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.


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.


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.


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.

Worrying about the fate of Social Security


Social SecurityThere was a television ad from the White House incumbent’s campaign I’ve seen several times. It said that he’d always support Social Security and Medicare. As someone who is dependent on both, I was wary.

An article in USA Today addressed this a few months ago. He did not say he would terminate Social Security. “The posts [from Social Security Works] came after Trump signed a series of executive orders on August 8 intended to provide relief from the detrimental economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The concern comes from the fact that “the vast majority of Social Security is financed through the payroll tax, according to the Social Security Administration.

“One of the Aug. 8 executive orders instructed the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of payroll taxes for employees who make less than $100,000 each year… The order also instructed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred.”

Where’s the money?

And the regime promised to eliminate the payroll tax altogether. “It’s a tremendous saving for people. And we’re going to be doing it, and we intend to terminate it at the end of the appropriate period of time.”

Where would the revenue come from then? “We’ll be paying into Social Security through the general fund.” And that is scary to me. If re-elected, he “could continue to defer the payroll tax with executive orders.”

However, “he could not eliminate the payroll tax entirely or provide a new source of funding for Social Security without support from Congress.” Right. A dysfunctional Congress dealing with massive debt from a pandemic.

As USA Today admitted, “In defense of its posts, Social Security Works argued that advocating for termination of the payroll tax and termination of Social Security are the same. The payroll tax is known as the Federal Insurance Contribution Act tax, after all.”

In the October 2020 AARP Bulletin, the incumbent repeated the claim that he would not cut Social Security. “I’m looking at numbers now that look like the best quarter ever in terms of hiring people.” In other words, Social Security will be paid for by projected economic growth. Of course, he has been known to…let’s say, abandon the truth.

Conversely, his opponent, Joe Biden said in the same publication that he “would not change payroll taxes for anyone making less than $4000,000. However, “everyone making more than that will pay the same payroll tax on wages over $400,000 ss they pay on their first $137,000.” This would, Biden claims, make Social Security “secure for a long, long time.”

As Buffalo Springfield once sang, “You know what they say about a bird in the hand.” I like my safety nets paid for. 

The debate and the diagnosis

It was only a week ago when we were talking about his tax evasion.

From the CDC
She knew I didn’t want to watch it. I had announced to the family that I was going to opt-out, and catch the reviews on the news the next day. But her history teacher recommended that my daughter watch the first Presidential debate. Since I’m the poli sci major, and no way my wife makes it to 10:30 p.m., I agreed.

You don’t need me to tell you what a disaster that Tuesday night was. Among other things, the incumbent’s claim that ballots Were found “in a river” is not substantiated. Generally, he showed how he is trying to derail the election. His denial of his call-out to the Proud Boys was disingenuous. The performance may have played to his base. But who did he sway?

A buddy of mine was happy they didn’t need to transcribe the dialogue for closed-captioning in real-time. It would have surely been, quite literally, a headache. Lots of people wished that moderator Chris Wallace had a mute button available. And it was the incumbent who interrupted the former vice-president by at least four to one. Borowitz joked that
Biden will do the remaining debates by mail.

Business as usual

The disruptor’s political rally in Duluth, MN tapped “into the white grievance of his political bubble,” the Boston Globe noted.

Then I awoke Friday morning to the news that IMPOTUS and FLOTUS had tested positive for COVID-19. This after months of encouraging his supporters to flout health and safety guidelines. The night before, aide Hope Hicks, who had been traveling with the campaign this week, tested positive.

As is his wont, IMPOTUS had mocked Joe Biden face-to-face for wearing masks, which have been proven to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And he attended a New Jersey fundraiser while awaiting confirmation of Hicks’ COVID-19 test. It’s ironic that “she was one of the few West Wing staffers to wear a mask in meetings, which her colleagues chided her for, according to Vanity Fair.

Of course, he announced the illness on Twitter late at night. Again. Since more than 208,000 people in the US have been killed by the virus, the news sent shockwaves across the country, the financial markets, and the world.

Short-sighted, indeed

The generally right-wing Hot Air understood. “If he knew [Hicks was sick] and decided to hold the [MN] event anyway, it would be emblematic of his short-sighted, self-sabotaging approach to COVID from the beginning. Reopening early instead of focusing on containing the virus risked sustained community spread, which would lead to a longer economic slowdown, but he couldn’t wait.

“Going onstage if he knew that there was a chance he was infected risked a terrible PR backlash because it would prove that Trump was once again taking the virus too lightly, unwilling to self-quarantine to protect the people around him. But again, he had other priorities.”

Everyone from Hot Air to the Daily Kos noted that aides thought he seemed unwell Wednesday, but he kept exposing people Thursday. Well, that was the cavalier attitude then. How will the regime respond moving forward? It is imperative that they do better, including for their Secret Service detail.

At 11 a.m. Friday, Mark Meadows, chief of staff, was being evasive about the timeline of the illness. And of course, he wasn’t wearing a mask. It’s 1) the nature of this cabal, but 2) the absolute wrong message. Meadows was wearing a mask when he accompanied The Donald on Marine One to Walter Reed Hospital Friday night.

Fortunately, Joe and Jill Biden tested negative for coronavirus. Unsurprisingly, Joe wished the infected couple a swift recovery. This after IMPOTUS said Tuesday night, “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.” Biden’s so stupid that he actually advocates wearing a mask.

Whereas the other guy said at a rally a couple of months ago to “slow the testing down.” That’s how you have a garden party for Amy Coney Barrett on September 26 and end of having at least eight people, including Chris Christie and Kellyanne Conway, end up with coronavirus.

Will getting sick make him a believer?

You may recall that COVID denier Boris Johnson in the UK had very mild symptoms at first, but was later was debilitated and almost died. He went from the announcement on March 27 to hospitalization on April 6 to going back to work on April 27. We don’t know the trajectory of the disease for IMPOTUS, although the medical community has learned much in the past seven months.

His COVID-19 diagnosis is an indictment of his handling of the pandemic. The case “is exemplary of our failure at the federal level,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. And it worries U.S. officials and national security experts, who fear aggressive moves from foreign adversaries.

Can it be a teachable moment? Some see “an opportunity to course-correct. The question is whether he will see his illness as a way to change his own narrative.” I genuinely hope so. But frankly, I doubt it.

Why Joe Biden, you ask?


joe bidenMy progressive friends have been asking a particular question to anyone who will listen for months. It is “Why Joe Biden, other than the fact that he isn’t Donald Trump?” Two responses, but maybe it’s the same one. 1. Isn’t that reason enough? 2. Because Joe Biden is… normal.

For instance, Joe Biden believes in science. Is he better in this regard than Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker or Pete Buttigieg or Jay Inslee? Probably not. But he is SO much better than the other guy. Scientific American broke with a 175-year precedent to endorse Biden.

“We do not do this lightly,’ the editors write. ‘The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science.’

“The editorial board does not mince words… They write that the ‘most devastating’ example of Trump’s rejection of science is his ‘dishonest and inept’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 194,000 lives in the United States and counting. The president’s attacks on medical care, government scientists, environmental protections, and public health research have severely weakened the nation’s ability to respond to the greatest challenges of our time, most notably COVID-19 and climate change…”

Most telling are the Bob Woodward tapes for his book, Rage. If Trump didn’t believe that COVID was dangerous, I would think that the man didn’t understand science. It’s clear, however, that he did recognize the danger but underplayed it, undercutting the scientists. His insistence that he, in his words, “overplayed” COVID is, as usual, a lie.

Look at the march of fires in the western US. The tropical storms/hurricanes in the Atlantic may run out of names may have to use the Greek letters for only the second time. But the “stable genius” said that the temperatures will magically fall, just like he pronounced that COVID will disappear in the April 2020 heat.


With a candidate in public office almost continually since 1973, there will be inevitable positions that you – and he – would look at differently today. Surely, Joe Biden’s role as Senate Judiciary chair during the 1991 hearings for the confirmation of Clarence Thomas was not his finest hour. He has acknowledged that. (The other guy admits no faults whatsoever about anything, and is never responsible for any bad outcomes.)

Even in that first Senate race in 1972, Biden favored support of “the environment, civil rights, mass transit, more equitable taxation, and health care.” He was clearly ahead of his boss, Barack Obama, in 2012 when it came to marriage equality.

I acknowledge I’m nervous about the debates. As Vanity Fair notes, his opponent is a “bulldozer to norms… It is very hard to reprogram yourself to [disregard] any semblance of reality.”

Feet to the fire

Since Biden is, by the description of my friends, the centralist/moderate/corporatist candidate, there will need to be pressure placed on him to fulfill some of the more progressive agenda, assuming he wins. Of course, some of the early work will involve undoing the damage done to the basic institutions of the country. Think reversing environmental dumps. Getting more people insured.

And repairing the postal service. From a recent LA Times story: “New rules requiring U.S. Postal Service trucks to leave exactly on schedule and curtailing extra trips disrupted mail service for millions… Trucks traveled empty, mail piled up, managers falsified records, and some packages were turned away at swamped facilities.”

Some of the “fixes” involve NOT hiring political contributor hacks to government roles. Biden’s been around long enough to recognize the value of basic standards, not to mention decency IMPOTUS likes to say he’s draining “the swamp” but instead, he seems to be the ringleader of the bog monsters.

I make no apologies for voting for Joe Biden. He wasn’t in my top five choices. He’s an imperfect candidate. But as a pundit I know wrote, “He’s like a 2007 Prius that keeps chugging along. It’s nothing flashy but gets you where you want to go.” And that’s good enough after four years of intentional chaos.

August rambling: bots botch puns

“Today I find the mask useful”

XKCD. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
I woke up from a dream earlier this month. The only thing I remember is someone saying Bots botch puns. Please leave your psychological analyses in the comments.

Could American Evangelicals Spot the Antichrist? Here Are the Biblical Predictions.

What Makes Trump an Autocrat?

Maryanne Trump Barry says He has no principles.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: US is making a mockery of the phrase a jury of your peers and Border Wall II.

Steve Bannon needs to watch The Inspectors.

Mnuchin paved way for postal service shake-up.

Trans Women Who Report Abuse in Prison Are Targets of Retaliation.

Aging memories may not be ‘worse’, just ‘different’.

CDC: Social Determinants of Health.

Harriette Cole: Have I been blind to my white friends’ true feelings?

Movies Misled the Masses. Can They Lead Us Into a More Equal Future?

Inside the Courthouse Break-In Spree That Landed Two White-Hat Hackers in Jail.

Placebos prove powerful even when people know they’re taking one.

Family of a young NYS Corrections Officer killed in a drunk-driving accident had some blunt advice for those reading his obituary.

Arthur writes about toxic positivity.

Brain waves can be used to predict future pain sensitivity.

How to Learn Everything: The MasterClass Diaries.

The American Scientists Who Saved London From Nazi Drones.

Pentagon’s UFO Group Is Officially Active, After Years of Secrecy.

The untold story of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.

Countdown – the game show of spelling, math, and whoopsies.

What is SEO

What is a 2nd cousin once removed?

Chuck is fifty-seven.

Audio link, almost ten minutes of a 1959 Stan Laurel interview.


The Trump Pandemic: A blow-by-blow account.

“Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread. To wit:

Dangerous Oleander Extract Not a Cure, despite What He Said.

CDC Details Its Massive Mental Health Impact.

Today I find the mask useful
along with sunglasses
to hide my tear streaked face,
not wanting to scare the barista
who has enough to deal with
behind his own mask.
-Transitions” by Tammi Truax, poet laureate of Portsmouth, NH.

Mississippi School Opening Disaster.

Email Phishing Scams – Bad Actors Seeking to Take Advantage through “SBA Loan Application”.

Navajo Nation residents face coronavirus without running water.

How rocket scientists would approach planning to reopen schools.

Think it kills the centuries-old practice of sharing business cards? Think again.

COVID language.

XKCD. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Joe Biden in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for US President; Fact-checking him. (He does quite well, unlike his opponent’s Monday speech at the RNC.)

Hidden messages in Elizabeth Warren’s video.

Bernie Sanders speech, and link to others.

Now I Know

Why the Zebra Got its Stripes and The Stranger Things About a Scientific Constant and You Don’t Have To Be A Big Shot and The Turtle With Bricks for Wheels and The Aliens in the Cupboard and From Facebook to Mug Shot.

New blog

Alison Stonbely’s blog, Secrets of the Forest, looking at art and racism.

For the record

I really don’t care about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s sex life. Consenting adults and all that. What was loathsome has been his sanctimonious hypocrisy and his golden parachute.


Lyric Quartette by William Grant Still.

Outerspace – Zbonics and Rebecca Jade. Plus Sobrina Taylor interviews Rebecca Jade!

Pop Psalms: (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding – Nick Lowe.

Solace: A Mexican Serenade by Scott Joplin.

Coverville 1321: The Sparks Cover Story and This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us – The Sparks.

K-Chuck Radio: The World of the Black MIDI.

The Curse of Ham – Buggy Jive.

Christopher Cuomo – Randy Rainbow.

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas.

DOLLY PARTON Steers Her Empire Through the Pandemic— and Keeps It Growing.