Posts Tagged ‘Cuomo’

A livable, not a minimum, wage

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ... wants $15/hr minimum wage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
… wants $15/hr minimum wage

When New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the ante on the state’s minimum wage a couple of weeks ago, saying that $15 an hour sounded good to him, he also changed the nature of the political debate about what people get paid.    

For those who decide such things — well-paid politicians, usually — no longer is it a question of how little can we get away with paying people to do boring, tiresome jobs we wouldn’t do ourselves, but rather, what constitutes a minimum amount people can actually support themselves on? What’s a minimum livable wage?

With echoes of his late father’s call to take heed that all are included in the fruits of a prospering society, Cuomo did an about-face on the $15-an-hour wage shortly after signing on to that rate as a minimum for fast-food workers in the state. A panel appointed by Cuomo had recommended the $15 minimum and the state labor board agreed. Cuomo made it official. That rate will be phased in over six years.

But that left the state with the somewhat awkward circumstance of largely part-time, fast-food workers earning more than some people working at other, full time jobs in offices, schools, etc. Challenged on this contradiction, Cuomo was quick to recognize it. If $15 an hour is the minimum that fast-food workers need to live in New York without depending on other assistance, it certainly is a fair minimum wage for all workers in the state, he agreed. He said he would urge the state Legislature to approve the increase.

On cue, Republicans went into mock shock at the thought that every New Yorker should be able to earn, not just a wage, but a livable wage. Alluding to the governor’s own comment of a few months ago that a $15-an-hour minimum wage being sought by fast-food workers was “too high” and that $10.50 an hour was more realistic, State Sen. Jack M. Martins, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, said, “I really don’t know what happened between $10.50 six months ago and $15 now. What’s the significance of $15? In my mind it’s a political number. The governor has not established $15 as a fair number.”

Well, I can’t read the governor’s mind, but let me answer Martins’ question anyway. What happened between $10.50 an hour and $15 is that the Republican-controlled state Senate flatly rejected Cuomo’s request for $10.50 and agreed instead to phase in a raise in the state minimum wage from $8.75 an hour to $9 an hour next year. Apparently, Republicans senators — who are paid a base salary of $79,500 a year and receive a $172 per diem allowance — consider a quarter-an-hour raise to be a major beneficence.

So maybe Cuomo did some calculations, mathematical and, yes, political, and decided it made no sense any more piddling around with proposals for small, incremental increases when the math added up otherwise. At $15 an hour, for a 40-hour week, someone would earn about $31,200 a year. That’s a barely livable wage for someone with a small family, but it’s a lot better than the $21,840 that a $10.50-an-hour salary adds up to.

In fact, that $21,840 is barely above the $20,090 federal poverty level for a family of three, according to government figures used to qualify people for a variety of assistance programs, including Medicaid. The $9-an-hour rate New York legislators generously approved comes to $18,720 for a full time, 40-hour work week. Of course, fast-food franchises typically don’t hire anyone for a 40-hour-week, thereby saving on overtime, insurance, sick pay, vacation and other benefits. The $15-an-hour rate would at least help workers make up for some of those exclusions.

The idea didn’t originate in New York. The cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have plans in motion to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. New York would be the first state to do so.

But is it, as Martins questioned, a fair number? Apparently New Yorkers think so. Two recent surveys showed a solid majority of residents in favor of the $15 minimum wage. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 62 percent approved of $15 an hour, with Democrats and Independents favoring it and Republicans opposing. A more recent survey conducted by Siena College found that 59 percent of respondents support an across-the-board $15 minimum wage, while 38 percent oppose it. Again, Republicans were against the rate, Democrats in favor. That speaks volumes about what the two parties stand for.

The business community in New York has, not surprisingly, joined with the restaurant industry in arguing against the $15-an-hour wage. Senator Martins even said many fast-food franchise owners were “scared” of the proposal and worried about their ability to stay open. Cuomo couldn’t say anything about that prospect for political reasons, but I can’t help but think that a few less fast-food establishments would be a major boon for the entire country, reducing obesity and other health problems and lowering health costs along the way, including Medicaid and Medicare expenses.

Business associations have also raised the usual argument that raising the state’s minimum wage would force some employers to cut payrolls. That’s just an argument to keep wages stagnant while profits rise. It also never seems to come up when top executives get huge raises.

In reality, when the wages of the lowest-paid workers are increased, they spend more money on goods and services and depend less on taxpayer-funded government subsidies. The money doesn’t go into offshore accounts. As opposed to the Reaganesque trickle-down GOP fantasy of giving the wealthy tax cuts so that they will invest more in the economy and thereby raise workers’ salaries — never happened, never will — a higher minimum wage actually trickles up through the economy, benefitting everyone.

And for all the doom-and-gloomers accusing Cuomo of playing to the populist mood of the country, there’s also the political reality that Cuomo is not about to casually alienate the state’s business owners. He says the new wage would be phased in over a period of years, allowing businesses to plan. He also says he’d propose tax cuts for businesses (they love that) and look to reduce other burdens (regulations), so that the increase would be affordable.

It sounds fair to me. In fact, it sounds like something I could live with.

George Says He Wants to Do It

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

George Pataki ...  presidential candidate

George Pataki … presidential candidate

George Pataki is running for president. For those of you not familiar with the name, Pataki was governor of New York state for 12 years. He is the 285th announced or soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pataki is quiet and unassuming — things most of the other members of the GOP presidential gaggle are not. He also may be delusional, which does put him in good company with the rest of the crowd.

But here’s the funny thing about Pataki: He says he’s a Republican. If that’s so, it’s not any kind of Republican that Americans have been exposed to in the 21st century. The Grand Old Party is surely old, but in 2015, it is hardly grand. It is, sad to say, a party that has lost its mind and sold its soul. The onetime Party of Lincoln today is not even the Party of Ford. It’s the party of Cheney and pick-a-Bush, sponsored by the brothers Koch.

I have resisted jumping into the 2016 presidential “debate” until now, figuring it was too early. Like, a year too early. But as the body count has increased (much more modestly on the Democratic side), I started wondering if my lack of zeal for what I was witnessing would somehow risk me being left behind. Then again, I told myself, so what?

Then George Pataki, all 6 feet, 5 inches of him, pulled me in. Is this guy serious? President? Of the United States? Yeah, he’s an easygoing, likable sort. Bright. Actually grew up on a farm. Once upon a time, I even wrote editorials endorsing him for the New York State Legislature. And he was elected governor of New York three times. That’s no easy trick for  a Republican since it’s a liberal state with a Democratic voting edge. Even more impressive, Pataki beat liberal icon and incumbent governor, Mario Cuomo, the first time out. In getting re-elected twice, Pataki showed that he can work with people of differing political views to get things done.

But … George … Republicans don’t care about that today. In fact, they run away from it. Since you’ve been away from politics for eight years, maybe you haven’t noticed that the word “bipartisan” has been stricken from the party vocabulary. If Democrats like it, Republicans don’t. Period.

The real irony of the Pataki candidacy, though, centers on his positions on the issues. While he is definitely a state’s rights, low-tax, fiscal conservative in the traditional Republican mold, his views on a host of hot-button issues are simply not in sync with today’s Republican Party.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans have fought President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat it at every turn. The GOP-dominated Senate even went so far as to vote that humans are not causing climate change and the Republican governor of Florida has actually banned state employees from using the term, “global warming.” Finally, polls regularly show that a majority of Republicans, who proudly proclaim they are not scientists, do not believe global warming is happening.

Pataki? Unlike many Republican politicians, the Columbia and Yale graduate respects science. Strike one. He believes global warming is real. Strike two. In fact, he co-chaired a 2007 blue-ribbon,  Independent Task Force on Climate Change  organized by the Council on Foreign Relations. The other co-chair was Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa who is President Obama’s agriculture secretary. The panel issued a thick report stating that human-caused climate change represented a world crisis that required immediate attention. Strike three.

How about abortion? Pataki is pro-choice. Enough said.

Immigration? He supports a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. “We can’t send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” he has said.

He believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states, but as governor he signed a law providing rights for gays, including benefits for same-sex couples.

He also pushed through a tough gun-control law banning some assault weapons and requiring ballistic fingerprinting for weapons as well as raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21. And he thinks it should be up to each state to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

For good measure, the former mayor of Peekskill thinks the nation should invest billions into building a first-class rail system.

Does that sound like a Republican to you?

Yes, he rips Obamacare and thinks the president hasn’t been militarily aggressive enough with ISIS and shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran on nuclear power. But virtually all the Republican candidates say those things, whether they believe them or not.

The point is, Pataki, who turns 70 this month, offers a bipartisan governing approach and reasonable views on some emotional issues in a party virtually devoid of such. In a general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, that might sway some Democratic voters of a more conservative bent. But first he’s got to get through the Republican primaries and emerge victorious over the likes of : Ted (I will renounce my Canadian citizenship) Cruz; Marco (I’m young, Cuban and have a sugar daddy) Rubio; Rand (every citizen for himself) Paul; Ben (the perfect prescription for the Tea Party) Carson; Carly (I’m as wacky as any of the guys) Fiorina; Mike (the huckster) Huckabee; Rick (one more time) Santorum; Lindsay (I’m the most conservative of them all) Graham; Jeb (it’s my turn) Bush; Scott (fire the unions) Walker; Chris (I didn’t close the bridge) Christie; Rick (I can count to three now) Perry; Bobby (I really messed up Louisiana) Jindal; John (who?) Kasich; and Donald (oh shut up) Trump. Sarah Palin, where are you?

Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, says it’s only going to put 10 candidates on stage for its televised GOP debates. Pataki might have trouble just cracking the starting lineup, which tells you where reasonableness, a respect for science and a willingness to compromise in governing get you today in the GOP.

In reporting on his decision to run for president, the Wall Street Journal described Pataki as a “centrist.” Talk about the kiss of death. They might just as well have called him a socialist, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned. It’s enough to make a guy want to switch parties.

Whaddaya think, George?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hillary and a Bunch of GOP Wanna-bes

Friday, June 20th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In recent months, thanks mainly to the Republican Party’s simple-minded policy of anything President Obama does or says we don’t like, I have been lulled into a state of who-gives-a-rat’s-patootie about politics. Really. What’s the point? He says shoot; they say war-monger. He says don’t shoot; they say coward. Hot? Cold. Higher minimum wage? Lower taxes on the rich.

Leave it to the Associated Press, apparently committed to the mission of tracking the stuff no one else cares about, to remind me that Americans have another presidential election coming up soon. Well, not really soon. It’s actually nearly two-and-a-half years from now, but, the AP tells me, there’s no time like the present to catch up on the “movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates.”

More than a dozen? I was flabbergasted. I could think of two Democrats:

  • Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, former senator from New York and former first lady is the odds-on favorite this far in advance of the vote to become the nation’s first woman president. She has the money, the machine, the name, etc. Although some people do hate her.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, who may make a token run against Clinton, but is more likely to step aside as, say, president of the University of Delaware or assume an advisory role in a new Clinton administration.

But the AP tells me there are two other Democratic possibilities:

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. No way. First of all, there is a Cuomo family tradition of not running for president. Second of all, Cuomo served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bill Clinton’s presidency and so is unlikely to challenge the Clintons. Plus, he’s got time on his side and is a shoo-in for re-election as governor.
  • Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. O’Malley? Who? Maryland? Get real.

Why not Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who at least have national name recognition and ardent supporters? Next!

It’s on the Republican side, though, that I had real trouble grappling with what the AP tells me is reality. My political sensibilities were shocked into a state of numbness as I read the list of possible GOP presidential candidates. Could this possibly be the best the party of Lincoln had to offer? Would any of these men be competent to carry Ike’s golf clubs? I went through the list:

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The supposed “moderate” Republican. His staff shut down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a Democratic politician who wouldn’t support Christie. Everywhere he goes, he has to defend himself against charges of being a bully. Tries to act like a reasonable politician, until you disagree with him. Two-faced. “I Am Not a Bully” does not resonate the same way as “I Like Ike.”
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s between him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (see below) for dumbest on the list. Renounced his Canadian citizenship to make sure he could run for president, even though he didn’t have to. Canadian citizenship may have been the best thing about him. Led the campaign to shut down the federal government. He doesn’t believe in science or education or government, etc. Thus, a tea party darling. Some Republicans hate him.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Again? Didn’t he demonstrate his intellectual shortcomings in the last campaign? Not big on science, education, health care. He likes to create lots of low-paying (minimum wage or less) jobs to brag about his state’s employment rate and visits other states to poach businesses. What is wrong with Texas?
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Another flameout from last time around. A president named “Bobby?” I don’t think so. Louisianans are among poorest, least educated, unhealthy people in country. He loves the oil industry (hello, Gulf of Mexico residents).
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Actually supported immigration reform until tea party robots attacked him. Now he doesn’t talk about it. Gutsy. Like Jindal, he messed up a big opportunity to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union. Coming up small in big moments is not a desirable trait in a president.
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Again? Another loser from the GOP’s 2012 primary circus. He’s making Christmas movies. He criticized his own party. He’s a religious super-conservative. Why is he even on this list?
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Okay, daddy was a Libertarian and son says he’s not. But he is. Which means there is no consistency. You will love him on some issues, hate him on others. Thinks employers have right to do pretty much anything with employees; opposes use of drones by government. He’s a favorite among tea partiers, for now. Wait until they ask him about penalizing people for smoking marijuana. Plagiarized other people’s words for his newspaper column. Unbending views are not a useful philosophy for governing, especially for the less-fortunate.
  • Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s losing running mate for the GOP in 2012. Authored draconian budget cuts in House of Representatives that hurt, yes, the poorest and least fortunate, but did negotiate compromise deal. A favorite of the Wall Street crowd that wrecked the economy. Sometimes irritates tea partiers, but that doesn’t take much. Presidential timber? Plywood.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Hates unions. Is in midst of a scandal about government staff doing campaign work for him. In the Mitt Romney mode of good-looking and seemingly articulate, but had to survive a recall vote.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He’s a Bush. Two is enough. He believes in a sensible immigration policy, which means most Republicans will hate him. He’s on the list because he’s a Bush. We made that mistake already.

So that’s my take on the list of possible presidents, for now. You’ll notice no women on the Republican side. Some of the GOP names will, one hopes drop by the wayside between now and 2015. My even more fervent hope is that some more credible GOP candidates of substance will appear to challenge Clinton.

Maybe the AP can compile a list of those possibilities instead of following all these losers for two years.

 

 

The Dingo and the Madam …

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

A dingo, like this one, ate the lady's baby in the Outback. It's official.

 

… with a touch of zombie fever

(A Bob and Bob encounter)

By Bob Gaydos

“So, did you hear that the dingo really did eat her baby?”

“What?”

“The woman in Australia, 30 years ago or so. Her baby went missing and she said a dingo stole it and ate it. Right out of the crib.”

“A dingo?”

“Yeah, you know, those wild dogs running around Australia with the koalas and kangaroos and jackrabbits and stuff. Geez, what a continent. They made a movie about it. Meryl Streep played the woman. The famous line in the movie was, ‘The dingo ate my baby.’ Elaine made it more famous on Seinfeld. ‘The dingo ate my baby. The dingo ate my baby.’ … Don’t you keep up with culture?”

“So what about the dingo?”

“Well, somehow no one believed the woman that a dingo snatched her baby from their camp in the Outback — and don’t you think the restaurant guys might have picked a name not linked with wild dogs? Actually, at first, they did believe her. An inquest cleared her and blamed a dingo. Then they held another inquest and convicted her of murder. Got her husband as an accomplice. Then they held a third inquest and decided they couldn’t decide what happened. And now, finally, a coroner’s court or something has decided the dingo did it.”

“Why now?”

“Good question. Apparently, the dingos have been busy in recent years killing kids in Australia. I think it’s because the jackrabbits have gotten too big.”

… “Well, good for her. But you want to talk about injustice — I see the ‘Monroe Madam’ finally got her bail reduced.”

“Slashed. Talk about abuse of power. Two million bucks bail on one prostitution charge because she wouldn’t give them names?

“For something done between consenting adults.”

“That’s legal in Nevada. … and, I guess, Colombia — which I didn’t know until the Secret Service guys tried to stiff one of the working women. I think this is just the Manhattan DA trying to repair his reputation after messing up some big cases. Cyrus Vance’s kid. He replaced Morgenthau who had the job forever and must have been like 93 or something.”

”Well, you know 90 is the new 85.”

“Yeah, right. Anyway, they had no business setting a punitive bail on her for what they charged her with. She’s sitting in jail in Manhattan for weeks and all the time telling them she’s got wild pigs to rescue in Monroe. It’s not right.’’

“Right. … There aren’t any dingos in Monroe, are there?”

“No. And another thing — why does Bloomberg think people won’t just buy two, 16-ounce sodas? I get it that smoking is harmful to people whether they smoke or not and the state has a stake in regulating it. But I don’t get fat if you have a Big Gulp every day. If you’re 18, you’re on your own.”

“Yeah, but I’ll tell you what’s worse! (The speaker is not a Bob, but another patron of the establishment who has obviously been eavesdropping and has some strongly held opinions of his own.) Governor Cuomo,” he continues, “wants to legalize marijuana. How’d you like somebody driving while they’re smoking a doogie, never mind drinking a large soda?”

As this has taken the conversation in a direction neither Bob was eager to follow, they both just smiled and nodded “Uh huh” in unison.

“You know something really weird though if you’re talking about government controlling our lives (which they really weren’t talking about, but were now in smiling and nodding mode)? You heard about that case in Florida in May? The guy eating another guy’s face?”

(Oh, thought one Bob, here comes the zombie conspiracy theory.)

“They blamed it on bath salts. But there was another guy in Maryland who ate his roommate’s intestines (thankfully the Bobs‘ bagels had been finished). One guy came from South America, the other guy came from Africa. They both came into this country through the airport in Miami. Coincidence? (Wild guess: Yes?) If the government is trying to find out how we react to certain substances (so they can, what, control us?) they could put it in the water someplace and see what happens.”

(So no zombie conspiracy? So what then? Banning big sodas, “legalizing“ pot and field-testing bath salts. What‘s the hook? Where’s he going with this?)

“It’s the beginning of communism.”

(Of course it is. Should have known.)

“Hey, (one Bob to the other) where you going?”

“Gottta go, man. I’m late. See you next week.”

“Yeah, right. Thanks, pal. Watch out for the dingos out there.”

“You watch out for the dingos in here.”

(This is virtually all true.)

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

Fate, Fame and Other Stuff

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

At the Governor's Mansion.

At the Governor's Mansion.

By Bob Gaydos

By way of nothing else save the fact that you never know what little gifts life has for you if you don’t pay attention, I offer this brief exchange between two of my least favorite people in the world, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Beck was on O’Reilly’s TV show the other day, talking about the latest Fox News darling, Donald Trump, who has launched a campaign for president that is so outrageous and phony even Beck can’t stand it. In brief, Trump has spent the past week telling anyone who will listen that he’s not sure President Obama is a natural-born American and, what’s more, he suspects the president may be a Muslim. Donald … Donald … Donald.

Beck told O’Reilly: “The last thing the country needs is a showboat … I would hope we could get serious candidates who could shake things up by not saying provocative things, just by stating the truth of what’s going on.”

Honest, that’s what he said.

But wait. Here’s O’Reilly’s response: “But then you and I would be off the air, because we’re provocateurs. We do that every day.”

There is a god somewhere. Now if only someone can explain irony to Fox News listeners.

* * *

The rest of this blog amounts to an exercise in self-reflection that could also be called ego-stroking. Nonetheless, I will not be deterred, especially at these prices.

It started last week when I was writing about a chance meeting I had with then-Senate candidate Geraldine Ferraro at the Ulster County Fair (it’s in the archives if you’re interested). I began recalling other “famous” persons I had met and in what circumstances. Be honest. We all do it, journalists do it maybe more than others because our work offers more opportunities to do so than a lot of other jobs.

Anyway, after deciding that the ego thing didn’t matter — because what was my ego in the grand scheme of things — and rationalizing that it might be good for my sons to get some sense of where my life had taken me, I started my list. Basic ground rules: It must have been an actual meeting, meaning words were exchanged, hands possibly shaken, and local politicians don‘t count except for members of Congress. You need a line somewhere.

The closest I ever came to meeting Glenn Beck was standing around a piano with a bunch of editors and Cal Thomas, singing what were probably old show tunes. I think it was in Philadelphia, but don’t hold me to that. Thomas was Beck before Beck ever thought of being Beck. And brighter. He is an evangelical Christian, a former vice president of the Moral Majority, a longtime syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to the Fox follies. Also, as I recall, a passable baritone with a good sense of humor and, at one time, capable of acknowledging nonsense within his own ranks. On the other side of the aisle, there was the incomparable Pete Hamill and in the middle, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, both of whom came to Middletown.

The world of sports offered encounters with Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach, boxer/TV personality Rocky Graziano (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer (naked in a whirlpool), champ Floyd Patterson (eating in a restaurant in New Paltz), columnist Milton Richman and, all too briefly, Jackie Robinson (a legitimate thrill).

In the world of entertainment there was the very tall Harry Belafonte at the Concord, the very drunk Clancy Brothers (around a bar after hours in Binghamton), Western author Larry McMurtry, actor Victor Arnold (the hit man in the original “Shaft”) and, in a Woodstock art gallery, an also very tall Henny Youngman (“Take my card, please.”)

Not surprisingly, there are a bunch of political figures on my list, starting with Ferraro’s running mate, former Vice President Walter Mondale (a hello-how-are-ya in Minneapolis). There are the New York governors, of course: The imperial Nelson Rockefeller (he of the middle finger salute), the lanky George Pataki from Peekskill, and the Cuomos — the senior, Mario, who could hold a room hostage for hours, and junior, Andrew, when he was attorney general and when he was messing up the gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall. Also, the other also-rans: Mayor Ed Koch, Tom (Who?) Golisano, Pierre (the Record staff are the rudest people I have ever encountered) Rinfret, Andrew (I don’t stand a Chance) O’Rourke, Howard Samuels (a very cool customer), and Arthur (Hey, I was once a Supreme Court justice) Goldberg. Throw in Marvin Mandel in Maryland and Anne Richards in an elevator in Fort Worth. And of course, a special place is reserved in my heart for Eliot Spitzer, the dumbest smart politician I ever met.

Among senators, D. Patrick Moynihan held court in Goshen and Chuck Schumer showed up seemingly for breakfast every day. Local boy- made-good Howard Mills was the sacrificial lamb for the GOP against Schumer, but Mills always returned phone calls. Senator Hillary never did deign to grace us with her presence, but Rick Lazio was thrilled to stop by for a lengthy chat.

And, giving them their due, Congressmen Ben Gilman, Matt McHugh, Howard Robison, Maurice Hinchey, John Hall (who founded the rock group Orleans and also qualifies as an entertainer) and Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who famously and entertainingly imploded during an interview with the Record.

Among civil rights figures, Jesse Jackson towers above the rest, literally and figuratively, but Floyd McKissick, national director of CORE, was more accessible at Gentleman Joe’s bar in Binghamton.

Oddly enough, perhaps the most famous person I ever had a meaningful conversation with is someone whose name almost nobody recognized, and most probably still don’t know to this day: Norma McCorvey. McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that confirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion.

When I met Norma, she had not only changed from pro-choice to pro-life on abortion, but had joined the Roman Catholic Church and announced she was no longer a lesbian. Life has a way offering surprises.

OK, wrapping it up. Mario Cuomo is easily the most magnetic, imposing famous person I ever met. He could talk about anything at all, intelligently and engagingly, at length. He once made his staff and TH-R editors sit through a two-and-half- hour meeting while lunch waited invitingly in an adjoining room. No one had the guts to stop him. He should have run for president.

But for sheer, humble, who-is-this-guy-and-why-is-he-doing-this amazement, my favorite famous person is David Karpeles. What, you never heard of him? Perhaps it’s time you have.

Karpeles is the founder of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums, which are located around the country in such places as Santa Barbara, Charleston, Tacoma, Duluth, Shreveport, Jacksonville, Fort Wayne, Buffalo and, yes, Newburgh, N.Y. My jaw dropped the first time I visited the Newburgh museum, located in an imposing old bank on Broadway, and I never fail to say, “Oh, my God, he owns that, every time I return.

The web site states: “The Karpeles Library is the world’s largest private holding of important original manuscripts and documents.” You want famous? The Karpeles list of famous persons, I feel sure, is unmatched by anyone, anywhere, not that he met most of them. Still, on a rotating basis at any of the museums, one might see the original draft of the Bill of Rights of the United States, the original manuscript of “The Wedding March,” Einstein’s description of his Theory of Relativity, the Thanksgiving Proclamation” signed by George Washington, Roget’s Thesaurus (as in, Roget‘s actual Thesaurus, Webster’s actual Dictionary, the first printing of the Ten Commandments from the Gutenberg Bible (1450-1455), Darwin’s Conclusion embodying his theory of Evolution in “Origin of Species,” or the Decree of Pope Lucius III Proclaiming the Sacred Duty of the Knights of the Holy Crusades. And about a million more original documents.

I met David Karpeles at the opening of the Newburgh Museum. He is tall, soft-spoken and as unassuming as anyone so rich and generous could possibly be. A math genius and real estate tycoon, he said he and his wife looked around one day and decided they had collected so much neat stuff, it was time to share it and so they decided to open museums where no one else wanted to put them. Like downtown Newburgh. The museums are open every day, free of charge. You think Trump would do that?

In a way, I guess the Beck beginning to this column is connected to the rest. Meeting the likes of David Karpeles, who isn’t really famous, is what makes it possible to put up with the likes of Glenn Beck, who, unfortunately, is. Put that in your fortune cookie.

*  *  *

Any “famous” encounters you’d like to share with our readers?

Bob can be reached at bob@zestoforange.com.