Voting for the incumbent, save one

Paul Tonko v. Liz Joy

Paul Tonko
Paul Tonko

I voted yesterday, in person, at one of the six polling places in  Albany County, and the only one in the city of Albany. I voted by mail in the June primary. Now my fear of being disenfranchised is greater than the threat of COVID.

If you don’t know who I voted for in the Presidential race, I’ve been far too subtle. There are three Congressional races in this television market. Only one, of course, is for my district.

NY-19

South of here is the 19th Congressional district. The incumbent is Anthony Delgado (D), who won the nomination in a very crowded primary field in 2018. In that general election, he knocked off one-term Congressman John Faso, plus two other candidates, including Diane Neal, formerly on the TV show Law and Order: SVU.

In 2020, Delgado is running against Kyle Van De Water (R), as well as Steven Greenfield (Green) and Victoria Alexander (Libertarian). But I’ve only seen Delgado commercials here, mostly him touting how he keeps in touch with his constituents, even during a pandemic.

NY-21

The most contentious race in the area is in the 21st district, north of here, between incumbent Elise Stefanik (R) and Tedra Cobb (D). This is a rematch of their 2018 race, which the Republican won by 13.7 percentage points. Stefanik had replaced retiring incumbent Bill Owens (D), beating Aaron Woolf (D) handily back in 2014.

Both campaigns use a combination of inspirational and negative ads. Stefanik touts helping small businesses in her district, sort of helping to make pizza. She’s with a group of police officers when she, and they, note they “back the blue”; she’s even wearing blue jeans, perhaps to emphasize the point. She paints Cobb as a tax-and-spend liberal.

Cobb portrays Stefanik, who appeared at the 2020 Republican National convention, as a Trump clone. Her best ad shows her and her adult daughter discussing the fragility of having health coverage.

NY-20

In my district, the 20th, Paul Tonko (D) was first elected in 2012. He had been a long-time member of the New York State Assembly. I could name none of his opponents prior to this year.

In August, I saw a couple of lawn signs, not far from my house, for Liz Joy. I have no recollection of lawn signs from any of Tonko’s previous opponents.

Then she ran this damn TV ad. She’s leading a bunch of women down the streets and spouting some law-and-order blather. She suggesting Paul Tonko and the Democrats are seeking to destroy the police and the country. I was appalled with the Sarah Palinesque tactic. If I saw her, I’d say, “Oh, come ON, Liz! Tonko as a wide-eyed radical?”

I met Liz Joy once. She was a blogger for the Times Union, though her blog is down for the duration of the campaign. Mike Huber, who was the blogmeister at the time, wanted to find some more conservative voices, and she qualified.

One of the other TU bloggers had a small gathering – six or eight of us – at their apartment, perhaps in the late autumn of 2016, and she was invited. There’s a photo somewhere. She was very pleasant. We DIDN’T talk politics at all.

The one ad I saw of Tonko’s was a fairly boring one about him serving his constituents. I don’t know him, but I’ve run into him several times. He’d be at an Underground Railroad event, an economic development session, the 50th anniversary of FOCUS churches celebration, and the like. If he’s in town, and not in DC, he’s meeting the citizens.

Liz Joy would not be unsurprised that I am voting for Paul Tonko.

Being for the benefit of…

Yes, THAT Paul Simon

I shall have gone to three benefit events in a two-week period in October. None of them, unsurprisingly, were in person. Two of the three I HAD attended in person LAST year. But that was so long ago.

Wizard’s Wardrobe

The Wizard’s Wardrobe is a program in Albany’s South End. “Children spend time with a special tutor just for them — to read, write, and explore the wonderful world of books.” It was started by two members of my church, Deb and Eric Fagans. They were inspired by the TED talk Once Upon a School.

The program grew out of the relationship our church had developed with the Giffen Elementary School in the South End of the city of Albany. Several of our members tutored at Giffen and held an annual Book and Author event there.

The benefit on Monday, October 5 featured Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Bridge to Terabithia. She read as did local authors Margaret Miki Conn, Lorraine Garnett, and Marion Roach Smith. The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York performed The eyez in the wall, written and directed by Aaron Moore. The ASL Interpretation was provided by Marian Eaton. The Master of Ceremonies was Rex Smith, Editor of the Times Union newspaper.

There was a ZOOM afterparty following the presentation. I knew about half of the participants personally. One of the attendees was Gregory Maguire, a local author who’s done well. He wrote the book Wicked, upon which the musical was based. What’s the correct protocol for departing a gathering online?

Green The Senate, Save the Planet

Paul Simon hosted an event to support seven US Senate candidates on Thursday, October 8. The singer wrote, “In a year that has been incredibly challenging, often overwhelming, and too often heartbreaking, it is easy to become discouraged. But future generations are counting on us, and I urge you to channel your energy in these final days before Election Day to help secure a pro-environment majority in the Senate.”

Simon began the program by singing American Tune. Then there were videos, including from the sponsor Give Green and from former Presidential candidate and rich guy Tom Steyer. Some of the candidates gave brief video presentations.

Then Simon interviewed three of them: Steve Bullock (MT), Jamie Harrison (SC), and Theresa Greenfield (IA). Paul was an unsure questioner, seeking to ask certain things and at the same time wanting the candidates not to be hemmed in by his queries. Still, the candidates acquitted themselves well.

After another video, Paul sang The Boxer, Homeward Bound, Sound of Silence, and Here Comes the Sun. He was accompanied by a guy named Mark Stewart. He was wearing a mask, but I think he’s this guy.

Literary Legends@Home

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library are having its annual Literary Legends Gala on Saturday, October 17 from 7 to 10 pm. Each year, the group “selects a new outstanding person of letters in our community, and invites the community to celebrate them with a cocktail reception in their honor.” Well, not in person THIS year.

The FFAPL is honoring the writer Elisa Albert. Past honorees have included William Kennedy, Paul Grondahl, Amy Biancolli, Gregory Maguire, Barbara Smith, Marion Roach Smith, Dr. Leonard Slade, Athena Lord, Frankie Bailey, Alice Green, Peter Golden, Lyn Lifshin, and Dan Wilcox. (The second time Gregory and Marion appear in this post.)

The gala is the primary fundraising effort of the FFAPL, which “provides critical financial support to the Albany Public Library in order to help the Library provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning.” It can provide mini-grants for the library to offer programming that the APL cannot. One can buy tickets here.

BTW, on October 20 at 12:15 pm, there will be a ZOOM review of the book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Dawkins. The reviewer will be Carl Strock, a former columnist for the Daily Gazette, Schenectady. It is free but one must preregister here.

Presidential Emergency Action Documents

National Emergencies Act (1976)

PEAD.wc-sullivan-fbi-memo-on-pads-1967-620I’m an old political science major. Yet I was only vaguely aware of a Presidential Emergency Action Documents (PEADs). The Brennan Center for Justice knows, though. They are “executive orders, proclamations, and messages to Congress that are prepared in anticipation of a range of emergency scenarios.

“PEADs are classified ‘secret,’ and no PEAD has ever been declassified or leaked. Indeed, it appears that they are not even subject to congressional oversight.”

I recommend that you check out CBS Sunday Morning from 16 August 2020, at 3:50. Better, go or here with full text, which runs a little over 10 minutes. “Ted Koppel investigates White House directives, granting vast powers to the president, that are so secret even Congress cannot see them.”

Almost without limit

“Although PEADs themselves remain a well-kept secret, over the years a number of unclassified or de-classified documents have become available that discuss PEADs. Through these documents, we know that there were 56 PEADs in effect as of 2018, up from 48 a couple of decades earlier. PEADs undergo periodic revision. Although we do not know what PEADs contain today, we know that PEADs in past years—
-authorized detention of “alien enemies” and other “dangerous persons” within the United States;
-suspended the writ of habeas corpus by presidential order;
-provided for various forms of martial law;
-issued a general warrant permitting search and seizure of persons and property;
-established military areas such as those created during World War II;
-suspended production of the Federal Register;
-declared a State of War; and
-authorized censorship of news reports.”

The CBS News piece is troubling. In part, it’s because it quotes the incumbent. In March 2020, he stated, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” The following month, “when discussing guidelines to be issued to governors about reopening states during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said something I found quite chilling. “‘When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be – it’s total.'”

Alarming

Worse, in a January 2019 article in The Atlantic, Elizabeth Goitein notes The Alarming Scope of the President’s Emergency Powers.

Aiming to rein in this proliferation [of Presidential declarations], Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Under this law, the president still has complete discretion to issue an emergency declaration. But he must specify in the declaration which powers he intends to use… The state of emergency expires after a year unless the president renews it. The Senate and the House must meet every six months while the emergency is in effect ‘to consider a vote’ on termination.

“By any objective measure, the law has failed. Thirty states of emergency are in effect… And during the 40 years that the law has been in place, Congress has not met even once, let alone every six months, to vote on whether to end them.

“As a result, the president has access to emergency powers contained in 123 statutory provisions, as recently calculated by the Brennan Center for Justice, where Goitein works.

Those of us who believe in democracy don’t want ANY President with this much power. And certainly, not one who has suggested he would use it indiscriminately.

Pandemic postpones Pride Parade

Check out the Congressional Scorecard

Pride paradeThey have postponed the Pride Parade in Albany this year, due to the pandemic, which is :still going on in the US, people.

I do hope the parade gets rescheduled. LOVE that our church, as part of the Albany Presbytery, has participated regularly. I’ve marched myself, especially when the event’s been on a Sunday. Also, June 7 was More Light Sunday at First Pres, and we were treated to songs by the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus. It was recorded from a previous year, of course, but it was still a joy to experience.

The Wikipedia has a “list of Christian denominations affirming LGBT.” GayChurch.org allows one to find a gay-affirming Christian congregation. That site also addresses the topic of understanding about “homosexuality and the Bible”, including a discussion of the interpretation of various so-called “clobber” passages.

Related: William Love, the Albany Episcopal bishop, continues to oppose “the national church’s embrace of same-sex marriage.” He says it boils “down to conflicting interpretations of church law and doctrine.”

Meanwhile, I’ll settle for looking at historic photos of the New York City parades.

Politics and tricks

No question, the NEED to march continues to be great. LGBTQ rights are “getting chipped away by the people who the administration put in power and their policies.” In honor of Pride Month, it would seem, the regime has reversed access to health protections for transgender people.

The United Nations calls for an end to debunked anti-LGBTQ conversion ‘therapy’ practices, which still exist in parts of the United States.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court rules existing civil rights law protects gay and lesbian workers. “The decision said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, also covers sexual orientation.” “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that person based on sex,” Neil Gorsuch wrote. If a boss fires a man for being attracted to other men, he continued, then “the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”

BTW, you should check out the Congressional Scorecard. “The Human Rights Campaign wants to provide you with information on how your elected officials have voted on issues of equality.” My member of Congress, Paul Tonko, got 100% for the 115th Congress, I’m pleased to note.

Weird. I almost forgot that the United States had its first openly gay Presidential candidate in Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, IN. He dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination on March 1, after he fared poorly in the South Carolina primary. March 1 was also before the massive COVID-19 shutdown. It was only three and a half months ago; why does it feel like ancient history?

In any case, the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, like so many other fights, continues.

Discussion of reparations as history lesson

for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40

reparationsIn the current conversation about reparations, there is one thing I think we all can agree upon: we see race in America with very different lenses.

I have been skimming the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties’ hearing on H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice, which was held Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Both the bill number and the date were significant.

H.R. 40 refers to “forty acres and a mule,” a radical post-Civil war redistribution of land “set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.” After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. this, of course, never took place.

June 19, or Juneteenth, was the date in 1865 “when the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.” After a period of decline, the celebration “received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. [in 1968]. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.”

The specific ask in the legislation is to establish “the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” In other words, have a bunch of meetings.

TESTIMONY

“Reparations is not a new idea—and for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40, a bill to establish a commission that would study reparations. But only once before, in 2007, has Congress even held a hearing on the bill.”

You may have heard the riveting testimony of prominent black author Ta-Nehisi Coates. “It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders. And the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs: coup d’etats and convict leasing, vagrancy laws and debt peonage, redlining and racist G.I. bills, poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.”

However, another author, Burgess Owens, whose great-great-grandfather was a slave, testified: “At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.”

So you have some asking to cut the check and others who point out the statistical errors of “the reparations agenda.”

THE BIGGER PROBLEM

Like me, the Weekly Sift is “of two minds about this subject. On the one hand, enslaved Africans and their descendants built a large chunk of America’s wealth and wound up owning none of it. That long-ago injustice (plus Jim Crow plus ongoing racism) still has repercussions, and even those whites whose families never owned slaves have benefited in ways we don’t always appreciate…

“But in addition to the inadequacy of monetary settlement, there’s a bigger problem: For reparations to bring this chapter to a close, our society needs to reach some kind of consensus about what the payment is for and what it means. We’re nowhere close to that.

“If reparations for slavery were paid tomorrow, the white-nationalist types would believe blacks had used their political power to extort something, and they would want to get it back. A lot of other whites would feel like racism was a dead topic now: ‘Don’t ever talk to me about racism again. I paid my bill for that.'”

That appears to be an accurate assessment, based on the comments of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggested that electing Barack Obama as President made up for hundreds of years of racism. As if.

The rationale for the Supreme Court gutting the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the 5-4 Shelby County ruling of 2013 was more voter equality. Yet, even before that ruling, states have passed discriminatory laws making it HARDER for people to vote.

My inclination, in this current retrograde period, is to have the conversation about what “reparations” mean go forward. But I need to continue musing on this, with perhaps more personal observations next time. Meanwhile, listen to Let Your Voice Be Heard radio for the episode 40 Acres and Barack Obama.