baltimore

By Michael Vass | May 1, 2015

On May 1, 2015, the Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that 6 police officers will be charged in the death of Freddie Gray. It was the death of Mr. Gray, while in police custody, that sparked protests and ultimately riots. But the news of the charges should make the populace pause.

Credit: AP

The question to be asked is not if justice is being done. Whenever police abuse the authority entrusted to them, charges should be brought, and when justified those officers should be incarcerated. The questions that should be asked is if this is a knee-jerk reaction, and if this will be perceived as a reward?

The first query is hard to establish. Freddie Gray died on April 19, 2015. He had been in police custody since an arrest April 12th, the same day he was rushed to medical care and fell into a coma. On April 21st, 6 officers were placed on temporary suspension. On April 25th a protest lead to violence resulting in 34 arrests and 15 police officers injured. On April 27th, Baltimore made national news as the city erupted in riots that left 19 buildings burned, 144 vehicles burned, 20 police injured and 245 arrested. This destruction was cause in part by the action Mayor Rawlings-Blake who said on April 28th,

“…Because while we try to make sure that they [protestors] were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate and that’s what you saw this evening.”

Mayor Rawlings-Blake would later renounce the above statement, and then recant the renouncement while offering a reinterpretation of what was meant. On April 30th, according to CBS, Maryland State Police Sergeant, and Sheriff of Wicomico County, Michael Lewis stated that,

“…The [city officers] got out of their vehicles, thanked us profusely for being there, apologized to us for having to be there. They said we could have handled this, we were very capable of handling this, but we were told to stand down, repeatedly told to stand down… I heard it myself over the Baltimore City police radio that I had tethered to my body-armor vest, I heard it repeatedly. ‘Stand down, stand down, stand down! Back up, back up, retreat, retreat!’…”

National criticism has followed. The Mayor, in office since 2010 and a Democrat, has been hard pressed for her decisions and statements. The negative review has also been labeled a critique of Liberal philosophy and Democrat governance. This is emphasized by the fact that Mayor Rawlings-Blake was part of the panel created in the wake of the Ferguson riots. These facts are known.

Therefore, any action since the riots maintains a political component. This may be part of the reason why State Attorney Mosby has moved so quickly to level charges. Then again, considering the 6 officers had already been suspended, may be a quick response to actions already being taken based on the seriousness of the offense. At this point it is unclear which is the case, or if politics is contributing to whatever degree.

The bigger question is how this will be perceived. Clearly at least some of the residents of Baltimore feel that the local Government has failed. Even after Police Commissioner Anthony Batts removed 50 officers for misconduct since 2012, there were incidents like the death of Tyrone West in 2013. The powder keg that erupted after the death of Freddie Gray had a long burning fuse. The charges will address some of that outrage and long-standing issues.

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Credit: CNN
But some will also see this as a response only generated by the riot itself. There have been many who have justified the riots, claiming they were the only way for action to take place. As stated on CNN, April 28th, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill – a noted far-left commentator – stated,

“I’m not saying we should be killing people, but we do have to understand that resistance looks different ways to different people and part of what it means to say black lives matter, is to assert our right to have rage – righteous rage, righteous indignation in the face of state violence and extrajudicial killing… I’m not saying we should see the destruction of black communities as positive. I’m saying that we can’t have too narrow a perception of what the destruction of black communities mean and it seems we exhausted more of our moral outrage tonight and not the 364 days before tonight. I think we should be strategic in how we riot.”

That mindset, “we should be strategic in how we riot,” is the concern. For those that would excuse violence, that justify it, how are they to see the charges of the officers? Will they see this as a continuation of a process started on April 21st? Will they see it as continued efforts by Commissioner Batts? Or will they see this as a reward for the violence inflicted on innocent residents and businesses?

It is a critical question. Because in the wake of the apparently growing trend – that reaches back long before Baltimore or even Ferguson, to Oscar Grant in Oakland and even before that – is not stopping. Riots in reaction to perceived – and often justified – injustice is garnering more and more media attention. The poison of copycatting is receiving more justification from politicians and political commentators. The mindset of expanding the 1st Amendment to include “space to destroy” and ‘strategic rioting’ is taking hold, even if that is not the primary intent.

Again, there is every reason to pursue the law and hold officers that may have violated their oath to protect and serve accountable. There is every need to ensure that the use of excessive force, especially when commonly applied to people of color, must be curtailed. But, especially at this moment, these actions must be tempered and clearly communicated as not being a reward for the bad and criminal behavior of a few.

The 6 officers in Maryland connected to the death of Freddie Gray should be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Mayor Rawlings-Blake should be investigated and prosecuted for inciting a riot and accessory to the crimes committed if she indeed gave rioters space and restricted police actions to resolve the situation. The looters should be arrested. Those that justify rioting as an expression of the 1st Amendment and/or anger with political (in)action should be summarily and uniformly denounced and reprimanded.

If this is nothing more than a reaction to quell dissenters and maintain a political appearance of power, then Baltimore and other cities will only rise up in riots again at some future date. If this is portrayed (or allowed to be portrayed) as a reward for rioting, then cities and towns across America are sure to burn in the coming months and years. But if there is more to this, if it is grounded in a sincere effort to address injustice, then it must be clear on motivation and criminal prosecution of every player involved. Regardless of color of skin or political office held.

But that is one point of view.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Commentary: Trans-Pacific Partnership in shadows as some in Congress waffle

By Michael Vass | May 1, 2015

** As written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez for Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **

As more and more attention is being thrust upon the 2016 presidential race, less scrutiny is being placed on what our current Representatives are doing in Congress. The problem with that is that the issues facing our nation will not wait, nor can they be resolved, without our Representatives doing their jobs. Critical to that is our oversight on what they are doing.

One example is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A deal that may be significant to both the exports and jobs of our nation for decades to come. The deal, which has been in talks since 2008, has been under pressure for years due to the highly secretive nature of the talks. What is known is that currently China has little interest, there are concerns over intellectual property protections, and multiple organizations and political groups (including several high profile Democrats) are against the TPP.

Credit: Wall Street Journal

President Obama has recently been pushing to fast track approval of the TPP. This aggressive action has had blowback recently from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and several Conservative Republicans since 2013. Key among the concerns is the investor-state dispute settlement provision, which

“Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.”

In effect, though disputed by the Obama Administration, countries could be sued under TPP. Examples of how this has happened in the past include Eli Lilly suing Canada under NAFTA. In addition disputes would be settled by world organizations as when Ecuador was charged $2.3 billion to pay to Occidental Petroleum.

Job losses, environmental concerns, even a loss of portions of sovereignty are potentially at risky with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These are some of the reasons that a coalition of concerned citizens approached Rep. Richard Hanna of the NY 22nd Congressional District on April 24, 2015. According to one of the coalition members, John Furman of president of the Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc.

“Despite promises that past controversial trade pacts would boost exports, government data show that New York’s exports to trade pact partners have actually lagged behind its exports to the rest of the world… Now that the same broken promises are being trotted out for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, New York’s workers have every reason to reject an expansion of the trade status quo.”

Rep. Richard Hanna

While the majority of Americans have yet to focus on TPP, as the daily circus of Hillary Clinton and her ever growing list of scandals fill the 30 second soundbite airways, the response by Rep. Hanna is a poster child of the problem in Congress. Rep. Hanna, via his office, stated,

” Representative Hanna is reviewing the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act…”

Rep. Hanna has been in office since 2010. Nearly as long as discussions on TPP have been on-going. Rep. Hanna was elected, and re-elected, based in part on his business experience and how it could help protect New York jobs, and those of Americans across the nation. Given these facts, the response seems to fall short.

Endless review of on-going actions by the Government that affect potentially millions of lives is an example of Congress failing the public. Constituents in New York, and across the nation, deserve answers and support for the call to open terms of the TPP to the public – rather than 4 years after the agreement has been made as wikileaks has revealed is a term of the agreement.

Transparency is not limited to presidential candidates or the Executive Office, or whatever political party is out of power. Likewise definitive answers on issues that have faced the nation for nearly a decade are part and parcel of the job that our politicians have asked for. No matter the soundbite, or the political circus of the day, constituents deserve better.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Without fanfare or public debate, repeal of NY Safe Act shelved by Democrats

By Michael Vass | May 1, 2015

** Written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez, and previously published at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **

On April 23, 2015, the New York State Assembly Codes Committee met to discuss Bills A-2651 and A-3350. Each of these Bills sought to repeal the NY Safe Act, enacted a little over 2 years ago without debate or public input as a matter of necessity in reaction to the Sandy Hook shootings. Since that time, the NY Safe Act has been universally found to have failed its stated goal of making New Yorkers safer from gun violence. The Codes Committee decision would have allowed the repeal Bills to be presented to the entire Assembly in public debate for an up or down vote. The Codes Committee declined to allow such public action.

The NY Safe Act (Act) has been controversial since the day it was enacted for many reasons. Primary among the objections is the position that the Act violates the 2nd Amendment. Without public debate, the Act was rushed into law and overnight turned a number of NY residents, that previously were without blemish, into criminals for the mere fact they owned firearms that do not meet the arbitrary preferences of Governor Cuomo and anti-2nd Amendment proponents of the Democrat Party. The primary target of the Act, are NY residents that had previously legally owned firearms without incident, as a means to prevent incidents of mass murders like that of Columbine and Sandy Hook.

As has been reported in the media since passage, compliance with the law has been a failure. An estimated 90% or more of New York residents have rejected the law wholesale. At least 23 County Sheriffs are publicly opposed to the Act, according to Assemblyman Monsanto at the Code Committee meeting. Law enforcement across the State were not consulted on the Act or its implementation prior to it being made law. Medical health practitioners were also left out of consultation on the Act, though they are required to take actions based on the Act – which conflicts with their duties and legal requirements of their positions. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notably stated that they will not comply with the NY Safe Act in March 2013.

In terms of effectiveness, the Act failed to prevent shootings in Queens, NY and at Home Depot as recently as January 27, 2015. In fact, the NY Post article from that day notes that

“On a larger scale, the number of shootings rose 24 percent this year over last, from 63 to 78.”

In August 2014, NBC noted that “Citywide, the Bronx leads a recent spike in the number of shooting victims, with 242 people shot this year, up from 191. In Queens, 116 people have been shot, up from 110; in Manhattan, 74 people have been shot, up from 69; and in Brooklyn, 368 people have been shot, up from 338.” Statewide, the average number of murders according to State Police data – covering 2005 – 2014, page 12 - has been 23.9 murders with 2014 having a total of 24 with the NY Safe Act in force.

The Assembly Codes Committee heard 3 arguments from the minority party (Republicans), from Assemblyman Graf, Assemblyman Monsanto, and Assemblywoman Tenney. The arguments covered the issues of unenforceability, cost inefficeincy, direct loss of jobs and business, and the issues of incompatability with pre-existing Federal and State laws.

“This Bill [NY Safe Act] has become unenforceable… There have been so many problems, we have made so many alterations to the Bill that its just not a workable piece of legislation.What this [repeal] would do is roll back the draconian things that we placed upon the everyday citizens of New York State.” – Assemblyman Graf, April 23, 2015

“They [constituents] would like to see the Bill [repeal] voted on, they would like to see public hearings without going through the message of necessity, which is how we originally had this Bill [NY Safe Act] passed… You could look at it from the point of view like I do, that its a fundamental Right under the 2nd Amendment. The other issue is there is hundreds of families in Ilion, NY and throughout our region, people who have no job anymore because their job has been moved to another State… Instead of not allowing this Bill [repeal] to go to the floor, to hold it up in Committee, we are denying all the rights of all these people…” – Assemblywoman Tenney, April 23, 2015

Faced with the arguments of the minority party, the Code Committee summarily lumped the NY Safe Act repeal Bills into a grouping of all Bills being considered at that time and rejected all the Bills from public debate on the floor of the Assembly. Included in the Bills being rejected was the Bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who declined appearing before the Codes Committee to defend his Bill. Effectively this kills the legislation at this time.

The one question that cannot be discerned from the Assembly Code Committee meeting, and the subsequent rejection of public debate on repealing the NY Safe Act, is why the Democrat majority will not allow public discussion? There has yet to be any recorded response we have been able to locate that clarifies why this controversial and publicly rejected law should not be debated, nor allow members of the public, law enforcement, and mental health advocates the chance to present their voices on the NY Safe Act and any potential repeal or modification. Officially, as of the Code Committee action, the answer from the majority party (Democrats) is that the subject is not worthy of the NY State Assembly time.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Discussing the 2nd Amendment, NY Safe Act, constitutional militias at VFW 478

By Michael Vass | April 21, 2015

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.”

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Exclusive: Car on fire on North Street in Binghamton, NY

By Michael Vass | April 21, 2015

** 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.

 

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Commentary: Richard Hanna… for Senate???

By Michael Vass | April 21, 2015

Rep. Richard Hanna

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.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

The voyeurs of the bomb

By Michael Vass | April 21, 2015

** Originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez. **

Iran+Nuclear+deal

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.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

A good deal for Iran, but what about everyone else?

By Michael Vass | April 21, 2015

** 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.

Irannuke2

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.

Rating 3.00 out of 5