Archive | October, 2009

Apolitical Nonpolitics

31 Oct

Our apolitical County Executive robo-calls on behalf of his hand-picked Comptroller candidate lapdog Phil Kadet.

Thank God this is all about competence and everyone’s being so nonpolitically apolitical.

Collins/Kadet Robocall can be heard here.


Dede Scozzafava Suspends Campaign, Endorses No One

31 Oct

As noted above, the endorsed Republican candidate has been effectively purged from the Republican Party, and some sort of conservative purity is, therefore, effectively preserved.  Or something.  Scozzafava has released all her supporters, and the party chairs who backed her, to do whatever they want.

Scozzafava could have – but didn’t – aggressively combat Hoffman’s onslaught. As I did before, I attribute this to the failure of Albany politics.  She has been in the Assembly since 1999 – that’s ten years in office with the benefit of what Albany incumbency means.  Once confronted with a motivated, well-funded opponent, she was all done.

The Republican Party has moved out of the big tent and they’re all huddled in a much smaller shelter.  In the South.

Sullivan’s take is hereAmbinder here. LGF reacts here.

But frankly I don’t care if the Republican Party is busy enforcing ideological purity and expelling moderates from its ranks.  What I’m interested in is how this all shakes out.  The last two credible polls were essentially identical, showing Hoffman and Owens apart by one point, with Scozzafava way behind.  But as Nate Silver notes, NY-23 may have a 50,000 Republican enrollment advantage, but it went for Obama last year.  Scozzafava’s supporters like Obama, not so much Owens or Hoffman.

The reality is that a lot of Scozzafava’s ex-supporters, many of whom don’t like either Hoffman or Owens, simply won’t vote. And some of them will still wind up casting their ballots for Scozzafava undaunted, as she’ll still appear on the ballot and may have made herself something of a sympathetic figure. Certainly, it would seem to help Hoffman if Scozzafava decided to endorse him — but only 15 percent of Scozzafava’s voters had a favorable view of Hoffman, so they aren’t going to come over easily, if at all.

Also note that Owens has the WFP line.  The IP had endorsed Scozzafava, but with her withdrawal, IP state chairman MacKay has specifically endorsed Owens.

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Hardline: Last Sunday Before Election Day Edition

31 Oct

Sunday from 10am – 12pm on WBEN AM-930, tune in to Hardline.  Dave Debo’s in-studio guests will include:
10:00 am: Alice Kryzan, Bill Kindel & Barry Weinstein, running for Amherst Supervisor

10:45 am: Hamburg Supervisor candidates Dennis Gaughan, Patti Michalek and incumbent Steve Walters

11:30 am:   Lancaster/Elma/Marilla county legislature candidates Dino Fudoli & Diane Terranova
My first question to Dino Fudoli:  Why did you fight so hard to keep your opponent off the ballot?
Note that on Friday, appellate orders did the following:

Michael Abramo on IP Comptroller line.  Diane Terranova stays on Democratic line, Konst back on IP line, no one on Conservative or WFP. (Konst had the Conservative endorsement, Fudoli has Republican and Taxpayers First).

Good Morning

30 Oct

Unscripted, Off-the-Cuff, Reductio ad Hitlerum? (Updated)

30 Oct

I tend to refer to Chris Collins’ leadership style as shtick.  He’s a fantastic salesman, and there are a lot of suckers out there.

Well, part of his shtick is to blame Albany for whatever might be convenient to blame Albany for.  That’s why he’s busy comparing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, Napoleon, and calling him the anti-Christ.

When first confronted with the fact that his Reductio ad Hitlerum was perceived as particularly offensive that people in his own party reacted to it as being unbelievable, Collins quickly issued an apology acknowledging that there’s no place in politics for Hitler comparisons.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Collins on that point.

But the “joke” at the Adam’s Mark was not the first or only time Collins used the Hitler line.

Yesterday I asked Grant Loomis, the county executive’s director of communications, if Collins had ever made a similar reference to Silver before. He assured me that Collins had had not, that the remark was “unscripted” and “off the cuff.”

He then paused a moment and backed off a little, adding, “…to the best of my knowledge.”

I told Loomis about the Buffalo State students, and the two members of the faculty, and Loomis said, “Oh.”

Buffalo State students and two of their faculty members confirmed to Artvoice that Collins had used the exact same joke with them recently.  So, Collins is a serial Godwin-violator.  Artvoice’s Geoff Kelly concludes,

But it’s clear to me that his remark comparing an orthodox Jew to Hitler and the anti-Christ was not “off the cuff” or “unscripted”; it was not a momentary lapse in judgment. The joke is part of Collins’s repertoire. He has used it more than once, who knows how many times. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware that it was offensive until the uncomfortable silence he met at the Adam’s Mark on Saturday night. Maybe he didn’t know it was offensive until Elizabeth Benjamin exposed the remarks in the New York Daily News on Sunday. Maybe he still doesn’t believe what he said was offensive.  He certainly did not recognize it to be offensive between the time he made the remark to that group of college students and the time he made the remark on Saturday. Or he did and didn’t care. The former makes him an idiot, the latter makes him arrogant and heedless.

Bruce Fisher, Giambra’s former Deputy CE who writes a column for Artvoice, is particularly incensed by not only Collins’ statements,  but by almost universal silence from politicians on both sides of the aisle.  I think he’s overdoing it, but it reflects how many people throughout New York State – in places that have a bit more integrated diversity – might react.

Collins’ spokesman issued a follow-up release that – no joke – raises the fact that Collins has Jewish roots.

“The County Executive, at times, uses very harsh language in taking on what he believes are opponents of the taxpayers.  As the descendant of a Jewish grandfather, the County Executive recognizes that this characterization of the Speaker is wrong.  He has apologized for that characterization publicly, and personally apologized to the Speaker.  The County Executive will not let this mistake, however, distract him from his focus on protecting taxpayers and challenging the status quo locally and in Albany.”

Shelly Silver is bad enough of an actor in state politics that a dive into the deep end of Hitler comparisons isn’t even remotely necessary.  If that’s how you start out, you’ve already let Silver win the argument.  Silver isn’t the anti-Christ.  He isn’t Hitler.  He isn’t Napoleon.  He’s a very powerful man in state government who is supported by some very strong interests and constituencies.  He is profoundly responsible for many of the problems in Albany state government.  He is the very embodiment of everything that’s bad in state government.  Efforts to unseat him and diminish his power have fallen flat.

Collins could be exposing all of that and leading a statewide push to implement changes to make state government more transparent, democratic, and accountable.  He could be joining up with the Brennan Center to recruit political leaders statewide to push for rules changes that would drastically reduce Silver’s power.

Or, he could throw around Hitler analogies and pretty much screw up his chances to be seen as acceptable for statewide office.

Tomato, tomahto.

UPDATE: It occurs to me, upon hearing Dave Debo read part of Collins’ most recent statement on the air, that he decided to compare Silver to Hitler because Silver is one of several unnamed “opponents of the taxpayers”.  The equivalence, therefore is that it’s perfectly reasonable to compare someone to Hitler because Hitler was an “opponent of the taxpayers.”  Not a territorial expansionist dictatorial monster who murdered millions of people in Europe.  It’s absolutely disgraceful.

Pulling Out All The Stops

30 Oct

In NY-23, that paragon of New York good government excellence, George Pataki, has endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.  After Pataki’s decade-long tenure, where Albany pretty much stayed the same exact tax-and-spending place it’s always been, I hardly see how this is a boon to Hoffman, but as this article supposes, no matter what happens, it’s always good news for the Republicans.

Also, relatively newly minted Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who also represented a relatively conservative district as congresswoman, will be campaigning with Bill Owens this weekend.

Political Money and Political Politics

30 Oct

In the race for Erie County Comptroller, no one can mount a credible attack that incumbent Mark Poloncarz has done a lousy job.  Instead, the only attacks are that he’s too political and that he “can’t count”.  Specifically, Phil Kadet charges that Poloncarz projected that 2008 would end up with a deficit of $10 million, but that it actually ended up being a surplus of $10 million.

That would be great if it was true.

The ad references a January 2009 article where everyone – the comptroller and the county executive – expressed concern about a deficit.  In the article Kadet cites, Poloncarz specifically states,

“There is a very distinct possibility, when all is said and done and we close out our financial statements, that we will end up with a deficit,” Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz said Friday. “It will probably be less than $10 million. But you don’t want a deficit. And a deficit is a deficit.”

That alone is distinctly different from what Kadet’s ad claims. And Collins’ office was concerned, too:

County Executive Chris Collins, through his budget office, had slowed hiring to a trickle and froze other discretionary spending when sales tax income started cooling at midyear.

Collins’ budget director, Gregory G. Gach, also canceled any employee travel plans that were not fully reimbursed by the state or federal governments or were not needed to “fulfill core missions.”

Gach, in his final budget status report for 2008, told the Legislature in early December that he foresaw a $1.6 million surplus but warned that a further downturn in sales tax income could change that. Fuel prices, a major component of sales tax proceeds, already were falling.

In his forecast, Gach said he had not accounted for the potential $6 million-plus payment related to ECMC because it was only rumored at the time. Weeks later, however, the state Health Department alerted Erie County it owed the money, then took the $6.23 million on Tuesday.

When the final numbers actually came in, it turned out that there would likely be a surplus of $5 to 7 million – not the $20 million swing Kadet charges.  That’s not an inability to count, that’s alerting government to a potential problem, and government reacting appropriately to slash spending.

So, we’ve established that Kadet’s making crap up when it comes to who can and can’t count.  Let’s turn to Kadet’s “I’m a CPA” mantra. He also claims that the current comptroller’s office is too political (read: anti-Collins). They charge that the cellphone audit, the parking audit, and other audits have all been too political.

But so what?  What’s wrong with examining everything that county government does?  And Poloncarz has been criticizing the Democratic legislature when needed, too.  For instance,

  • In 2006, the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved a resolution granting raises to Giambra managerial-confidential employees in Sewerage Management.  The resolution they approved also would have granted sewer management the perpetual right to grant their managerial-confidential appointees raises whenever they felt like it without legislative approval.  The comptroller’s office contacted the Legislature leadership before they voted on the resolution to alert them to the significance of what they were doing and to advise them against doing it.  They did it anyway.  Poloncarz alerted the public and the media, criticizing the Legislature action, which resulted in the Legislature going back at the next session and reconsidering the resolution to change it to ensure legislative approval and oversight of all such raises in the future.
  • In 2009, the Democratic members of the Legislature attempted to send a partisan mailing to election inspectors claiming credit for attaining higher election day pay for election inspectors.  Upon learning of this, the comptroller’s office  immediately and publicly said this was inappropriate and violated the Legislature’s rules of order pertaining to mailings at County expense.
  • Over the past several years, the comptroller’s office has been critical of proposed Legislature Democratic amendments to the annual budget, noting that certain amendments would create negative variances and could contribute to deficits.
  • In 2006, the comptroller’s office conducted investigations and stopped the Forestry Management Program (timber harvesting in County forests) and the Concession Project at Wendt Beach Park after the Democratic-controlled Legislature had approved each project and allowed them to move forward.  Both projects had serious problems and potential improprieties in the RFP and contract award process with the winning vendors.
  • They have consistently warned and cautioned the Legislature about excessive capital borrowings and County debt and urged them to reduce annual proposed borrowing even when some legislators wanted more or certain projects in their districts funded.
  • In annual budget reports, when Democratic Legislature staff received upgrades or additional salary outside the normal process, we reported that in our reports and noted the incongruity (just like with administration political appointees).

So, the job of comptroller as taxpayer watchdog has been adequately executed for the past four years.  Phil Kadet, on the other hand, was hand-selected by Chris Collins, and has been the beneficiary of at least two very high-dollar fundraisers hosted by Chris Collins, including one in Collins’ own home.  That hardly bodes well for Kadet’s independence as comptroller.

Wednesday November 4th

29 Oct

Here’s a scenario:

It’s Wednesday November 4th. Bill Owens has very narrowly won a seat in Congress from NY-23.  Dede Scozzafava, the endorsed Republican candidate finished a distant third.  All the smart #TCOT kids wearing Banana Republic have left town with their Blackberries and laptops no longer taxing the local coffee shops or Verizon towers.

Now what?

Are they going to stick around NY-23 and help #rebuild the party apparatus there?  Are they going to run to become local committeemen, eschewing their small apartment in NW for a ranch on a rural road with propane heat and a septic tank?

No.  The Republican voters of NY-23 will wonder how the hell they blew a pretty safe seat, and probably be pretty pissed off that all these tools came in from out of town to fuck it all up.

The Cost of Patience

29 Oct

President Obama has a reputation as a deliberate thinker. He considers all sides of the issue. He asks a lot of questions, and encourages debate. These all seem like more admirable qualities after a President who had a reputation for rash, and incorrect, judgments.

But lets be clear. There is a cost for deliberation. It is not free.

One hundred dead in Peshawar, Pakistan yesterdayTwenty four Americans dead in Afghanistan in the last two days, and eight dead in an attack on a UN guest house in Kabul. Bombings in Baghdad kill 147 and wound 700, the worst car bombing in over two years. By the time this is posted, there will surely be another example.

As this is going on, President Obama is playing golf. Twenty four rounds in nine months. More than GWB in nearly three years, who fancied himself a golfer but gave it up because he thought it would look bad. Let’s see, does it?

 Perception is Reality

Obama also made a speech in Florida a couple days ago where he said he would not be rushed to judgment in adjusting his war plans.

“I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Too late. Already risked because we’re already there. This is not an academic exercise. You may wish we never went into Iraq, or that Afghanistan is not a hard slog, but we did and it is. It has to be dealt with. You fired one general and promoted another, the right one. He reviewed the situation and made a recommendation. If you don’t trust his recommendation, why did you ask for the review? Why do another White House review on top of the field general’s? I don’t think you want a reputation of picking bombing targets in the WH, a la LBJ.

McChrystal, Petraus and Odierno are as good of a leadership team as the US military has ever constructed. They all learned lessons the hard way on the battlefield, changed course, and found success. You’ve gathered information for nine months – it is time to make a decision. Be the CinC, not the ivory tower professor. While you dweedle, you aren’t inconveniencing  students waiting outside your door for office hours.  We’re losing soldiers being shot out of the sky.

You said a President should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Do it.

Doug Hoffman: Car Owner

29 Oct

This piece at HuffPo from Chris Kelly, a writer for Real Time with Bill Maher, is funny.

What Doug Hoffman really has is an accountant’s willingness to repeat what he’s told. Glenn Beck is mad as hell about ACORN? So is Doug Hoffman. The Concerned Women for America don’t like abortion? Neither does Doug Hoffman. The Family Research Council hates gay people? So does Doug. Did you bring the check?

No one cares about their accountant’s life story. They just need him to get the numbers to work.

Still, it must be hard to get a crowd fired up. Even the name, “Doug.” It’s like someone started writing “Douglas” and lost interest.

I haven’t seen any of Hoffman’s lit, but it apparently hearkens back to that magical 1980 when Reagan was elected, the US won the cold war through hockey, and we had hostages in Iran.

I guess Doug Hoffman had some role in the Miracle on Ice, although, if memory serves, the assist went to Pavelich. Hoffman was the Olympics’ accountant. (The Games ended up $6 million in debt and had to be bailed out by Jimmy Carter.) The connection between Hoffman’s math skills and the Reagan Revolution is a bit of a stretch.