Tag Archives: 2013

Best of 2013

1 Jan

For me, the best thing of 2013 was, hands down, a good result from a horrible health scare in the family. Everything else pales in comparison. 

So, I asked people on Twitter to give me their best of 2013. Here’s what they said. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A protected user suggested: “BCAT opened, Start-UP NY announced, Harbor Center development, Riverbend project, and BNE made a Buffalo video people liked!”

 

 

 

Last – minute entries: 

– Bills stay (for a time).  Yeah, they lose, but we’d miss them if they were gone.

– Sabres change leadership.  No place to go but up

– Dinosaur Barbeque comes to Buffalo.  2014 will taste better than 2013

– Trader Joes comes to Amherst.  Ditto

– Unemployment rate in WNY dropping.  Good.  “nuff said.

– The Stock Market is UP.  Not bad for a Kenya – born socialist. 

– The Tea Party is DOWN.  Only took the near-bankruptcy of the US Government to do this, but hey – count your blessings.

And: 

Long Live TOY – Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City is one of the most positive stories to come out of this region in years- which is why we decided to try and tell it in Documentary form.

Meg Quinn, TOY’s Creative Director and Co-founder along with others from the arts community fight the Collin’s 2010-2011 Cultural funding cuts in the midst of their 40th season.  The community rallied against Collins to help remove him from office and restore the funding.

Through the prism of a unique non-profit children’s theatre we see the impact and importance of cultural assets.

The film won two audience awards at Buffalo International Film Festival, and many were moved to tears at Sunday’s screening at the Dipson Market Arcade.

A positive story that few will probably see because it’s “just children’s theatre”.

Austin McLoughlin
Mary Beth Murray
Long Live TOY Producers

Long Live TOY – Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City – (Preview Trailer) from AP McLoughlin on Vimeo.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous 2014. If you’re going to be outside tonight for the festivities, please stay warm and safe. 

(The slideshow above displays photographs that talented WNYers have added to the AV Daily Flickr Group.)

10 Worst of 2013

31 Dec

Because it’s the end of the year, it’s compulsory to do a nostalgia listicle, right? This is culled from my own posts here at Artvoice daily, and not intended to be comprehensive.  Everything chosen essentially at random.  

10. Dennis Gabryszak

Oh, look. Another entitled do-nothing superfluous, self-important Albany hack who sexually harasses female staffers. If it was one staffer, it’d be worth a listen. Two staffers, and it’s going to raise eyebrows. Three staffers? Now it’s a thing. Four, and the fourth is still working there? Cringeworthy. The fact that Gabryszak has said nothing is thanks to some fantastic legal advice, but equally horrible political advice. 

9. Donn Esmonde

Donn Esmonde proved himself to be an ass throughout 2013.

It started when this retired suburban Long Island native decided that he is against quality education for children in suburban districts. One with questionable ethics, to boot. I look forward to more Tielman quotes, self-congratubation, and cheery, irony-free invocations of “lighter, quicker, cheaper”. 

8. The Conservative Party

To paraphrase Linda Richman, the Conservative Party is neither conservative nor a party. Discuss.

Ralph Lorigo’s personal fiefdom proves that political feudalism is alive and well in the 21st century. While the deceptively named Independence Party is now running all its endorsements through its statewide committee (and the NYGOP), Lorigo’s faction will endorse the occasional Democrat, but the criteria are always murky. This year, the CPWNY went out of its way to defame Republican Buffalo mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez

7. Tim Kennedy

See Number 6, below.

This guy came up with over $80,000 – much of it from inactive campaign accounts with no money in them, and none of which was properly disclosed – to sabotage Democrats in 2013. 

6.  Pigeon, Max, Mazurek & the AwfulPAC

It’s like a shit-stained comet, coming back to streak across our pleasant skies every few election seasons.

Yet again, former Erie County Democratic chairman G. Steven Pigeon assembled a horrible band du jour to sabotage the county committee’s election year efforts. Cheektowaga town Democratic chairman Frank Max believes himself entitled to the office of county chairman, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s the only one who thinks so. (He’s been rather silent on the whole Gabryszak thing, don’t you think?) Pigeon and Max, their EmoDems, along with Kristy Mazurek, whose elbows are as sharp as her tongue, got AwfulPAC going just in time for the September primaries. Add in some dubiously sourced campaign cash from various entities, as well as $80k+ from state Senator Tim Kennedy, who owes Pigeon one for maneuvering him into that office, and you’ve got this year’s comet’s skidmarks. 

What did they accomplish? Wes Moore lost, but viciously sabotaged Democrat Wynnie Fisher. Rick Zydel lost, and Pat Burke came out of nowhere to beat everybody. Dick Dobson defeated the politically tone-deaf Bert Dunn, but AwfulPAC abandoned Dobson in October, proving that they were really just Democrats for Tim Howard all along. They tried to take credit for a win in Rochester with which they had nothing to do. Oh, and they returned the queen of transactional politics, Barbara Miller Williams, to the county legislature. But because it’s easier to cast it all as a big loss for Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, that was the narrative we were all fed

5. Donald Trump

Everyone’s favorite birther started out the year by releasing a forgery of a birth certificate. Why won’t Donald Trump address the allegations that he is the spawn of an orangutan? 

Oh, and now he’s “considering” a run for Governor of the state of New York.

4. The WNY Voter

Byron Brown coasts? Barbara Miller Williams elected again? Carl Paladino elected to the Buffalo school board? Horrible turnout numbers for elections? Can’t we do better than this? 

3. Tim Howard

The elected Erie County Sheriff decided to also appoint himself to a Supreme Court judgeship, but elevated himself to the New York Court of Appeals – maybe even the Supreme Court! 

He unilaterally decided that he wasn’t going to enforce the NY SAFE Act (see #1, below), thus completely misunderstanding how the constitution works and what roles the various governmental branches play. 

2. Chris Collins

Seriously, take your pick – whether it’s his criticism of an historic deal with Iran, Collins’ vigorous support of a government shutdown in a hopeless effort to get the President to ditch Obamacare – and then claiming he didn’t support it at all, or his jejune “poll” of his constituents, Chris Collins proved time and again that he is the worst Congressman WNY has sent to Washington in perhaps forever. No amount of Buffalo News rehabilitation will change this. 

1. Concern-trolling and the NY SAFE Act

If you really think that limiting magazine capacity and requiring more stringent background checks in order to purchase a firearm is a tyrannical usurpation of your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, in a state that already has among the strictest gun laws in the country, you’re having a bit of an overreaction.

I liken it to the kid in class who craves attention, so he casts himself in the role of victim in order to feed the craving. We see you, and your Gadsen flag. However, society has a similar compulsion to balance the right of people to, e.g., send their kids to school and not have them come home in the box because an unhinged lunatic had an arsenal versus your right to own an arsenal

Dishonorable mention:

The same collection of Buffalo plutocrats who gave us such hits as “Dr. James Williams” are now agitating to pay off Buffalo School superintendent Pamela Brown in an effort to be rid of her. Forget that there have been incremental improvements in results under her tenure; forget that Williams was a trainwreck of a disaster, bought and paid for by M&T Bank’s Robert Wilmers; and forget that Brown has been in her current position since June 2012. The bottomless pit of racist, sexist, misogynist invective that some are hurling at her for not adequately herding all her myriad feline coalitions has been appalling. I don’t know why the likes of Paladino don’t just come right out and say what they mean – that she and the board members who appointed her are a sordid collection of incompetent negresses. Brown isn’t perfect, but relentlessly sabotaging her, dehumanizing her, and delegitimizing her isn’t going to fix much. At least give her a chance to succeed or fail. 

Coming soon: best of 2013. If you have a nomination, email me here

Winners and Losers as #WNYVotes

11 Sep

Winners

Dick Dobson: He appears to be the winner of the Erie County Sheriff’s primary against Bert Dunn, pending counts of absentees, etc. Dunn learned that money alone doesn’t buy you an election – you have to get out there, and you have to spend it. Dobson out-ran Dunn from day one, and he squeaked out a victory with only 500 votes or so separating them. Now, it’s on to defeat the anti-professional incumbent. (Micropolitically, this is a gold star for Frank Max and a bruise for Jeremy Zellner). 

Wynnie Fisher, Betty Jean Grant, Byron Brown: all of them defeated their opponents by more than 10 percentage points. Fisher and Grant were up against Steve Pigeon / Kristy Mazurek candidates and earn Jeremy Zellner gold stars. Indeed, Zellner’s clever effort at unifying the party through his unqualified endorsement of Byron Brown also earns him a gold star. Moore may be a headache in November assuming he’s on the Working Families line. 

Pat Burke: From South Buffalo bartender to winner of a legislative primary. No one gave Burke a serious shot until the day of the election, and it was all centered on turnout – if the South Buffalo portion of the district came out for Burke in a big way, he could eclipse Dearmyer and/or Zydel, the Cheektowagans. That’s exactly what happened, and while Dearmyer had a lead through the first half of the night, Burke came charging out of nowhere to take a pretty convincing lead. Chances are this won’t be over today, as all votes get counted, but credit goes to Burke, who ran without help from either the Pigeon faction or Headquarters, and claims to be independent of all of them. That’s great, so long as he doesn’t sell out to the Republicans. 

Barbara Miller-Williams: Quite possibly the worst transactional legislative horror show ever to jump out at you is leading incumbent Tim Hogues by just 20 votes. This is the woman who sold out to Chris Collins for a big chunk of money for the Colored Musician’s Club – her husband is on its board. With paid-off silence, she collaborated with the Republican dismantling of health clinics and other critical services for her poor urban constituency. She became the de facto head of a Republican legislature that was little more than a Collins marionnette, and if you watched Collins last night, he is one of those right wing scumbags who has nicer things to say about neofascist autocrat Vladimir Putin than his own country’s President. This race is going to be litigated, so it’s not over yet, but simply by making it competitive at all, Miller-Williams shows that she shouldn’t be counted out yet. Query why she’s still a Democrat, though. That’s what tens of thousands of dollars from Steve Pigeon and Tim Kennedy will buy you, though. 

Mary Giallanza Carney and Deanne Tripi: won the Family Court race. I generally stay out of judicial races. 

The residents of Niagara Falls, Governor Cuomo, and Mark Hamister: See below. 

Jeremy Zellner: Sure, he seems to have lost the Sheriff’s race, and the Hogues race is way too close to call – and Dearmyer didn’t pull it out against Burke. But Zydel, Moore, and Nixon all lost to HQ candidates, showing that he has political clout his opponents kept saying he didn’t have. 

Losers

Sam Fruscione: Niagara Falls voters had to select three, and they had four choices. Fruscione was the “beneficiary” of an inflammatory mailer that called Buffalo developer a “con man” – a criminal – and Fruscione skulked away from blistering questioning from Mary Alice Demler about it. He lost last night – lost big. He blamed it on anti-Italian “racism”. Someone should explain to Mr. Fruscione two things: 1. “Italian” is a nationality – not a “race”; and 2. You don’t get to glorify the mafia and mob violence by selling La Cosa Nostra paraphernalia and Stefano Magaddino t-shirts and then get to complain when people call you out for retaining the services of convicted loanshark extortionists. Chutzpah doesn’t even begin to explain the idiocy here. This guy was trying to play Mark Hamister, and when the Governor out-strong-arms you, your political days are numbered. 

Bert Dunn: As I mentioned above, he had all the money in the world and the backing of HQ, but you can’t force him to go out and spend it and do the work necessary to combat a hard-working opponent. I’m a prime dem and I got one piece of lit from Dunn, nothing from Dobson, but it came about 2 weeks ago, and the lackluster ads from Dunn showed up on TV just in the last few days. He waited too long and didn’t do nearly enough to secure what he apparently thought was a sure thing. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but here it never really began. 

Rick Zydel: This was Pigeon’s and Max’s and Mazurek’s big, marquee race – the one they were going to embarrass HQ with. Zydel came in to unseat longtime incumbent and legislative majority leader Tom Mazur. Mazur decided to bow out. Well, HQ may have a bit of mud on its face this morning, but not from Zydel – from Pat Burke, who came out of nowhere with the apparent win. Zydel was Zy-done from minute one, and Lynn Dearmyer was consistently ahead of him all night until city results started gushing in. 

Wes Moore: Another hand-picked Pigeon guy, Moore was setting up to challenge the sleepy incumbent, Terry McCracken. McCracken dropped out, Moore had a head start, yet an unknown from Alden named Wynnie Fisher trounced him – a win for Zellner and HQ. 

Kristy Mazurek, Steve Pigeon, Frank Max: Ask anyone Mazurek has come into contact with in the last year or so, and they’ll tell you that soon after her candidate David Shenk lost dramatically to Stefan Mychajliw in last year’s Comptroller’s special election, that she was going to go to war with HQ and Zellner. She was there earlier this year, unironically sporting a red armband as the Max people tried to strong-arm their way to a chairmanship victory. She told anyone who would listen that she was going to single-handedly run candidates for the legislature that she picked, and that they would all win and embarrass Zellner and HQ. She threatened to blackmail and bully opponents, and that she would release embarrassing information about them. She set herself up as a kingmaker without a kingdom. She latched on to Frank Max first, because they had interests in alignment with each other. Steve Pigeon came into the picture with gobs of cash. Stories have already come out about how questionable the sources of cash are – and more stories are coming.  In the last week or so of writing about the “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC“, I have heard several remarkably similar stories from completely unrelated people, explaining how even a hint of disagreement with Mazurek invites a blistering “do you know who I am” and “do you know who my father is” response from her, with demands of “who are you working for”, harassing phone calls, and even firings over social media. You don’t build an army by burning bridges. Pigeon proves yet again that his negativity crosses a line and ends up helping his target, more often than not. It happened in the Falls, and in the Zydel, Moore, and Nixon efforts. Steve Pigeon is exceptionally good at formenting chaos and stirring shit, but he is palpably bad at the whole “winning elections” thing, at least locally – and the people who end up aligned with him turn out to be just horrible, more often than not – not sure if that’s organic or learned. As an aside, I’ll note that the one Democratic candidate for Cheektowaga town board whom Max’s organization did not endorse – Diane Benczkowski – received the most votes last night. 

Bernie Tolbert: A campaign that was relentlessly negative once it started up way too late to gain any traction. It was clear that the people advising Tolbert weren’t paying attention to the polls that showed widespread contentment with Byron Brown and the job he was doing, because they kept hitting him with negativity and pointing out minor things like Brown’s sudden attention to vacant eyesore buildings or having cops walk a beat in Allentown. Tolbert never got a chance to define who he was, and so Brown didn’t have to pay him any attention. People couldn’t “believe in Bernie” because they didn’t quite understand why Bernie was running, or what he’d specifically do differently from Brown. Brown pretends like he ran a clean race, but he had surrogates go out and hit Tolbert. In the end, Tolbert’s campaign seemed reactionary and petty while Brown was cool, calm, and collected. 

Tim Kennedy: Through his affiliation with the Mazurek PAC, and his apparent $85,000 in reported donations through two campaign committees – one of which has been closed since 2011 – he lost big-time last night. He has pissed of HQ, Higgins’ people, South Buffalo, the Governor, and some other very powerful people. He is up for re-election next year, and he is about to get called out for apparent election law violations. There will be a coalition of entities united against him next year, and he’s going to need a lot of money and a lot of luck to win re-election as a Democrat in his district in 2014. 

You: Because really, no matter who wins or loses, everything ends up being transactional nonsense and little of it ever translates into good government. 

#ItsTime vs. #BelieveinBernie vs. #Progress

13 Aug

He may be underfunded, and he may have a dramatic party enrollment disadvantage, but Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez has staked out a unique position here. While Mayor Brown touts “progress” which he hasn’t had a lot to do with, and while Bernie Tolbert shows random people who “believe” in him for unexplained reasons, Sergio shows a set of fundamental problems – crime, unemployment, lack of opportunity, and despair – and declares that it’s time for a change. 

For a young Marine who is getting jerked around left and right by every Republican political machine with which he comes into contact, he’s showing people that he won’t give up, won’t back down, and can’t be bought. That is refreshing all by itself. 

Admittedly, he doesn’t go into details of what that change would look like, and the candidate himself only makes a cameo appearance at the end, but I think it’s easily the best ad from any Buffalo mayoral campaign in perhaps ever. Kudos to Sergio and his team, and I’m looking forward to the hashtag mayoral race. 

Health Care as a Civil Right

17 Apr

I left this as a comment on Facebook in an ongoing debate over whether Regal Cinemas is going to cut hours to avoid having to offer health insurance to its employees. I am of the mind that Regal and other companies should happily treat their employees like human beings and offer basic benefits such as health insurance. It’s not like ticket prices aren’t already quite high. But to the point, I’d happily pay another buck if I knew that the concession workers and people who cleaned up the theater were properly taken care of. 

Every single western pluralist capitalist democracy has long ago resolved the issue that we don’t allow anyone – rich, poor, or middle-class – to go without access to medical care. Some have mandatory insurance (Switzerland), other have single-payer plans (UK, France, Canada), but all have some system in place to make sure that there is universal health care coverage.  

Except, of course, the United States, which is not only inexplicably proud in some cases of 40+ million uninsured people whose only access to healthcare is an ER, where the federal, state, and local governments already pay billions to reimburse uncollected bills.

How or why in 2013 we can’t get it together to make sure middle class people aren’t stuck with medical bankruptcies, unpaid/unpayable bills, or other lack of access to needed medical care is beyond me. Yet when confronted with this very real fact, the people who purport to be on the side of “liberty” can do little more except glibly to compare, e.g., chemotherapy treatment to a Twinkie, or emergency surgery to owning a TV.

In what we bill as the best and richest country in the world, absolutely you should have a right to food, shelter, and medical care. But if you start telling the middle class that if they get cancer and are uninsured that they can go screw themselves if they can’t afford the treatment, or go into bankruptcy or massive debt, then what sort of system do we have?

Opponents of single-payer point to the Canadian system’s supposed waiting times. Setting aside that, among Canadians, their medical insurance scheme enjoys something close to 90% approval, which is worse, waiting a week or traveling 100 miles for an MRI, or being unable to afford or obtain one at all. 

Geneva 2013: Cars for Emirs and Oligarchs

6 Mar

Right now there’s an international auto salon taking place in staid, antiseptic, but beautiful Geneva. The Swiss are not known for being car enthusiasts. While the small, neutral confederation sits smack in the center of Europe, acting as a crossroads between Gauls and Goths, between orderly northern Europe and chaotic southern Europe, it maintains some of the strictest emissions and speed regulations on the Continent. 

But this year, the buzz from Geneva is loud indeed. Of course, there are gimmickry things like animated headlights from Kia, and a Subaru that poaches the idea that Ford had with the new Fusion to copy an Aston Martin’s grill. But the Swiss have money, and it also happens to be the place where people with money go to squirrel theirs away. So, naturally, the planet’s nouveaux riches might enhance their trips from Monaco by using the supercar to visit their money. 

The biggest news out of Geneva is the horribly named, but dead sexy Enzo replacement, the “LaFerrari” V12 hybrid. Making 963 HP and 0-60 in 3 seconds, Ferrari are only making one less than 500 of these. It’s incredibly light, being hand-made from carbon fiber, and the electric part of the hybrid engine doesn’t exist to help MPG, but to fill out weak spots in the power. Shame about the name, though. 

Not to be outdone by Fiat, Volkswagen Group revealed the Lamborghini Veneno, which also makes 0 – 60 in 3 seconds with a 750 HP V12 and looks like the Batmobile – and I don’t mean the dark and brooding post-1989 Batmobile, but the 60s era George Barris (loud music at link) campy one: 

Britain’s McLaren revealed the P1, which has similar numbers all around, including 903 HP: 

Also, compare how clean and uncluttered the McLaren’s interior looks, as compared with the “I’m pretending I’m a Formula 1 driver” buttons and switches on the Ferrari’s wheel: 

If you’re into coupes that cost like a house, looks like a Bentley Continental, has suicide doors, and fake stars in the ceiling, BMW have made the Rolls-Royce Wraith for you. It goes in the rain!

In addition, Honda/Acura brought along a brand-new NSX. Designers are also bringing designs to the show, and they might just make you a custom version, if you have enough cash. Giugiaro has the Parcour, and Pininfarina brought the Sergio

With the Dow at historic highs, a decade’s worth of extremely expensive oil, and a stagnant middle class here at home, these are the cars that your oppressors are shopping for. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.