Tag Archives: Rep. Brian Higgins

Fear and Loathing In D.C.

11 Mar

Yesterday, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives and IRA Sympathizer Rep. Peter King (R, NY-3) held a Congressional hearing entitled “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”.

As the hearings began, Rep. King defended his decision to hold the hearings saying that the threat of neo-Nazis and lone mad men don’t compare to the threat which Al-Qaeda poses to American citizens. “Despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” he said.

During an interview on Wednesday, King said, “It makes no sense to talk about other types of extremism, when the main threat to the United States today is talking about Al-Qaeda,”

However, Rep. King could not be more wrong.  This was not a hearing about “homeland security”, it was a fear-based witch hunt targeting American Muslims.  There is also significant evidence to the contrary as to Rep. King’s claim that there is no greater threat to our security than Muslims.

As a January 2011 terrorism statistics report — compiled using publicly available data from the FBI and other crime agencies — from the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) shows, terrorism by Muslim Americans has only accounted for a minority of terror plots since 9/11.

In fact, right-wing extremist and white supremacist attacks plots alone outnumber plots by Muslims, with both groups being involved in 63 terror plots, 18 more plots than Muslim Americans have been involved in.

I look forward to Rep. King’s investigation into right wing extremist activities in America.

Additionally, King’s hearings come at a time when Muslim American terrorism and involvement in extremism has actually plummeted in the past couple years, according to a Duke University study put out last month. Moreover, nearly 4 in 10 Al-Qaida related plots in the United States have been broken up thanks to intelligence provided by the Muslim community themselves and 70 percent of recent terror plots in the United States have been foiled by help from Muslim Americans.

Tending the flames of Islamophobia in this country is a full time job and King was certainly glad to throw logs on the fire.  This hearing served one purpose and one purpose only, to define and conflate the Islamic American community as a perpetual enemy and to identify them as a group of “others” who need to be watched and “surveilled” while providing another election bogeyman for the Republican Party.

Yesterday’s hearing was a shameful display of Congressional power and a reminder of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s HUAC hearings in the 1950’s.  Just as McCarthy’s “Un-American Activities” language presupposed guilt for those brought forward to testify, the title of this event presupposed radicalization of an entire community of Americans.

Rep. John Dingell, (D, MI-15) spoke at the hearing to remind Rep. King that he once witnessed Sen. McCarthy’s hearings and warned against allowing history to repeat itself.

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Rep Brian Higgins (D, NY-27) is a member of the Homeland Security Committee and was present at today’s hearing and I looked forward to his thoughtful take on the hearings.  Throughout the day, I checked his website, Twitter Feed and Facebook page for statements about today’s hearings and all I found was the following:

While I’m glad that Rep. Higgins is concerned with gas prices, visa waivers for Polish people, and something about ice skating, I was looking for some sort of feedback on what was a pretty important news story.  Proving that social media does actually work when a Congressman has a responsive staff, I quickly received a prompt and courteous reply to my requests for comment from Rep. Higgins’ Communications Director.

She provided me with his statement from Committee today which was not available online.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we were all taught that we are not at war as a nation with Islam, we were at war with those who hijacked that religion and used it to justify their murderous and cowardly acts.

From that a lot of relationships were developed between the law enforcement community, local, state and federal, with the muslim community to try to better understand one another.

I think we’re at a point where progress has been made but still much work needs to be done.  When I look at or hear the Sheriff from Los Angeles talk about the programs that have been developed in your community, it’s very similar to that of my community in Buffalo, New York.

A smaller city directly south of Buffalo is Lackawanna, an old steel city that was home to the Lackawanna Six. It was six muslim american men who were convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda by training in their camps in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

You know, there’s a lot of misunderstanding when you get into this issue and I think people get invested into their own emotional positions that don’t have a factual base. I’ll give you an example: in this nation we have not only a Christian-Judeo tradition, we have a Christian- Judeo-Islamic tradition in this nation.  But the basis of those religions are compassion, forgiveness, love, and tolerance. The prophet Mohamed is a prophet of mercy. In my Catholic religion I was raised by the Sisters of Mercy.

I think we all have a lot to learn from one another about this issue. We have a long way to go. The radicalization of Muslims in America is in large part influenced by the convergence of new technology that allows groups to communicate in ways they never were able to before. I think that provides a basis from which our nation, all our law enforcement agencies in each individual state and locality develop those relationships with the Muslim American community.

In the end we are all Americans and people don’t come to this country by and large (emphasis mine, CS) to create havoc. They come because they thirst for the freedom we have. That’s what they want for themselves and their families.

While Higgins is not known for grandstanding in committee nor making broad-based statements of opinion on issues of import, this is a carefully parsed statement designed to neither grant legitimacy to the larger question about the nature of the hearings nor to appear weak on terrorism.  While the content of his response was expected, I am still saddened to see members of Congress and our community writ large fail to stand up to the type of patriotic bullying advanced by hypocritical blowhards like Rep. King.

Today’s hearing violated the spirit of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment as the purpose of the hearing targeted a religious group by virtue of their religion.  Seemingly put together to smear Muslim American advocacy groups and cast aspersions on their relationships, acquaintances and governing principles, yesterday’s hearing was a case study in fear and loathing.

When injustice and fear-mongering go unchallenged, we do our nation a disservice.  Today, I feel as if an opportunity to fight back a tide of xenophobic ignorance was lost.

You Can’t Vote for Lenny Roberto, Either.

28 Oct

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

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

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

Lenny Roberto: Just Another Republican #WNY Homophobe #NY27

27 Oct

Did you know that Brian Higgins has an opponent?  It’s perennial candidate Lenny Roberto, whose only claims to fame are (a) relentless runs for office after office; and (b) “Primary Challenge“, which has enjoyed one success in 6 years.

As it turns out, high school graduate Roberto has a big problem with gay people, equating them with murderers at a recent campaign stop.

The Jamestown Post-Journal published a letter to the editor penned by Greg Rabb, the President of the Jamestown City Council, who says he is the “only openly gay” elected official in the eight counties of WNY.

Is the Republican party in Western New York only capable of producing candidates for public office who are, at best, ignorant about many of their potential constituents or are they potential constituents or are they blinded by sheer prejudice unbelievable to me in the 21st Century?

Mr. Roberto apparently stands by his recent remarks as reported in The Post-Journal and seems to be proud of his ignorance and bigoted remarks and, what is worse, hides behind God.

I was raised a Catholic, having been taught from kindergarten through my bachelors degree by the Felician sisters, and the Franciscan and Jesuit priests and brothers. I was taught to respect all people and celebrate the diversity of human life and not to judge others. I was also taught that it was blasphemous to claim to know the will of God.

But this is not about religion nor is it about politics. It is about human rights and human dignity – all humans.

When elected to office you are there to represent all the people including those who are different than you. You have an obligation to reach out to and get to know all the people especially when they disagree with you. But you never resort to, at best, ignorant remarks and, at worst, prejudicial statements about people you never met or about whom you apparently know nothing.

The original article that sparked the controversy is found here. An excerpt:

Roberto spoke to about 40 people about his candidacy Tuesday, when he said he made comments about sexuality not thinking the media was present. On Wednesday, however, he said that was “tongue-in-cheek,” adding he wants his opinions to be “crystal clear.”

Speaking about the Tuesday meeting on Wednesday, Roberto said he wants people to know “what you see is what you get” if they vote for him. What they will get if he is elected in November, he said, is someone opposed to gay marriage.

He said he wants that known in an environment that expects people to be politically correct in an attempt to placate everyone. Instead, he said he opposes gay marriage as a pastor based on his understanding of scripture. He said he is not “a hatemonger” adding God loves homosexuals but not homosexuality; (God) loves murderers, but not murder, Roberto said.

Roberto said he wants people to know his position instead of relying on ambiguities that surround social issues.

“Truth often offends people,” he said, adding the truth of his stance is homosexuality is not acceptable as people do not have the right to “corrupt themselves.” Roberto has aligned himself with gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Roberto said a political group he founded, Primary Challenge, has helped with Paladino’s petitions.

If I remember correctly, Carl Paladino also got himself into some hot water making ignorant and hateful comments about homosexuals.  You can be “politically incorrect” all you want, but when it transcends mere politeness into palpably ignorant hatred, expect to be criticized for that.

That, and what could quite possibly be the worst, most amateurish, over-the-top, horrible political advertisements ever.

Here is one reason, and another to re-elect Brian Higgins.  Here is a handy search for anything mentioning WNYMedia.net and Higgins, and I have to say that his tenure in Congress has been among the most beneficial, positive, and important for all of Western New York.

Bass Pro, Connecting The Dots

30 Jul

Updating a post from last week…

A fog of failure has been created around Bass Pro and Canalside. No one is to blame, because everyone is to blame.

Higgins is to blame for sending his 14 day ultimatum to Bass Pro, the Common Council is to blame for foisting the Community Benefits Agreement into the process at the last minute, the Mayor is to blame for not sending his compromise Community Development Agreement to the Common Council in time for them to legitimately debate it, Scott Fisher and Mark Goldman are to blame for their frivolous lawsuit, and Buffalo (writ large) is responsible…at least that’s how Jordan Levy tells the tale. He and ECHDC and Benderson are just faithful stewards of the process…I think you can hear my eyes rolling.

Over the last three days, a few stories have come out that seem to be disconnected, but really aren’t once you connect the dots.

Three times during the Buffalo/ECHDC CDA announcement, Larry Quinn made a point to mention that the community needs to stop focusing on Bass Pro and start calling the development “Canalside”.  Quinn said, “With or without Bass Pro, this is going to be a huge development”.  During that same press conference, Mayor Brown, Rep. Higgins and ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy echoed the same sentiment.

Bass Pro has had the official lease agreement with ECHDC in their hands for several weeks and has yet to act.  While all the funding is in place and the environmental reviews are completed, there is still a nagging issue around the proposed Community Benefits Agreement (with a living wage provision) being debated in the Common Council.  That nagging issue has had a deleterious effect on negotiations, according to Jordan Levy,

“We’re negotiating with Bass Pro. They have a lease (proposal).  We’re optimistic. We’re moving forward with that.. Bass Pro is clearly sincere, but candidly the activity that is taking place in this community is in fact having a negative effect on those negotiations.”

The Mayor offered a compromise with his proposed Community Development Agreement between ECHDC and the City of Buffalo.  Essentially lifting many of the  provisions of the proposed CBA (minus the living wage provision) and transferring $10MM of ECHDC funds to council districts throughout the city.  Or as Councilman Mike LoCurto calls it, “A Council Bribery Agreement”.  The council tabled discussion of the Mayor’s CDA, perhaps until the end of their seven-week recess.  As of right now, neither agreement (CBA/CDA) has the votes to pass.

Second story of note was the coordinated leak to numerous outlets that HSBC Bank is looking to relocate from 1 HSBC Center to a location either on the Webster Block in the ECHDC area or a campus like building in the Cobblestone district.

Third story of note is Rep. Brian Higgins’ letter to Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris.  In the letter, Higgins gave Bass Pro two weeks to make a final decision on the lease agreement with ECHDC.

There are a couple of possibilities why Higgins chose to release that letter.

1.)  Bass Pro has already told ECHDC that they are out and everyone is rushing to save face.  If Bass Pro is out, Higgins can claim he set a deadline and Bass Pro walked, making it look like he was tough and won a victory for the community.

2.) Bass Pro is in and Higgins can claim his no-nonsense deadline setting was the impetus for the final decision.  See how there is no downside for the letter?  Higgins is a pretty smart politician, ya know.  Cynical, but smart.

3.) Bass Pro is waiting for the city to make a decision on the living wage provision and will not sign a lease until it’s been defeated.  Higgins then forces the hand of the Common Council to make a decision on the CDA in a special session within the next two weeks.  All signs point to the Bass Pro CDA not having the votes necessary unless Kearns or Franczyk can be swayed to yes votes with additional lulus for their districts.

Most likely, Bass Pro will not be the anchor in Canalside, which is why there is suddenly talk about moving HSBC 300 yards down the street to serve as a development anchor.

I suspect that unless this living wage provision is scrapped within 14 days, we’re going to stream another press conference at which Larry Quinn and Jordan Levy will pretend that Bass Pro was never crucial to the development.

Oh, how we’ll laaaaaaugh!

Bass Pro Gets an Ultimatum!

21 Jul

The real story is here.

NYPA to Canal Side: Have (A Lot) More Money!

13 Jul

A multiperson news conference was held today at Canal Side to announce the signing of an historic new deal between the New York Power Authority and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. Under NYPA’s relicensing agreement, ECHDC was to receive payouts over 50 years to help fund the development of Buffalo’s waterfront. Under today’s agreement, the same net aggregate amount will instead be paid out over 20 years, thus increasing the annual amount to $8.5 million per year.

On that basis, ECHDC will be able to issue $105 million in bonding to fund major infrastructure initiatives at Canal Side. The Canal Side project is slated to cost about $315 million, and is expected to generate $9.5 million in sales taxes, and $1.2 million in annual property taxes to the city.

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) used strong language to explain that, in his view, this deal helps right a 50-year old wrong. Local politicians compromised with NYPA too much during the last agreement, and with this change the immediate benefits are much more helpful to the overall project.

The money will lead to additional street restoration, sewer work, and other work worth millions of dollars, and create jobs. Higgins added that the community can change its future when it stands up to itself, and repeated that Canal Side will “be what we make of it”. He added that this refinancing will help Buffalo’s waterfront evolve into a place of “youthfulness, vibrancy” and a variety of mixed uses.

NYPA CEO Richie Kessel admitted that the power authority hadn’t lived up to its responsibilities in the past, including the recent relicensing. He said that the “time has come for NYPA” to give some payback to Erie County and the City of Buffalo. Kessel said that Governor Paterson had urged him to reach out to Rep. Higgins, who then urged Kessel to reach out to Erie County Executive Chris Collins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Kessel stressed repeatedly that NYPA isn’t just cutting a check and “walking away”. He pledged that the authority would make sure that the project is done and done right. Making a joke about ways in which he could personally persuade Bass Pro to sign a final agreement, he was the first to bring up the elephant in the proverbial room. Kessel concluded by pledging to do something similar in Niagara County, adding, “we’re here…to the end”

County Executive Chris Collins waxed poetic, stating that this announcement was about progress and collaboration, and that “we are living the renaissance of Erie County and the City of Buffalo right now”, adding that Erie County was a “shining light of success” as compared with other New York State counties. Mayor Brown echoed Collins’ collaboration theme, lauding the fact that $105 million would soon be available for this historic project, which he called “vital to city/county revitalization”, and that the “resources are now here; the money is in the bank.”

Notably absent from this announcement was a single, solitary state-level politician. With the exception of Governor Paterson and NYPA, the state legislature was left completely out of the loop. Notably present, however, was Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy, whose district includes South Buffalo and who is running for the State Senate against incumbent Bill Stachowski (SD-58).

Health Care Reform: How New York Benefits Now

22 Jun

This was posted to Twitter yesterday by Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27).

Higgins Endorses Kathleen Rice

7 Jun

Highlighting her position as a non-Albany reformer, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) today endorsed Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice for Attorney General. In her remarks, Rice noted that there is a crisis of confidence in New York politics and politicians, and that part of her mission will be to restore that trust.

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Paladino: No Soup For You!

21 Apr

“I bring values, resiliency, a thick skin and I’m not afraid to be confrontational.” – Carl Paladino

It would appear that by “thick skin”, Carl meant “hyper-defensive”.

In response to this tire fire of an interview with one of the weakest reporters in Western New York, Josh “Straw Man” Boose of WGRZ’s mildly regarded Red Coat brigade…

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Carl Paladino and his campaign manager Michael Caputo (the Scott Farkus and Grover Dill of Buffalo) sent the following to their Facebook supporters:

It goes on and on, painting Carl as the innocent victim of a coordinated media smear.  It ultimately leads to this:

I approached Boose as they parted and told him in no uncertain terms that I did not appreciate him calling my friend a racist. I tapped on his chest as I let him know that I have been in this business twice as long as he and I don’t play gotcha with reporters.

For his careless and aggressive reporting, Boose is now banned from covering the Paladino for Governor campaign. We have informed WGRZ that they remain invited to cover our crusade to take back Albany – but Boose is not welcome anywhere near Carl Paladino.

Goodbye, Josh Boose. We hardly knew ye.

He has now banned WNYMedia, Jim Heaney of The Buffalo News and Josh Boose of WGRZ from covering the campaign.  I suppose we can cover it, we just don’t get to ask any questions or interact with the candidate.  It would appear the criteria for being banned is writing anything critical or factual about Carl.  Anything written or broadcast about his tens of millions of dollars of business with the State of New York, the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has donated to Democratic political candidates, his lifelong registration as a Democrat, his extra-marital affair, his “bonus” child, his hobby of forwarding illegal pornography and racist imagery to people in the community or his lack of an actual platform…all of this is a ticket out of the circle of trust.

It’s also fascinating that Carl is turning into the Soup Nazi of gubernatorial candidates.  He demands that we ask our polite questions (which he deems acceptable), move to the left and not engage in any analysis or further debate.

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WGRZ is in a tough spot, they have a responsibility to inform the public, but they can’t let public figures dictate terms to them.  They can state that a candidate doesn’t get to choose his reporter or tone of coverage and no longer cover Carl’s campaign.  Or, they can send Boose out to every Paladino event and point out that Carl won’t “answer tough questions”.  If you’ve been watching WGRZ News for any amount of time, I’m pretty sure you can figure out which choice they’ll make.

At this rate, the only people left to cover Carl’s campaign will be Carl’s official campaign blogger Howard Goldman (a former WNYMedia blogger) and tea party activist/Paladino campaign supporter Rus Thompson…oops, he’s also a WNYMedia blogger.

The other part of this email from Caputo that is interesting is the constant change in campaign tactics on the email fiasco.  To the public, writ large, Paladino admits that he forwarded the emails, without qualification, and has apologized numerous times.

Inside his own camp of obedient supporters, he still maintains he “allegedly” forwarded emails and that this is a coordinated effort by Brian Higgins and the “liberal media elite” to tear him down.  This internal communication is subtle confirmation bias and wagon circling for his base.

Let’s be clear, Carl sent emails featuring a video of a horse performing anal sex on a woman to completion and several emails featuring racial slurs and imagery.  These were NOT sent to a small group of close friends, they were sent to hundreds of people, repeatedly, over ten years.  The people on the list were public figures, media personalities, business leaders and elected officials.  Occam’s Razor moment for Carl, one of the hundreds of people to whom you sent those emails found your new allegiance to the Republican Party and Conservative values to be hypocritical and sent them on to the media.

It’s just the way it is.

Erie County Politics in 90 Seconds

8 Jan

Alan and I spent seven minutes working on the chalk talk video describing what transpired yesterday at the Erie County Legislature.  Then, Marc edited down to 90 seconds and matched it up with quotes from The Wire, Friday and some video of a man wearing chaps and a codpiece.

Ya know, the standard WNYMedia type of video.

It’s a lighthearted spin on what Alan and I spent 3500 combined words describing in earlier posts from today.

In short, it’s about power, control, patronage and had absolutely nothing to do with good governance, progress or reform.  Also, the unholy alliance of Brown, Pigeon, Collins, and Higgins.

Welcome to Buffalo, where we make the politics of The Wire look like a love story…

Warning, Strong Language

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