Friday, June 02, 2006

Taste of Syracuse


I attended Taste of Syracuse, an event that takes place in the heart of the city at the Clinton Square Festival site in downtown Syracuse every first weekend of June. More than 40 great area restaurants provide a limited menu of dishes for sale as well as mini-portions for tasting which cost $1 each for each sampling.

__That's me near one of my personal favorites - Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

More of my photos can be seen at

Around New York State

Around New York State

What happened to NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi? "Beyond dumb" seems to be a mild way to decribe his recent comments. Will this be looked back on as a moment of political suicide? Not if you ask the New York Times. where Raymond Hernandez and Conrad Mulcahy say:
Mr. Hevesi's remark occurred on the same day that Republicans nominated J. Christopher Callaghan, the Saratoga County treasurer, as their candidate to challenge Mr. Hevesi this fall. Mr. Hevesi is expected to win re-election easily.

According to the New York Sun, Syracuse New Times editor Molly English is considering legal action against President Bush's nominee for domestic policy adviser, Baldwinsville native Karl Zinsmeister, for changing quotations in a profile of him written by Justin Park and published in 2004 in the alternative newspaper. Post Standard staff writer John O'Brien gave the story full coverage in his front-page article of June 1, titled Mismatched quotes make mess for Bush adviser with CNY ties.

Senator Hillary Clinton will visit St. Adalbert's Response to Love Center in Buffalo today after attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) Center for Genetics and Pharmacology and the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences.

Dan Maffei, who recently announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress from his home in DeWitt, will challenge incumbent James Walsh for the 25th congressional seat. Mr. Maffei served as a press secretary for Senators Bill Bradley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Bill Bradley will be right here in Central New York tomorrow, June 3, to join Mr. Maffei for an afternoon fund-raiser at Liverpool Golf and Country Club, according to the Maffei campaign. (See Frederic Pirece's May 22 blogpost at the Post Standard Political Notebook for more details). Don't miss the page of Memorial Day weekend photos at the Maffei campaign site.

The Working Families Party will hold their convention in Albany this weekend and they will be live-blogging the convention. One legislation they've been supporting is the Fair Share for Health Care bill that would set a minimum amount that large businesses must spend on employee health benefits.

The Humane Society is unhappy with Governor George Pataki's economic development office giving Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a factory farm that produces abusive foie gras, a $420,000 capital grant. On their website, they say that the process for manufacturing the product is "one of the most notoriously cruel practices in animal agribusiness" and "this large subsidy—funded with taxpayers' money—will pay for the expansion of the factory farm." There is a Humane Society campaign to revoke the legislation to support a ban on the "cruel product." The story has moved into the national spotlight, with a story focusing on the topic in today's edition of USA Today.

Richard Kirsch, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York, is appealing to citizens to discourage the Senate from repealing the estate tax. The U.S. Senate may vote soon on proposals to repeal the estate tax or cut it by as much as 93 percent. Citizen Action is also supporting NY State Senator Dave Valesky's fight for the legislation (mentioned above in my mention of the Working Families Party) that would require large retail employers to pay for health care for their workers.

The Central New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO is informing citizens about the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving forward with plans to unilaterally impose its last contract offer in bargaining with the nation’s air traffic controllers. They claim that this action may result in as many as one-in-four air traffic controllers retiring, putting the safety of air travel at risk. From the AFL-CIO blog:
"..the FAA declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) on April 5. Unless Congress acts by June 5, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will impose the agency’s last offer, which could result in as many as 4,000 controllers, about 25 percent of the workforce, choosing to retire."

Although I have no weblink to this breaking news, I have heard that the Sheet Metal Workers Union has given their official support to incumbent U.S. Congressman James Walsh for 2006. With the realities of outsourcing and more recent layoffs at the Carrier plant in DeWitt, indications are that as the company completes a worldwide realignment, any Congressman will face uphill battles in politically preserving local Union jobs. Although they say "all politics is local", we have seen the national Republican party resisting any move to regulate the bleeding of manufacturing jobs from the American landscape. I tend to wonder why a Union would put trust in a Congressman who has no official Congressional vote on Labor recorded since 2001, yet supported CAFTA in 2005.

The Post Standard's Political Notebook blog has the latest news on many political happenings around Syracuse and New York State.

*cross posted to


Federal Marriage Amendment: An Unwise Use of the U.S. Constitution

Federal Marriage Amendment:
An Unwise Use of the U.S. Constitution

I saw the oddest appeal on Town today. The words stuck out like a sore thumb: “Marriage needs your help.” I asked myself, “Now, why would marriage need my help? I’m certainly no expert at saving marriages and if I tried to fix my neighbors’, they’d probably tell me to butt out and mind my own business.” “Marriage matters,” they say, and I can’t argue with that. Marriage is, in my opinion, a sacred institution. It’s a shame so many heterosexual couples don’t share the same fervor about their own unions as at least 50% of their marriages crumble like last week’s crackers. Marriage is a privileged state to which committed people are admitted when they meet certain conditions, and it confers upon those individuals certain privileges and responsibilities. That said, the people at seem to think that, if we care about marriage, we’d best sign their petition to “save it.”

I’ve listened to the voice of fundamentalist right leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family saying, "Marriage is under vicious attack.from the forces of hell itself." I heard him give strong voice to his personal fear of Western civilization coming to an end. Who is going to cause all of this, you ask? The answer, according to Dr. Dobson, is "same-sex couples." [the brief MP3 can be downloaded here] While I must respect Dr. Dobson's personal views based on his religious beliefs, I feel that he is a very irresponsible public leader and I certainly do not agree with his extremist views.

There are many voices coming from many individuals, each coming to the table with their own set of personal values opining on the topic of “marriage.” There is no one person or religious representative with the “right moral answer.” A diverse group of clergy and religious leaders met on Capitol Hill last week to speak against passage of the so-called “Federal Marriage Amendment” (FMA). Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel was present, and he said:

“If we want to protect marriage the answer is not in discriminating against a class of people. The answer is in putting our energy, our resources, and our effort at ensuring a decent public education for all citizens, decent health care for all citizens, and economic opportunities for all citizens. To discriminate against a class of people is wrong because a threat to justice anywhere is still a threat to justice everywhere.”

Columnist David Waters of Scripps Howard News Service, states that he believes that marriage between a man and a woman is not under attack by homosexuality, but instead by heterosexuals. He also comments on the timing of the proposal for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to specify that the definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

We're pouring hundreds of billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of troops, into the quicksand that is Iraq.
- Millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Millions more can't afford the health care they need.
- Gas prices are hurting every level of government, every business and every individual except the oil barons (in and out of the White House).
- The government can't seem to stop spying on us or lying to us.
- Our borders are about as secure as a screen door in New Orleans.
-Mother Nature is getting hotter and testier with every passing storm.

We've got big problems.
So, naturally, some of our political and religious leaders have something more important on their minds:
Gay marriage.
Must be an election year.

We must ask ourselves: “Is this amendment proposal really a pressing and dire necessity?” With all of the (many) pressing problems of a dangerous and wanting world, we see a hyper-focus on “saving” marriage by Republicans today. (And some of them have not been adept at “saving” their own personal unions).

I’d wager that most Americans trust that Western civilization isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I believe the GOP is looking to pander to the fundamentalist right, and we know that the fundamentalist right is obsessed with the emotional issue of homosexuality. They use the issue to keep high emotion at the forefront of the national debate about "moral values." For the overwhelming majority of Americans, the issue becomes a dividing wedge that blurs and delays an honest debate about our wide array of common values. We need honest debate now more than ever.

The last two suggestions made by Mr. Waters in his op-ed would make sense in today's America. (His first four suggestions, in my opinion, are highly debatable.)

Stop obsessing about the specks in the eyes of gay people who want to get married.

First deal with the planks in the eyes of child-bearing straight people who don't.

The majority of Americans today accept the reality of same-sex relationships without condemning or ridiculing the people who choose that lifestyle. When religious fundamentalist leaders demagogue the issue of homosexuality, it often results in a narrow public debate about “moral values.” If this narrow debate translates to a political consensus restricting the civil rights of an entire class of Americans, the political acceptance of this public denigration encourages further discrimination against gays and lesbians in our country. The feeling of just how wrong that seems is palpable in terms of the civil injustice brought about by such a narrow debate on the values that the majority of Americans share in our society. It's undemocratic.

I don’t think the debate about the definition of marriage should be turned into a food-fight where the worst of heterosexuality is compared to the worst of homosexuality. Instead, I believe that we should all call upon our government to define and protect civil rights for all citizens, including those of civil unions. It should be left to American church congregations in each state to define marriage, not the Religious Right or the U.S. Constitution.

Calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the definition of marriage will increase the likelihood that a significant number of American citizens will experience an increase in discrimination for years to come. The message that the U.S. Constitution is up for discriminatory “grabs” by any political party that temporarily enjoys majority status sends the wrong message. It sends the spirit of America's rich legacy of freedom reeling backwards. Discrimination and injustice should never be the result of a proposal for any amendment to our U.S. Constitution. It's not a play-document to be used by political panderers at will. It is sacred to the heart of American freedom, justice, and democracy. I believe that the current amendment, as proposed by public leaders who I view as no more than divisive panderers, is an unacceptable political treatment of the question of civil rights and we should not stand by silently while Republicans tinker with our sacred Constitution in order to rally quick and cheap conservative support for the November elections.

I'm going to tell my representatives how I feel today. I hope you will examine your own conscience and do the same.

*Cross-posted at

See Carpetbagger Report, June 3 -

GOP says ‘I do’ to bigotry By Edward M. Kennedy, Monday, June 5, 2006

Politics, Marriage

Chris Trapper at the Redhouse

Chris Trapper at the Redhouse