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Albany’s Culture of Corruption & Fusion

3 Jun

In your real day-to-day life, does last week’s Zephyr Teachout / Working Families Party brinksmanship with Governor Cuomo matter to you? 

Mr. Langworthy hits on a key point of New York’s fundamentally corrupt electoral fusion system – all of this chasing of third, fourth, and fifth lines involves extortion and bribery.  All of it. Every single one.

The system is dirty because the system is set up to be dirty. 

You want to be angry about Cuomo dismantling the Moreland Commission on public corruption literally overnight to cut a budget deal? I’m angry, too, and hope the US Attorney in Manhattan truly does pursue what scraps he’s been able to gather. Asking Albany to clean house reminds me of Jesse Pinkman, the young henchman from Breaking Bad, attending group drug counseling so he can sell meth to other attendees. 

 But the system itself can’t be reformed as long as fusion is permitted to be legal. You can bet that just about very time a politico chases a minor party fusion line, there’s some degree of corruption afoot. The “Independence Party” is the worst, but they’re all cut from the same cloth. 

It really doesn’t get any simpler. If you want to end Albany’s culture of corruption, you have to end Albany’s culture of corruption. Just. Do. It. 

If you’re like I am, do you draw any comfort or satisfaction from the fact that Cuomo is equally reviled on both the hard left and hard right? 

Mincing Upper East Siders for DiPietro

1 May

Western New York’s most hilarious Assemblyman, the dry cleaner-turned Fredo-turned Obamaphobe tea party Assemblyman David DiPietro, is going to be holding a fundraiser in the wilds of East Aurora, and there’ll be a gun raffle, to boot.

Donald Trump and wife Melania Trump

Upper East Side man with Consort, Mincing in Tuxedo

Because nothing says “re-elect my homophobic Assemblyman” more than the ability to fondle a long, hard shaft.  To touch it; caress it and wonder what sort of explosive wonders it might be capable of.  There will also be chicken and booze. Possibly a 50/50, and an exponentially increased risk of catastrophic injury.

When the Buffalo News asked DiPietro to comment, he mouth-shat:

I know this fundraiser raises a few Upper East Side eyebrows, but I represent rural Western New York. Here, we don’t mince around in tuxedos. We hunt and fish so why not? We didn’t know when we came up with the idea but this turns out to be a really fun event

So, playbook. It’s rural “real America” versus the pointy-headed tuxedoed wealthy on the Upper East Side. Urban liberals. Jews. Blacks. You know – other. No word yet on whether there will be any Freudian therapists on hand to assist what will likely be predominately white male attendees with their palpable subconscious castration anxiety.

Let’s backtrack for just a second and recall that DiPietro spent about a month massaging Trump’s prostate recruiting Donald Trump to run for Governor. Donald Trump – a rich blowhard who wears tuxedoes and lives on New York’s Upper East Side.  Trump is a notorious tack merchant who has yet to prove that he is not the offspring of an Orangutan.

But this whole sportsman meme that DiPietro has concocted for himself is somewhat enchanting.  Go to his campaign webpage and the only issue to which he’s devoted more than just a picture caption is guns. Gun rights, gun raffle, gun this, gun that. Everything else is given less than a complete sentence.

The reason, of course, is that as a Republican member of the Assembly, DiPietro is paid about $80,000 in state money, plus a pension if he makes it 10 years in the system, sweet benefits,  a $9,000 stipend as “ranking member of the small business committee”, a staff, and a travel per diem, to do nothing except pontificate about guns. Because of Albany’s antidemocratic structural dysfunction, DiPietro’s presence in Albany is reduced to that of loudmouthed seatcover.

(But you’ll never, ever see all those Republicans who rail against public sector employees and their unions bitch and moan about worthless GOP Assembly members making 100 large per year to drive to Albany and park their cars. Now ask your Republican Assemblysitter whether they’ve done anything to, e.g., promote the reforms set forth a decade ago by NYU’s Brennan Center. Then tell me what the crickets sound like.)

David DiPietro is an Italian-American dry cleaner from the tony Buffalo suburb of East Aurora – home to the Roycrofters and Fisher-Price. He’s not some outdoorsman hero who gets to pretend like he’s any more or less a real American than anyone else.

Even tuxedo-mincing Upper East Side alleged-billionaire elitist Donald Trump.

Corrections

3 Mar

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Erie County Republicans Support Free Tuition for All

24 Feb

I applaud the Erie County Republican Committee’s efforts to make a college education free for all in-state children. The problems that the students in this video identify are all wholly solvable through legislation, and I’m sure that our local Republican delegation is working feverishly to ensure that every New Yorker attending a state school gets the free quality education that our post-industrial society requires. 

Things to Ask the New York State Thruway Authority (Update: Ray Walter Asked Some)

31 Jan

(Assemblyman Ray Walter posted this to Facebook on Thursday…

Transportation Budget Hearing today. Tweet or FB me your questions for DOT and Thruway and I’ll try to get them in.#Budget2014

…Here are the questions I “Facebooked”): 

1. Why do we need a Thruway Authority? In other words, why can’t the State DOT assume the duty to maintain the roads over which the Thruway has jurisdiction? 

2. Assuming there is a satisfactory answer to #1, why can’t the Thruway Authority automate toll collection? This would save money for the Authority, and lost productivity and time for motorists. 

3. How much does the Thruway Authority cost to operate every year as a separate entity, and how much of that is paid through tolls? 

4. Similar to #2, but even if not fully automated, what reason exists to employ actual human beings to act as a middleman between a ticket dispensing machine and a motorist? Is there some magical forcefield that prevents motorists from taking a ticket themselves? 

5. The toll barriers in Williamsville, Lackawanna, and at the PA border are inadequate for the amount of traffic they get during peak times in the summer. Will the TA institute a process to let motorists through toll-free during bad back-ups to alleviate traffic, and to prevent the poisoning of the air for nearby residents? 

6. The TA operates the I-190, which handles most Canadian traffic. Why are the only tourism offices located at the Angola and Clarence plazas? Why is there no rest area / tourism office serving Canadians arriving on the Q-L, Rainbow, and Peace Bridges to spend money in WNY? 

7. Also related to #2, EZ-Pass has the capability to collect tolls while traffic moves at highway speeds. Why is there no “EZ-Pass only” lane that lets vehicles go by at highway speeds at the major barriers in WNY? 

8. It is my understanding that the tolls at Williamsville cannot be expanded due to lack of space. There has been a big push by certain towns (especially Vill of W’Ville) to move the barrier (if one needs to exist) back to somewhere between Clarence and the Pembroke exit. Why hasn’t this happened? What is the hold-up? 

9. EZ-Pass transponders are operating throughout Manhattan. Why?

10. Is there any other system that might be implemented for the collection of tolls on the NYS Thruway that the TA has looked into? For instance, payment by mobile phone, payment of an annual, daily, or weekly pass to use the road, etc? 

11. Will the TA raise the speed limit on the Thruway in rural areas between Albany – PA Line to 75 MPH? 

12. The numbering scheme for exits on the Thruway is counterintuitive – many exits have been added and instead of re-numbering the system to accommodate them, the TA has just slapped an “A” at the end of the exit. Other states have implemented a system whereby the exit numbers correspond with the mile markers. When I wrote to the TA 10 yrs ago about this, they claimed that they couldn’t make this change because the road actually follows the I-87 and then the I-90, but this makes no sense. After all, the exit numbering scheme sequential along these two roadways, and the mile markers begin at 0 at the Deegan/Yonkers line and ascend along the I-87, continuing to the I-90. The Transit Road exit in Depew should be 415. 

That’s all I’ve got for now.

UPDATE: Assemblyman Walter got to ask some of them. Here’s what the Thruway guy said:

Extreme Whack Job

22 Jan

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Trump: An Exercise in Brand Destruction

18 Jan

Dear New York State ultra right-wing Republicans: 

Andrew Cuomo is right. 

The reason you’re so angry? You know he’s right. 

But I would say the state GOP is split into three distinct factions, not just two. 

In 2010, the Republican Party was divided between the wealthy, country clubby downstate moderate Republican hierarchy on the one hand, and a brash, obscene, bellicose, ultra right-winger who energized (and was energized by) the Palinist wing of the tea party.  The glibertarian Paulist wing of the tea party also backed Paladino, somewhat begrudgingly. What all this amounted to was a complete blow-out whereby Democrat Andrew Cuomo defeated Carl Paladino 61% – 34%. 

Paladino was largely self-funded, and could buy himself all the media attention he wanted. His only disadvantage was his own mouth. And the policies he espoused. New Yorkers rejected him convincingly. 

Now, the ultra-right Palinists are thisclose to recruiting Donald Trump to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is, I’m sure, not relishing the fight because Trump has many advantages over Carl Paladino; for instance, Trump has an international brand; Trump is reasonably well-liked by people, regardless of his weird politics; Trump knows how to make headlines, and do so positively for himself; Trump has been vetted in the media for decades; people know Trump for fun things that have nothing to do with politics; he is a known quantity downstate;  and, Trump has the New York Post in his pocket. 

Trump has some negatives, too, though; for instance, he has no filter between his brain and his mouth; he can be not just exceedingly rude and hostile, but downright vicious when dealing with people who offer him even mild criticism; Trump has been scrutinized as a tabloid celebrity, but not as a serious candidate for elected office; Trump does not play well with others, and is used to getting exactly what he wants (or can buy); Trump is likely to mirror Paladino’s bellicose attitude and alienate many voters; Trump’s utterly bizarre and inexplicably vocal birtherism will make Obama voters (62.6% of New Yorkers voted for Obama vs. 36% for Romney) reject Trump outright; and Trump has never, ever before paid a stitch of care or attention to anything west of the Hudson and/or north of Saratoga when it comes to New York State. 

If Republicans think that Trump can win (if he runs), they may be right – he has a chance. But it won’t remotely be the cakewalk they’re thinking it’ll be.  Cuomo isn’t warm and fuzzy, either, but he is a centrist Democrat. 

New York State is overwhelmingly populated by Democrats. The vast majority of New York voters are located within the New York City metropolitan area and media market. These people know Trump, and while upstate flirts with this pretty TV celebrity, he’s old hat downstate. Many of them are likely to not take him at all seriously. 

All of these hypotheticals are naturally based on the assumption that he’ll run. He won’t if there’s a primary, he says, and the country clubbers that run the New York GOP aren’t warming to Trump yet. I’m not so sure he’ll run – this is already a huge publicity stunt for him, and running is secondary. What a wonderful branding exercise. 

But is it? Is Trump ready to sacrifice his brand further by wading into hyperpartisan politics? As an Obama supporter, I’ve already resolved to avoid anything with Trump’s name on it like the plague; I see his relentless birtherism as thinly veiled racist xenophobia, and I see his rejection of irrefutable evidence as a huge character flaw that disqualifies him for public office, and the money I earn. If Donald Trump thinks that the President is a foreign national who is ineligible for the Presidency in the face of a certified long-form Hawaiian birth certificate, that calls his judgment and credibility into question. Now expand that aggressive ignorance into state politics, and he’ll alienate Democrats and moderate Republicans even more. 

Oh, and here’s a tip, tea partiers: stop calling Andrew Cuomo “il Duce”. He was duly elected, and you maintain a right to hate and criticize him. He is, therefore, not a fascist totalitarian dictator. But he is Italian. Your defamation of Cuomo with this false, childish, base slur will not ingratiate you or your candidates to New Yorkers of Italian descent. This bigotry is vile and beneath you; you might as well call him a mob boss or depict him as an organ-grinder as soon as you’d depict Obama as an African chieftain or with a watermelon

Because for all the bleating about the NY SAFE Act, this race will be decided in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. The rural areas will go for the Republican, the urban areas will go for the Democrat, and these key suburban swing counties could go either way. Right-leaning upstate counties simply don’t have a lot of people. 60% or so of New Yorkers are registered Democrats. 30% or so of New Yorkers are registered Republicans. The Conservative and Independence Parties are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party, so add another 5% on the Republican side. That’s the gap that Trump would have to win, and Cuomo made the point that he’s too extreme. 

Here’s what Cuomo had to say in remarks that enraged many New York right-wingers: 

You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.

… You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”

Republicans can take umbrage to that, but it’s a fundamentally true declaration. New York Republicans may enjoy the extreme hatenouncements of pretty billionaires and petty millionaires, but your average New Yorker is pretty middle-of-the-road. Pataki won because he wasn’t an extremist. Cuomo won because he wasn’t an extremist. It’s about the center in New York, and Trump may have had appeal there before the birtherism, but now he’s just Paladino with a cleaner outbox, a TV endorsement, and more money in the bank. 

Oh, by the way, the New York State Attorney General is suing Trump for defrauding students through a now-defunct “Trump University” which took money in exchange for nothing.  

So, my initial prediction is that Trump won’t win because (a) there would likely be a primary; and/or (b) he doesn’t need the headache. If I’m wrong and he does run, then I think he outperforms Paladino, but doesn’t defeat Cuomo. The reason why? Trump is being backed and promoted by a small minority of a small minority political party – a fraction of 35% of the state population. 

You guys are great at buying your own BS, and because you only credit right-leaning media and reject any sort of critical thought or debate, you think that you “surround us”. The problem is that the numbers are not in your favor, and the ease with which you descend into crass, ugly rhetoric doesn’t help. This is before we get to the actual policies you espouse, most of which would never fly in a cosmopolitan blue state like New York. 

So, good luck with this, but you might want to consider ways in which centrists and liberals might be attracted to Trump, rather than alienating them right from the start. Have a great weekend!

Love, BP

Doctor’s Orders

9 Jan

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Better to Make Money than to Spend it

6 Jan

Colorado is making money on recreational use and sale of marijuana

Nations have been waging war on “drugs” for decades now, and it’s been a complete disaster. Like waging war on “terror”, we are learning that you can’t just declare and wage war on something that has always existed, still exists, and will always exist. The war on drugs is destroying communities and poorer nations much more palpably than use of the drugs themselves would. 

Marijuana decriminalization has been gaining some momentum in recent months, because of all the prohibited drugs, it’s the least harmful. It comes from a plant that grows in the ground and, unlike substances like crystal meth, crack, or heroin, you don’t need an explosive laboratory to prepare it for use. The worst thing about marijuana is that it makes people sleepy, lazy, and hungry. Maybe it makes them act a bit silly.  Unlike alcohol, it doesn’t make them black out, pass out, belligerent, loud, or obnoxious. I’d rather encounter a stoner than a drunk any day, and the war on drugs has been disproportionately harsh on the poor and the brown. 

So, Uruguay, Washington State, and Colorado have decriminalized and taxed marijuana. Consumers can legally buy, consume, grow, sell, and possess small quantities, and all of it is healthily taxed by the local authorities. 

The arguments will come that decriminalization will be a slippery slope to the legalization of harder drugs, and perhaps this is a debate that needs to take place. But the amount of money spent on enforcing anachronistic marijuana prohibition laws that were brought about through an organized misinformation campaign is enormous, and perhaps it’s time for the people to have a smidge more freedom, and that a legal marijuana trade helps to fund government, rather than the status quo whereby the government feeds an illegal, violent black market. 

Back in mid-December, state Senator Liz Krueger introduced a bill to decriminalize pot sales to 21 year-olds, and possession for 18 year-olds. Small amounts could be traded, grown, possessed, and taxed. As of right now, it is estimated that marijuana is a $3 billion annual market, yet the government doesn’t get its cut. 

The Assembly bill is here, and the text of the identical Senate bill is here. As Governor Cuomo moves to minimally liberalize medical marijuana, catching up to many other states, perhaps it’s time to at least put marijuana decriminalization before the voters of the state.

It’s time the people made money off of this thriving market, rather than spending money trying, ever in vain, to stop it. 

The Trump Gambit

5 Dec

Yesterday a junket of desperate Republicans met with noted Birther and tack merchant Donald Trump, urging him to run for governor of the state of New York against Andrew Cuomo. Among them was local political consultant and public relations maven Michael Caputo and birther tea party freshman Assemblyman David DiPietro. 

In this episode of “let’s recruit the rich guy“, the Republican left on the sidelines is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a solid Republican executive with wins under his belt, but little name recognition outside of downstate.  Astorino also doesn’t plaster his name on all kinds of stuff or have a billion dollars, nor is he the Sarah Palin of billionaires. But New York State Republicans are not beneath screwing the guy who earns something in favor of the self-funding rich guy. Right, David Bellavia

New York State has a population of just under 20 million people, almost half of whom live in the five boroughs of New York City. Add a million from Westchester, 1.5 million in Suffolk County, 1.4 million in Nassau, 317k in Rockland, 375k in Orange, and 100k in Putnam, and you have about 13.5 million of 19.5 million residents living within the immediate New York City metropolitan area – people who largely have no use for Albany or upstate in general, not to mention western New York. 

Trump’s especial brand of anti-Obama birtherism plays well for like-minded fellas like David DiPietro and his tea party cohorts. While much is being made of the duration of yesterday’s meeting, and the fact that Trump is no longer ruling anything out, this may have something to do with Trump’s new feud against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman’s office recently brought a $40 million fraud lawsuit against something called “Trump University” – or as the AG called it, a “nationwide scam” and  bait & switch fraud. Trump just this week filed an ethics complaint against Schneiderman, citing the prominent case of Argle v. Bargle

Really what this amounts to is recruiting a richer, downstate-friendly Carl Paladino. Trump is just as plainspoken, just as filled with scandal, just as flawed as our local loudmouth developer, but the difference is that Trump has name recognition downstate, to whom Paladino was a profane stranger, and Trump has actual friends in downstate media – even the NY Post was against Paladino. 

Donald Trump is the dream candidate for the angry, defeatist white male upstate voter with a “repeal NY SAFE Act” lawnsign because to the WBEN listener Rus Thompson set, Cuomo is the devil, and Obama isn’t even human. They aspire to be just like Donald Trump, and they love that he thinks like they do – and he has the money and name recognition to not care what anyone thinks. His downstate bona fides explain why he’s being wooed. 

Donald Trump would accomplish nothing in New York State. He would do nothing for education, for the poor, for upstate’s economic malaise, for Buffalo, or for anyone except the tea party and the ultrarich. I will also bet you that part of the strategy is a fusion party line or two, meaning that Trump would take advantage of the single-most corrupt process in New York politics. 

The headlines yesterday should have read, “Lawmakers to Massage Trump Ego, Trump Reacts Favorably”.