Archive | September, 2013

Nutshell

30 Sep

The Republicans in Congress, with the fringe tea party and its sycophants wagging the dog, are holding the country and the global economy hostage in order to prevent millions of Americans from having access to affordable, quality health insurance from private companies. 

In 1996, when the Gingrich Republicans shut down the government, they did so in part to hurt Bill Clinton’s chances for re-election. It didn’t work. Barack Obama is term-limited and can’t run for President again. So what’s the political benefit here? What incentive does Obama have to negotiate with these hostage-takers? 

That’s it. That’s what the Republican Party has become – the party of very wealthy keeping reasonable, market-based policies that help the middle class from being implemented. 

And by the way, if the government shuts down, Obamacare gets implemented anyway, and millions of Americans will be able to start enrolling in new policies via the insurance exchanges tomorrow. If you have employer-supplied health insurance, you do nothing and get some new guaranteed benefits. 

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Horowitz in Moscow

27 Sep

Back in the long long ago, when I was diligently studying the history and politics of an Eastern Europe that was on the brink of political upheaval, then-Soviet General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev introduced “Glasnost” and “Perestroika”, or “openness” and “restructuring”, respectively. The Soviet planned economies were failing, and the people were getting wordy about it, so Gorbachev gave them some window dressing political and economic reforms. It was these policies, brought forth by a more youthful and pragmatic Soviet leader – following up two corpses and the calcified bureaucracy of Brezhnev – that ultimately led to the breakup of the Soviet Union and its generational transition to the neofascist kleptocracy it is today. 

Dissent became more tolerated. Exiles were starting tentatively to return for visits – something previously unthinkable. 

And then there was Vladimir Horowitz

Born in 1903, Horowitz was considered to be one of the greatest pianists in the world, possibly ever. Horowitz ultimately fled the Soviet Union in 1925, ultimately settling in the U.S. Under Stalinism, once you left, you didn’t get to come back. 

And he didn’t, until 1986. President Reagan and Gorbachev got along rather well, and the late 80s saw a rapid thawing in US-Soviet relations. Horowitz returned to give recitals in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

When this occurred, it was broadcast on TV here in the States. It was quite clear that these performances were something special. On the one hand, you had this compelling personal story of a prodigal son returning triumphantly to his homeland one last time, honoring a life well lived, and sharing his incredible gift with his people again. He was no longer an outlaw. 

On the other hand, it was clear that the return of an exile to the Soviet Union had huge geopolitical significance, and that it was proof that the Soviet awakening was real and good. 

But what I remember most was the way he played Schumann’s Träumerei at that Moscow recital. The piece is part of Schumann’s “Kinderszenen”, or “scenes from childhood”. It’s difficult to describe the emotion – it’s a melancholy song, being played by an old man who had seen and lived through so much, to an audience that had seen and lived through so much more. It was as if Horowitz had managed to capture all of the sadness, despair, lost lives, and lost time that 20th Century Europe had endured, and now – as the century was coming to a close – we hear it. We hear the dreams of every refugee, every member of every diaspora, every victim of totalitarian despotism and hatred, every displaced soul. Everyone. It was all there, laid bare. Haunting. Beautiful. 

For those two minutes, there was peace, there was beauty, and all was right with the world. 

Donny, Can You Hear Me?

27 Sep

Shrill, too.

Because you want to hear me explain this in a more direct and profane way, here is the audio version of “Donn Esmonde is an Ass”, recorded over lunchtime Thursday with Trending Buffalo’s Brad Riter

http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TB09-26-13bedenko.mp3

Sacha Testifies

26 Sep

As you already know from this week’s print edition of Artvoice, former Erie County D.A. Mark Sacha gave testimony before the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption which is charged with, among other things, investigating chronic and widespread violations of the election law and corruption in political campaigns. Sacha is speaking truth to power, and if anyone should be paying close attention, it’s this particular commission with respect to this particular problem. 

I am here to advise the public and the voting citizens of New York of the “elephant in the room”, the hypocrisy which has not yet been addressed before this Commission. Election fraud and public corruption are not prosecuted properly, not because of a lack of laws in this State, but by a lack of will. The sad reality is that District Attorneys are political. Many have horrible conflicts of interest, which affect their ability to act. In order to reach their position, they make alliances, accept money and cut political deals with other politicians. They reach their goals through these people.

The public has the right to know the truth based on my own personal experience. In 2008, I conducted an investigation that uncovered widespread criminal election law violations by a number of individuals, including Steven Pigeon, a person who has close political ties to Pedro Espada, Governor Cuomo, former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark, and present District Attorney Frank Sedita, who is also a member of this panel. I personally handed Mr. Sedita a 53 page memo outlining the facts surrounding my 2008 investigation.

As a result of my attempt to do the right thing and hold Mr. Pigeon accountable, I was retaliated against by his friend, Frank Sedita. When I informed the public of Mr. Sedita’s hypocrisy and misconduct, I was fired.

Now four years later, the same pattern of misconduct is occurring in Erie County. The September 22, 2013 edition of the Buffalo News contained a lengthy article detailing new allegations of illegal conduct by Pigeon. Current election campaigns are wrought with allegations of false filings, straw donors and donations which exceed contribution limits. This Commission has received a complaint about Mr. Pigeon. These allegations of corruption in Erie County have gone on for years.

Prosecuting the powerless is easy. The real test is when you are asked to investigate the powerful. District Attorney Sedita has failed the test.

Chronic, widespread illegality that no one investigates or prosecutes. Ever. This is the stuff of banana republics. The only things missing are the gold cars and epaulets. 

Campaign Disclosure: 10 Day Post Primary

25 Sep

If you were a candidate for election involved in a primary earlier this month, your campaign finance disclosure should include a 32 day pre-primary report, an 11 day pre-primary report, and a 10 day post-primary report. For instance, here is Lynn Dearmyer’s list of reports: 

Rick Zydel: 

But the victor of that three-way battle, Pat Burke, is late. As of this morning, his pre-primary reports have shown up. 

They weren’t there yesterday – the pre-primary report was 6 weeks late, and the 11 day was a month late. That’s either the negligence of a crap treasurer or something intentional. I asked him on Twitter:

The last question wasn’t answered. 

Looking at the newly appearing disclosures, in the 32-day, Burke reports $625 in unitemized proceeds from a mid-July fundraiser, which cost about $100 for pizza and beverages. Burke’s campaign bought him $113 pair of shoes for walking door to door, and $213 for “campaign attire” at JC Penney’s – those are new ones on me. He ended the period with $2660 on hand. 

Burke raised another $823 in unitemized contributions at an August fundraiser, and got $50 from Mark Schroeder’s campaign fund, and $250 from Savarino. Robert Sroda donated $1,000 in mid-August.  He pulled in about $3,000 in that period, and spent $3551 on direct mail with Zenger Group, which does tons of work for all sorts of candidates

But we don’t have the 10 day post-primary report, which will show everything that Burke spent in the days leading up to the election. There’s nothing controversial in Burke’s disclosures – no one’s going to make a stink about the suit and shoes, funny as it might be – but the lateness is troubling. 

Turning to this year’s breakaway nominal Democrat shit-stirring, the WNY Progressive PAC finished this year’s primary election cycle with -$18,000. Negative eighteen thousand. 

Steve Pigeon donated a little over $6,000 for stamps and Robocalls – (remember the pro-Fruscione, anti-Hamister mailers in the Falls had stamps on them?) Tim Kennedy ally and cancer peddlers AJ Wholesale gave another $10,000.  Tim Kennedy’s own Senate account ponied up another $40,000 – that makes a total of $125,000 from various open and closed Tim Kennedy campaign accounts.

On the expenditure side, $25,000 was paid to “Landon LLC”, which sounds a lot like Pigeon’s own Landen Associates.  Robocalls were done for $600 by “Van” in “Summerville [sic] MA”. Gia Marketing was paid, as was a Michael Darby, who was paid about $20,000 for a month’s worth of “consulting”. 

Pigeon himself “loaned” the committee another $70,000, leaving total liabilities of $90,000. Forget for a fact that these are the people who brought us the good government activism of Pedro Espada, here’s how they ended up the cycle: 

 

They have Dick Dobson and Barbara Miller-Williams to show for it. One could credibly fund at least 20 successful county legislative races for that kind of money. 

 

 

Esmonde Goes For Disclosure

25 Sep

In response to this article I wrote about a week ago, Donn Esmonde adds this to a column about killing skunks

Mea culpa: I wrote three columns in the last two years concerning or mentioning the efforts of charter school advocate Steven Polowitz. In them, I failed to note that Polowitz – whom I have known for more than 20 years – and I became partners in 2010 in a Florida investment property. The business relationship did not influence my stance on charter schools, which I have supported for more than a decade, nor did it affect my view of Polowitz’s charter school activism, which I had previously written about. Nonetheless, I should have disclosed the association.

To anyone wondering why I keep writing horrible and mean things about Donn Esmonde, consider this piece he wrote in late May about the Clarence school budget fight, and this quote in particular:

“Make no mistake: Come budget-approval time, officials in every school district are masters at pushing parents’ emotional buttons and propping up false choices. It goes like this: Vote for the budget, or you will force us to cut (choose your poison) sports/music/field trips/foreign language.”

Guess what? Turns out, it wasn’t false. They got cut. 33 clubs, 13 teams, and these courses: 

So Donn Esmonde can take his self-righteous bucket of hypocritical geographic animus and shove it up his ass. He hates Clarence because it’s just like his neighborhood, only not in his neighborhood. He hates kids in Clarence because they’re just like his kids, only not in Buffalo. 

Now? A shitload of parents are working their asses off to try and raise money to fix what Donn Esmonde knowingly helped to break.

When an influential columnist comes by your house and intentionally propagandizes to do palpable, real harm to your kid’s education, you get back to me on that.

Do you have information about Donn Esmonde that you think I should know about? I figure non-disclosure of a business relationship with a longtime source is just the tip of the iceberg – smoke from a larger fire. Let me know what you know. buffalopundit[at]gmail.com

A Confluence of Horrible Politics

24 Sep

When it comes down to less than 100 votes between the two candidates, you don’t get to be a sore winner and gloat over an exceedingly narrow victory. When the victory came about as a result of a relentless, libelous campaign whereby a young and promising legislator is defamed as a “Republican” sellout, it’s nothing to boast about. When the beneficiary of that campaign is one of the most toxic and corruptible figures ever to skulk through government, it’s shameful. Barbara Miller-Williams didn’t win for herself, had Steve Pigeon not formed a PAC and funded it with almost $300,000 within the course of a week, there’d have been no blitz of “Tim Hogues is a Republican” mailers that went to every home in the district every day. 

Betty Jean Grant – she was a victor, completely obliterating the opponent who stood to benefit from the same mailing blitz. Nice try, Tim Kennedy, but you didn’t get your revenge directly against your nemesis this time

Zydel and Moore – the Pigeon/Mazurek top of the marquee – both lost big to HQ-backed candidates Dearmyer (who, in turn, lost to Pat Burke), and Wynnie Fisher, respectively. Not a day for a Pigeon victory lap at all. 

Bert Dunn, on the other hand, lost dramatically to Dick Dobson. Dunn ran his own campaign with his own people and his own money, eschewing help from the party apparatus. Zellner stayed out of that race, for the most part, and Dunn lost big. Too big – it was embarrassing, but all he seemed to do was put signs up at Bert’s Bikes locations and let Pigeon’s committee beat him up on TV. 

Now, Dunn is pledging to continue his run on the “Law and Order” party line he created for himself. This is a foolish endeavor that will not work and is a stupid thing to do at a time when Democrats should be rallying around Dobson. Dunn failed and should step aside and perhaps try again another time. 

By the same token, Democrats should all be supporting Fisher and Burke in their general election battles. It’s one thing to run a primary campaign, it’s another to actively support the Republican to get one over on the party apparatchiks you don’t like. 

Finally, as the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy reported, complaints have been made to the Moreland Commission on public corruption. Let’s examine. 

– Senator Tim Kennedy gave $85,000 to the Pigeon/Mazurek PAC, half of which came from a defunct, closed campaign account in apparent violation of election law. Kennedy tells McCarthy that his donations followed the “letter and spirit” of the law. The facts and disclosures show the exact opposite, yet this is omitted from the article.  

– Pigeon told McCarthy: 

Pigeon labeled the Grant-Hogues letter a “frivolous action” and questioned whether Cuomo’s Moreland Commission is even charged with probing political campaigns.

“The charge is to investigate corruption of public officers,” Pigeon said, “not to be a campaign watchdog. That power still lies with the Board of Elections.

Yet the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was formed earlier this year, and the announcement read, in part, as follows

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the formation of the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic public corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State

…”I am formally empanelling a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption pursuant to the Moreland Act and Section 63(8) of the Executive Law that will convene the best minds in law enforcement and public policy from across New York to address weaknesses in the State’s public corruption, election and campaign finance laws, generate transparency and accountability, and restore the public trust.”

  • [The commission will investigate] Campaign financing including but not limited to contribution limits and other restrictions; disclosure of third-party contributions and expenditures; and the effectiveness of existing campaign finance laws.

So, the facts directly contradict Pigeon’s assertion about the commission’s mission, yet this key fact is shunted down to the bottom of the article, completely outside the context of Pigeon’s assertion. 

The way in which New York conducts is elections is horrible, rife with opportunities for bad people to do questionable and corrupt things. PACs can spend unlimited money and its campaign advertising doesn’t need to disclose the source. Electoral fusion allows our system to be more about dealmaking with otherwise irrelevant minor “parties” and does nothing to enhance electoral democracy. Ballot access is unreasonably complicated and rife with traps for the unwary, and should be simplified. Money flowing to and from PACs – which are not even formally recognized under state law – should be accounted-for, disclosed, and limited to prevent monied interests from stealing elections. 

The problem now is whether money in politics will prevent the needed reforms from being openly discussed and implemented. 

Collins: Give me Your Strong, Your Rich

23 Sep

 

Captain Handout

Shorter Krugman

A safety-net program that is designed to help people from going hungry has grown as a result of the worst recession since the Great Depression, is working exactly as it should. Because average benefits amount to $4.45 per day, it’s hardly the malingering incentive Republicans accuse it of being, instead, it’s just proof of Republican mean-spiritedness and class warfare. 

Never forget that Chris Collins was one of only two New York Congressmen to vote for dramatic cuts to a program that works. Collins is someone who knows and cares nothing of the poor – to his mind, they are not his constituents, only “small businesses” are. The other is under investigation for massive, chronic tax evasion. In Collins’ mind, government only works when it’s an IDA, doling out welfare to “small businesses”. (Don’t IDA handouts generate complacent malingering in businesses?) Poor, hungry people might as well go to hell. 

Parking Spots Are For Proles

20 Sep

When Carl Paladino goes shopping at the Eastern Hills Mall, he doesn’t have to park in actual “spots” like the rest of us rubes. Because he is a very wealthy and important person – far wealthier and more important than you or I, dear reader – he has a special license that permits him to park wherever he wants.  Although we must give Mr. Paladino credit for not occupying a spot reserved for the infirm and disabled, understand that he is,  by dint of his awesomeness, allowed to park even closer to the door than the infirm and disabled

The person who posted this picture relates that she objected to Lord Paladino, as she saw him walk towards the mall, and that he replied that she should mind her business. 

This person is not a nice person. 

Public Sector Millionaires Wage Class Warfare on Poor

20 Sep

For your Friday watching pleasure, watch a Democratic Congresswoman explain the rank hypocrisy of her Republican colleagues who lead lifestyles of the rich and famous on a sub-$200k salary thanks to lobbyists, etc. As these public sector millionaires (like Chris Collins) work to cut food stamps and do further harm to America’s working poor, including eliminating SNAP benefits for veterans. (Brian Higgins voted against it.)

In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more,” said Speier. “Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps. Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar. They receive money to do this. That’s right, they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.

Let me give you a few examples: One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak.

Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.

Another 20 members made a trip to Dublin, Ireland. They got $166 a day for food.These members didn’t pay a dime. They received almost $200 for a single meal only for themselves. Yet, for them the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl. The families of veterans, of farmers, of the disabled, of the working poor are not visible to them, not even when they are their own constituents.

The Republican House of Representatives voted to literally take food away from working people. It now moves on to the Senate, where the bill will die a swift death. The balls on these guys.