Monthly Archives: December 2008

Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy (again)

I’ve had a couple days to calm down over the Caroline Kennedy thing.

First of all, if you want thorough, reasoned analysis on the job of picking an interim senator, go see Phil at Racing in the Street or Robert Harding at TAP.

Moving on, I’d like to point out that this is not 2000. In 2000, a lot of people (me included) were irked at Clinton’s carpetbagging. She had even less to do with New York than Caroline Kennedy does. But there were certain factors in 2000 which made Hillary Clinton easier to swallow. For starters, the economy was not in the dire state it is in now. Yes, Upstate was in dire shape (as always), but around us was a perceived affluence continuing for others that people hoped could be somehow “brought back” to our region by a star player like Hillary.

That is not the situation today. The situation for all of New York is now truly dire, and it hasn’t even really begun to hit here yet, even with the truly hard blow of Syracuse China and now long-dreaded layoffs at New Process Gear. Rumored layoffs at Kodak, auto workers in Buffalo wondering what’s going to happen, Fort Drum families seeing no end to Afghan deployments. I’m afraid Caroline Kennedy blundered right into a hornet’s nest when she got out of the car today. People are loaded for bear in a way they never were with Clinton. They know the cavalry is not coming over the hill. They know they are alone, on their own. The mood isn’t just damp and gray now — it grows icy and brittle. Not a great time for an absolute newbie to elective (or appointive) politics to blow into town and refuse to answer questions.

Even worse, Democratic victory in the state Senate has left Upstaters feeling particularly shut out of power — Upstate Democrats especially. In 2000, there was just a continuation of the status quo in Albany. Now things have shifted and the joke is clearly on us — despite the fact that Upstate is getting nominally “bluer.” Noises about an Upstate caucus grow a little louder. To have a candidate from New York City (at best) and “out of state” pushed on us adds insult to injury, for some.

I also think Upstaters are tired of the “listening tours,” tired of candidates who have to learn all about us all over again. It would indeed be novel to have a senator who knew what comes after Oswego, Otsego and Owego. (Hint: It’s not Otego.) Why can’t we have someone representing our state who doesn’t have to do homework or memorize flash cards about one-third of its population and four-fifths of its land area? We are running out of time here. This may come as a huge shock, but I think we want to be represented in Washington, represented by someone who knows our state and loves it. A champion, not a Good Fairy.

It’s hardly personal, the animosity toward Caroline Kennedy as a candidate, but there is such a thing as the wrong person at the wrong time, in a time that’s out of joint. She can certainly be forced upon an ambivalent electorate, but I don’t think she’s going to go down as easily as Hillary Clinton did, and she probably will not energize Democrats, or demoralize Republicans, all that much.

Original rant is below the flip.
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That didn’t take long

Paterson folds like a cheap suit on Native cigarette taxes.

Gov. Paterson to sign law today in Utica to collect taxes on all cigarettes (but see also this report)

Along with a host of other sin/luxury taxes and fee-raisings on everyone but the very wealthy. Then again, after the Madoff Ponzi revelation, the very wealthy may be even poorer than you and me.

However,

Let’s say you’re a successful businessman who has managed to earn $10 million this year, but who also had $10 million invested with Bernie Madoff. Obviously, you’re not happy about seeing your savings wiped out — but if I’m reading this WSJ article correctly, since your loss is a “theft loss”, the whole thing is deductible, and you basically get to keep all your income tax-free! And it gets better: because of Madoff’s high-turnover investment strategy, you probably paid as much as $500,000 in taxes in each of the past three years on fictional trading gains. All those can now be refunded as well…

On the other side of the ledger, of course, the IRS was expecting $4.4 million from you this year, but now is going to have to pay out $1.5 million to you instead. Which works out at $6 million less money available for the public fisc. I haven’t seen estimates of the total cost of the Madoff fraud to the US government, but it’s surely in the billions, and quite possibly in tens of billions.

There’s no way all this can end well.

Updated: Sean Kirst has a terrific column on Paterson and Native issues today. Go read it.

Ideas for your next Christmas party

Ridiculous Food Society of Upstate New York is not your average foodie blog. It’s “a humorous look at the food and culture of Upstate New York” but even though the cuisine of our region revolves around meat, I’m pretty sure most of these recipes are not authentic. I’m not sure what’s deadlier, the cholesterol count or the food photography, but here’s a random quote:

I will have to say a shot of this stuff tastes pretty much how you would expect. It tastes like bacon, burning alcoholic bacon. The bacon flavor was very pronounced. The vodka had truly absorbed much of the essence of cooked bacon.

If Candied Spam sounds sort of interesting to you, this may be your kitchen companion.

Real snow

The memory of those days swept over him like a nightmare–the people they had met travelling; the people who couldn’t add a row of figures or speak a coherent sentence. The little man Helen had consented to dance with at the ship’s party, who had insulted her ten feet from the table; the women and girls carried screaming with drink or drugs out of public places. The men who locked their wives out in the snow, because the snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited

I emerged from my house today to do some late-in-the-day errands and had to clear pounds of snow off my car. A lot of my neighbors were clearing their drives too, so we all saw the spectacle of a very large “V” of geese making a very late exit (maybe from Onondaga Lake) and headed very due south at a very determined pace. Five minutes later, another whole flock doing the same. Today was the kind of real snow that sends even the bum geese packing.

I don’t know when snow stopped being considered a normal part of the American experience. You used to see it in TV and movies all the time. But then it somehow become something quaint or exotic — considered unnatural for humans to have to endure. Or rather, in our wealthy land, no American should have to endure snow. If you didn’t want there to be snow, you just threw money at it. First, money gave people wings to fly like geese away from the snow. Then, more money convinced the geese that they were exotic tropical birds.

Then the money melted like snow.

Elizabeth Holtzman wants to be NY’s next senator

Via a tip from Robinia at TAP, from Capitol Confidential:

NY political ceiling-breaker drops name in Senate hat

Former congresswoman, Brooklyn District Attorney, and New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman has put her name in the list of contenders to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton. Holtzman had a conversation this afternoon with Gov. David Paterson, during which she indicated her interest in being considered for the position. “We had a warm and very friendly conversation about the Senate seat. I presented the unique credentials that I thought would be useful to the state at this very difficult time.” “I think the governor will make a very thoughtful decision. I’ve been tested during a national crisis. I was there during Watergate, people saw me there, people saw me question Ford on his pardon. I’ve been tested.”

Holtzman ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1980 and 1992. But this is a welcome blast from the past, if you ask me.

Here she is talking about the Bush Administration and executive power earlier this summer:

(And here’s an unfriendly look at her last election run, against Alan Hevesi for NY Comptroller. Quoth the writer, dancing on Holtzman’s grave: “No one in New York is going to ask “Alan Who?” anymore.“)