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October 2, 2008 - 7:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Episcopal Church, Simon Howson.

WBKW in Buffalo reports that Simon Howson's lawsuit against the Episcopal Diocese of Wester New York (story with video) has been settled.

Howson was a priest at St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia in 2004 when he was accused of stealing and dismissed.  He claimed his firing was retaliation for him making a sexual harrassment claim against another priest.

Howson says he is finally publicly exonerated and the diocese is apologizing. "The bishop has stepped up and he's going to apologize in writing for what happened to Simon Howson." said attorney Andrew Fleming.

"You asked me how I feel," said Howson. "Numb. Numb." Howson filed a same sex discrimination and retaliation suit claiming Bishop Michael Garrison removed him from the church after he complained, that an admitted homosexual Episcopalian priest, now serving in Massachusetts, was sexually harassing him with unwanted advances. Howson is heterosexual. "Simon is a man of God. This was very difficult for him in a sense that this was very challenging to his faith journey." said Fleming.

Here's the Buffalo News story.

October 1, 2008 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in bill kauffman.

In the Charelston City Paper, Dylan Hales reviews Bill Kauffman's new book about Luther Martin, and refers to Kauffman as "the patriot of Batavia." 

I kind of like that better than Gore Vidal's "sage of Batavia."

It's a favorable review.

As Kauffman aptly notes, the Founders are often revered as the designers of a "federal compact," wary of the dangers of big government tyranny.

In fact, it was the "anti-Federalists" who were the true advocates of self-government, and Martin was their most spirited proponent.

One of the implied theses of the book is that history is written by the winners, and we are all worse off for it. Kauffman is at his best noting Martin's unfair treatment by Constitutional scholars and historians, who have for the most part regarded him as "the town drunk, the class bore, the motormouth."

Kauffman thoroughly debunks this as obtuse obstructionism. In fact, Martin was a relatively modest participant at the Constitutional Convention. His attachment to the Articles of Confederation was predicated on a reverence for local government as well as the illegality of the usurpation of power promoted by Hamilton, Madison and the gang.

I just started reading the book last night.  I'll probably post something about it after I finish it.  The book can be purchased at Present Tense, where last I heard, there were still autographed copies available.

September 30, 2008 - 7:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tom Reynolds, Alice Kryzan, Chris Lee, Randy Kuhl.

Lame duck Rep. Tom Reynolds has not yet posted any news release to his web site explaining his vote yesterday in favor of the Bush-requested, Democratic-sponsored $700 billion bailout for Wall Street banks.

The following passage from the Buffalo News contains a brief quote from Reynolds explaining his position:

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said the bill would have put the nation “on the slippery slope to socialism. If you lose your ability to fail, soon you will lose your ability to succeed.”

Some Democrats indicated that the consequences of refusing to act had been exaggerated. “Like the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, this bill is fueled on fear and hinges on haste,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.

Reynolds and Higgins disagreed.

“This is one of the last votes I will cast on behalf of the people of Western New York, and it may be the most important one,” Reynolds said.

Acknowledging that he wished he could support a more cost-effective alternative, Reynolds said: “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my over three decades in public service, it’s that you cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Too many jobs, too many homes, too many 401(k)s, too many college educations, too many community banks are on the line to risk further inaction.”

In contrast, Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-29), issued a statement immediately after the vote.  He's also posted an alternate plan. Blogger Rottenchester says the plan is hardly serious.

As for the positions of the two candidates for the 26th district on what to do in regard to current economic conditions, still no word from Republican Chris Lee. Several days prior to yesterday's vote, Alice Kryzan issued this statement.

UPDATE: Via the 26th District blog, we get an updated statement from Kryzan.  Kryzan talks about the importance of consumer protection and oversight, but the plan rejected yesterday was weak in both those areas. Also, the blog contains this quote:

“Chris Lee has made deregulating our economy a centerpiece of his campaign,” said spokesperson Anne Wadsworth. “Now that we’ve seen the disastrous result of continuing Bush’s failed policies, he has nothing to say. The people of this district need answers, not knee-jerk deregulation rhetoric.”

The problem with the statement is there is already no lack of regulation in place -- such as the job-killing Sarbanes-Oxley Act -- and none of it  prevented the current situation. The housing bubble has a lot more to do with Clinton-era policies, which Bush neglected to address, and with the Fed manipulating interest rates (which Bush doesn't control at all).  I'm not defending Bush here by any stretch, just trying to keep the record straight.  If you want to blame Bush for anything, blame him for trying to shove this "rush to bailout" down the throats of Americans, which House Democrats (except for 95 brave souls) seemed quite willing buy into hook, line and sinker.

September 29, 2008 - 6:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, nation and world.

Congress is set today to vote on a plan to commit $700 billion of U.S. taxpayer money on a Wall Street bailout plan that editorialists (such as the D&C), politicians and pundits across the country cry as one, "painful, but necessary."

But is it?

Some economist and other observers disagree.

From the McClatchy News Service:

"It's more hype than real risk," said James K. Galbraith, a University of Texas economist and son of the late economic historian John Kenneth Galbraith. "A nasty recession is possible, but the bailout will not cure that. So it's mainly relevant to the financial industry."

This Washington Post story questions not so much the necessity of the bailout, but the wisdom of the rush to get it passed.

David Sirota offers up five reasons why the bailout is insane, and concludes, "If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America."

Caroline Baum offers up a variety of view points, including:

Paulson has said repeatedly that the "root cause'' of the problem is "the housing correction, which has resulted in illiquid mortgage-related assets that are choking off the flow of credit."

"The root cause of the problem is that we don't have any homebuyers," Edward Leamer, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Associated Press.

The "root cause of this crisis" is "the lack of capital in the banking system," said Paul Ashworth of London's Capital Economics. "The only way the Treasury's plan would have any meaningful impact on banks' capital ratio is if it vastly overpaid for the securities it is buying."

...

If you don't diagnose the problem correctly, the odds are you won't prescribe the right medicine. The troubled assets are the result, not the cause, of loose lending practices, a housing bubble that burst, a glut of unsold homes and home prices that are still too high relative to incomes and rental costs, according to many economists.

...

"If you need money, sell assets,'' Rosner said. "Excess inventory is liquidated at 99-Cent Stores every day, and it doesn't require the government to get involved.''

The Wall Street Journal, in an article that speculates that the bailout further erodes Bush's so-called "conservative legacy," notes:

Meanwhile, conservative legal scholars question whether the rescue plan is constitutional, and predict court battles in the years to come, similar to those set off by President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs.

Grover Norquist, a leading conservative organizer and president of Americans for Tax Reform, says the financial crisis stems from Mr. Bush's abandonment of conservative principles. He cites the president's failure to undo policies of the past that led banks to make unwise loans, as well as expanding the roles of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Dean Baker say there is no way a no-bailout leads to another Great Depression.

While their argument is wrong, these are powerful voices in national debates. If the bailout proves to be an obstacle to effective stimulus in future months and years, then the bailout could lead to exactly the sort of prolonged economic downturn that its proponents claim it is intended to prevent.

Pulitzer Prize winner and Rochester-area resident David Cay Johnston points to an IMF study that suggests bank bailouts rarely work as intended and transfer wealth from taxpayers to bankers.

September 28, 2008 - 10:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Jon Powers, Western New York, green.

The smartest thing I heard from Jon Powers during his campaign was about turning Western New York into a decent place to start new, green businesses.

I thought of that when reading Thomas Friedman's column today.

But that is not the point of this column. The point is, we don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream — a house with a yard — because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a “liar loan” from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.

In a green economy, we would rely less on credit from foreigners “and more on creativity from Americans,” argued Van Jones, president of Green for All, and author of the forthcoming “The Green Collar Economy.” “It’s time to stop borrowing and start building. America’s No. 1 resource is not oil or mortgages. Our No. 1 resource is our people. Let’s put people back to work — retrofitting and repowering America. ... You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.”

So even if Jon Powers ain't the 26th District, why can't WNY be a leader in creating new green businesses? Does it take a congress rep to make that happen, or just visionary entrepreneurs?

September 28, 2008 - 8:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in nation and world.

September 28, 2008 - 8:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in main street.

I've walked past this sign many times and never noticed what Darrick did.

September 28, 2008 - 8:41am
posted by Howard B. Owens in john mccain, nation and world, Sarah Palin.

Sarah PalinAnybody of any ambition has probably found themselves in an awkward moment, dealing with something he or she isn't simply prepared to handle.

Conservative writer Rod Dreher reminds us what that is like, and why we might have sympathy for Sarah Palin, we're talking about somebody who would be Vice President of the United States.

I remember the morning I woke up in my college dorm room and went in to take my final exam in my Formal Logic class. I knew I was unready. Massively unready. And now I was going to be put to the ultimate test. I sat down in Dr. Sarkar's class and resolved to wing it. Of course I failed the exam and failed the class, because I had no idea what I was talking about. I wasn't a bad kid, or even a stupid kid. I was just badly unprepared, and in way over my head. Seeing the Palin interview on CBS, I thought of myself in Dr. Sarkar's exam. But see, I was a college undergraduate who had the chance to take the class again, which I did, and passed (barely). I wasn't running for vice president of the United States.

I came to this quote through Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes:

In election season, there is a price for being turned into a symbol. When actual journalists, with a rep to protect, show up, they are going to do their job. Which brings me to the sexism of John McCain. He knew full well what Sarah Palin was going to face if he nominated her. He knew that reporters would go through her past, that they'd quizz her on the present, that she would need to be ready, and he shunted concern aside, and tossed her to the wolves. Think on that for a mement. For one last run at the White House, he risked a future star of the party he claims to call home. How do you do that? I don't meant to rob Palin of agency, certainly she is also a victim of her own calculations and ambitions. But where I am from the elders protect you, and pull you back when you've gone too far, when your head has gotten too big.

McCain has a temper. It's one of the most distinguishing marks of his career. The American people haven't really seen it yet, not on a big stage. McCain is most vulnerable when attacked for what he has some glimmer of recognition is his own personal failings. If Obama really wanted to show America the real McCain, in the next debate, he would repeatedly question McCain's judgment in selected Sarah Palin as the veep nominee.  McCain would come unhinged. He blew it. Surely, he's losing sleep over it.

UPDATE: And this from Fareed Zakaria:

Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory. There is an ongoing military operation in Iraq that still costs $10 billion a month, a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not going well and is not easily fixed. Iran, Russia and Venezuela present tough strategic challenges.

September 28, 2008 - 8:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in john mccain, nation and world.

A couple of worthwhile posts on John McCain.

First, E.J. Dionne on McCain's dishonest campaign messages.

McCain once campaigned on the idea that the war on terrorism is the “transcendent” issue of our time. Now, he’s stooping to cheap advertising that would be condemned as trivial and misleading in a state legislative race. Boy, do I miss the old John McCain and wonder what became of him. And I wonder if the media will really take on this onslaught of half-truths and outright deception.

So much for the "straight talk express."

And James Fallows points out that while McCain feels free to lecture Obama on tactics vs. strategy, he has very little grasp of the concepts himself.  And he's shown himself, time and again, and quite recently, at being a shot-from-the-hip tactician rather than a strategic leader.

Some examples are so familiar as to need no explanation: McCain choosing the ten-day tactical "bounce" from the surprise choice of Sarah Palin, in exchange for the enormous strategic risk in choosing an un-vetted and now obviously unqualified running mate. Or McCain rolling the dice with his threat to boycott the debate -- and then, once on stage, appearing to be only mildly interested in the financial-bailout deal that 72 hours earlier was the stated reason for overturning all agreements about the debates .

McCain is increasingly hard to stomach.

September 27, 2008 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee.

Chris LeeAlan Bedenko reports that Republican Chris Lee has canceled two debates and has yet to commit to four others. His campaign seems to be showing a disinterest in answering questions.

Of seven proposed debates, Lee has pulled out of two debates he had previously committed to and seems unwilling or unable to fit another four into his schedule. Lee has dodged debates at SUNY Geneseo, RNews and a candidate forum sponsored by the AARP, which has over 100,000 members in the district.

Question for Alan: You say seven, but list that he's canceled two and not committed to four. That's six. What about the seventh? Also, you list three events above (if I read your sentence correctly) that Lee has either avoided or declined (not clear on which). Can you clarify, please?

Lee also appears unwilling to explain his positions to voters who have contacted him directly. Recently a non-partisan group was unable to get answers from Lee on important issues such as trade, health care and jobs despite repeated requests by phone, e-mail and a personal visit to his campaign headquarters.

“For someone who claims to want to make this campaign about the issues, he’s fallen short,” said spokesperson Anne Wadsworth. “Few policy positions, few statements, few debates. It’s hard for voters to have any idea what Chris Lee stands for.”

When The Batavian contacted Lee's campaign for his position on the Wall Street bail outs, we did not get a response. Still haven't.

September 27, 2008 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in nation and world.

Times may be tough, but the makers and sellers of bycles say business has never been better, according to Wired Magazine, which is covering the industry's annual trade show in Las Vegas.

 

"You can feel the collective buzz," a smiling Tim Blumenthal, executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bikes Belong, says from the middle of the bustling show floor.  "It's a really, really heady time for us. This show feels very optimistic and that bucks the general economic trends. There doesn't seem to be many businesses that are thriving, but the bike business is doing very well."

Anybody in Batavia biking to work now?

 

September 27, 2008 - 9:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nation and world.

This is an interesting video that walks you through the "root causes" of the financial crisis.  I put "root causes" in quotes, because it doesn't really get to the tap root of the problem, which is centralized banking and too much government manipulation of markets (well, it covers that, but doesn't question the whole premise of government involvement in markets to begin with).

Also, it doesn't convince me to vote for McCain, who is scary power hungry, and Palin, who is scary stupid.  But it casts further doubt on Obama's place in all of this.

September 26, 2008 - 9:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alice Kryzan, Chris Lee.

Chris Lee, pulling language from the 1990s-era GOP play book, says up front, he approved this attack ad, which claims Kryzan wants to raise taxes $2,800.  I wonder where he gets those numbers?

I fairness, the Democrats already had an attack ad out.

So much for a campaign on the issues.

Instead of attacking each other, why don't they tell us how they're going to enable New York businesses to grow and create jobs, to improve living conditions and standards, to promote peace and stability?  I don't care if they don't like each other, or each other's parties. I want to know what they stand for, not against. Anybody can tear down. It takes a leader to build up. Instead of inciting fear, how about promoting hope?

September 26, 2008 - 7:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Muckdogs, sports, Dave Wellenzohn.

Bob DiCesare's column today for the Buffalo News is about Dave Wellenzohn, the job he did for the Batavia Muckdogs and his quest for another position with a minor league baseball team.

“The minute Rochester came in they pretty much stripped me of all authority, which was fine,” he said. “It made financial sense to run it out of Rochester. But I was still the GM. I handled all the baseball ops and I was pretty much the face of the team. I had my radio show and all that so that was good for me because I knew I was pretty much putting together my resume for the next job.”

Wellenzohn promised himself that he wouldn’t let his state of limbo undermine his passion for the sport. He got on the field before Batavia home games, microphone in hand, and worked to stir up the crowd. He drove seven hours to Lowell, Mass. for the Muckdogs semifinal playoff opener, then turned around after the three-hour game and drove straight back to Batavia. No wonder the team’s booster club stepped outside the box and named him its Fan of the Year. It was just another strange occurrence in the most unorthodox of seasons with the grand ending still waiting to be written.

September 26, 2008 - 7:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nation and world.

There are portions of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric are just painful to watch. There is no way she is ready to be VP, let alone president.

September 24, 2008 - 9:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Barack Obama, nation and world.

September 24, 2008 - 7:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in john mccain, nation and world, Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin is on the fast track in foreign policy education. Tuesday, she meet with heads of state at the U.N. and was briefed by non-other than Henry Kissenger.

Yet, she continues to duck reporters.

The candidate's staff carefully choreographed her debut onto the international stage, starting each meeting with a brief photo opportunity and allowing no questions. Unscripted moments were kept to a minimum.

At first, the campaign wanted to keep reporters out altogether. But after the five major television networks threatened to boycott coverage of the Palin meetings, a pool that included a print journalist eventually was allowed in.

Palin's press shyness is odd, because John McCain's entire career has been built on candor and openness with the press.  He is popular with reporters because he's never been afraid to hang out at the back of the plane, or the back of the bus and tell war stories and answer questions.  He's been known as one of the most accessible senators.

Yet, Palin hides. Why?  Or, what is it that John McCain has to hide?

There's only one reason you don't answer questions: You're afraid.

Los Angeles Times blogger Elizabeth Snead calls it "the cone of silence" around Palin.

McCain's camp has put a force field around the Alaska governor in recent weeks, and some in the media speculate that this is to keep her from dealing with unscripted questions from voters and reporters.

And it was even worse during these diplomacy sessions. Reporters were actually banned from the start of the meetings to stop them from asking questions of Palin.

Before Palin's first meeting with Karzai, campaign aides told the pool reporters that followed her they could not go into meetings but that photographers and a video camera crew would be let in for pictures.

President Bush and members of Congress routinely allow reporters to attend photo ops, and the reporters often ask questions at the beginning of private meetings before they're ushered out.

Not this time. Two or more news organizations, including the Associated Press, objected to their reporters' exclusion and were told that the decision was not subject to discussion. When aides backed down, campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said the reporter ban was a "miscommunication."

Finally, one reporter was let in.

Is this any way to run a campaign in a democracy?

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