Archive | October, 2010

Carl Paladino’s Halloween Drunktacular

31 Oct

While Andrew Cuomo was in Monroe County rallying supporters and actually campaigning, Carl Paladino was having himself a helluva time at South Buffalo watering hole, Potter’s Field.  The bar, just down the block from Carl’s house is one of his favorite places to grab a beer and hang out with his core constituents; zombies.

Several correspondents on the scene (including the person who submitted the pictures to us) report that Carl was pretty well lubricated and enjoyed spending time with another core constituency, guys in blackface.

We’re not saying that Carl knew the guy in blackface nor supports people dressing in blackface, but, COME ON! Stop making it so god damned easy for everyone.

Unlike his last time out on the town, Carl did not insult any burlesque dancers by asking to “see their p#ssy” or throw around gay epithets.  So, he has that going for him, which is nice.

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Night of The Living Douche

31 Oct

Kristen Becker and the other talented comedians at BuffaloComedy.com have been tearing it up lately.  This week’s featured video is called “Night of The Living Douche”, a riff on classic zombie movies and features local talent Rick Matthews.

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Seriously, if you haven’t been following the development of the local comedy scene, you are missing out.  Becker’s weekly Doin’ Time Comedy Showcase at Nietzsche’s is a training ground for Buffalo’s up and coming comedians.  There are several young talents in Buffalo who are helping to make Buffalo a national destination for touring comedians.  Support the shows and the Buffalo Comedy site, we need a better sense of humor about ourselves in this town.

Escape the Urban: Greenway Project Tracking

31 Oct

If only natural resources had endowments. Mountain ranges and canyons. River and lakes. Lonely rocky beaches on cold, grey ocean shores. An endowment, in our monetized culture, would allow funds to be available for protection and clean up, access and restoration, enhancement for ease of recreation and enjoyment. Too good to be true? Amazingly no; it’s the situation Western New York is blessed with along the Niagara River now, and we’re only partially getting it right.

A quick rehash on the Niagara River Greenway Commission: created out of the NYPA relicensing agreement, this public body serves two functions. First, it sponsored and certified a report and plan on how to conserve, restore, develop and promote the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Old Fort Niagara. Plan complete, it now reviews projects from host communities and organizations for consistency with the plan, though it doesn’t spend any money itself. NYPA holds the purse strings, in the form of four committees, whose jurisdictional responsibilities are blurred, and procedures and competence vary widely.

But here’s the most important part. At $9 million a year, this is the biggest pot of development dollars in Western New York that no one talks about.

The Greenway Fund’s report card, from its three years of existence, is definitely mixed. Much has improved in the last year, so the grade at its two year anniversary would be far worse. Since I started reporting on the Greenway a year ago, the information on NYPA’s website has gotten considerably better. The committees have had three years to spend $27 million. Significantly less than that has been allocated, though following the exact dollar amounts is challenging, as reporting is spotty and inconsistent. Much has improved, though there is much more that needs to be done.

Meanwhile, questions continue to be raised about the direction and appropriateness of the fund’s chosen projects. The Chairman of the Greenway Commission himself, Bob Kresse, has publicly noted that while dollars are finally beginning to flow, they are being spent on items outside of the spirit of the Greenway Report’s vision, though not the letter of its unenforceable law. The $9 million a year was supposed to go for ecological restoration, and the creation of a unified greenbelt. Instead, it is being spent by local towns and municipalities on deferred maintenance of town parks, on restrooms and asphalt overlays. Kresse doesn’t have the power to stop it, and is asking for the law creating the Commission to be amended.

In the meantime, work is finally beginning on some good projects, in keeping with the original vision. The area the Greenway covers is broad and diverse, so I have selected three projects, from different geographical areas, to start tracking regularly, to provide a face to an obscure and complicated process.

Trail from Devil’s Hole to Lewiston – $2 Million ($210K of Greenway funds)

The most basic requirement for a unified greenway is a physical trail that runs its entire length, for biking, running and walking. Unfortunately, there is a very large hole in the current right-of-way, and in the most sought after spot. Currently, from the south, one can bike from the North Grand Island Bridge to Niagara Falls and on to Devil’s Hole, but no farther. Likewise, one can travel from Youngstown to Lewiston, along the lower river, but no further. The escarpment stands in the way, and there is no (official and legit) connection along the river from the Upper to the Lower. If any section begs for public access, it is this dramatic piece.

A Greenway project is finally fixing that, after nine (9!) years of debate, planning, controversy, and waiting for funding. Work begins this fall. 

Grand Island: Fisherman’s Landing – $400K (all Greenway funds)

The Town of Grand Island had the misfortunate of requesting funding from the Buffalo and Erie County standing committee, the poster child for delay and mismanagement. Now that the committee has finally hired Bank of America and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo to watch and spend its money, dollars are flowing to build this park near the South Grand Island Bridge.

I recently had the chance to speak to Mary Cooke (R), councilwoman on Grand Island’s Town Board, about the project. The town wrote the grant to request funding in 2007, and received official approval in 2008, to remove the old decaying and graffiti-ed waste water treatment plant, plainly visible to all commuters just south of the massive bridges to Tonawanda. For two years the town waited for the committee to decide how to spend its money, until it finally arrived in mid-2010. A public meeting was held in July, and from the input, some additional green features have been added to the already planned park and fishing spot. Work is now slated to begin in 2011, two (if not potentially three) full construction seasons late.

Shoreline Trail Signage – $205K (all Greenway funds)

A trail is more than the packed dirt, rock or asphalt, that physically connects one location to another. It is also has its own sense of place, and is a thing unto itself. In the grandest examples, the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail, the ubiquitous yellow and white blazes are iconic themselves. So when the trail is finally complete from Brant to the northern mouth of the Niagara River, a key unifying feature will be the signage.

I attended a public meeting on October 19th about the plans for the signs. I will admit, I have little opinion about the exact color scheme, geometrical design, use of non-profit partner’s branding logos, or exact layout of informational versus directional signs. I am interested in them being complete, helpful, and installed. The process for the current crop of signs began in April of this year, and in June of 2011, a pilot section, from Scajaquada Creek to Isle View Park in North Tonawanda, should be installed. Designing the logo alone took six (6!) years, and replicates work done in labeling and branding the Riverwalk section (big wheeled bike, anyone) in Buffalo less than a decade ago. Unfortunately, only the pilot section is currently funded. But we are only three years into a fifty year funding protocol, so there is time (but not too much) to get this right. When complete, the signs will be identical, and thus bind together, 120 miles of shore-side trail.

I will provide regular updates on these projects as developments occur. If there are any other projects you would like me to stay on top of, dear Reader, so not hesitate to contact me (form in the upper right of this page).

The Sudden $50,000

30 Oct

Leonard Roberto, the founder of Primary Challenge who is challenging Brian Higgins for the US Congress in NY-27 has run for other offices before, notably the State Assembly and State Senate.

In 2006, Roberto ran for the State Senate and collected a total $6400 from all sources, including $2000 from his own company.

In 2008, Roberto ran for the State Assembly from A-142, and collected    Oddly, the Board of Elections shows the “Friends of Roberto” account to be “inactive”, having been “terminated” in 2008:

So why is there a 2010 report for an account that was terminated two years earlier?  That “Friends of Roberto” account raised about $8,800, almost all of it in 2010.  Of that, Roberto and his wife contributed only $670 – $150 of it from the candidate himself in 2010.  $5600 of contributions were refunded in 2010.

Roberto established his run for congress in June 2010.  At that time, Roberto gave his campaign $150.  Carl Paladino personally donated $2400.  His campaign treasurer, and the treasurer’s wife, loaned the campaign $4300. (Repaid in August).   The state campaign “Friends of Roberto” transferred in about $7200.  The candidate is not shy about reimbursing himself for campaign expenses.

Until this year, and this congressional race, Roberto has run essentially shoestring operations with minimal financial input from the candidate himself (he had reimbursed himself more out of his campaign funds than he had put in).

Yet on October 21, 2010, Lenny Roberto donated almost $50,000 to his campaign.  Not a loan – just a straight $50k donation all at once.  That seems unexpectedly generous, given that the only reported donation Roberto ever made in a state race was $150 to himself, and another $150 in this federal campaign.

I have emailed the campaign treasurer to inquire.

Endorsements By The People

30 Oct

We’re busy at work on our annual political endorsements that will be published on Monday.

However, we think it would be interesting to hear who the readers, commenters, lurkers, advocates and activists endorse in individual races.  I don’t want this to be a debate amongst our commenters, I want this to be a way for you to tell us why you’re voting for your candidates of choice.  There are a lot of races this year and we’d like to give everyone an opportunity to be heard.  Has your candidate been overlooked, ignored, or maligned?  Tell us how and why.

Tell us who you’re voting for and why or just give us the best closing argument for a candidate you support.

Governor: Andrew Cuomo, Carl Paladino, Howie Hawkins, Warren Redlich, Jimmy McMillan, Charles Barron, Kristin Davis

Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman, Dan Donovan

New York State Comptroller: Tom DiNapoli, Harry Wilson

United States Senate: Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe DioGuardi

United States Senate: Jay Townsend, Chuck Schumer

US Congress, NY-26:  Chris Lee, Phil Fedele

US Congress, NY-27: Brian Higgins, Lenny Roberto

US Congress, NY-28: Louise Slaughter, Dr. Jill Rowland

New York State Supreme Court, Eighth Judicial District (Vote For 5): Kevin Dillon, Eugene Fahey, Hank Nowak, Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, Mark Montour, Deborah Chimes, Mark Rodgers, Cheryl Green, Paul Wojtaszek, Jeff Voelkl

NY State Senate 58:  Jack Quinn, Tim Kennedy, Bill Stachowski

NY State Senate 59: Patrick Gallivan, Cynthia Appleton, Dave DiPietro

NY State Senate 60: Antoine Thompson, Mark Grisanti

NY State Senate 61:  Marc Coppola, Mike Ranzenhofer

NY Assembly 140: Robin Schimminger, Kevin Stocker

NY Assembly 143: Dennis Gabryszak, Patrick Mandia

NY Assembly 144 – Sam Hoyt, Brian Biggie

NY Assembly 146: Brad Rybczynski, Kevin Smardz

Erie County Clerk: Kathy HochulCliff Bergfeld

There are also some local and town races of note, but I’d rather you tell us which ones you care about.


Finally, Alan Bedenko and Chris Smith will be hosting election night covergae on WECK 1230 AM with the always awesome Brad Riter.  We’re starting up just as the polls close at 9PM and going until the final tallies are in for the night.  We’ll have a TON of interviews, guests and a whole lot of fun.  Tune in and give us a listen for live election returns and snarky analysis.

Sexist Pig

29 Oct

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Not that his sexist porkery should really come as a surprise.

Grisanti and Marriage Equality

29 Oct

I want to pass along something I received yesterday from Michael James, a former President of the Stonewall Democrats of WNY.

Although I am also disappointed with some of Antoine’s actions and that mailing, I’m sorry to read that you are endorsing Grisanti. His viewpoint expressed in the attached letter disqualify him from my support. It’s one thing to oppose same-sex marriage, but he goes beyond that to, in my opinion, demonizing a large number of those who would be his constituents.

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While I share Michael’s concern over Grisanti’s position on marriage equality, and do not agree with it, I’m compelled to point out that marriage equality failed to pass even with a Democratic majority in the state senate.  Had Grisanti been in the Senate as a Democrat (which is how he ran in 2008), the outcome would have been identical.

I share this with you so you can best make an informed decision.

The overarching concern for me is Thompson’s rapid entrenchment in the world of Albany pay-for-play corruption.

U.S. Midterm Elections, Obama and Iran

28 Oct

By George Friedman

We are a week away from the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. The outcome is already locked in. Whether the Republicans take the House or the Senate is close to immaterial. It is almost certain that the dynamics of American domestic politics will change. The Democrats will lose their ability to impose cloture in the Senate and thereby shut off debate. Whether they lose the House or not, the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership. The large majority held by the Democrats will be gone, and party discipline will not be strong enough (it never is) to prevent some defections.

Should the Republicans win an overwhelming victory in both houses next week, they will still not have the votes to override presidential vetoes. Therefore they will not be able to legislate unilaterally, and if any legislation is to be passed it will have to be the result of negotiations between the president and the Republican Congressional leadership. Thus, whether the Democrats do better than expected or the Republicans win a massive victory, the practical result will be the same.

When we consider the difficulties President Barack Obama had passing his health care legislation, even with powerful majorities in both houses, it is clear that he will not be able to push through any significant legislation without Republican agreement. The result will either be gridlock or a very different legislative agenda than we have seen in the first two years.

These are not unique circumstances. Reversals in the first midterm election after a presidential election happened to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. It does not mean that Obama is guaranteed to lose a re-election bid, although it does mean that, in order to win that election, he will have to operate in a very different way. It also means that the 2012 presidential campaign will begin next Wednesday on Nov. 3. Given his low approval ratings, Obama appears vulnerable and the Republican nomination has become extremely valuable. For his part, Obama does not have much time to lose in reshaping his presidency. With the Iowa caucuses about 15 months away and the Republicans holding momentum, the president will have to begin his campaign.

Obama now has two options in terms of domestic strategy. The first is to continue to press his agenda, knowing that it will be voted down. If the domestic situation improves, he takes credit for it. If it doesn’t, he runs against Republican partisanship. The second option is to abandon his agenda, cooperate with the Republicans and re-establish his image as a centrist. Both have political advantages and disadvantages and present an important strategic decision for Obama to make.

The Foreign Policy Option

Obama also has a third option, which is to shift his focus from domestic policy to foreign policy. The founders created a system in which the president is inherently weak in domestic policy and able to take action only when his position in Congress is extremely strong. This was how the founders sought to avoid the tyranny of narrow majorities. At the same time, they made the president quite powerful in foreign policy regardless of Congress, and the evolution of the presidency over the centuries has further strengthened this power. Historically, when the president has been weak domestically, one option he has had is to appear powerful by focusing on foreign policy.

For presidents like Clinton, this was not a particularly viable option in 1994-1996. The international system was quiet, and it was difficult to act meaningfully and decisively. It was easier for Reagan in 1982-1984. The Soviet Union was strong and threatening, and an aggressive anti-Soviet stance was popular and flowed from his 1980 campaign. Deploying the ground-launched cruise missile and the Pershing II medium-range ballistic missile in Western Europe alienated his opponents, strengthened his position with his political base and allowed him to take the center (and ultimately pressured the Soviets into agreeing to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty). By 1984, with the recession over, Reagan’s anti-Soviet stance helped him defeat Walter Mondale.

Obama does not have Clinton’s problem. The international environment allows him to take a much more assertive stance than he has over the past two years. The war in Afghanistan is reaching a delicate negotiating state as reports of ongoing talks circulate. The Iraq war is far from stable, with 50,000 U.S. troops still there, and the Iranian issue is wide open. Israeli-Palestinian talks are also faltering, and there are a host of other foreign issues, ranging from China’s increasing assertiveness to Russia’s resurgent power to the ongoing decline in military power of America’s European allies. There are a range of issues that need to be addressed at the presidential level, many of which would resonate with at least some voters and allow Obama to be presidential in spite of weak political support.

There are two problems with Obama becoming a foreign policy president. The first is that the country is focused on the economy and on domestic issues. If he focuses on foreign policy and the U.S. economy does not improve by 2012, it will cost him the election. His hope will be foreign policy successes, or at least the perception of being strong on national security, coupled with economic recovery or a plausible reason to blame the Republicans. This is a tricky maneuver, but his presidency no longer offers simple solutions.

The second problem is that his presidency and campaign have been based on the general principle of accommodation rather than confrontation in foreign affairs, with the sole exception of Afghanistan, where he chose to be substantially more aggressive than his predecessor had been. The place where he was assertive is unlikely to yield a major foreign policy success, unless that success is a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. A negotiated settlement will be portrayed by the Republicans as capitulation rather than triumph. If he continues on the current course in Afghanistan, he will seem to be plodding down an old path and not pioneering a new one.

Interestingly, if Obama’s goal is to appear strong on national security while regaining the center, Afghanistan offers the least attractive venue. His choices are negotiation, which would reinforce his image as an accommodationist in foreign policy, or continued war, which is not particularly new territory. He could deploy even more forces into Afghanistan, but then would risk looking like Lyndon Johnson in 1967, hurling troops at the enemy without a clear plan. He could, of course, create a massive crisis with Pakistan, but it would be extremely unlikely that such an effort would end well, given the situation in Afghanistan. Foreign policy presidents need to be successful.

There is little to be done in Iraq at the moment except delay the withdrawal of forces, which adds little to his political position. Moreover, the core problem in Iraq at the moment is Iran and its support of disruptive forces. Obama could attempt to force an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, but that would require Hamas to change its position, which is unlikely, or that Israel make massive concessions, which it doesn’t think it has to do. The problem with Israel and the Palestinians is that peace talks, such as those under Clinton at Camp David, have a nasty tendency to end in chaos.

The European, Russian and Chinese situations are of great importance, but they are not conducive to dramatic acts. The United States is not going to blockade China over the yuan or hold a stunning set of meetings with the Europeans to get them to increase their defense budgets and commit to more support for U.S. wars. And the situation regarding North Korea does not have the pressing urgency to justify U.S. action. There are many actions that would satisfy Obama’s accomodationist inclinations, but those would not serve well in portraying him as decisive in foreign policy.

The Iranian Option

This leaves the obvious choice: Iran. Iran is the one issue on which the president could galvanize public opinion. The Republicans have portrayed Obama as weak on combating militant Islamism. Many of the Democrats see Iran as a repressive violator of human rights, particularly after the crackdown on the Green Movement. The Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia, is afraid of Iran and wants the United States to do something more than provide $60 billion-worth of weapons over the next 10 years. The Israelis, obviously, are hostile. The Europeans are hostile to Iran but want to avoid escalation, unless it ends quickly and successfully and without a disruption of oil supplies. The Russians — like the Iranians — are a thorn in the American side, as are the Chinese, but neither would have much choice should the United States deal with Iran quickly and effectively. Moreover, the situation in Iraq would improve if Iran were to be neutralized, and the psychology in Afghanistan could also shift.

If Obama were to use foreign policy to enhance his political standing through decisive action, and achieve some positive results in relations with foreign governments, the one place he could do it would be Iran. The issue is what he might have to do and what the risks would be. Nothing could, after all, hurt him more than an aggressive stance against Iran that failed to achieve its goals or turned into a military disaster for the United States.

So far, Obama’s policy toward Iran has been to incrementally increase sanctions by building a weak coalition and allow the sanctions to create shifts in Iran’s domestic political situation. The idea is to weaken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and strengthen his enemies, who are assumed to be more moderate and less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons. Obama has avoided overt military action against Iran, so a confrontation with Iran would require a deliberate shift in the U.S. stance, which would require a justification.

The most obvious justification would be to claim that Iran is about to construct a nuclear device. Whether or not this is true would be immaterial. First, no one would be in a position to challenge the claim, and, second, Obama’s credibility in making the assertion would be much greater than George W. Bush’s, given that Obama does not have the 2003 weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle to deal with and has the advantage of not having made such a claim before. Coming from Obama, the claim would confirm the views of the Republicans, while the Democrats would be hard-pressed to challenge him. In the face of this assertion, Obama would be forced to take action. He could appear reluctant to his base, decisive to the rest. The Republicans could not easily attack him. Nor would the claim be a lie. Defining what it means to almost possess nuclear weapons is nearly a metaphysical discussion. It requires merely a shift in definitions and assumptions. This is a cynical scenario, but it can be aligned with reasonable concerns.

As STRATFOR has argued in the past, destroying Iran’s nuclear capability does not involve a one-day raid, nor is Iran without the ability to retaliate. Its nuclear facilities are in a number of places and Iran has had years to harden those facilities. Destroying the facilities might take an extended air campaign and might even require the use of special operations units to verify battle damage and complete the mission. In addition, military action against Iran’s naval forces would be needed to protect the oil routes through the Persian Gulf from small boat swarms and mines, anti-ship missile launchers would have to be attacked and Iranian air force and air defenses taken out. This would not solve the problem of the rest of Iran’s conventional forces, which would represent a threat to the region, so these forces would have to be attacked and reduced as well.

An attack on Iran would not be an invasion, nor would it be a short war. Like Yugoslavia in 1999, it would be an extended air war lasting an unknown number of months. There would be American POWs from aircraft that were shot down or suffered mechanical failure over Iranian territory. There would be many civilian casualties, which the international media would focus on. It would not be an antiseptic campaign, but it would likely (though it is important to reiterate not certainly) destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and profoundly weaken its conventional forces. It would be a war based on American strengths in aerial warfare and technology, not on American weaknesses in counterinsurgency. It would strengthen the Iranian regime (as aerial bombing usually does) by rallying the Iranian public to its side against the aggression. If the campaign were successful, the Iranian regime would be stronger politically, at least for a while, but eviscerated militarily. A successful campaign would ease the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, calm the Saudis and demonstrate to the Europeans American capability and will. It would also cause the Russians and Chinese to become very thoughtful.

A campaign against Iran would have its risks. Iran could launch a terrorist campaign and attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, sending the global economy into a deep recession on soaring oil prices. It could also create a civil war in Iraq. U.S. intelligence could have missed the fact that the Iranians already have a deliverable nuclear weapon. All of these are possible risks, and, according to STRATFOR’s thinking, the risks outweigh the rewards. After all, the best laid military plan can end in a fiasco.

We have argued that a negotiation with Iran in the order of President Richard Nixon’s reversal on China would be a lower-risk solution to the nuclear problem than the military option. But for Obama, this is politically difficult to do. Had Bush done this, he would have had the ideological credentials to deal with Iran, as Nixon had the ideological credentials to deal with China. But Obama does not. Negotiating an agreement with Iran in the wake of an electoral rout would open the floodgates to condemnation of Obama as an appeaser. In losing power, he loses the option for negotiation unless he is content to be a one-term president.

I am arguing the following. First, Obama will be paralyzed on domestic policies by this election. He can craft a re-election campaign blaming the Republicans for gridlock. This has its advantages and disadvantages; the Republicans, charging that he refused to adjust to the electorate’s wishes, can blame him for the gridlock. It can go either way. The other option for Obama is to look for triumph in foreign policy where he has a weak hand. The only obvious way to achieve success that would have a positive effect on the U.S. strategic position is to attack Iran. Such an attack would have substantial advantages and very real dangers. It could change the dynamics of the Middle East and it could be a military failure.

I am not claiming that Obama will decide to do this based on politics, although no U.S. president has ever engaged in foreign involvement without political considerations, nor should he. I am saying that, at this moment in history, given the domestic gridlock that appears to be in the offing, a shift to a foreign policy emphasis makes sense, Obama needs to be seen as an effective commander in chief and Iran is the logical target.

This is not a prediction. Obama does not share his thoughts with me. It is merely speculation on the options Obama will have after the midterm elections, not what he will choose to do.

U.S. Midterm Elections, Obama and Iran is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Hopes and Fears on Election Day

28 Oct

It is to the consternation of reformers and the delight of conservatives (small c) that little changes on Election Day. In an election season based upon fear – of The Other, the status quo, taxes, healthcare, immigrants – it should be reassuring to know that the world will not end on the evening of November 2nd, no matter the results that appear.

Based upon the issues receiving the most attention nationally, it may come as a surprise that the status of witches, an armed insurrection, and the banning of mosques will not appear on the Congressional agenda in the next term. Our legislatures are naturally reactionary, as members only vote on the bills presented, and most have little power to have any substantive effect, especially as a freshman Senator or Representative. The President has the ultimate power to set the agenda, only partially shared with Congress in the cases of divided government. So if Christine O’Donnell (a long shot), Sharron Angle (a better chance), or Mark Rubio (put money on it) win next Tuesday, what effect will they personally have on the Senate? Almost none.

Image courtesy podbop.org

The base of each party is either blissfully unaware or purposely self-delusional about the most basic of truths of our legislative system: a vote for or against a bill is of no more or less effect if the legislator is a pragmatic centrist or a die-hard ideologue. There is no Tea Party vote that is worth two. There is no Liberal vote that automatically doubles the appropriation of every line item in the spending bill. The Tea Party is about to have their heart broken, the way the grassroot Netroots did years before. Elect a barn-burning Tea Party champion, and they will have the same practical effect as 95% of other Republicans. In Utah, reliable Republican Senator Bob Bennett was dumped for purer Tea Party candidate Mike Lee. How will his voting record differ when elected? It won’t. Even if the Senatorial stenographer is forced, by Tea Party decree, to use a red pen (made in America by non-union non-illegal immigrants) when recording his votes, it counts no different. And he will introduce less legislation, and have less effect in committee, than Senator Bennett did. Sorry.

No pure Tea Partier will be elected enough times to rise to a leadership level to make a serious impact, and any Tea Partier elected next week that does last that long will be nothing more than an insider, corporate Republican by the time they take a committee chair.

No, instead it is in the margins and at the leadership level that some small change can occur. The House is currently composed of 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans, the Senate 59-41. . Where are the Republicans, pundits and Democrats ask, for us to work with on the other side of the aisle? Why are they so recalcitrant? The Republicans they used to work with were voted out of office in New England, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina. The 178 Republicans left are in safe seats. The members in those 178 seats never reached out across the aisle, and their constituents don’t want them to compromise. Democrats, last year you had something better than a Republican from New Hampshire to work with – you had a member of your own party. The failure of that overwhelming and filibuster proof majority to enact legislation will be recognized next week, as those swing seats return Republican overwhelmingly.

Likewise, Democratic leadership is in trouble. New Yorker’s should cheer for Harry Reid to lose – Chuck Schumer, a strong Democrat from a strong Democratic state, would likely take over leadership. A prime example of how the Democrat’s are unable to effectively govern is that they choose leaders like Reid and Daschle, in weak positions at home, who have no room to either compromise or take bold positions. Hyper-partisan and embittered Nancy Pelosi is another matter – she has the political capital and strength of seat to be a leader, but not the social skills, patience, or aptitude to drop a grudge to win a vote. No matter – Pelosi is about to be demoted, and in or out of office, Reid seems destined for a smaller role. Closer to home, Rep. Slaughter should be fired for her abuses in the Rules Committee alone – for the first time in 221 years, not a single piece of legislation was brought to the floor open for an amendment. That’s the post-partisan Hope and Change I know Obama was going to instill to Washington. Unfortunately, she has as much chance of losing as O’Donnell has of winning.

Americans of pure motive and progressive (small p) spirit should hope for one thing next week: a Republican take over of both the House and Senate. Any other combination produces two years of gridlock. If power is truly divided, both parties share responsibility for the country’s problems. John Boehner becomes Gingrich, and Obama becomes Clinton, and taxes and the deficit have a small chance of being addressed. If the Democrats keep both houses in a weakened state, then we endure 111th Congress Redux, a sequel with less action and more fighting, and everyone waits for 2012. Worse, if only one house swaps, then nothing will ever come out of conference committee, and both parties will argue they need full control in 2012. President Obama has always been more of an individual force than a Democratic insider – more Change will occur if he places his 2012 fortunes above those of his party, and deals with Republican leadership for the next two years to strengthen his own hand (at the expense of Democrats as a whole).

In New York, there is even less change coming. The Assembly is stuck. The Senate will swap to a minor advantage for the Republicans, and Dean Skelos may not survive as leader. Andrew Cuomo is going to enter into office in the peculiar position of having a large electoral victory, but no mandate to actually do anything. Rarely is the faux incumbent placed in office simply for not being “The Other Guy.” Cuomo’s campaign technique of staying low and letting Paladino self-destruct will work politically, but leaves him, unlike Spitzer, weak entering office. The strongest man in the Albany three-way is Sheldon Silver. Woe to Western New York.

You Can’t Vote for Lenny Roberto, Either.

28 Oct

I heard the audio from this “ad” on the radio this morning:

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The problem is that the narrator doesn’t have a “relationship” with “incumbent Congressman Brian Higgins”.  I don’t know whether she went to Washington to talk with him, or called his office.  I don’t know if anyone was rude to her, but the person who wrote that ad and recorded that voiceover doesn’t live in NY-27.  I know who she is, and she lives in Clarence.  That’s in NY-26, which is represented by the essentially unopposed Chris Lee.  Not only that, but for some reason this Roberto-supporting, Paladino-backing tea partier is on the Clarence Democratic Committee.

Also, there’s been no cap-and-trade, nor has there been any amnesty.  Whatever.  It just makes the whole ad a big, fat lie.  About par for the course for the rabidly homophobic Roberto, who says that Washington is “destroying America” and wants to go to Washington with a “vendetta”.  Clownshoes.