CEO Howard Schultz has started a wave of conversation with his announcement that coffee servers at Starbucks will now engage customers in discussions of race. Not to be outdone, expect the President Obama to announce that Ebonics will be the official language used by the IRS. Both make about equal sense.
I can hear all the far-Left kumbaya singers getting their thumbs limber to tweet me to hell. I’m awaiting various comments asking why I sold-out, or informing me of how brainwashed I am for just stating the obvious. A dumb idea doesn’t get smarter because of good intentions or marketing ploys.
At the most basic level, this is dumb because it is fundamentally flawed. Through no fault of their own, the vastly overwhelming number of employees at Starbucks are not qualified to hold the very discussion that Mr. Schultz has effectively forced on them. Whether it is a lack of training (which is exorbitantly cost prohibitive to the level coffee severs are at), a lack of ability (not everyone is eloquent, and some are shy to talk about difficult subjects with strangers), or a lack of knowledge (how many people in America know where Rosewood is?) the result is at best a flawed conversation. At worst, an attempt to engage conversation can easily escalate to worse problems than whatever was the case at the origin. Don’t doubt that violence could also be a result, considering you are mixing sensitive issues with people who haven’t had their morning coffee yet.
I’m sure some academic will try to strike down ever word I am saying, But I dare that same person (or anyone else bold enough) to strike up a conversation about reparations. Not only is there not enough time to say anything intelligent while waiting for a cup of coffee to be made, but outside of any Starbucks more than 5 blocks from any college (San Francisco and Berkley are generally excluded from this distance limit)it is likely to create a shouting match. In fact that is yet another major problem, time.
Anyone who wants to discuss any issue facing the world at this time cannot do so in 3 minutes – let alone the time to get a cup of coffee. Sure you can spout a couple of soundbites or the latest pundit bullet point. That’s not intelligent conversation. That’s just parroting, and not constructive. Which is the next issue.
If I say the sky is purple, and I talk to you for hours about why the sky is purple, what do I achieve? Nothing. The sky will still be blue. Most likely you will still be sure the sky is blue. Neither side of the conversation will have their lives improved. This is Starbucks version of that conversation.
Here is my example. Coffee sever X decides to write “Reparations are good” on every coffee cup they serve. Customer Z sees a cup and says what does that mean? In the next 5 minutes Coffee server X needs to convey the economic impact of slavery on modern America. Server X then needs to convey the moral imperative for reparation. Lastly X should try to convey how such reparations are to be distributed and what benefit it can provide to America on a moral and economic level.
Only at that point can Customer Z have any way of making an intelligent conclusion, which they might later research and confirm or change their mind on. Or Customer Z might have a question. Remember, this is while waiting for one of several cups of coffee Server X is preparing. It takes about 30 – 45 seconds just to read these 2 paragraphs without doing anything else. I am sure thousands have questions and opinions just on the prior paragraph alone.
In reality the conversation ends up being more along the lines of:
“Reparations are good” – Hey what is that about – Slavery. White people owe Black people trillions of dollars – I don’t own any slaves – That’s great! Here is your latte, have a good day.
But I am sure Howard Schultz envisions something far more beautiful. Say a conversation about Ferguson. Or maybe Oscar Grant (anyone remember him?). Server X tells Customer Z that Black lives matter. Customer Z agrees, but says criminals attacking police is no excuse. In the mind of Starbucks this will lead to a fast and simple discussion about race in America that will only take as long as making a latte. Reality says that it might end up in a brawl.
But I think that sums it up. In the minds of some just saying something is bad is enough to generate rainbows and have unicorns appear magically. They live in a world where their grand ideology is all that is needed to change the world. That was the logic behind gun restriction Executive Orders by President Obama and the NY Safe Act. But in the real world legislation (far stronger than a few words at Starbucks) grounded in feeling good about ourselves can’t prevent a single crime – and it hasn’t.
Doing a thing, just for the sake of saying something was done, might let some people sleep well at night but it doesn’t make the world better. It just glosses over problems and lets them fester. Which has been the problem with race relations in America, in my opinion. We glossed over the real root causes of problems with feel good words and let the whole thing fester.
I’m happy Dunkin Donuts, and small mom and pop stores, serve coffee. Because they deserve my money, maybe even more now than before. Starbucks can hold the rainbows, unicorns and racially monogrammed coffee cups. My mornings can spent better, as will my cash.
On March 18, 2015, at 10:35 AM, I was interviewed by Bob Joseph on WNBF News Radio. The live, on-air interview discussed the exclusive coverage of Rep. Richard Hanna in Vestal, NY on 3/13/15. The exclusive Examiner.com coverage of that event can be found at Exclusive: Rep. Richard Hanna has non-public public event in Vestal, NY.
During the interview, the question of what might be the impact of a survey handed to the select voters invited to the Vestal event was covered. The survey contained questions on the economy, hydrofracking, and gun control legislation. The survey has not been distributed to the majority of the constituents in the NY-22 as of this time.
Rep. Hanna has proclaimed his support of the 2nd Amendment and touted his rating by the NRA in the past. Yet the survey requests feedback from constituents about possible additional gun control measures. It is unclear if those measures are isolated to New York State (which has the NY Safe Act) or on a national level. It is also unclear what kind of gun restrictions are being considered by the self-proclaimed 2nd Amendment advocate.
The interview included discussion of the potential run for Congress by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Oneida County with is in the northern portion of the NY-22 (Rep. Hanna is also from that county). The Assemblyman recently created a Bill to repeal the NY Safe Act. This move comes after 2 years of silence about the unpopular legislation. Assemblyman Brindisi did vote against enacting the NY Safe Act. Mr. Vasquez found this action to be a precursor to a run for Congress. Mr. Vasquez stated he believes that the survey distributed at the Vestal event was also for the benefit of a re-election run for Rep. Hanna.
At one point in the interview, Bob Joseph noted the unusual nature of a meet-and-greet event, held in a public space, that disallowed news media the ability to record the event. It was clarified that this demand to bar any recording came from the staff of Rep. Hanna. The radio host noted,
“I’m wondering if they treated you differently than say somebody from Action 12 News showed up… if somebody tipped them off… if they would have treated someone from the so-called traditional news media differently than they treated you…”
In response I stated that it is impossible to know, as the news media was not invited to the event. Further, I noted my reputation and credibility built over 8 years of political commentary and interviews with elected politicians at all levels of Government.
“So this would be the first time, if it’s based on that [credibility], it’s the first time anyone has ever done that [deny news coverage].”
At the conclusion of the interview, Bob Joseph inquired if I was again considering a run for Congress. I previously was a candidate for the New York 22nd Congressional district on the Republican ticket from April 2013 until April 2014. I withdrew from the race to endorse Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Ultimately Assemblywoman Tenney lost the Republican primary in a close race by 2000 votes. Currently I am considering if I will run in 2016.
Very quietly, Rep. Richard Hanna has been apparently attempting to rally Republicans since the beginning of the year – after votes on abortion and Executive Orders via Department of Homeland Security funding drew strong negative attention. Already there have been selective robocalls and at least one mass mailing (taxpayer funded) sent out to some constituents since February. In addition, at least one semi-private meet-and-greet took place, March 13, 2015.
Without fanfare, and directly avoiding the press, Rep. Hanna contacted select individuals in the Broome County area to join him at the Plaza Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015. These cherry-picked individuals were invited for an event from 7:00 AM until 9:00 AM as we were able to learn. While there is no information on the number of people invited, a total of some 30 individuals, all apparently in their mid-forties or older, none people of color, attended the event.
At 7:35 AM, Rep. Richard Hanna arrived at the diner with the compliment of 6 of his staff. It was at this time that authorization was denied, by the staff of Rep. Hanna, to tape or otherwise record the event – including any photos of the event. Permission was given to sit at the event, and that the Congressman would try to take some time to speak with Michael “Vass” Vasquez, president of M V Consulting, Inc (who wrote this article, and was a former candidate for the same seat as the incumbent in 2014).
Rep. Hanna did the usual meet and greet, without speaking to the group as a whole. He shook hands, smiled, and took the opportunity to speak with the gathered exclusive invitees with his ever present staff hovering close by. Each person at the was given a “Congress in your community” flyer. Press secretary Renee Gamela advised that the flyer and event were to share with constituents the services and capabilities available via Rep. Hanna’s office.
The message to constituents – which appears that the overwhelming majority have never received – highlighted several items that seem to be disputable. They include:
- Rep. Hanna promotes his votes to cut wasteful spending - but does not mention or address his vote to allow unfettered debt ceiling increases in 2014, or his votes to fully fund Obamacare (which many consider wasteful, especially considering the botched launch and continuing issues). The only Bill he sponsored to cut wasteful spending was HR 6324, in 2012, that died in the Senate.
- Rep. Hanna promoted his efforts to lower taxes for individuals and businesses - but neglects to mention that the last time he tried to lower corporate taxes was in 2011 (HR 609 – Bill died in House, 32 sponsors).
- Rep. Hanna promoted his support of the 2nd Amendment - but fails to mention his declining to attend a 2014 anti-NY Safe Act rally, and vote for HR 4660 that paid States $19.5 million to add people to the NICS database to deny them gun rights (discussed at length in article House of Representatives passes Bill, enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right). Also see below about the survey.
In fact, Rep. Hanna fails to mention that of the 28 Bills that he has sponsored since 2011, only 4 have been enacted (2 for baseball coins, 1 to name a post office, 1 for a technical regulation change). In addition only 2 Bills passed the House, both in 2012 an election year. One was another technical regulation change, the other was the above mentioned wasteful spending HR 6324. Both of the Bills died and only the technical regulation change has been resubmitted since that time.
The flyer also contained a brief survey. It asked the selected audience to provide an answer to the top economic issue in their opinion. Based on our observations, some answers would likely include Food Stamp legislation – a question asked that Rep. Hanna deferred to his political aide – and jobs for those 55 and older. Another question included whether or not to support natural gas (fracking) in New York. Also whether or not to support additional gun control measures – which seems an odd question for a Representative that states he is a 2nd Amendment advocate with a constituent base that largely is in opposition to gun restrictions such as the NY Safe Act.
Eventually we spoke with Rep. Hanna for a few minutes. He cordially noted that the event was focused on serving the public. He also mentioned strongly that his office was one of the most effective at addressing and resolving concerns of constituents in Congress. There is no known dispute with that claim.
Rep. Hanna responded to our question on his views about the letter to Iran by 47 Republicans, stating,
“I disagree with that. I felt it was inappropriate. When our nation acts and appears divided, especially when the terms of the deal are not final, it does help us. And several of the Republicans have retracted their position already.”
The letter, though essentially correct in its legal standing, has been subject to some backlash and negative media hype. But as of March 11, 2015, none of the 47 Senators who signed the letter have recanted it and it is unclear what Rep. Hanna meant by “retracted.”
Rep. Hanna also answered a speculative question about a potential challenge by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi to run in 2016 for Congress. Rep. Hanna stated,
“Yes I do know Michael… I mean Anthony. I’m not aware if he will run, but I’m open to it. I welcome and admire anyone that has the guts to run for this office. A lot of people talk because everyone wants this job, but if they look at it, it’s a lot harder than they might think. But it’s not something we are focused on, we are here to help the people, and the people will pick who they want.”
As we noted in the article Assemblyman Brindisi wants to repeal the Safe Act, but why should we care?, it does appear that Brindisi may be in the early stages of establishing a run for Congress. There are also indications that Rep. Hanna has been taking action, as noted previously, to shore up his own re-election chances and to fend off challengers both from Democrats as well as Republicans and Conservatives.
When asked for a the opportunity to have a one-on-one in-depth interview, Rep. Hanna neither confirmed nor denied the request. Rep. Hanna deferred to Ms. Giameli to consider arranging a meeting. When advised that he ultimately makes the decision on an interview, Rep. Hanna stated, “We will see.”
Rep. Hanna went on to speak with the rest of the selected audience individually. At about 8:45 AM, we left the Vestal Diner. As of this article
being written, we are awaiting photos [We received photos from Ms. Gamela after publication of this document on 3/13/15] from the staff of Rep. Hanna that were taken of the event. In addition we are awaiting official response on several questions, including our request for interview.
While it is not uncommon for any elected politician to hold events for selected groups of constituents, nor for those events to be on occasion restricted from the news media, the public venue and nature of the event was odd. We thank Rep. Hanna for the access to the event, though it was highly limited in nature, as we believe the public deserves to know what actions our elected politicians are taking. This especially true when so little time has been spent by Rep. Hanna in the Southern Tier since he became the representative of the 22nd Congressional District of New York.
When I first heard that Rep. Hanna has been selectively inviting individuals to meet with him at the Vestal Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015 I had some reservations. Not because I wasn’t invited to the public event but on Rep. Hanna. I was reminded of the 2014 election, and the votes to-date in Congress. I was also reminded of the flyer that suddenly was sent just weeks ago, again selectively, to voters and the actions of Assemblyman Brindisi this month. The picture it all paints is anything but a benefit for residents in the 22nd Congressional District of New York.
Elections, at all levels, are supposed to be a lightning rod. They are the combined message of constituents and their views on the issues of the day. From these elections, politicians are supposed to recognize exactly what their directive will be for the tenure of the time in office – whether they are newly elected or re-elected. An election is a mandate from the people to Government.
Well, that is the ideal at least. In reality it is far from that. As our President has clearly demonstrated, elections can be taken as merely an indication of how many people need to be handed 30-second soundbites and political propaganda to sell whatever vision the politician may decide unilaterally is best for them (and by extension their constituents). Yes, elections have turned in marketing leads. If an election goes badly, it just means that a new ad campaign needs to be rolled out – by both political parties.
I say that especially when I consider the race for the NY-22. For a year, 2013 until 2014, I ran for Congress. I traveled across the District, speaking with the public directly. At the same time I challenged Rep. Hanna to a debate, or at least to even address the issues that the people were telling me they were concerned about. Rep. Hanna ignored every question and every challenge.
In 2014, Assemblywoman Tenney, with far more access to the media and an existing base of supporters stepped into the race. She holds many of the same positions that I and most of the people in the District hold. She too called on Rep. Hanna to speak about his “schizophrenic” voting on abortion, immigration, veterans, fiscal responsibility and more. Once again Rep. Hanna turned a deaf ear and amped up his advertising on everything but the issues (mostly on mudslinging if we are honest).
But after a narrow win, by a mere 2,000 votes, Rep. Hanna won the Republican primary. In November 2014 he faced no one, as Democrats abandoned their Party in hopes of protecting the Senate majority they had. The Democrats lost and Rep. Hanna won the general election. But 26% of the votes in the general election voted for “Blank”. That is a critical statement. It’s a clear indication of the public lacking confidence so much that they would rather have Mickey Mouse or Goofy in Congress than Rep. Hanna.
If this were an ideal world, then Rep. Hanna would have learned from these election results. He would have realized that Republicans, and Conservatives that had rejected him since 2012, were fed up with a politician that actively says one thing and votes another. His own party was tired of a politician that claimed to hold their values, only to toss those values aside every time a critical vote took place.
Someone that was there to represent the people of the NY-22 would have changed, or at the very least stood talk and publicly explained the definitive stance on the issues that they held. That is my opinion.
Instead, Rep. Hanna apparently learned about advertising and marketing. He learned that the number one asset for any sitting politician, his name, was unknown in vast portions of the NY-22. While he would not release the results of his internal polling, I believe he found out that in some portions of Broome, Tioga, and Chenango counties there were as many people that thought he was the Democrat that he inherited the District from (former Rep. Maurice Hinchey) as knew of him directly.
Rep. Hanna learned that he was weak. A man with no political background but a clear understanding of the issues and defined positions (myself, without being modest or overly self-promoting), was able to take a race that in 2013 was thought of as a foregone definitive win and change the situation. With $5,000 the awareness of the issues and reality of a choice was enough to have people from Herkimer to Washington D.C. take notice and question if Rep. Hanna could win. In the end, I raised the bar enough to let another candidate, Assemblywoman Tenney, step in and nearly win the race.
Another lesson Rep. Hanna learned. When faced with someone who actually had enough money to stand up to him, and enough status that he could not scoff at her credentials, he had no plan B. Rep. Hanna only won by slinging a lot of mud, and the good graces of PAC’s that hold positions the people of the NY-22 don’t believe in.
Rep. Hanna knew, or was told by his staff I would imagine, that in a year where a Democrat was running and he was challenged again, he would lose unless he did something. He could have sided with the people. He could have come clean with the positions he held convictions in. Instead he chose soundbites.
Rep. Hanna, after voting for and against President Obama’s wildly unpopular grab of power via Executive Order decided to vote in favor of abortion. Rep. Hanna further capitulated on the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. But to make up for it, he spent taxpayer money to send out flyers telling half the story of what he was doing. PT Barnum would be proud. If the truth won’t work, sell only the parts of the truth that will work for you.
But the staff of Rep. Hanna were likely not the only ones to notice how weak he was. Democrats saw an opening, and leapt forward apparently with Assemblyman Brindisi. The race for 2016 had started. Rep. Hanna responded with robocalls (again paid for by taxpayers to my knowledge), talking up his highly edited voting history.
The next phase appears to be Vestal, NY. Without doubt there will be appearances, to selected voters, in Tioga and Chenango counties before the summer and candidates officially signal their intentions to run. Rep. Hanna is spending money (taxpayer money) to make sure in 2016 he has name recognition – the biggest weapon in the arsenal for a politician. It doesn’t make him better at his job, just better known. Kind of like why Glozell Green (search Youtube for her name and fruit loops if you don’t know who she is) got to meet President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t.
I wish I were wrong. But in my opinion, I see no change in the chaotic voting that is Rep. Hanna’s history. I see no more credibility in his sitting on the fence, or actively voting against the wishes of his constituents that he is keenly aware of by his own admission, than I did in 2013.
Still, I will be at the Vestal Diner on March 13th. If Rep. Hanna dares, I will speak with him (again, though for the first time in public). I will give him the chance to explain his apparently self-serving actions, and his vision for representing the NY-22. I am a fair man, and while I have reservations, based on my opinion as described above, I will hear him out objectively.
What I hope to hear is how Rep. Hanna’s actions are helping the nation and the NY-22. What I want to hear is that he has taken a position, and a willingness to let the public know what he actually plans on doing in our collective names. If I were to demand anything, it would be to have him declare that he has learned to represent the people that narrowly elected him as that is his first priority in the job the public gave him.
Whatever the outcome, I will present it. Objectively, with the same passion and honesty I have provided in every article I have been writing for years upon years now. I have never had anyone question or deny a quote I have written, I will not lose that reputation in covering Rep. Richard Hanna in Vestal, NY. Yet, at the same time, I cannot be bought nor can I be distracted with 30-second soundbites and political double talk.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Former 2014 candidate for Congress
President – M V Consulting, Inc.
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
When most people tend to think about politics, besides any particular issue the key thing that will come to mind are scandals. Hillary Clinton is currently deeply entrenched in the State Department email scandal. President Obama has any number of scandals in his Administration. Overall that is what pops up in the minds of the masses when it comes to politics. But as Village of Owego Mayor Kevin Millar made clear in a press conference March 11, 2015, scandals and bad politics are hardly just a federal matter.
Mayor Millar spoke today after being made aware of a mailing that was sent to an unknown number of residents of the Village of Owego. The postcard was alleged to have been sent by the Village Public Safety Committee, and lists several options for police enforcement with projected costs. Those receiving the postcard were encouraged to select an option and submit that response. The options included a choice to expand or decrease the size of the police department, as well as to cease it’s operation, with figures for the projected tax consequences of each option. The issue over the police department has been a long-term issue of strong debate in Owego. But there are several problems with this mailing.
First, the Owego Village Public Safety Committee has only had 1 meeting, in February, and the mailing was not discussed or authorized at that time – as stated by Mayor Millar and Police Commissioner Karl Jantz. Second, the projected costs are based on unknown calculations and research. There is no supporting source for the figures, and again the Committee did not approve any such projection. Third, the address where respondents were to send their cards is not for the Village Public Safety Committee. It appears to be an address connected to A Positive Change – a political party that is known to have distinct views about the police department.
What makes the issue even more critical and time sensitive, is the fact that on March 18, 2015, the Village of Owego will hold election for Trustees. Several of those up for election are members of A Positive Change with at least one candidate claiming full support for the mailings and a direct connection to A Positive Change Party. This is part of the reason that Mayor Millar held a press conference – not only highlight the unauthorized nature of the document, but also to combat the potential impact it may have on the upcoming election.
In an phone interview with Mayor Millar (a member of Rebuild Owego Party), we were told that the Attorney General has already been contacted on this issue. Further Mayor Millar has notified the NY Board of Elections into possible violations. While the response from the public received by the Office of the Mayor has so far been positive, Mayor Millar stated,
“Things like this move slowly, so it is unlikely that action will happen before the election. But there may be something done after the election depending on the outcome.”
In a response to our request for comment from the Facebook page for A Positive Change, Lisa L. Curatolo (a 1st Ward Trustee candidate) stated,
“The post card was sent out by the Chairman of the Committee Steven May. It was paid for by Steven May personally. I proudly support Steven May in his efforts to give the village residents options for safe village policing options.”
If candidate Curatolo is correct, and Steven May was responsible for the document then he has several questions that would need to be answered for constituents in Owego.
- How were the dollar amounts circulated in the mailing calculated and from what sources?
- Who authorized the use of the Village Public Safety Committee name?
- Who did the mailings go to? Was that distribution political in nature?
- Who is receiving the responses from residents in Owego? What is being done with the information collected? Where and for how long will that information be held?
Even more troubling is the thought that if candidate Curatolo is correct, then it is possible that Trustee May could be in violation of election law. This could mean even further changes potentially, regardless of election results. Which does not take into account any potential action by the Attorney General.
One resident of Owego that we were in contact with summed up their thoughts on the mailing and issues as,
“I believe these mailings are an inaccurate political ploy to sway the voters in this upcoming vote. This party has intentionally hidden their agendas to stay in office and they don’t support the wants of the village tax payers. To the contrary this mailing proves they are willing to deceive the public.” – Theresa Gosart, member of I Want My OPD
WBNG News quoted another resident, Krista Shaffer, as stating, “This information may look good up front. It could sway my vote, when I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.“
According to the Binghamton Press & Sun, Ann Lockwood, a Trustee and Committee member, stated, “We wanted to put it out for everybody to see, because (the issue) will come to a vote at some point.“
As of our interview, Mayor Millar had not been contacted by any member of the Trustees on this matter. We have been unable to contact Owego Trustee Steven May for comment.
** Original article written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
Potential Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke at a press conference on March 10, 2015 to address the multiple concerns that have arisen since the report from the New York Times On March 3, 2015. It revealed that as Secretary of State, Clinton violated regulations (even as she directed enforcement of the regulation on all other members of the State Department) on communicating via Government systems, and failed to provide all communication until recently after 4 months of legal wrangling. Even so, as directly stated in the press conference, Mrs. Clinton deleted and/or failed to provide at least 30,000 emails.
What is most troubling about the deleted emails is that the sole source determining what is a public record was made by Hillary Clinton alone ultimately. While her aides may have performed the deletions, it was based on the criteria and preference of Mrs. Clinton alone. As she is oft speculated to be running for president in 2016, the question of her judgement in what to disclose is a valid question that has yet to be resolved.
At a time when the NSA is actively collecting private emails of citizens, while at the same time the IRS has gyrated from admissions of lost emails and then recovered emails, the request by Hillary Clinton to just trust her judgement is a hard pill to swallow. The fact that the White House was aware, at least as late as August 2014 though President Obama claimed no knowledge, reveals yet another level of incompetence in the Obama Administration. Piling onto this is the fact that Rep. Trey Gowdy has publicly noted that there are gaps in the self-approved emails sent by Hillary Clinton of months with some publicly known State Department trips missing altogether. The result is yet another embarrassment for the nation.
For President Obama, and the presidential hopes of Hillary Clinton, this fiasco is a direct clarification of exactly how transparent Government has become under their leadership. It stands in stark contrast to the promises of 2007
“It also came despite his [President Obama] – and her [Hillary Clinton] – promises of improved government transparency. And despite her 2007 criticism of Bush administration use of “secret White House email accounts.””
Perhaps the worst revelation to be revealed by the latest scandal affecting the Obama Administration is the supposition that the word of Hillary Clinton is all that is needed to bypass scrutiny by the public or the press. While Mrs. Clinton has made a big deal of announcing the request to release all emails sent to the State Department, she has also deflected from the reality that only she is aware of what was given to the State Department and what has be deleted. Even if every document submitted is exactly what should have been provided in the first place, and every deleted document were a personal love note to former President Bill Clinton, the question of what she could be hiding is valid and omnipresent.
How this may affect that presidential hopes of Hillary Clinton is unclear. But as an example of the leadership of the Obama Administration it is yet again a clear indication that something has gone wrong. Either way, a mere press conference will have no lasting impact on the results.
Since the early days of 2013 there has been a persistent but quiet question circulating in the Democratic Party of New York, especially in the 22nd Congressional District. The question, which went unanswered for the 2014 election cycle, has continued to the earliest days of the 2016 election cycle. But with an announcement from Oneida County, the answer may have just be presented to the public.
The announcement on March 2, 2015 by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi may well be the on-switch for the Democrat election machine. It focuses on a traditionally not Democrat issue, and opens a door to Congress. Previously Democrats had been faced with the dreaded prospect of lacking a candidate for the new congressional district created in 2012 due to redistricting to combat gerrymandering, and the departure of Rep. Maurice Hinchey. The only two real prospects lay in incumbent members of the State Assembly – Donna Lupardo in the south and Anthony Brindisi in the north.
The problem for both prospective candidates was a distinct lack of visibility. While each was well known and reasonably well liked in their surrounding areas (Binghamton/Broome County for Lupardo, Utica/Oneida County for Brindisi) that name recognition failed to stretch beyond the confines of their respective districts. Compounding that problem was the fact that the NY-22 is a strongly Republican stronghold in the middle of ultra-blue New York State. That emphasis towards Republicans also meant that funding a challenge would be considerably harder, with far shallower pockets to tap.
Democrats learned first-hand how intense the situation was in 2012 when Dan Lamb, a key member of former Representative Maurice Hinchey’s congressional team, was the handpicked successor who ran against Rep. Richard Hanna in his first re-election bid. While Rep. Hanna was (and to a significant extent still is) unknown to the majority of people south of Utica, the sheer number of Republicans, the volume of donations, and the personal wealth of Hanna combined to lead to a rout of Mr. Lamb – and effectively eliminating his political career in the process.
Fearing a similar result in 2014, with the Democratic National Committee having publicly stated that due to the unpopularity of positions promoted by President Obama at the time the focus (and funding dollars) would be isolated to an attempt to retain the Senate (which failed), Democrats abandoned their supporters to allow Rep. Hanna an unchallenged victory. The only consolation being that Rep. Hanna, discarded by Conservatives and considered by many Republicans to be a RINO (Republican In Name Only), was a highly moderate candidate that supported Democrats in Congress on late-term abortion, H1b visas, and unfettered spending.
Even with the “politically schizophrenic” voting of Rep. Hanna, Democrats felt the pressure to replace the red patch in the middle of blue New York. The biggest problem seemed to be, aside from the recapturing of both Houses of Congress by Republicans, exposure. Both Assembly members had nothing to offer as meat for the Republican majority, let alone to gain name recognition for Democrats across the very large congressional district.
Which brings us back to the recent announcement. The Safe Act was an overnight gut-punch fueled on the back of a nation reeling from the sad deaths of children in Sandy Hook, CT. Enacted in January of 2013, it has been the focus of outrage for 2nd Amendment supporters and the Tea Party movement. The repeal of the Safe Act, or modification that would appease the vocal Left while gaining attention of the Right and far-Right, was the best and possibly only vehicle that could open a door for any real attempt at gaining name recognition across the district.
Assemblyman Brindisi has offered a series of Bills: to resume the gifting of guns; to repeal the already defunct (by court order) ban on magazines; an end to ammunition dealers conducting background check and redirecting State funds to schools instead of this program; and prevention of additional restrictions on those seeking pistol and gun permits. This foray into the repeal of the Safe Act is the first time Assemblyman Brindisi has dealt with the issue since his vote against the law in 2013. Aside from this sudden and unprecedented action, a Google search of the top 10 pages on “Assemblyman Brindisi Safe Act” & “Brindisi Safe Act” result in 0 hits older than 3 days.
On February 27, 2015, Michael “Vass” Vasquez stated in a speech in Bainbridge, NY
“We are about to hit the 2016 election season… you’ll see someone come up in April… like an Assemblyman or woman from say the north of the NY-22. They’ll suddenly be coming down to the south of the district and suddenly talking about some issue their working on that so great everybody should hear about it… talking to people they have never been talking to before about an issue that has never existed before. That’s a person who is running for Congress.”
If that hypothesis is correct, then Assemblyman Brindisi has signaled his intent to run for Congress. But the question is what does he have to offer? Besides the ‘Hail Mary’ repeal being offered to catch the eye of Republicans, the Tea Party, and 2nd Amendment supporters, what does he have to offer the overwhelmingly conservative NY-22? In fact, besides the instant media attention on this one action, what else has Assemblyman Brindisi done worthy of the attention of all 770,000 resident of the NY-22?
Politics has long been a game relegated to politicians that are deep-pocketed and can afford a media blitz to obscure scrutiny on their intentions. In New York State that is further complicated by the tendency of politicians counting on name recognition above substance. The result can be summed up in the name Sheldon Silver.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi may be better than that. Then again, he may not. But the fact that Assemblyman Brindisi is apparently using an obvious and superficial ploy to garner attention and spark the ignition on a run for Congress only highlights a desperation in a Democratic party that is desperate to maintain power, and a belief that the New York voter is too dumb to notice they are being played.
In the coming months Assemblyman Brindisi will confirm or deny a potential run for Congress. Several other candidates will emerge as well. The people of the NY-22 can only hope that among these candidates a real choice emerges that is focused on substance and motives that go beyond maintaining political power for their Party.
On February 27, 2015, Michael “Vass” Vasquez was the keynote speaker at the meeting of the Tri-County Tea Party Patriots in Bainbridge, NY. The meeting started at 7 P.M. and was held in the Bainbridge Town Hall, in Chenango County (part of the 22nd Congressional District).
Speaking to a small crowd that filled the Town Hall, Mr. Vasquez spoke on a range of topics. He spoke about abortion; corruption in New York State; Executive Orders; immigration; Obamacare; the Dept of Homeland Security funding; and how New Yorkers are being represented by elected officials. But the theme connecting all of the topics of the discussion revolved around a central theme. That theme was that the public, through votes and active participation, maintain the true power of the Government.
One of the issues discussed was the on-going battle over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At the time of the speech the Senate had passed a “clean” Bill. That meant the effort to defund the Executive Orders on Immigration of President Obama in 2014 & 2012 would have been stripped from the Bill passed by the House of Representatives. But the House rejected the “clean” Bill offered by the Senate as it contained a caveat that it would only allow for funding of three weeks. Both Conservatives and Democrats joined in rejecting this limited bipartisan deal. Eventually, a temporary compromise was struck when a one-week funding was passed allowing DHS to operate as Congress continued the debate.
Another issue that was brought up by Mr. Vasquez was the upcoming 2016 election season. As Mr. Vasquez stated, discussions on potential candidates are being held by Democrats (who failed to offer the public a candidate for the 2014 congressional race), independents, Republicans (Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney opposed incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna in the 2014 race), and first time candidates ((Mr. Vasquez was a candidate from 2013 – 2014 before exiting the congressional race). While no individual has announced a run for 2016 at the State or Federal level, Mr. Vasquez predicted that several candidates would soon be touring districts and mailing flyers in the near-term. Mr. Vasquez made no mention if he would seek to run for elected office in 2016, nor was he asked in the question and answers period after the speech if he was considering this option.
The full exclusive video of the speech (parts 1 & 2) can be found at the M V Consulting, Inc channel on Youtube.
** This is an on-going series that can be seen at the Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com as well **
This is the first part of a multi-article series on the subject of unmanned aerial systems (drones) and their impact on New York State, as well as the nation. In the coming days we will be covering additional data and information provided by the FAA, NYS Dept of Labor, US Dept of Transportation and other direct sources. This initial article will address the creation of drones, some of the larger arguments for and against domestic drone use, and several of the legislations (proposed and enacted thus far) that affect this new industry. This and future articles will not only look at the testing and proposed use of drones from a national viewpoint, but also as it relates to the Griffiss International Airport test site in Oneida County, NY
The birth of the modern unmanned aerial system (UAS), commonly called drones, can be traced back to 1849 in an attack on the city of Venice via unmanned balloons filled with explosives. What might be more direct a connection can be seen in the World War II with the combination of radio controlled aircraft and aerial torpedoes. The TDN-1 might be the closest version of a drone to the eyes of most Americans today. In the 1940 it was called an “assault drone”, and is considered the first American unmanned drone to launch off of an aircraft carrier. It had the ability to drop a 1000 pound bomb, but due to the complexity at the time was never used in combat.
In the Viet Nam War, some 3,400 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used for reconnaissance. It wasn’t until Israel used UAV in combination with manned aircraft in 1982 against Syria, and secured a victory, that the precursors to the modern UAV started to be developed in earnest. This lead to the creation of the Predator series of drones that are most recognizable today. The Predator was first used in 1995 in the Balkans, and in 1996 in Iraq. After 2001 they became common use in Afghanistan, through use today in multiple regions around the world.
But as well known as these drones may be, they are NOT the UAS that the FAA has been talking about creating regulations to control. Domestic drone use is confined to UAS that have more in common with radio controlled helicopters and planes, at least in how they look. But this industry in its infancy has been estimated to be able to generate $81 billion, create 100,000 jobs, all in 10 years. Based on the preliminary FAA rules released February 15, 2015, domestic drones will likely be less than 55 pounds in weight; limited to 100 miles a hour in flight speed; limited to the line of sight of the operator; and prohibited from being used to carry any object. The proposed FAA regulations also require a license to be issued by the FAA after a comprehensive test is taken.
The entire issue of domestic drone use came to a head when the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed in February 2012. Within the Act there was the critical inclusion of Subtitle B Subsections 331-336. This section required the FAA and Department of Transportation to create a set of rules, licensing requirements, testing sites, and safety studies primarily within 180 days of the passage of the Act, with a deadline of September 30, 2015, to
“…develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”
Thus the modern era of domestic drones was born. Like all births, this was not to be an easy task. Prior to the FAA Reform Act of 2012 being passed by Congress, privacy advocacy organizations such as the ACLU were outraged by the concept of domestic drone use. Once the Act was passed, the lack of substance on the issue of privacy caused an open letter to be issued to the FAA requesting in part,
“The notice and comment rulemakings should take into consideration the use and retention of data acquired by drone operators; the relation between drone operation and property rights; the ability of an individual to obtain a restraining order against a drone vehicle; and use limitations on drone vehicles and requirements for enforcement of those limitations. In relation to the government use of drones, the rulemakings should also consider the application of the Privacy Act of 1974 to the information gathered by drone operators.”
Proponents of domestic drones, point to the benefits that drones may bring. Uses such as border control and patrol, emergency response – such as with fires or building collapses, commercial use, and enhanced law enforcement capability to protect and defend citizens from various threats and dangers. As for the privacy concerns, Ben Geilom of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said
“With any new technology, there will certainly be the ability to abuse that technology. But there are also safeguards that are already in place that can serve as the framework.”
A more academic argument for drones can be found in the article by M. Ryan Calo, Director for Privacy and Robotics, Center for Internet & Society at the Stanford Law Review
“Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. … Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.”
While these are the major arguments for and against civilian UAS, they are hardly the only ones. Still the reality is that drones have been in use for a long time, notably by the FBI since 2006. Sadly that use has been wholly unregulated, without any real restriction as FBI Director Robert Mueller demonstrated when he advised Congress in 2013 that the FBI still had yet to develop guidelines for the use of drones that had been operational for 7 years at that point. The requirement for FAA to have clear and well defined rules over domestic UAS can only serve to limit the potentially broad and undisclosed use of drones by the Government as is currently the case.
Of course the FAA, DoT, and various commercial and political concerns were not sitting idly by as three years passed before the first proposal of regulations and requirements were drafted. Especially on the political end. That’s where the Unmanned Systems Caucus (Drone Caucus) come into the picture.
As part of the Act of 2012, testing sites were to be created to evaluate the potential use, regulations, and commercial potential of domestic drones. The Drone Caucus, a coalition of members of Congress seeking to advance the use of domestic drones and secure testing sites in their respective districts and States, worked diligently to advance the cause. One example is Rep. Richard Hanna (one of 3 members of the Drone Caucus from New York State) who was directly involved in increasing the number of initial drone testing sites from 3 to 6. Rep. Hanna was also fervent in securing New York as one of the 6 test sites, as he said in March 2013,
“We certainly can push the point, to the extent that we are on the drone caucus and we have the ability to write letters and talk, and talk up our community.”
It should be noted that the Drone Caucus had 5 mission statements as its goals. None of those statements included efforts to protect 4th Amendment rights, nor create legislation that would define the use and/or limits of domestic UAS. In fact, at some point on or after November of 2014, the website for the Drone Caucus ceased to exist [unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon.house.gov]. This was quite possibly due to the loss of Rep. Buck McKeon in the 2014 election (he chose not to seek re-election) and a failure of any other member of the Caucus to take on the responsibility of maintaining a public presence and allowing constituents to see the actions and goals of the Caucus.
Even though the Drone Caucus had dropped the ball on protecting the rights of the public and the 4th Amendment, other members of Congress had not. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-TX), Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and even Sen. Charles Schumer of NY all took up the cause. Sen. Grassley noted on April 2013,
“… justices also have indicated that the length of time an individual is kept under surveillance and the breadth of data collected through such surveillance may inform a reviewing court whether a particular surveillance practice constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. These cases highlight how the Fourth Amendment applies to 21st century technology but, again, given the speed at which these technologies are evolving, Congress has a necessary role in addressing the use of these technologies.”
Aside from the political quagmire regarding UAS, several industry groups, comprised of universities, private business, government institutions and private citizens formed to address the quickly developing arena of domestic drones. One of those organizations was Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance). NUAIR Alliance submitted a proposal for the Griffiss International Airport in Oneida County, NY in February 2013 stating,
“These test sites present enormous economic development opportunity, and are expected to create thousands of jobs and attract billions in investment for the states that win a designation,” stated Rob Simpson, President of CenterState CEO and Chairman of the NUAIR Alliance.”
A year later, February 2014, NUAIR sought funding from New York State. They stated at the time the amount of $1.2 million a year would be needed to operate for the next 2 years. Hopes were high that the 2014 summer would bring results from the FAA and that the pace of development could be advanced as planned. NUAIR projected that drone testing would bring in $145 million and 500 jobs to New York State – no timeframe on these figures was provided.
In August of 2014, the FAA declared that Griffiss International Airport would be one of the initial 6 drone testing sites in the U.S. The first client approved for test flights was Cornell Cooperative Extension, and was followed by 44 other test flights to date. Sen. Schumer stated on August 7, 2015 that he would push the FAA to “move as quickly as possible” as the potential for “thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic revenue” for the region was at stake (as opposed to his comments 4 days earlier in opposition to drone testing). In that same article Rep. Dan Maffei stated that some 2600 jobs and an “economic impact of $600 million by 2017” could be generated by the drone testing for New York and Massachusetts.
The privacy concerns of the drone testing can be seen in this document. As noted by the ACLU in December 2014, the document is the equivalent of the Texas privacy protections, which is not a compliment. When asked for comment about the privacy concerns related to UAS for this article, Larry Brinker Executive Director of NUAIR Alliance stated,
“There really isn’t a problem. The camera on a UAS is the same a camera on a plane or a person. Laws already exist for that. The same laws apply because the item is just a tool.” – 2/19/15
Mr. Brinker noted that this has not been a real issue in testing, as most tests on the site at the moment are involved with proof of concept or research and development. He also stated that President Obama’s memo on February 15, 2015 addressed many of the concerns of groups like the ACLU and resolves those concerns.
At this point, it is expected that the FAA will miss the September 2015 deadline created by the Act of 2012 for creating a final set of rules and regulations addressing unmanned aerial systems. To date, the Congress has yet to pass any legislation specifically intended to address domestic use of drones and protection of 4th Amendment rights. Politically, the question of domestic drone use has for the time being fallen from the radar of most politicians, pundits and news media.
In part 2 we will be looking at the financial costs, revenues, and job impact of UAS testing to date.
In 2008 Senator Obama promised he would address the many problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It was a time of hope and change, or at least that’s what millions of Americans were led to believe. Then on January 20, 2009 retired U.S. Army Gen. Eric Shinseki was appointed to be the Secretary of the VA. Promises of increased staffing were stated and the hope felt real.
Jumping ahead in time a bit, to 2011, wait times for receiving treatment were reduced to just 14 days. By 2012 the VA has set a goal of reducing that wait to just 7 days. While there were questions in the accuracy of these findings, by the GAO and VA Inspector General, those questions were ignored. To all appearances the problem for Americas veterans had been solved. Go team Obama.
Fast forward to 2014. In April of that year it is revealed that at least 40 veterans died waiting for treatment in Phoenix, AZ. The floodgates opened wide and in little time it was revealed that over 120,000 veterans had been waiting or never received treatment nationwide. In addition the VA was cooking the books to hide this fact. Further investigation revealed that at least some additional 35 veterans had died waiting for treatment, quite possibly more.
The Obama Administration moved quickly. Top figures at the VA either resigned or were asked to leave, such as Gen. Shinseki. President Obama nominated former Procter and Gamble CEO and US Army veteran Robert A. McDonald to take the helm of the VA. Congress swiftly passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a rare act of bipartisanship, to allow veterans who had lived farther than 40 miles from a VA facility, or had extended wait times, to get care from private doctors. $500 million would be spent on hiring doctors and nurses to increase availability. 26 new VA locations would be built to also help ease access to treatment. Finally something was tangibly being done for our vets.
Or so we thought. By November 2014 it was found that while wait times were down, still 46% (240,000 veterans) were waiting more than 125 for treatment. In addition, errors were still rampant. Zachary Hearn of the American Legion spoke before Congress and stated that 55% of cases he reviewed contained errors. In Nashville, TN, an independent review showed that while the VA claimed 95% accuracy, a preliminary check showed errors in 7 cases out of 22 checked. The problem, while being worked on, was still a mass of hidden errors and delays.
Then on February 11, 2015, we saw the hands that were holding the VA in a discussion between Secretary McDonald and Rep. Mike Coffman of CO
The result was a display of arrogance. The response of Secretary McDonald was a bitter deflection of a serious concern. This was not an indication that our veterans, many of whom have sacrificed far too much, would be receiving more than the usual bureaucratic that was responsible for the scandal in the first place. The response from Rep. Coffman the next day was direct and clear,
“I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I’ve never built a hospital that’s years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I’ve never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list.”
Sadly this would not be the end of the problem with Secretary McDonald. Just 3 days later, on Meet the Press, the Veteran Affairs Secretary lied. Not once, not twice, but as Politifact determined on February 20, 2015, the entire substance of the discussion was a fabrication without substance or merit.
- McDonald claimed that 900 people had been fired – half of them were workers still on hiring probations, and all apparently with no connection to the VA scandal.
- McDonald stated that 60 people connected to extended wait times and deception that cost the lives of at least 35 veterans had been fired – but in fact a mere 14 employees and 5 directors were fired or otherwise left the VA in connection to this horrible scandal. Another 9 have firing pending. That’s it. A total of, if we are generous, 28 individuals.
This is the person nominated by the Obama Administration, and approved by the Democrat-led Senate (with a vote of 97-0 to be fair), to rebuild the public faith in the Department of Veteran Affairs. These are the results that can be expected going forward. If anyone believes that this is not the foreshadowing of a scandal equal or, dare it be said, worse than the wait time scandal they likely haven’t paid attention to politics or the Government in the last several decades. The only benefit that has been provided is that these displays of arrogance and incompetence have occurred early in his tenure.
Based on the totality of what has been ignored, what has happened, and what has been revealed, it is my opinion that a replacement for Secretary Robert McDonald be sought before serious damage can continue to affect the lives of our veterans. It is the opinion of this commentary, and Michael “Vass” Vasquez as the writer of it alone, that those who share my concern seek out their representatives in Congress and demand a change be made.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc.