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Howard B. Owens's blog

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?

September 24, 2008 - 7:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. James Church, Episcopal Church.

Somehow, we missed this story when it hit the Buffalo News a few days ago: A judge has rulled that Rev. Simon B. Howson, 42, the former rector of Batavia’s St. James Episcopal Church, can proceed with his lawsuit against the Diocese.

Howson claims that he was dismissed from his job after making a sexual harrassment claim against another priest.

Fleming on Friday said the job dispute involves attempts earlier this decade by an admitted homosexual Episcopalian priest now serving in Massachusetts, who used Howson as a spiritual adviser in Batavia, to have sex with Howson, who is heterosexual but unmarried.

Diocesan attorney Brendan P. Kelleher asked the judge to summarily dismiss Howson’s lawsuit on the claim that the dispute is a purely religious controversy to be handled only by church authorities. Fleming argued that Howson’s dispute involves the state Human Rights Law.


Howson was suspended in October 2004 because of allegations about stealing church funds, forging church documents and misrepresenting himself. In August 2007, the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York announced that his priestly rights were revoked and he was removed from the priesthood. Thursday, Fleming stressed to Michalek that all the allegations the bishop lodged against Howson were “false” and called the bishop’s actions against Howson “crazy, outrageous and disingenuous.” Fleming told the judge he personally deposed the admittedly homosexual priest recently in Massachusetts and confirmed that priest’s “sexual harassment” of his client.

Howson, "now a hospital chaplain with limited religious duties in the Fresno, Calif., area," is seeking $300,000 in restitution and reinstatment as a priest.

September 23, 2008 - 12:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in john mccain, nation and world.

Author and Vietnam War expert Sydney H. Schanberg has been following John McCain's fight against full disclosure on missing POWs from Vietnam for decades.  He supplies a full write up on the history for AlterNet.

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a Special Forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington and even sworn testimony by two defense secretaries that "men were left behind." This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number -- probably hundreds -- of the US prisoners held in Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.


Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. Finally, in a February 1, 1973, formal letter to Hanoi's premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in "postwar reconstruction" aid. The North Vietnamese, though, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored (it never was). Hanoi thus held back prisoners -- just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. France later paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.


On November 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee's public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.

The devices were primarily motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. But they also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground -- a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang -- could manually enter data into the sensor, which were regularly collected electronically by US planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge from the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors -- as US pilots had been trained to do -- "no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 US POW/MIAs who were lost in Laos." Alfond added, says the transcript: "This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE."

McCain, whose POW status made him the committee's most powerful member, attended that hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel's work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face turning anger-pink, he accused her of "denigrating" his "patriotism." The bullying had its effect -- she began to cry.

After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don't know anything about those 20 POWs.


It's not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior. That confession was played endlessly over the prison loudspeaker system at Hoa Lo -- to try to break down other prisoners -- and was broadcast over Hanoi's state radio. Reportedly, he confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed a school and other civilian targets. The Pentagon has copies of the confessions but will not release them. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen a nonredacted copy of McCain's debriefing when he returned from captivity, which is classified but can be made public by McCain.

Before the election, before John McCain can become president, if he's fortunate enough to win, shouldn't all of his service records be released?

September 23, 2008 - 8:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Muckdogs, sports.

Just found this video from he first game of the NY-P Championship in Jamestown.  The only real interesting part is at 2:35 in or so and you can see Jermaine Curtis hit his game-winning home run.

Here's another video of the final out of the championship.

September 23, 2008 - 7:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in dwi, victims impact panel.

Found on YouTube, two-video interview with Mike Laycock the VIP coordinator of the DWI Victim Impact Panel.

NOTE: If you are your community group do a video like this and want to share it with the community, you can upload your video to YouTube and then create your own blog post on The Batavian.


September 23, 2008 - 7:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, trails.

The town of Riga and the village of Churchville have developmed a comprehensive plan for the communities' future. That wouldn't be of much interest locally, accept for this bit from the D&C story:

One interesting proposal is the development of a trail system along the Westshore Railroad right of way. Riga and Churchville have teamed with Monroe County and Byron and Bergen in Genesee County in a joint effort to secure funding for a feasibility study. The new trail would begin at the western townline of Byron and end in the central business district of Churchville. The money for the study is coming from the Genesee Transportation Council, a regional organization that oversees the administration and funding of all federal aid transportation projects.

New trails are good.

September 23, 2008 - 7:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in graham corp.

Helen H. Berkeley, the widow of Frederick D. Berkeley III, the former CEO of Batavia-based Graham Corp. (AMEX: GHM) has donated $1 million to the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester.

The donation is intended to transform the gallery's antiquities collection into a showcase of Near and Middle Eastern treasures.

"I've traveled a lot in the Middle East," said Berkeley, former president of the museum's Gallery Council, a volunteer fundraising organization. "You could call me a frustrated archaeologist. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to help with this gallery."

Her gift is one of the largest that the museum has ever received from a single donor.


The future Berkeley Gallery of Ancient Art probably won't debut until November 2009, said chief curator Marjorie B. Searl. Most of the construction will take place next summer — new cabinetry, lighting, humidity controls and alterations to the ceiling and walls. The space already is heavily trafficked by Rochester students on field trips.

"We're looking to provide better interpretation for these ancient collections," said Searl. "In the new gallery, students will understand more about their significance. These user-friendly displays will be integrated into their school programming."

Helen H. Berkeley is a member of the Graham Corp. board of directors. 

September 23, 2008 - 7:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Lowe's.

From the D&C:

Lowe's will open its sixth area store in Batavia, Genesee County, on Oct. 18.

The new home-improvement store, at 4180 Veteran's Memorial Drive, has 117,000 square feet of retail space, with an adjacent garden center.

September 22, 2008 - 8:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alice Kryzan.

We asked both canidates for the 26th Congressional District for their positions on the Wall Street bail outs.

First to respond is Alice Kryzan. Her campaign sent over the following press release:

Amherst, NY – The financial markets have undergone a severe shock in the last few days. Risky speculation in a deregulated market led to a crash, bringing calls from Washington to have government bail out financial institutions. But where have these same voices been while millions of hardworking Americans have suffered through their own financial crises, facing stagnating wages and fewer jobs with rising housing and energy costs?

As she has from the beginning of her campaign, Alice Kryzan, Democratic Congressional Candidate for NY-26, decried this  ‘same old same old politic’, calling for political leaders to start putting the people’s interests first;

“We don’t need oil lobbyists writing our energy policy, insurance companies making our medical decisions, or financial institutions taking huge risks and then asking Americans to foot the bill. We can’t have two more years of these failed Bush policies, two more years of fewer jobs, stagnated wages and work sent overseas. We need someone ready to help us realize our future, not cling to the knee-jerk deregulation rhetoric of the past.” 

Alice called on Congress to act quickly to stabilize the market in order to ensure hardworking Americans don’t lose their homes or other assets. But she also insisted that any legislation include accountability measures to improve financial regulation and ensure this disaster is not repeated. Furthermore, taxpayers should receive their fair share of any profits these companies make after being bailed out, CEO compensation should be limited, and Congress should give homeowners the assistance they need to protect their homes. And, of course, any efforts to stabilize the market should have independent oversight to ensure the job is done right.

Alice expressed disappointment that so many politicians refuse to grapple with the serious issues facing our country;

“People are tired of candidates who only offer platitudes and quick fixes. Whether it’s offshore drilling that increases oil companies’ profits without lowering gas prices or writing a blank check to the financial market to protect CEO’s record salaries, the public has had enough. We need people with real solutions who we can trust to go to Washington and get results.”

We left off the final paragraph, which characterizes Republican Chris Lee's position. We'll let Chris Lee speak for himself, if he chooses to do so.

September 22, 2008 - 7:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nation and world.

Here's two interesting perspectives on the current financial crisis.  Both articles spread the blame around -- both administrations, the Fed, Wall Street and Congress.

UPDATE: Contrary to positions put forth in the two links above is this post from Megan McArdle. She shoots down the notion that repeal of Glass-Steagall is a root cause of the current crisis.




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