Archive for New York

Mortgage Settlement Madness!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

There have to be clowns. Without them, we might cry a river during election years. Pinching your nose while voting brings tears to the eyes of many. So send in the clowns. Or at least– a really sharp comedy.

Some clarification as to what counts as comic. The Mitt/Newt/Rick Show and MSM’s Fist Pump 4 Obama are stale. They keep working the same lines and pratfalls. Not all old shows are dullsville. The Government Real Estate Game is hoary as hell but keeps reinventing itself. The latest twist:

Mortgage Settlement Madness!

Honk-a-dollar. As in, the 25 billion of ’em coughed up by five mega lenders via the national mortgage servicer settlement. Also called the national foreclosure settlement. The lenders who hit homeowners with funky foreclosures and hence had to cough are Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally Financial Inc. Ally is the loan artist formerly known as GMAC. Why the name change? Cause “everybody needs an Ally”*.

Fun factoids about GMAC aka Ally: In 2008, the US Treasury invested $5 billion in GMAC (a sub of General Motors) from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In 2009, they added 7.5 billion, giving the government a majority stake in GMAC. In 2010, GMAC “rebranded” itself as Ally Financial Inc. By January, 2012, TARP had 12 billion invested in GMAC/Ally.

Is Ally’s slice of the mortgage settlement being served by TARP?

If so, please notify Peter he’s being robbed to pay Paul.

The Obama administration in the form of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pushed the mortgage servicer settlement; 49 state attorney generals added their heft. A few balked at first. Not enough money for my state said some. Others were bugged that the settlement scotched legal actions supposedly in the hopper. (The ultimate deal doesn’t nix actions re other bads the AGs may have discovered when investigating foreclosure abuses. Future prosecutions could still take place in the future.) New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the scariest holdout. He was in the belly of the Wall Street beast. He was gonna get them bastids!

Compassion for struggling homeowners– and quid pro quo– eventually won over the AGs. The settlement will help homeowners avoid foreclosure via various programs (insert pratfall sound effect here) and in some cases, mortgage modifications. About 750,000 victims of foreclosure fouls will receive $2000 each. No mule though.

Not all homeowners will qualify for assistance. Selections must be made. Homeowners best get busy kissing butt on their local politicized housing scene; non profit housing helpers will be guiding the mortgage settlement dispensation.

By the time the settlement makes it to local levels, there will be less to dispense. Hands at higher levels are already helping themselves.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) immediately skimmed $1 billion from the payout kicked in by Bank of America (BofA). Apparently BofA boffed the FHA with a boatload of bad loans. Poor FHA. Their taxpayer-backed loan portfolio is always giving them trouble. As for BofA, they must have really been macking around. Their part of the settlement is the heftiest.

State pols are also swarming the mortgage settlement, with governors and state reps claiming that since the busted housing bubble busted their budgets they deserve a piece of the pie.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (Democrat) wants to use almost all of his state’s $41 million cut as a budget plug. The state legislature leaders (Republican) say Yay Jay. In Pennsylvania, Dems are pushing the Republican attorney general to channel settlement funds into poverty programs. Maryland’s attorney general will give 10% of the state’s settlement cut to Governor Martin O’Malley (Democrat) and state reps “to spend as they choose”**.

Just when you think Mortgage Settlement Madness! couldn’t get any funnier, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (Republican) flaps onto the stage with a plan to use $26 million of the foreclosure rescue fund to plug his budget hole. This from the Friend-Of-All-Homeowners.

It also seems funny (as in “weird”) that state attorney generals will be dispensing money to public officials from a national settlement made by major financial institutions under threat of legal action by the very same attorney generals. The AGs’ leeway to control the cash was a crucial part of the mortgage settlement deal. Overall, the settlement is an attorney general power enhancer.

An oft asked question is why the financial crash of 2008 and the massive taxpayer bailouts that ensued didn’t lead to any prosecutions of major players. One of the answers– and there are many, none of which go down easy– may be that our state attorney generals increasingly treat financial crime in high places as a power tool and revenue source rather than something to be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, out in the lesser criminal fields, the mortgage servicer settlement is sparking new grifts. According to a press release*** by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, scammers in that state are already working the “landmark settlement”. (North Carolina’s banking commissioner incidentally, will be overseeing the mortgage servicer settlement.) Calling homeowners and promising I can get you a piece of the settlement but first I’ll need your bank account number…

The Government Real Estate Game has done it again. Mortgage Settlement Madness! promises to be a comedy keeper.

*ally/Ally Financial, FAQs, Why is GMAC rebranding to Ally Financial, Inc.? 2010

**Some money from mortgage settlement to be diverted, David A. Lib, Associated Press, 02/22/12

***Watch out for sham mortgage settlement calls, AG warns, North Carolina Department of Justice, 02/22/12

 

 

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Parker’s Chill, Cuomo’s Crony Capitalism Fever

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

While down with the flu in January, I read a lot of Richard Stark. Aka Donald Westlake. A pile of volumes from Stark/Westlake’s Parker series towered on my nightstand. The adventures and misadventures of Parker, an ultra cold hearted professional thief, were the perfect antidote to fever.

The late Donald Westlake grew up in Albany, New York. When interviewed in 1995, Westlake sounded sardonic and oblique about his youth in the capital city. And while a number of books in the Parker series take place in upstate New York, Albany is never a central location*. Characters pass through it or around it. Usually in a stolen car.

In Backflash (Mysterious Press, 1998) Albany as the seat of state government is central to the plot, yet few scenes are set in the city. A complex heist and series of murders are put in motion by Hilliard Cathman, a retired fiscal planner for the state. Cathman whiles away his retiree time as a public policy consultant with a low rent office near the “huge dark stone pile of the statehouse”. He is, as Parker puts it, one of the “camp followers of state government”.

Due to his opposition to legalized gambling, Cathman is an unsuccessful camp follower. His potential clients in legislative places are eager to tap into a major new source of revenue; Cathman won’t give them his consultant stamp of approval. His objections to gambling are arguable but reasonable. But as Parker suspects, Cathman’s ego investment in being proven right has become unbalanced.

To prove his premise that gambling draws crime, Cathman recruits Parker to rob a riverboat casino that’s being allowed to ply the Hudson between Albany and Poughkeepsie as a limited-time experiment. The casino’s political backers hope the experiment proves so successful as to open the door to gambling statewide. As a fiscal planner for the state, Cathman was privy to inside info about the casino’s security arrangements, etc. He feeds the info to Parker and his crew. They successfully pull the heist.

As usual in a Parker book, there are numerous slips twixt cup and lip. Most caused by the greed and stupidity of pilot fish swarming the haul. But the wildest card in the set-up is Cathman. In a final confrontation in Cathman’s home in Delmar (an Albany suburb popular with state employees) Parker discovers just how far round the bend Cathman has gone– and that he has a self-aggrandizing plan which if allowed to play out will doom Parker.

How many times do regular citizens make the same discovery about policy planners? Parker is Everyman!

Speaking of planners with killer bees in their bonnets…

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is big on forging more public-private partnerships as engines of state economic development. He said so in his Executive Budget speech on January 17th. (While sick I read non-fiction fiction as well as the real stuff.)

Yes indeed. More crony capitalism will cure New York’s economic ills. And Anna Nicole Smith needed bigger breast implants.

New York is crony capitalism central. The quadruple D example? The public-private partnership of Wall Street and Washington that pumped the housing bubble and sank the economy beneath a mountain of dodgy mortgage-backed investment paper. As assistant secretary and then secretary of HUD from 1993 to 2001, Andrew Cuomo helped steer housing policy when the bubble started swelling and the paper flying. Cuomo’s HUD policies included pushing “a reform that allowed Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac) to receive affordable-housing credit for buying private subprime mortgage-backed securities”**.

HUD was also the parent organization of OFHEO (Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight), the agency then charged with oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. OFHEO, under Cuomo and other HUD heads, resisted efforts to change Fannie and Freddie’s murky and ultimately disastrous public-private status.

By the time the bubble popped, Andrew Cuomo was New York State Attorney General. In 2007, Attorney General Cuomo announced that in light of the pop, he was launching an investigation into “industry-wide mortgage fraud”. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were prime targets. In a letter to Freddie Mac Cuomo implied that Fan and Fred had colluded with lenders to profit from mortgages based on inflated appraisals. In a matter of months, Cuomo’s investigation dissolved into a payout of $24 million from Fannie and Freddie. No admittance of wrongdoing required. The fraud problem was found to lay mainly with– and could be corrected at– the appraisal level.

Fannie and Freddie’s payout went to establishing the Independent Valuations Protection Institute. The institute, with board members approved by Andrew Cuomo, would monitor lenders for compliance with a new Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) authored by Cuomo. Though merely a state attorney general, Cuomo’s national clout re appraisal policy was enhanced by support for the code from OFHEO, the agency overseeing Fannie and Freddie.

In the bubble years many appraisers complained about being pressured by lenders to inflate values. Yet equally large numbers hate the reform Cuomo engineered. Some claim he had a conflict of interest when establishing HVCC.

Starting in 2004 and until becoming NY attorney general, Cuomo was chairman of the board of advisors at Appraisal Management Company (AMCO) a Cleveland-based private “independent valuations solutions company” doing business with national lenders. AMCO, a subsidiary of Worldwide Outsource Solutions Ltd., had a board full of HUD; including former HUD secretary Jack Kemp (under Bush 1) and assistant secretary William Apgar (under Clinton). Edward J. Davidson (Ed Davidson), CEO and board chairman of AMCO and Worldwide Outsource, has been a consultant for Fannie Mae.

In October, 2004, Cuomo, Kemp and Apgar told reporters at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention that “the integrity of the appraisal process has broken down”. American Banker described the presentation as “part admonishment of lenders, part sales pitch for a vendor”.***

In March, 2005, Cuomo, Davidson, Kemp and Apgar, in a letter on AMCO stationary, pressed OFHEO’s drirector, Armando Falcon, to have a “totally independent source” review the loans within Fannie and Freddie’s “securities field”.

In February 2006, AMCO issued a press release applauding board member Andrew Cuomo’s support for the newly formed non-profit Appraisal Advocacy Coalition. According to Inman News (a real estate publication), the coalition’s missions included protecting appraisers from “unfair competition“.

Maybe HVCC was a much needed reform. Note “was”. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is slated to end HVCC. (Then again, it may just be whittled down. Appraisers fear that the reports of HVCC’s death are greatly exaggerated.)

Discerning the true motives of public-private players can be tough. When on the public side, they so often launch investigations and reforms that obfuscate obfuscate obfuscate. I say keep the public public and the private private. It makes the game easier to call.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo touts public-private partnerships as the path to NY economic development, a sizable majority of New Yorkers get starry eyed. Not I.  It took more than the housing bubble and its bad paper and players to make me an unbeliever. Viewing New York’s public-private deal maker, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC or ESD), in action has also been instructive…

See corruption and wishful thinking meet and marry! See billions in public money tossed at elephantine projects that come to naught! See ginormous tax breaks produce handfuls of jobs in depressed regions! And oh yeah– see small property owners get dispossessed at the behest of powerful developers. Rampent eminent domain abuse being one of the rottenest of New York’s public-private fruits.

Next up in the fruit bowl: Governor Cuomo’s plan for a massive Las Vegas style casino in New York City. Most likely at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The casino would be built by the Genting Group of Malaysia. (They already run slots at Aqueduct.) To enhance the project, the state would erect “the largest convention center in the nation”  nearby. And get this; the casino could put all of New York State on “an inside track to expanded gambling”.

I just hope nobody tries to chill the project with a Parker.

As for Cuomo, his crony capitalism fever keeps rising. In late January, corporate campaign donors with their eyes on infrastructure prizes paid $50,000 each to sit next to Cuomo on a panel at a national Democratic Governors Association conference. The confab, which was held in Manhattan, was hosted by Governor Cuomo. No press or public allowed.

Sometimes it pays to go private.

 

* “I’ll leave Albany to Bill Kennedy. He’s found a lot more there to write about than I did.”  Mystery Man award-winning novelist Donald Westlake remembers his Albany haunts, Paul Grondahl, Albany Times Union, 10/21/95

** Cuomo’s HUD career under scrutiny, Buffalo News, 08/21/10

***Fears about Appraisals, and Other MBA Buzz, Jody Shenn, American Banker, 10/27/04

 

 

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Envisioning Occupy Wall Street as software, service

by David Solomonoff

The impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement goes far beyond a traditional protest around specific issues. The ability to rapidly respond to changing situations, a horizontal rather than vertical structure and an open source approach to developing news tools and strategies will be as significant in the long term – perhaps more so. The medium is definitely the message here.

 

In Forbes, E. D. Kain writes about how Occupy Wall Street protesters are engaging in a roll-reversal where the surveilled are surveilling the surveillers:

If the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis had happened before smart phones and video phones, it would have been the word of the protesters against the word of the police. If this had all happened before the internet and blogs and social media, it would have taken ages before the old media apparatus would have found the wherewithal to track down the truth and then disseminate that information.
Now the incident goes viral … Strangely, though, the police act as though these new realities don’t exist or don’t matter.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/11/19/maybe-its-time-to-occupy-the-police-state/

 

In The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal suggests one their biggest accomplishments has been to facilitate other protests in the same way a software interface allows programmers to access and re-purpose data on the Internet:

Metastatic, the protests have an organizational coherence that’s surprising for a movement with few actual leaders and almost no official institutions. Much of that can be traced to how Occupy Wall Street has functioned in catalyzing other protests. Local organizers can choose from the menu of options modeled in Zuccotti, and adapt them for local use. Occupy Wall Street was designed to be mined and recombined, not simply copied.
This idea crystallized for me yesterday when Jonathan Glick, a long-time digital journalist, tweeted, “I think #OWS was working better as an API than a destination site anyway.”
API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface.

What an API does, in essence, is make it easy for the information a service contains to be integrated with the wider Internet. So, to make the metaphor here clear, Occupy Wall Street today can be seen like the early days of Twitter.com. Nearly everyone accessed Twitter information through clients developed by people outside the Twitter HQ. These co-developers made Twitter vastly more useful by adding their own ideas to the basic functionality of the social network. These developers don’t have to take in all of OWS data or use all of the strategies developed at OWS. Instead, they can choose the most useful information streams for their own individual applications (i.e. occupations, memes, websites, essays, policy papers).

The metaphor turns out to reveal a useful way of thinking about the components that have gone into the protest.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2011/11/a-guide-to-the-occupy-wall-street-api-or-why-the-nerdiest-way-to-think-about-ows-is-so-useful/248562/

John Robb examines their progress from the perspective of military strategist John Boyd:

The dynamic of Boyd’s strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors. It’s very network centric for a pre-Internet theoretician.

Physical. No isolation was achieved. The physical connections of police forces remained intact. However, these incidents provided confirmation to protesters that physical filming/imaging of the protests is valuable. Given how compelling this media is, it will radically increase the professional media’s coverage of events AND increase the number of protesters recording incidents.

Mental. These incidents will cause confusion within police forces. If leaders (Mayors and college administrators) back down or vacillate over these tactics due to media pressure, it will confuse policemen in the field. In short, it will create uncertainty and doubt over what the rules of engagement actually are. IN contrast, these media events have clarified how to turn police violence into useful tools for Occupy protesters.

Moral. This is the area of connection that was damaged the most. Most people watching these videos feel that this violence is both a) illegitimate and b) excessive.

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2011/11/occupy-note-112011-boyd-pepper-spray-and-tools-of-compliance-ows.html

Following on Robb’s point, the videos also increase the moral liability of journalists and politicians who attack and denounce the movement.

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Update: Gingrich bumps Corzine as Batman’s Two-Face!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

It takes a lot to shock Hollywood. But the news that Newt Gingrich has bumped Jon Corzine as supervillain Two-Face in the next Batman is making jaws drop in Dream City. Corzine was reportedly in like Flynn; his duplicitous doings at MF Global made him Two-Face to the max. Sure, Jon had heavy competition from the powers-that-be at Penn State, but sports figures often flop on the big screen. (See OJ in assorted  turkeys.) Sources close to Batman’s producers say Jon was already sitting for his Two-Face make-up when a story broke at Bloomberg about Newt Gingrich being paid $1.6 million over eight years for acting as advisor to housing bubble enabler Freddie Mac.

So what sez you, what’s Two-Face about that? Well kiddies, ever since the bubble-derived economic meltdown of 2008, Gingrich has been a humongous critic of Freddie Mac and its partner in crime (the kind that never gets prosecuted) Fannie Mae. Even saying that Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank ought to go to jail for his tight past relationship with Freddie Mac’s lobbyists.

Does this epitomize Two-Face or what? Batman’s producers did a Molly Bloom and said “yes”. Jon out, Newt in.

Prior to 2008, Newt (gotta love that name ) allegedly buzzed into the ears of Freddie Mac lobbyists, telling them how to sell the “company’s public-private structure” in a way “that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it”. Meanwhile, at the White House, top Freddie Mac lobbyist Mitchell Delk channeled Newt when pitching expanded home ownership programs to President Bush. The channeling took place during the period when Freddie and Fannie were hot to roll out ever more extreme experiments in mortgage-derived madness. (Lest we forget, Freddie and Fannie aren’t lenders; they buy and securitize mortgages, turning them into taxpayer-backed investment fodder.) According to Delk, Dubya was hip to what the political bennies “could be for Republicans and…. their relationship with Hispanics.”

Not that Dubya was all opportunism and no ideals. Remember The Ownership Society? It opened well among neocons, then nosedived into bailout land. So far, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (or is it “Mack”?) have raked in roughly $169 billion of rescue. Both say they need more. Much more. Freddie alone is seeking $1.8 billion.

Question: Should Newt Gingrich kick his Batman bux back to taxpayers? I say “yes!” His turn as Freddie Mac’s Janus landed him the way cooler role of Two-Face. He owes us big time…

 

 

 

 

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Occupy Albany: Trick Or Treat?

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Happy Halloween! Last weekend, New York Governor Andy Cuomo ordered his dog, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, to have state and city cops chase Occupy Albany campers out of a downtown park in the Capital City. But oops, both sets of cops (and Albany County District Attorney David Soares) balked. Lots of reasons. Some jake, some not. Among the latter, law enforcement concern (according to Soares) that a forcible removal would trigger a simpatico, bad publicity action by the riotous Kegs N’ Eggs SUNY kids up in Pine Hills, aka the Student Ghetto. As if! Beer isn’t being served by Occupy Albany. Question: is Governor Andy snarling about his lack of authority? Will he punish bad dog Jerry by withholding bacon bacon bacon? And finally– can Occupy Albany attract real folks not just the usual aged-in-wood suspects? Here’s hoping. Sincerely.

Andy's Trick or Treat

 

 

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Albany’s Historic Student Ghetto: Kegs N Eggs Mark the Spot

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Albany, New York isn’t just the seat of a clown car state government– it’s also a college town. And college students, when boozed to the gills, can out-bozo politicians. (Well, almost.) On March 12th crowds of drunken students rioted in the Albany neighborhood known as the student ghetto. The lads and lassies, most of whom seemed to be from UAlbany (a major campus of the State University of New York aka SUNY), had prepped for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade with hours of bar crawls and Kegs and Eggs house parties. Eventually the breakfast bunch spewed out onto the frosty streets.

The Albany Student Press claims that the Albany police, in an effort to tamp down the annual festival of collegiate binge drinking, had rousted the house parties. Pushing participants outdoors where “frat boys and sorority chicks”* joined them in solidarity. The non-student press hasn’t mentioned any rousts. Whatever. Hundreds of students milled in the streets, wearing neon green tees and bellowing like cattle on jimsonweed. Smaller groups commenced to trash. Cars were pushed into the street and smashed. Appliances were hurled from balconies. Cans and bottles flew. Several cops were tackled. Most (though not all) in the crowd laughed to see such sport. Their cellphones captured the riot. YouTube took it viral. Suddenly, all eyes were on Albany’s student ghetto.

Albany pols and college officials freaked. Were they riled by the riot– or the nationwide publicity?

Callow binge drinkers have been stampeding in the student ghetto for years. And not just during the daze of St. Pat’s. A brief search of YouTube turns up numerous vids of students from UAlbany and the College of St. Rose (a private university adjacent to the student ghetto) making merry on many occasions. Heck– I lived on the edge of the student ghetto in 2000/2001 and can personally attest that every weekend, except for ones during breaks and vacations, was a holiday in the hood. Or should I say– a party in its mouth? The sidewalks were a mosaic of greasy pizza boxes, crushed beer cups, broken bottles, and vom. In winter the mosaic froze over, spring brought the big patty melt.

Walking through the student ghetto was an eyeball assault. Its once-beautiful two and three family homes were sinking into the sludge. Absentee landlords and young lugs living la vida transient don’t do upkeep. A virtual tour of the homes’ interiors can now be had on YouTube. Footage of semiconscious or completely zonked students being owned by their roomies is a staple on Student Ghetto, The Reality Show. If you look past the limp bodies in funny degrading poses, you can see the subdivided warrens, rats’ nest wiring, and broken windows covered with trash bags.

Code enforcement? What code enforcement?

I used to wonder if parents actually visited their kids’ digs. And what they thought if they did. After all, parents frequently pay for those digs. Some even send rent directly to the landlords. I also wondered if parents understood the intensity– and heavy underage aspect– of the student ghetto bar scene. It gave me quite a turn to see really young girls staggering out of bars blitzed blind and dumb. Particularly since the neighborhood is also a crime scene.

Muggings, assaults, and burglary shadow the student ghetto. Students are perceived as easy pickings; predators from other ghettos come to partake. In the autumn of 2008, a UAlbany senior was shot to death a few blocks from where I once lived. Drug trade? It’s like, historic. One street has an evil rep going back decades. From my window I watched deals going down on the corner of said street. The longevity of its rep made me cynical (wrongly, I’m sure) about notifying the Albany police. Instead I called the county cops and hoped for the best.

But back to Kegs and Eggs. Some 40 students were arrested. A few days after the riot YouTube footage was being used to identify more participants. Pictures taken from videos were released to the press. (Many of the alleged perps seemed in dire need of Clearasil.) Detective James Miller, official spokesman for the Albany Police Department, promised swift and certain justice.

On March 16th, a New York Daily News editorial blasted SUNY Albany for being known for “hard partying” rather than quality education. The editorial also denounced the “moms and dads” of the rioters, for contributing to a “culture you let sprout into criminal proceedings”. The next day, the first of the UAlbany students seen in the video pictures turned himself in. OMG! His father turned out to be Bob Sapio, senior executive editor of the New York Daily News. Was Dad’s face red!

Also red faced: Detective James Miller, official spokesman for the Albany Police Department. On March 18th Detective Miller (now on suspension) was arrested for allegedly driving drunk. In an official vehicle, while off duty. Miller apparently refused to take a breathalyser test. DWI cases can be more difficult to prosecute sans results from breath tests. In some cities, police officers aren’t allowed to refuse breathalysers. But Albany has its own way of doing things.

For instance, despite much local coverage of the Kegs and Eggs riot, plus related articles about housing conditions in the student ghetto, the neighborhood’s worst landlords have yet to be outed by the news media. And given the lack of code enforcement (a problem in more nabes than just the student ghetto) you’d expect some investigative reporting on who hearts who– politically speaking.

Another Albany oddity: the in-office longevity of Mayor Jerry Jennings. When Jennings ran for his first term in 1993 yes 1993 he waxed reformer about the student ghetto and vowed change. He renews those vows regularly. Particularly when public funding can be accessed via the vowing.

In April 2005, Mayor Jennings took an after dark walking tour of the student ghetto, accompanied by the late Kermit L. Hall, then president of SUNY at Albany. The town and gown twosome dialogued with students hanging in front of bars and tut-tutted over slum conditions. President Hall vowed to help rid the neighborhood of drugs, violence, and blight. Some $400,000 in government grants was set to flow through the New York State Division Of Criminal Justice into a “historic partnership”** between SUNY Albany and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC– as part of the crime fighting initiative Operation Impact. The Albany police were eventually outfitted with cool tech tools via Operation Impact. Department officials say crime in Albany is being fought more successfully thanks to those tools. Folks in and around the student ghetto aren’t convinced.

Operation Impact is one of many initiatives that over the years, have been accessed by Mayor Jerry Jennings and a string of area college officials in efforts to re-imagine the student ghetto. Yet somehow, the neighborhood remains a place where impressionable young oafs and oafettes pick up the perception that civilization is far far away.

But change may finally be in the wind. City officials are now making a concentrated effort to refer to the student ghetto as the Education District…

*Assigning blame for Kegs N Eggs melee, Albany Student Press, 03/26/11

**Governor Pataki Announces Historic Partnership with UAlbany and John Jay College to Develop Enhanced Crime Fighting Initiatives Impact, Office of the Governor Press Release, 04/04/05

 

 

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Governor Andrew Cuomo: Day One, Everything Freezes

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

And so it begins. Not with a bang but a brrrrrr. On January 5th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo laid down his first State of the State address in a freezing cold auditorium at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The space wasn’t frigid by accident. Some like it hot, but Andy does not. According to a Cuomo minion quoted in the New York Times, walk-in refrigerators are his thing. The “meat locker”* temp at the Center drove some older legislators to wrap themselves in blankets. Which apparently are kept handily at hand in the Empire State Plaza linen closet.

Imagine the scene as seen from the podium by Andrew Cuomo! New York’s most venerable reps (some of whom have held office since the daze of Rip Van Winkle) huddled in blankets like refugees, their blue-lipped faces upturned in a mass mask of rapt attention.

None the less, the clapping for Cuomo was somewhat subdued– folks feared their fingers might shatter.

Another big chill: Cuomo’s inaugural address in the State Capital on New Year’s Day. The evening before, his office ordered that the windows of the room where Andy would speak be kept open all night. Whether or not the heat was turned off in that room, or the rest of the building, during those hours is unknown. It’s also not known if Cuomo counted how many blankets were returned by the venerable legislators after his frosty State of the State. My guess is yes– the heat was snuffed and the blankets counted. Andy has promised to cut waste and spending and protect New York taxpayers. He’s also promising to deliver “a new reality”**. Hopefully, the latter won’t include a New Ice Age.

Personally, I get nervous when pols use such godlike terms. X Governor Eliot Spitzer was big on holy pronouncements. Most famous: “Day one, everything changes.” On Spitzer’s inauguration day, New Yorkers got up bright and early. Couldn’t wait to see the sun rise in the west. Alas. No go. But not much more than a year later, everyone in the USA got to see Spitzer go down in the east.

While campaigning Andrew Cuomo took care to distance himself from Spitzer; keeping his control freak tamped down (most of the time) and vowing not to be planning any big changes for “day one”. His choice of residence as governor is in keeping with that vow. Like the last three governors before him (including Eliot Spitzer) Cuomo won’t be living full time in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany. His main digs will be downstate, where most of the state’s money lives.

Some Albanians were disappointed by Andy’s choice, seeing that he implied otherwise while campaigning. They should be heaving sighs of relief. The Mansion is an old historic building. Four years or more of open windows on winter nights would destroy it. Then there’s the havoc that the frozen water pipes and lines would wreak on the nearby sidewalk and street. Plus, if Andy were to hang in the mansion full time his significant other, Sandra Lee, might be tempted to go on a decorating binge. Anyone who’s seen her holiday “tablescapes” on the Food Channel knows what that would mean. Think pink pink pink and acres of frou-frou. The graceful old manse would wind up looking like a semi-homemade pop tart.

Back to Andy’s love of the freeze. Why is a mystery. Sure– some unkind people say his eyes have a shark-like quality. And that his political ambitions keep him circling endlessly, without sleeping. But I don’t believe for an instant that Andy is a secret Great White who needs the deep chill and wants to swallow smaller fish and rip the limbs off unlucky surfers. My guess is that the New York Times reporter had it right when she suggested Andy may like cold rooms ’cause they keep audiences alert. When I heard his State of the State on the radio my windows were shut and the heat was on. After about 10 minutes of Andy’s fifty minute speech, I was feeling sleepy very sleepy…

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

*Going to an Event Featuring Cuomo? Take a Coat, or Maybe a Blanket, Elizabeth A Harris, New York Times, 01/06/11

Cuomo outlines new reality”, Jimmy Vielkind, Albany Times Union, 01/03/11

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The Cassette Culture Sound of Solomonoff & Von Hoffmannstahl– in Stereo!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

If only I were Edith Piaf. But alas, I can’t say je ne regrette rien. Once upon a wasted time (circa late 1970’s and early 80’s) I hung on New York City’s downtown art/music scene. The scene never fit me, I tried to fit it. Which was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. My only excuse is that I was caught in a spiritual downdraft. Couldn’t see how deeply the Punk New Wave No Wave Ironic Transgressive thing wasn’t me. Its gods weren’t mine. The Velvet Underground gave good vinyl but their legend was tiresome. William Burroughs seemed shallow. Neo-Expressionism? A few pieces were sharp (albeit over-priced) but a lot looked like puke splattered on a sidewalk outside the Mudd Club .

Oh. Yeah. Those fabulous avant-garde nite spots…

Color me ashamed for ever taking pride in being approved by a doorman.

By ’83, I was outta there. Living in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from Manhattan. In those days Hoboken felt far from NYC. An escape from hip happening hell. David Solomonoff (my future husband) and I lived in a five floor walk-up in the tallest building on our block. No telephone. Couldn’t afford it. Up there in the clouds, where no phone ever rang, we began doing Mail Art and making music cassettes as Solomonoff & Von Hoffmannstahl. The post office became our scene and we loved it. No cliques, clacks or clutter, just real deal underground art. Via snail mail we connected with artists and musicians all over the world.

Our first connect came via Jim Sauter of Borbetomagus. (Aka the “pioneers of aggressive improvised noise music”.) Jim gave us contact info for Japanese Mail Artist and musician Masami Akita. The work received from Akita was a revelation. His dense rich collages were non splatter and his music as Merzbow was full-tilt lush noise. Apres Akita, the deluge. Our correspondents eventually numbered in the hundreds. Some were creative trifectas (art, music, words) others specialized. We developed collaborative relationships (as opposed to just trading work) with many, both for Mail Art and cassette projects. We contributed numerous pieces to cassette compilations and also supplied material for other musicians to cut up and rework.

In no particular order, our cassette culture collaborators* included: Joel Haertling (Architect’s Office), Zan Hoffman (Zanstones, Zanoisect, Zidsick, etc.), Al Margolis (Sound of Pig; If Bwana), GX Jupitter-Larsen (The Haters), Seiei Jack Nakahara (Joke Project), Rafael Flores (Comando Bruno), Mike Honeycutt (Mystery Hearsay), M. Nomized (Fraction Studio), Hal McGee (Homemade Alien Music), Shinichi Igari (Uterus of Plant), Alain Neffe (Insane Music Productions), Rudi Tuscher (Nisus Anal Furgler), Wally Shoup, Kowa Kato, Bart Plantenga, Ken Clinger, Denier Du Culte, Calypso Now, Soft Joke Productions, Magthea, Absolute Body Control, DDAA (Déficit Des Années Antérieures), Intrendent Fansette, Bog-Art, Reportage, and So On & So Forth. The last a place holder for anyone I’ve inadvertently omitted.

Over roughly four years, we produced five cassette “albums”: In The Mood, Swim Or Die, Great In Bed, God Is Love, and finally, The Element That Defies Description. Great In Bed was a compilation which included work by some of the people listed above. It came packaged in a black nylon stocking. (We’d bought boxes of them at a Hoboken odd lots store.) In The Element we took tracks supplied by others and reworked the material into an overarching musical structure and metaphysical theme.

The Solomonoff & Von Hoffmannstahl sound was shaped by having little money. Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood once said “A man’s got to know his limitations.” The same goes for broke musicians. Our equipment was limited and we knew those limitations intimately. We worked them. Our apartment was our studio. Its ancient inadequate wiring meant lots of line hum. The hum would sing in shrill choruses when channeled through the frequency analyzer (aka ring modulator), a groovy 70’s effect manufactured by Electro-Harmonix. David had a made-in-Korea electric guitar and a Polytone Mini-Brute amp. Which was indeed brutish. When its spring-reverb was sproinging and its distortion was cranked the Mini-Brute turned into Godzilla doing Tokyo. We also had a vintage tube hifi amp which we played through the kind of wooden PA speakers that once hung in schoolrooms.

Our biggest (in terms of size and lineage) instrument was a 1960’s Vox Continental organ. The keyboard that carried The Doors. When momentarily flush from a freelance writing job, I’d bought the Vox for 200 bucks from The Major Thinkers, an Irish punk group. They claimed it previously belonged to Hall & Oates. The Vox was a workhorse. It had a few iffy drawbars but the randomness was a good thing; it seemed as if the Vox were actively improvising. Vox and Mini-Brute were bosom buddies.

Our other keyboards were miniature Casios. An MT-40 and VL-5. Among the earlier Casios on the market, their cheesy rhythm sections had options that allowed jump-cut transitions twixt say, samba and disco. When jacked with the line-humming frequency analyzer and/or our Doctor Q envelope filter (also made by Electro-Harmonix) samba and disco shattered into infinity. When the Casios’ batteries got weak, the shattering became even more extreme.

We also snagged rhythm from records. Most typically, ones from the 1950’s that demonstrated the exciting new audio technology of Stereo. Think demented bongos bouncing back and forth, forth and back, while Dad mixes martinis (clink clink) in the rec room. We also pulled snippets of exotic instrumentation from easy listening albums. We found countless treasures of Incredibly Strange Music and Exotica in Hoboken’s many junk shops. Prices ranged from 10 cents to a dollar. An LP had to be really special to warrant a dollar. Something like: Mario Lanza Gargles Gershwin– in Stereo.

We listened intently to the records we mined. Culling snippets of rhythm, minuscule musical phrases, and single syllables. Everything we sampled was sampled without a sampler. David was fast on the draw with our Pioneer turntable. He’d hover over a spinning platter, tone arm in hand– his other hand poised to punch the ree-cord button on our cheapie cassette deck. We had three cheapie decks. Plus a stereo amp with cheapie speakers, a good set of headphones, and a Radio Shack four channel mixer. Four tracks in, two tracks out. Layer up and do it all over again. Toss in a few guitar effect pedals (which we also used on samples and keyboards), a Roland analog micro synth/sequencer, a microphone, and me on vocals. That was our sound. Tech wise. As for the creative process–

When creating a piece we carefully assembled and structured the materials, then combined them through improvisation. We’d have a clear idea of what mood we wanted to create, how it should sound, and how the piece should generally progress. But the road was open to inspiration. Instrumentals by David and myself, together and solo, were improvised but sometimes sampled, cut-up, and recast. My vocals were fairly straight (no, no Yoko) inclining more to cocktail lounge and big band than rock. Sometimes a bit gospel. The sound of Solomonoff & Von Hoffmannstahl (in Stereo) was/is described by others with words such as Industrial, Electronic, Experimental, Sound-Collage, Noise, Art-Rock. I’ve never known how to describe it. Guess I’d just say it is what it is.

One thing I do know– we had a whole lot of fun doing it. Though being so broke was no fun. That big old railroad apartment was only heated at one end, by the kind of gas heater that even then was archaic. Up on the top floor we froze in the winter and baked in the summer. We didn’t have a stove for a year and juggled pots on a hot plate. And like I said, no phone. But hey, we always managed to scrape together enough for postage and blank cassettes. And when the no-cash blues got tough we got going. Cranking the Mini-Brute to the max and ring-modulating our cares into the international ether.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Mondo QT

“I hear you singing in the wire, I can hear you through the whine…”

Wichita Lineman, Jimmy Webb, 1968

*So as to not clog this paragraph with links, I’m supplying contacts and/or background material re our cassette collaborators below. Haven’t been in touch with some of them for years. Apologies if I’ve missed more apropos links:

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Mondo QT

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Mix Stash of Potential Explosives w. Multi Family Dwelling, Toss Carefully

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Sometimes a story is so local it jumps up and bites you. Such is the case with the stash of potentially explosive materials found in an apartment building in the town where I live. Say hey for Delmar, New York.  It’s a mighty nice place. Delmar is a suburb of Albany. The kind of old leafy suburb extolled by folks who like old leafy suburbs. Not completely crime free, but certainly not Albany. So when a stockpile of HAZMAT materials turns up in the basement of a small tidy apartment complex in an old leafy neighborhood, eyebrows get raised. Particularly when there’s an ongoing back story…

First story first. On the afternoon of November 30th, police were summoned to the Cherry Arms apartment complex on Delaware Avenue in Delmar. A resident had spotted large amounts of what looked to be suspicious chemicals, plus some sort of weird device in the basement’s common storage area. Though a space where most people store boxes of old tchotchkes seems an odd place to keep acetone, xylene, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, butane, and gosh knows what else, there they were. Along with a commercial-grade vacuum chamber. A hefty item (some 400 pounds) that resembles a cross between an old fashioned safe and a commercial laundry extractor.

After the cops scoped the basement, the Albany County HAZMAT Team tossed it. Carefully. For safety’s sake tenants were told to vacate their apartments. Jason Sanchez, age 24, refused. He allegedly got way huffy. To the point where he had to be hauled from the scene. The bads in the basement allegedly belonged to Sanchez. A search warrant allegedly turned up more materials in his apartment. On December 1st, Jason Sanchez was charged with resisting arrest and first-degree reckless endangerment,

If stored in close proximity a number of the substances found in the Cherry Arms basement are potential explosives. Storage areas are generally full of fire food. The Cherry Arms is a multi family building. According to a tenant quoted on local ABC News 10 (Arrest made during Hazmat situation in Delmar) it contains 18 gas furnaces. (A comment posted in response to the story says there are no furnaces.) The building is closely surrounded by other residences and is catty-corner from a gas station. The convenience store right across the street is a popular hangout for students from the high school down the block.

Jason Sanchez is a grad student (computer science) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, across the Hudson River from Albany. So far, Sanchez isn’t saying what he was planning to do with the substances found in his basement and apartment. The Bethlehem police (the village of Delmar is in the township of Bethlehem) are investigating. Deputy Police Chief Timothy Beebe says Sanchez “had apparently been setting up some type of laboratory in there”*. Adding that the basement set-up didn’t seem to be intended as a home-on-the-range meth lab. Official focus seems to be on the possibility that booms were in the works.

Interesting but no doubt unrelated factoid: acetone, xylene, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and butane (the identified substances found at the Cherry Arms) are what’s known as over-the-counter-solvents. Aka OTC Solvents. OTC Solvents can be used to process various drugs that aren’t meth. For instance, to extract THC from marijuana and produce stronger concentrates of high. Googling “OTC Solvents” brings up lots of how-to info on extraction, plus numerous warnings about handling and storing solvents.

Interesting but no doubt unrelated factoid about vacuum chambers: an 06/20/09 posting titled “Get All Your Cannabinoids” at marijuana.com sez “In laboratories when we need to remove solvents or by-products and our target compound is sensitive to heat, sometimes we use a vacuum chamber to remove solvents and byproducts..in the lab when we boil off compounds we don’t save what boils off, it gets whisked away by the vacuum pump. So the challenge is building a vacuum chamber vaporizer. How can this be designed? Does anyone have any ideas?..If this can be done we could produce true medical grade vaporizers. A vaporizer that is extremely efficient and gets all the cannabinoids.”

Speaking of cannabinoids, in late August the NY State police discovered a large scale marijuana farm operating out of a Delmar warehouse, at a Delaware Avenue address just a block or so south of the high school. The discovery was pure serendipity; the police were on the premises as part of an unrelated investigation. (The nature of which was never revealed.) Three farmers were busted. One pleaded guilty in October. When not tilling the soil, Yoeman Ray Marshall was snapping up rundown rental properties in downtown Albany. Buying dozens at open bid auctions run by Albany County.

But I digress. Back to the dangers of storing potential explosives in basements.

On December 19th, 2009, a fire destroyed a single family home at 151 Adams Place in Delmar, in a nabe within walking distance of the Cherry Arms. The fire started with an explosion in the basement caused by a collection of unidentified chemicals. As the fire tore through the house, smaller explosions went off. Neighbors were evacuated from nearby homes. The residents of 151 Adams? Jason Sanchez wasn’t at home that afternoon.  But his mother was, along with his 15 year old brother.

Jason’s mother was unharmed but his brother was in the basement when the initial explosion occurred. He lost several fingers and was severely burned. A local law enforcement officer stated he may have been handling the chemicals that touched off the explosion. Jason Sanchez’s brother spent several months in the hospital. Delmar is a public spirited place and schoolmates and family friends raised more than $20,000 to help the Sanchez family get back on their feet.

In late February 2010, Jason’s mother, a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Delmar Fire Department, won the “Keep America Running Hometown Hero” award (a program sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts) for using her emergency response training in pulling her 15 year old son out of the basement at 151 Adams.Two police officers had completed the rescue, moving the boy out of the house.

By March, the official investigation into the fire had come to “a little bit of a standstill”**. Mother Sanchez was refusing to be interviewed by the police. She also wouldn’t let them talk to Jason’s brother. The police did claim to know what chemicals had caused the explosion– but they weren’t releasing the info ’cause the investigation was ongoing. Almost a year after the explosion and resulting fire that burned 151 Adams Place to the ground, the investigation is still ongoing. Will the stash of potential explosives found in the basement of the multi-family Cherry Arms make the on-go move faster? Possibly. Though in old leafy suburbs, time moves more gracefully…

*’A grave risk of death‘, Stephanie Lee, Albany Times Union, 12/01/10

**Mother won’t talk about fire, Christen Gowan, Albany Times Union, 03/03/10

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The wacky little Caesars of Upstate New York

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Ho humdrum. It’s back to political bidness in the Empire State. The gubernatorial race ended just as predicted. Andrew Cuomo finally got elected to something. (Becoming attorney general on Eliot Spitzer’s coat tails doesn’t count.) Not that beating Carl Paladino is proof of public appeal. A friend of mine in Hudson County, New Jersey suggested that Andy’s dad, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, hired Paladino. I gave this theory serious consideration. Hudson County knows good ringers. (Point of info for folks living in Eden: political ringers are fake reform candidates who divide or reduce opposition to the machine candidate.) But as the campaign devolved, I rejected the notion. Buffalo developer Carl Paladino is definitely his own man. Albeit of an easily recognizable type. In upstate political circles, wacky little Caesars are a dime a dozen. Some are truly extreme. Remember Congressman Eric Massa?

Until resigning in March 2010, Democrat Massa repped the gerrymandered 29th district. The 29th contains a hefty chunk of primarily Democratic suburban Rochester in western New York, plus a swath of the state’s more Republican Southern Tier. (The latter incidentally, has a particularly fine collection of Caesars.)

Massa resigned under a cloud of sex scandal that reeked of abuse of power; he allegedly had a habit of harassing young male staffers verbally and physically. Coming on crude and overbearing. (Similar stories surfaced about Massa as a Lt. Commander in the Navy in the early 90s. Officers of lesser rank who shared quarters with Massa recalled waking up at night with his hands all over them– or with his junk in their face.) The scandal was a big story because Congressman Massa claimed top Democrats had targeted him for extinction, smearing him with lies damn lies. Why? Because Massa wouldn’t sign on to ObamaCare; he wanted a single-payer system. Massa later back pedaled on the claim, most spectacularly on the Glenn Beck show.

Beck had Massa on as a guest for a full hour in early March, thinking he was going to tell ALL about corrupt, arm-twisting Dems. But Massa only talked vaguely of how big money (from unnamed sources to unnamed pols) was corrupting both parties. Massa did talk at length about his “tickle fights”. Which were being seen through a glass, lewdly. His pile-on gropings of staffers were merely the horseplay of a rough mannered ex-military guy.

Every time Glenn Beck tried to pry Democrat dirt out of Massa, he dodged with tickle fight talk. Personally, I believe Massa’s appearance on Beck was the point at which Beck went round the bend. Before Massa (BM) I sometimes agreed with Beck and often found him funny. Sure, his sharp bi-partisan satire was already segueing into lectures re a vast, astonishingly competent commie conspiracy. And the Holy Prophet thing was kicking in. But after Massa (AM) Beck’s head totally ballooned.

Mother of God– did Eric Massa pass along the imp of the wacky little Caesar? If so, Upstate New York owes Beck an exorcism.

As for X Congressman Massa, no need to fear for his future. Word is, he’s been snapped up by the TSA. (The TSA is a big contractor in the Southern Tier.) Look for him at your local airport.

Massa is an extreme example of a wacky little Caesar. (He may actually qualify as a wacky little Caligula.) But his assumption that bully fun is a perk of power, along with his tone-deaf narcissism, are typical of many players in politically airless upstate New York. Where decadence isn’t divine, just day to day mundane. It’s been bred into the region’s old boys (and girls) by hoary political  machines riding high in a post-industrial landscape of shrinking population. A sizable influx of civic minded residents might shake things up, but jobs that pay middle class wages are scarce. However, there is an influx of poor folks with substance abuse problems. They’re being shipped upstate to partake of one of the few growth industries. Halfway-Houses-R-Us! As an electorate, the poor and addicted are swell for political machines. What with their being so dependent on public money and all.

Speaking of being dependent on public money– and political machines– consider what passes for economic development in Upstate New York. Being Joe Doakes with a good idea for building widgets doesn’t cut it. Just try and build a few prototypes in your garage, Joe! Red tape and taxes will be on you like Eric Massa on a staffer. Meanwhile, when Widgetom Inc, a multi-national company supposedly headquartered somewhere in the USA, announces plans to build a facility upstate, they get the red carpet treatment from local pols, development officials, and New York’s quasi-public Empire State Development Corporation (ESD). In exchange for talking job creation and revitalization, and for stroking the egos and jazzing the war chests and vacation trips of assorted little Caesars, Widgetom receives tax breaks, public utility deals, EZ loans, and exemptions from environmental and land use regulations. Plus tons of taxpayer cash in combo platters of state and federal grants.

After several years of breathless local press coverage re Widgetom and the glorious revitalized future, Widgetom will announce that due to changing economic conditions and technological developments, the future will be smaller than initially projected. Maybe delayed indefinitely. However, a few more grants might just pull the rabbit out of the hat. Pols and development officials agree to stand and deliver. So much has already gone into the hat. The future of the region is at stake. Widgetom is too big to fail!

As for Joe Doakes, if he doesn’t flee the state, he may hew his way to a small business start-up. Heck, he might even get a few bucks from the local ESD funnel. (As long as his product doesn’t compete with Widgetom.) Tip 4 Joe: get cozy with your local little Caesars. Fealty can B fun.

Getting back to New York’s gubernatorial election, though numerous other states were able to field credible reform candidates of the Tea Party variety for major offices, the Empire State put forth Carl Paladino. An ultra wacky little Caesar whose real estate ponderosa in the Buffalo area is heavily dependent on state government contracts and ESD-based tax breaks. His bully in a china shop campaign style? I am what I am said Paladino. (Him and Popeye.) A rough mannered son-of-an-immigrant guy. At least Paladino wasn’t into tickle fights. He only emailed extreme pornography (woman w. horse) and puerile racist jokes to dozens of business associates, including ones with government addresses.

That Carl Paladino passed as a populist reformer in so much of upstate is a sign of that region’s decadent political condition. On the statewide front, the election of Andrew Cuomo, after no real race, is a like-minded sign. We New Yorkers love our Caesars. Be they little or big. As for the wacky, will Andy turn? Never say never. (See Eliot Spitzer.)

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