Tag Archives: politics

Weppner Campaign Seeking “Not So Nice”, Incidental Blight Photos

17 Jul

Blight. It’s a problem throughout Buffalo, WNY, and much of upstate and the rust belt. You can literally go anywhere in North America and encounter some abandoned buildings, ugly graffiti, vacant properties, and blight. 

But now a woman running for Congress against Brian Higgins wants to turn blight into a campaign issue. 

On Wednesday, Laura Yingling, the tea party “activist” and Glenn Beck “9-12” acolyte running Kathy Weppner’s campaign sent out a mass email to her entire list, entitled “Brian Higgins the Waterfront Czar”: 

That’s literally only about half of the “to” list. 

Here is the body of the email: 

Interesting, right? It’s a great way for Weppner to stoke class and racial fear and hatred. Also, it ignores and exploits the fact that Higgins now happens to represent the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls – places that have more than their fair share of blight. Hell, even Grand Island has that dilapidated and creepy old Dunlop office building near the north bridge. 

The current NY-27 couldn’t be more different from what it looked like before 2013, when it had a much larger suburban and rural component. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that the picture that Yingling sent around was not part of NY-27 before 2013. 

The current boundaries are also +13 Democrat, so you know, good luck. 

This is dumb politics and dumb campaigning. Showing off blight resulting from decades of regional economic failure isn’t relevant to Higgins’ time in office.  But dumb campaigns play to dumb people and know only the lowest common denominator. 

You get the idea. This parody account on Twitter captures the dumb beautifully. 

I’ll issue a challenge to all outlets in WNY: Every single time Weppner tries to get you out to an event for free media, ask her why she scrubbed her entire web and radio history from the internet, and when we can expect to see it back online

Maziarz Out, SD-62 Up For Grabs

14 Jul

Here is the statement that soon-to-be-former State Senator George Maziarz issued in order to explain his very sudden and unexpected decision to resign*: 

It is no secret to my family and close friends that I have been considering retirement from the State Legislature for the last five years. And as I geared up for another long campaign season, I realized I just did not have the passion and commitment that I have had in the past to see it through.

People will ask me why now and the simple answer is there is never the perfect time to step away. I had the honor of following the late John Daly into the State Senate. I remember him telling me when he left the Senate it was simply time for the next generation of leaders in the Legislature. After nearly two decades in office, I fully understand what he meant and feel that way today.

My second daughter gets married this summer and that is a much bigger priority for me than another grueling campaign. My family has sacrificed enough for my public service through the years and I cannot ask for any more.

To the people of Niagara, Orleans and Monroe counties who I have had the pleasure to represent since 1995, I extend my heart felt appreciation for your continued support. I always told people that being your Senator was the greatest job in the world, one I dedicated myself to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We accomplished great things and I did my best to help my constituents with any problem…big or small. Thank you for giving a kid from North Tonawanda the chance to fulfill his dream of serving in the State Senate.

Gee shucks, that’s swell. 

But not so fast. 

People just finished collecting petition signatures to get Maziarz’s name on the ballot. He could have easily announced a planned resignation earlier this year. You don’t just drop out of your career politicianship because you’re bored and you need more time for your kids. You don’t simply bow out from the “greatest job in the world” suddenly on a Sunday night. 

Mike Caputo’s PoliticsNY broke the story this weekend, and noted that the resignation comes quickly on the heels of the abrupt resignations of two of Maziarz’s top staffers. On July 11th, the Niagara County Democratic Committee issued a press release demanding a state investigation of Maziarz’s campaign spending

This week we learned Maziarz’s Chief of Staff Alisa Colatarci and Office Manager Marcus Hall both resigned. Given the U.S. Justice Department’s increased focus on public corruption in Albany, if there are reports of senior staff members resigning it should raise some eyebrows.

Eyebrows have indeed been raised ever since City & State revealed in May that two WNY Republican senators – Maziarz and Pat Gallivan – were coming under scrutiny for campaign spending

State Sen. George Maziarz shelled out more than $140,000 in campaign funds over a six-year period without identifying what exactly he purchased, according to an investigation by the now defunct Moreland Commission on Public Corruption—by far the most of any state lawmaker. State Sen. Patrick Gallivan was found to have about $80,000 in unreported campaign credit card expenses, including hundreds of dollars spent on cigars, tanning, and at salons and casinos. State Sen. Greg Ball laid out around $23,000 at retail stores, including Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic and Amore Clothing.

This must be why the Republicans haven’t been making much noise about the disbanding of the Moreland Commission as part of the overall budget deal earlier this year. Keep stumm and don’t kill the job. 

But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said, in effect,  “not so fast”. 

To date, there has been considerable speculation about what exactly the Moreland Commission’s investigations team probed over the months it was in operation, but few specifics have been disclosed to the public. Several legislators and critics have openly dismissed the Commission’s work as a “witch hunt.” Conversely, Moreland Commissioner Makau Mutua said earlier this month that the Commission had unearthed potential criminality by 10 to 12 state lawmakers.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was interested enough in finding out what the Commission had discovered that he has launched an inquiry, in part, to get to the bottom of whether “investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away as part of the negotiated arrangement between legislative and executive leaders,” as he wrote in a letter to the Commission’s members on April 3—a reference to the ethics deal struck between the governor and the Legislature as part of their budget agreement at the end of March, which coincided with Cuomo’s announcement that he was shutting down the Commission.

How does this all play into Maziarz’s resignation? Well, take a look at Binghamton-area Republican state senator Tom Libous – the second-highest ranking GOPer in the Senate- who was just indicted for lying to the FBI about getting his kid a job, and promising to direct work to that firm as a quid-pro-quo. The son was indicted for tax evasion and embezzlement. Libous was also out in front to try and block an extension on the fracking ban, mostly because his wife and a big campaign donor stand to benefit financially from a lifting of the ban

Is Bharara poised to indict Maziarz for corruption that the Moreland Commission uncovered and then simply stopped doing anything about to placate Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos? Consider what City & State uncovered

The legislator with the most number of entries about him is state Sen. George Maziarz, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership. According to the documents, Maziarz amassed more than $140,000 in unitemized campaign expenses in filings reported between 2008 and 2013—which averages out to more than $23,000 a year, or nearly $2,000 a month. The senator’s campaign also had “over $67,000 of charges and expenditures to Chase and Chase Card Services,” identified broadly as “office” expenses. The total sum, which exceeded by tens of thousands of dollars the amount of unspecified expenditures by each of the other lawmakers flagged, is broken down in depth within the documents and includes details not included in the senator’s public campaign filings.

The Commission found that the Maziarz campaign doled out more than $125,000 at retailers such as Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club, including $56,250 in expenditures that investigators concluded had not been reported. Another $10,000 from the senator’s re-election funds went to specialty chocolatiers, a florist and wineries and wine stores. The campaign committee also paid for $7,850 worth of reading materials at Borders, Readers Digest and Barnes & Noble, with $2,000 labeled as “unreported” by the Commission.

The Commission also tabulated the Maziarz campaign spending $12,000 at arts and crafts stores like Michaels and Oriental Trading; $7,000 at the now-defunct online gift boutique Southern Living at HOME and its successor, Willow House; and $4,000 on purchases related to children, including from Toys ”R” Us and Mud Pie, and payments to Do-do, the clown.

A company called MEM Enterprises also received a cumulative $39,000 from the Maziarz campaign. A Commission document notes that the company has only one employee, brings in $54,000 a year and is based at a residence owned by a person who appears to be the senator’s relative. Efforts to reach MEM Enterprises were unsuccessful, however, based upon inquiries made by City & State, it appears that the company’s address is the same as that of the senator’s brother, Marvin Maziarz, a retired Niagara County Community College professor.

As for Pat Gallivan, 

The next highest total was run up by Gallivan, who had about $80,000 in “unreported credit card expenses.” In Gallivan’s case, records for a Capital One card revealed $1,200 spent at casinos, $1,000 on cigars and $300 on “tanning beds and at salons.” The senator also had approximately $4,000 in unreported charges to AT&T, $3,500 in unreported charges to Verizon Wireless, $4,000 in charges to the DeLacy Ford dealership in Elma, N.Y., and almost $3,000 in unreported loan payments to M&T Bank. The Commission was apparently unable to obtain records for an American Express card that had $47,000 in unreported campaign charges.

Generally speaking, lawmakers are forbidden from converting campaign finances to personal use. This sort of analysis of campaign spending is unprecedented, and for decades, no one has bothered to look into any of this. 

It’s quite clear that Maziarz’s unforeseen and hurried exit has to do with something much more grave than a general feeling of political ennui and a sudden desire to focus on his daughter’s nuptials. 

Another corrupt lawmaker in a hypercorrupt Albany? Big surprise, and the way in which this unfolded reveals the degree to which no person or party in Albany has a desire to clean up that city’s act for the good of the people in this state. Thankfully, the people working on the Moreland Commission’s investigations were disgusted enough to forward their investigations to law enforcement. 

About two years ago, Carl Paladino and his cult following tried to unseat Maziarz by spreading rumors that he was gay. It was an especially disgusting campaign – just as you might expect from Carl, Rus Thompson, and any other right-wing homophobe you might encounter. 

It was so ugly and hateful, that I endorsed Maziarz because of it, and also because Paladino was openly backing Maziarz’s primary opponent, Johnny Destino (who is now a Democrat and running for Maziarz’s now-vacant seat).  Consider, then, that Paladino and Rus Thompson could have – but didn’t – pushed instead an argument that Maziarz was corrupt. That would have been a tougher argument to make, and by no means as much fun to a couple of gay-bashers, but at least it would have smacked of factual accuracy. 

But most importantly, recall Governor Cuomo’s agreement with the Working Families Party to start backing the idea of a Democratic Senate in exchange for its fusion endorsement. With Libous’ indictment and Maziarz’s departure, that’s two Republican seats up for grabs. (Libous and Maziarz, incidentally, were not backbenchers – they were quite powerful). The Republicans have a de facto majority in the Senate thanks to a small group of breakaway Democrats led by Jeffery Klein, the “Independent Democratic Conference”.

Right now, the Senate is made up of 29 Republicans, 24 Democrats (2 formerly Democratic seats are vacant), 1 Democrat caucusing with the Republicans, and the 4 members of the IDC. If the IDC decides to abandon its Republican ties the Democrats get a majority.  

The NYS Board of Elections reveals that Democratic enrollment in the 62nd District is almost 63,000 Democrats and just under 60,000 Republicans. 4,000 are enrolled Conservative, 1,200 are enrolled in the WFP, and 8,200 are in the Independence Party. The Greens have fewer than 400 enrollees. With a slight Democratic enrollment advantage, this seat is wholly up for grabs. 

* I use the word “resign” not to denote an immediate Maziarz withdrawal from public office, but merely to connote the fact that he’s choosing to not seek re-election to his Senatorship-for-life. As of right now, Maziarz is expected to complete his term of office. 

Ballot Access & Fusion: Keeping New York Corrupt

10 Jul

It’s petition day throughout New York State, and we’ll learn soon enough that Governor Cuomo will have a primary challenge from the left, and that locally, the Democratic race for the 63rd Senate District (Tim Kennedy, incumbent) is going to be especially fun, as will the Republican challenge to Mark Grisanti, as perennial party-switching candidate Rus Thompson clumsily attempts to manipulate the corrupt fusion system to try and oust the sane guy. 

But it’s not only electoral fusion that’s corrupt and awful, so is the petition process itself. It’s hypercomplicated and deliberately designed to be a minefield for the unwary. It’s not only time to abolish the electoral fusion system and shut down the Wilson Pakulas and backroom deals, but also to simplify the ballot access system to make it easier for candidates to run. The rules for petitioning should be simplified and written in plain English, and there should be an alternative whereby a candidate simply pays a fee (set on a sliding scale, depending on the scope of the office).  Hey, if the state needs another source of revenue, there you go. 

As it stands now, our petitioning process should rightly be named the Election Law Attorney Full Employment Act

As for SD-60, where Grisanti will possibly face off with Rus Thompson, here’s the entire campaign in a nutshell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the calm, professional man in the suit over the wildman in a sweatshirt. 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Tim Kennedy’s Just Desserts

29 May

Tim Kennedy sold out his principles, his party, and his constituents when, in 2010, he executed a Steve Pigeon-brokered deal to align the majority Democratic county legislature with Republican County Executive Chris Collins. The figurehead leader of that coup was Barbara Miller-Williams, who has since returned to the legislature, and Kennedy was happy to let her take the brunt of criticism at the time. 

Through his actions, Kennedy handed a de facto legislature majority to the Republicans and to Collins, leading to devastating harm to the most vulnerable members of our society and a wide variety of policy decisions that were penny wise but pound foolish. The “reform coalition” reformed absolutely nothing, and merely served as a springboard for Kennedy to run for the state Senate against a guy who had been there forever and was just as toxic. 

When Kennedy last ran for re-election to the senate, County Legislator Betty Jean Grant – who had been among the most vocal and fearless critics of the “reform coalition” coup – launched what seemed a quixotic write-in campaign against him. In the end, she lost by only 139 votes, according to the Board of Elections. (Grant maintains that she won). 

Last cycle, Kennedy donated $85,000 in campaign funds to the Pigeon-Mazurek “AwfulPAC” or “WNY Progressive Caucus” (which was hardly “progressive”, and is now defunct). His obvious purpose was to punish Grant, and although she won re-election, Miller-Williams defeated Grant ally Tim Hogues. 

We now come full circle, as Kennedy flips and flops on abortion, and Grant’s effort against Kennedy becomes more organized. 

Last night, the county Democratic committee endorsed Grant over Kennedy. And of course it did – why reward someone who has worked tirelessly against the committee and its candidates with an endorsement? But as you read the press release shown below, note that county chair Jeremy Zellner’s last paragraph is Kennedy getting cockpunched. 

The Erie County Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee today overwhelmingly endorsed Legislator Betty Jean Grant for New York State Senate, District 63. 

The Executive Committee, which includes leaders from each town in the county and the City of Buffalo, credited Grant with her long history of standing up to powerful interest groups on behalf of the average citizen.  “Betty Jean Grant has shown unwavering support for the Democratic Party’s platform and philosophy,” said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner.  “There is no second guessing when it comes to her commitment on jobs, education, health care and social issues.  Legislator Grant has always consistently supported the issues that are the bedrock of the Democratic Party.”

Grant’s support on the committee extended far beyond her base in the City of Buffalo, “I am proud to note that I received endorsements and nominations from suburban towns and among leaders in the pro-choice community.  I look forward to campaigning throughout the district and talking with voters from all backgrounds and points of view. I vow to work closely with Governor Cuomo to continue the momentum that Western New York has achieved.”

Zellner dismissed criticism that the endorsement amounted to insider support from party bosses. “Our Executive Committee is designed to represent a cross section of our community. In addition to representatives from each town and city in the county, we have seats for labor, education, the private sector as well as the LGBT community and African American and Hispanic leaders.  Legislator Grant’s support comes from the grassroots up. The public has grown cynical of politicians who trot out substance free, feel-good initiatives at home, while running back to Albany to surround themselves with the worst elements of our political system.

This will absolutely be a race to watch. 

 

Revisiting the Tea Party Schism

29 Apr

There was once a listserv called “ReformNYS” that, for some time, was a collection of outrages and calls to action shared among the Ron Paul libertarian wing of the local tea party. It never really had many ideas about reforming New York State, and it’s managed to reform exactly nothing.

By contrast, the Palinist wing of the tea party has found multiple causes celebre about which to agitate, thanks in large part to the NY SAFE Act, which places restrictions on people’s ability to massacre, e.g., almost 2 dozen schoolchildren in a matter of seconds

Now? The Ron Paul wing’s listserv has devolved into this:

The author of that garbage (he posts something almost every day along these lines, always ending with a demand that the reader “wake up”, was a leader of the tea party movement back in 2009 – 2010. Chris Smith and I wrote extensively about Allen Coniglio’s weird obsessions and his sudden political activism that began around January 2009. With stuff like this:

Buffalo Tea Party organizer Allen Coniglio told me that Paladino is a “decent person” and that this story is a smear.

Coniglio made it clear that he and the Buffalo Tea Party denounced the content of the e-mails and “do not support any racist positions of any kind. ” This story, he said, was the kind of thing he’d come to expect from the media and liberal activists.”…

…People are different (ed. from the 18th and 19th century) because there are many more unproductive slackers due to big government, new slaveholder interventions and slave breeding programs. People of the type created by these programs would not have existed in any measurable quantity as there would have been little possibility of survival prior to the advent of the modern welfare state.

Slacking is now in the genes of the people who have been on welfare for 3 or 4 generations or more and these people are now, for all intents and purposes, societally worthless, ineducable and probably beyond redemption.

Yes, they are different because they have been bred to do nothing but slack and vote for Democrats by their slavemasters Jackson, Sharpton, Farrakhan, Reid, Kerry, Kennedy, the Clintons, etc..

Sounds eerily like what got cowboy hat welfare queen Cliven Bundy in trouble this past week.

Suffice it to say that one of the guys who was instrumental in bringing the Tea Party Express travel write-off to Buffalo is now circulating the crap reproduced above.

A Farewell to Mr. Burke

21 Apr

The timing was somewhat tragically apropos.

On Saturday, my best friend from middle school and college called to tell us that his dad had died. When we got the call, we had just reached the 6th floor of the Newseum in Washington. My friend’s dad had been, at one time, the Vice President of ABC News and the President of CBS News. My love for politics and journalism is due, in large part, to David Burke. He led an incredible life and welcomed some sarcastic, obnoxious fat little Republican Croat into his home as if he was a member of the family. 

Mr. Burke was brilliant and inspiring. He attended Tufts University, and later received an MBA from the University of Chicago. He came from a blue collar background, and had a great passion for labor issues. He worked with later Secretary of State and of Labor, George Schultz, to produce “The Public Interest in a National Labor Policy” for the Committee for Economic Development. This report laid the foundation for national labor relations policy. His work on these matters led to Mr. Burke being named to President John Kennedy’s Labor Advisory Council in 1960. 

He led a life that could fill volumes of memoirs. After working for the White House, Mr. Burke became Chief of Staff to Senator Edward Kennedy.  Interviews that Mr. Burke gave in the 1970s about his time working with President Kennedy and with Robert F. Kennedy are available here and here

He spent time at the Dreyfus Corporation in New York before becoming Chief of Staff to Governor Hugh Carey, and was instrumental in saving New York City from an imminent bankruptcy in the late 70s. In the 90s, President Clinton appointed Mr. Burke to be the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing the Voice of America, and he was named to the New York Daily News’ Board of Directors during the paper’s bankruptcy, and helped save it. 

The Broadcasting Board of Governors gives an award in journalism in Mr. Burke’s honor every year, and Tufts’ Tisch School has a Media and Public Service internship named after him. 

Mr. Burke helped to spark my interest in news and journalism. My friend, Terence’s birthday party in December 1980 involved us kids sitting silently on the floor next to Sam Donaldson doing the nightly news – the top story was John Lennon’s murder a week earlier. I was staying with the Burkes on the Cape when ABC correspondent Charlie Glass was about to be released from captivity in Lebanon. Mr. Burke arranged for me to meet with the executive producer of World News Tonight when I was considering a career in broadcast journalism. He was a big believer in the importance and power of journalism in a free society. When CBS started to cheap out on its news division, he left. When Senator Kennedy faced a tough re-election campaign in the mid-90s against some Romney fella, he arranged for me to meet the Senator, and I watched a barn-burner of a speech in a Waltham IBEW hall. 

Mr. Burke was most recently a member of the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library, where he was also a member of the Profiles in Courage Award committee. 

Mr. Burke led a life that was intimately intertwined with his roots and the turbulent times.  He was talented and fortunate enough to have intimate involvement with the political and social upheaval of the 60s, the economic stagnation of the 70s, the international turmoil of the 80s, and was an elder statesman by the 90s. He was the behind-the-scenes negotiator, leader, and fixer.

My family and I send all our love to the Burkes as they say good-bye to this giant of a man.

Shorter Everything

10 Jan

1. Dennis Gabryszak is a creep who is accused of doing creepy things to at least 7 women, who have the courage to come forward and publicly air the ways in which this schmuck humiliated them. Gabryszak has not denied or otherwise addressed the allegations and is unfit for public service. 

2. It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up was the lesson learned during Watergate, and on Thursday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took 2 hours to explain how he was completely in the dark about some really despicable things that his very close advisors and confidants were doing. When his appointee to the NYNJ Port Authority, David Wildstein, resigned in December – a month ago – over September’s politically manufactured bridge debacle. For Christie to suggest that this is all news to him strains credulity. For him to suggest that he was completely in the dark about these things seems unlikely. Ultimately, if you surround yourself with petty, vindictive people, and you maintain a public demeanor that is, at times, petty and vindictive, you can hardly stand there with a straight face and claim that you are, like, totally shocked that people in your employ behaved in a petty and vindictive manner. 

3. Yesterday, GOP gadfly Michael Caputo was sitting in for Tom Bauerle on WBEN, and he had legendary dirty trickster Roger Stone call in – that’s quite a get. They talked about a meeting Friday put together in an effort to convince billionaire birther Donald Trump to run for Governor of the state of New York. Stone got it exactly right – Trump doesn’t have a chance. Ultimately, New York State is as blue as it gets, and while Democrats and left independents might consider a Republican who portrays himself as a centrist who is liberal on social issues (see: Pataki), there’s no way in hell any self-respecting Democrat would support a Donald Trump for governor – not after his dramatic and absurd lurch to the very fringes of the right wing in the last few years. For all the Freudian bleating about the NY SAFE Act, the metropolitan area around the five boroughs – how did Glenn Beck phrase it? Oh yeah, “they surround you”. 

4. Declared dead several years ago, it turns out that shared border management still has a pulse. Because Canadian border agents are now armed, like their American counterparts, one of the big obstacles to pre-clearing traffic on the Canadian side and eliminating the inspection booths on the American side has been eliminated. For now, it’s a pilot program and it’s only for commercial traffic, but if it’s successful there’s no reason why it couldn’t also be used for passenger vehicles, too. If that happens, all of the alarmist talk about the adverse health effects from idling traffic at a bridge crossing that has existed for 100 years can stop. I never quite understood how adding lanes to alleviate traffic congestion would aggravate health problems on the west side of Buffalo, nor did I understand why the anti-bridge rhetoric was effectively arguing for the complete removal of the bridge altogether. But hopefully the saga of the Hundredyearbridge will make a millimeter’s worth of progress. 

5. If your town government decides to hold a “public hearing” about a local controversy at 4:30 pm on a weekday, and doesn’t bother to invite representatives of the locality’s regional governmental entity, then it’s safe to say that the town government isn’t interested in dealing with conflict or problems. The one-party system in the town of Clarence is not showing itself to be particularly responsive or concerned about legitimate gripes from people in the northern flood plain.

Unbelievable. 

6. Chris Collins (NY-27) is playing to type

7. Subset cars: 

– did you know that it is perfectly legal for any American to import any car from anywhere in the world, provided it is 25+ years old? Not only legal to import, but legal to put on the road. Here’s a cool story about a dream come true

– I told you a few weeks ago to get yourself a set of snow tires. That’s not all. When it’s snowing and sloppery out, you should also (a) keep your washer fluid topped off; (b) keep an extra gallon of fluid in your trunk; (c) physically wipe the slop off your wipers every once in a while to keep them clean and clear; (d) take a squeegee to your front headlights at every fill-up to get the road sludge off of them and enable you to actually see at night. To that end, if your local Noco or whatever doesn’t keep a proper squeegee bucket around with some form of unfrozen cleaning solution, stop going there or complain. It is inexcusable in a cold climate. 

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

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

Dennis the Assemblyman

24 Dec


(Sung (more or less) to the tune of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

You know Cole and Fossella, Lopez, and Chris Lee,

Spitzer and Massa and Weiner – those three!

But can you believe,

the skeeziest claims come to be

 

Dennis

Dennis the Cheektowagan,

has a very cushy job.

He hires pretty women,

and jokes around about his knob. 

 

Dennis’ young accusers,

say that he’s a pre-da-tor.

One says his office camera,

stored photos that he took of whores!

 

He told one girl that he likes butts, 

and asked her to sleep over. 

Invited one for a “massage”,

as per the court disclosure.

 

All of the Cheektowagans

used to throw their votes to him.

Now they won’t vote for Dennis,

everything is pretty grim

 

Three twenty-somethings lawyered up,

their claims will make you groan.

One was sent a video 

showing Dennis getting blown!

 

Dennis the Cheektowagan, 

said to one girl, “may I please fuck you”? 

Now he’s a statewide story,

his Albany career is through!

Political Mandela

6 Dec

Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 – 23 years ago. He had spent the previous 27 years in prison because he fought a brutal and unjust, racist regime. When he was released, and when apartheid was dismantled soon thereafter, he ascended to power. Although South Africa has been wracked with the sorts of socioeconomic problems that are exquisitely difficult to overcome after so many years of statutory leftover colonial racist inequality in rights, citizenship, and wealth, he sought only peace and reconciliation between whites and non-whites. Everything had been segregated – by actual and implied force – and nothing was equal. Black people lost their citizenship altogether. There was what we now call “ethnic cleansing” throughout postwar South Africa.

Despite all of that, Nelson Mandela sought no retribution or tit-for-tat expulsions; he worked tirelessly to return South Africa to all her people, and to bring justice and civil rights to all

By doing good, and by seeking a just reconciliation, he showed the world how people should act. 

Was he a terrorist? Why, because the violently racist government oppressing him and his people said he was? Because the group to which he belonged would resist the brutal Afrikaner minority rule? He never killed anyone, never threatened to hurt anyone. The apartheid terrorists considered him a terrorist.  He was as much a terrorist as the Minutemen or the real tea partiers in Boston Harbor.

Was he a communist? Who cares? Did he establish a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat when he came to office in South Africa? Did he set up a president-for-life kleptocracy like his neighbors in Zimbabwe? Did he seek to antagonize his former enemies, setting up years’ worth of civil war – a state of being not unknown in sub-Saharan Africa? Did he pick idiotic territorial fights with neighbors, assign himself the rank of “Marshal” and show up at military parades in epaulets, adorned with unearned medals? 

None of these things. He was a true freedom fighter. A man whose entire world was about making a South Africa that would serve all of her people equally. He served one term in office. He waged no wars. He sought no revenge. He believed in democracy, freedom, accountability, and inclusion.

In 1986, a bipartisan bill here in the US was presented to President Reagan for consideration. The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act would have set up a series of sanctions against South Africa and her regime and economy. It was first introduced in 1972, but not seriously considered until 1985. The House and Senate conferenced out a compromise bill to restrict travel and trade with South Africa until apartheid was dismantled. 

President Reagan vetoed the bill. He said that mild sanctions against one of the most unjust and brutal regimes in the world were “immoral” and “repugnant”. Dick Cheney voted against sanctions. Jesse Helms filibustered the bill, just as he had filibustered an earlier bill to bring about a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Strom Thurmond voted against it. All the racists were against this effort to bring justice to an oppressed black minority. 

Reagan’s own in-house racialist, Pat Buchanan, helped the Gipper explain to the American people that these African National Congress blacks were just gunning for a race war. (Buchanan’s legacy : virulent racism and gutter anti-Semitism). 

Nevertheless, a Republican-led Senate overrode Reagan’s veto. While the Heritage Foundation pimped the whore of an idea that Mandela was the real menace, and Grover Norquist was advising pro-apartheid student groups in South Africa on messaging, even Mitch McConnell was a rational moderate. 

While the Republicans were dragging their feet, the Democrats were leading the fight against apartheid. In 1985, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) went on a tour of South Africa that included a visit with Winnie Mandela to discuss her imprisoned husband. Upon his return, Kennedy introduced the Anti-Apartheid Act that eventually became law. In July 1986 hearings, then Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE)  thundered at Secretary of State George Shultz: “I’m ashamed of this country that puts out a policy like this … I’m ashamed of the lack of moral backbone to this policy.”

As it became clear that constructive engagement was failing, even moderate Republicans began to shift. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) broke with Reagan and argued for a sanctions program. Eventually, in 1986, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act with enough votes to override Reagan’s veto. “I think he is wrong,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), explaining his break with the administration. “We have waited long enough for him to come on board.”

The sanctions went through. Companies divested. Apartheid was repealed in 1991. Non-racial elections were held in 1994. Nelson Mandela was elected President. 

Peace, justice, and equality. Seems like a good foundation for a country’s ethos and jurisprudence.