Assemblyman DiPietro: Shoot First, Ask Questions Never

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Last week, we examined Assemblyman David DiPietro’s hatred of Muslims and Islam, his deliberate and admitted ignorance to anything resembling facts, and just how allergic he is to knowledge and learning.

DiPietro took to Facebook and WBEN’s airwaves to expound on how an elementary school in East Aurora was busy indoctrinating 3rd graders in jihad, or something. The books in question – Nasreen’s Secret School, and the Librarian of Basra – are set in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. They teach young kids about different cultures and about how knowledge and education are things that need to be protected and fought for in places less enlightened than the US. By any measure, they are excellent books that teach a valuable lesson.

According to DiPietro, he:

Just talked to an irate parent. Parkdale school in East Aurora is teaching third graders(8-9 year olds) about the Koran, Mohammed and the Muslim faith. It is MANDATORY reading for Common Core! The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom! MORE TO COME!

More to come? Here’s more. While my pieces took down the underlying ignorance and bigotry, the East Aurora community weekly harvested some facts.

The Advertiser’s Kristy Kibler interviewed Parkdale Elementary School Principal Colleen Klimchuk, who said,

I wish Mr. DiPietro would have called me or popped his head in [my office] … He was misinformed and posted inaccurate information,

You don’t say. An elected official would go to Facebook and 90 minutes’ worth of talk radio and present inaccurate information based on misinformation? Who would be so irresponsible?

“To what extent are they Islamic books in terms of expressing or explaining the ideas or ideals or tenets and beliefs of Islam?” Bauerle asked DiPietro toward the beginning of his appearance on the radio show. DiPietro answered that he had not read the books, and one caller asked if he thought it was irresponsible to “incite a hailstorm before getting all the facts.”

DiPietro said no, because it was an important issue that should be discussed, that he trusted the parent he had spoken to and said he intended to talk to school officials and “get a lot more information shortly.”

David DiPietro and WBEN’s Tom Bauerle and Tim Wenger would be this irresponsible. But that’s not all. As DiPietro and Bauerle weaved the story through manufactured memes like “Islamic indoctrination”, they really caught their stride as they assailed Common Core as the catch-all bogeyman for everything sinister. So, DiPietro pivoted:

… mentions that the parent had said the two books “have been basis of the curriculum for weeks,” which prompted Bauerle to liken the school to a cult.

“Now if this was just one book out of 20—every week they’re doing a different book—fantastic,” DiPietro said. “But it’s not, and that’s where we draw the line.”

A 3rd grade class was dictated by Obama and Common Core – which sounds a lot like “communism” – to read Nasreen and Basra for “weeks?” Like a “cult”? Could that possibly be true? Of course not – consider the depraved sources.

However, Klimchuck said the two books that have caused such a controversy are just that—single pieces of a nine-book Common Core module for third grade. The class focuses on each book in the unit for one week, besides a main book—“My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World”—that gets about two weeks of attention. The two Winter books were both discussed in October.

“[The unit is about] the power of reading, and the courageous efforts people go through to access education … this whole unit is all about becoming a better reader and how that will help you succeed in any walk of life,” Klimchuck said.

Other books in the module include “Rain School,” a book that talks about education in Chad, Africa; “Thank You, Mr. Falkner,” which touches on a student with dyslexia in modern-day California; “That Book Woman,” about a traveling teacher in a rural Appalachian area of the United States; and “Waiting for the Biblioburro,” about

Here is the module itself. Had DiPietro bothered to – ahem – educate himself by contacting the principal or the teacher and getting both sides of the story, as well as a copy of the module, before taking to WBEN’s airwaves to spread hysteria and lies, then he’d at least have been acting as a responsible adult. What he did instead is present lies and misinformation based on ignorance and prejudice.

I challenge any fair-minded person to review this Common Core 3rd grade ELA curriculum and tell me it’s wrong or improper or unreasonable, much less some sort of socialist indoctrination.

Taking another tack, DiPietro thought that he found a constitutional argument, throwing “separation of church and state” back in the liberals’ dumb, evil faces. Wrong.

…public school students would never be allowed to read a book that references Christianity.

“If that had been God talking to Jesus Christ [in the introductory quote], we would have the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] up our butts so fast, Tom—we would have people screaming to keep religion out of our public school,” he said.

Klimchuck said a school’s role is not to teach religion, but to discuss issues of similarities and differences between cultures if they come up in discussion.

“Our role is to expose kids to everything—our role is not to teach religion,” Klimchuck said. “There are books that reference religion. A child in second grade made a comparison of [the myth] Pandora’s Box to Adam and Eve—we said, ‘yes, it’s a very similar story.’ We talk about differences—the theme is respect for everyone.”

Respect for everyone: a concept that’s anathema to knee-jerk reactionaries like David DiPietro. “Shoot first and ask questions later” is why the NY SAFE Act exists.

Now, what about DiPietro’s claim that parents were forbidden access to these books?

“I have a really hard time believing that,” Klimchuck said, adding that both books were on display during Open House in September and brought to a PTO meeting, and that one class had been given a homework assignment to take the book home and read it to their parents.

She said the only reason she could think of that a book wouldn’t be allowed home is that if there weren’t extra copies and the book was currently in use in the classroom. She also mentioned that the books in the unit were discussed each day during the week, and since some children were forgetting their copies at home, the teacher said to leave them in school during the week.

The books, in other words, were everywhere and available. But even if the books were not available to take home, there’s got to be some alternative, right?

Klimchuck said she invites any parent that has concerns about the curriculum to come into school so they can sit down in the library and go over the book together.

According to Klimchuck, East Aurora began using the Common Core Module that includes the two Winter books in 2012. That year, an introductory letter went out at the beginning of the year to all third grade parents, explaining the two books and why they were chosen, how teachers talk to the students concerning reading about difficult issues like violence and war, and how the books are meant to tie into the social studies curriculum.

Teachers also integrated articles from “Time for Kids” and Scholastic, Inc.’s “News for Kids” connecting the stories to Malala Yousafzai, a real-life Pakistani teenager who was targeted for speaking out for girls’ rights and whose life has connections with the situations portrayed in the two books. Klimchuck said that year, she had one parent raise additional questions, but no other feedback.

You’d figure that there was a huge outcry over these books to get a sitting Assemblyman not only involved, but to expound on the radio against reading, right?

This year, one parent, Lisa Hilliard, spoke at the November School Board meeting about her concerns that “Nasreen’s Secret School” was too violent for the age group to which it was being taught, and that it contained inappropriate materials. She also said she was having a hard time getting responses from her daughter’s teachers…

…Klimchuck said she replied to the parent who spoke at the meeting with a letter that included the unit’s book list, copies of the aforementioned articles the children read with the unit, and copies of district policy explaining how to request that the superintendent review objections of instructional materials. She also apologized for the delay and said the November snow storm that canceled school for a week and parent-teacher conferences might have caused the teachers to take longer than usual in responding.

One parent raised a concern, and it was promptly addressed. Any outcry since DiPietro’s nonsense started?

Since DiPietro’s post, Klimchuck said she’s only received two or three calls from parents requesting clarification of the books, but nothing else.

“What this is telling me, is that next year we’ll be even more proactive,” she said. “We’ll make sure we send out the [introductory] letter,” and have all the classes bring the book home for homework, she added.

When Bauerle’s show called her office and invited her on to speak on behalf of the district during the Assemblyman’s interview, she declined, saying she’d rather speak to DiPietro directly. She said she and his secretary have been in touch to set up a meeting, which will hopefully occur by the end of the month.

Unlike the career politician, the professional school principal declined to turn her school and its ELA curriculum into a spectacle.

“I’m disappointed that misinformation was posted,” Klimchuck said. “It incited anger and misinformation, and it turned into this disrespectful … and disturbing thing.”

Next time you wonder why teachers and school administrators earn a living wage with nice benefits, consider the children they have to deal with. Children like David DiPietro, who combines ignorance with a lack of impulse control, to embarassing effect. DiPietro out-earns most teachers, and enjoys the same state health and retirement benefits, but I must have missed his call to reduce and eliminate these perks. Being a tea party guy is all well and good in theory, but in practice DiPietro is a statist taker/moocher.

At a bare minimum, we should expect our elected officials to be informed and responsible. David DiPietro appears incapable of those basic character traits.

By the way, what did DiPietro tell the reporter from the Advertiser about all of this? How did he explain himself?

The newspaper left several messages for DiPietro on his cell phone and at his district office in Albany, but he did not return them by this publication’s deadline.

He’s a coward, to boot.

L’Obamaphobie

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On Sunday, there was a huge rally in downtown Paris in honor of the people slain during the week in attacks by jihadist madmen. It was a strong show of support for the principles of pluralist democracy and freedom of speech, including the freedom to offend and ridicule.

The United States Government was not visibly represented at the rally.

This has resulted in two astonishing domestic right-wing memes. One is predictable: Obama is a national disgrace. The second was unforeseen: America’s right wing suddenly like France.

It wasn’t always thus. In 2003, France had the foresight and bravery to oppose the United States’ disastrous invasion of Iraq. In response, some Republican forced the House cafeteria to re-name French Fries “Freedom Fries”, because – duh – France hates freedom. It was America’s right wing that invoked a crack from a cartoon to deride the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”. American right-wing Francophobes have repeatedly derided France as being a bunch of anti-American, anti-freedom cowards. One t-shirt from a decade ago declared, “First Iraq, Then France”.

Now, all of a sudden, it is safe even for conservative Republicans to feign respect for France. After all, now there’s an empty Champs-Élysées leading directly to Place de l’Obamaphobie.

This anger at Obama not going to Paris to march in the unity rally is completely fake and homegrown.

This rally in Paris isn’t about Obama and it isn’t about the US. If our participation would have misdirected attention from the rally’s purpose to something different, then it’s better the POTUS not go. American Ambassador Jane Hartley - whose mission is to represent American interests, citizens, and values in France – marched in the demonstration.

This wasn’t a state funeral or some summit meeting with the G7. This was a street demonstration.  Think Kennedy in the open-top Continental, but there’s no getaway car. The President doesn’t generally do “impromptu”, and he definitely doesn’t attend a street demonstration in a foreign capital. Even if he did, the security would be ridiculous.

When the President does his inaugural parade, he’s in an armored Cadillac. He gets out only when the Secret Service says it’s safe to do so, and even then, he’s flanked by more security than you or I can imagine. But we’re supposed to believe that he can just stand at the front of a cordon of world leaders in downtown Paris on a Sunday, and the already-beleagured Secret Service would just go along with that? This was a rally with 3.7 million people. Hell, if it’s so important, did you go?

The bottom line is: never let an opportunity to hate Obama get in the way of facts; there’s no winning.

Secretary of State John Kerry wasn’t there – he was in India on a previously scheduled visit. But in 2004, the Republicans blasted Kerry for “looking” too French; now he’s not French enough? Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was at the Paris Charlie Hebdo rally, but in 2013 his government complained to the UK about an editorial cartoon Israel considered to be anti-Semitic. Russia sent its foreign minister – Putin’s Russia, which has implemented media censorship and harassment that is closer to pre-Glasnost Soviet actions than with any nominal support for political satire or freedom of expression.

The White House said Monday that it should have sent someone with a higher profile to the march. Why? Whom would that appease? Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio? Not the French, for sure – a quick scan of Paris papers on Monday reveals that France wasn’t so much worried about why Obama wasn’t there, but instead why several world leaders were. More to the point, Reporters Without Borders issued a scathing criticism of the characters who marched in Paris ostensibly in support of press freedom.

On what grounds are representatives of regimes that are predators of press freedom coming to Paris to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always defended the most radical concept of freedom of expression?

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt (which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RWB’s press freedom index), Russia (148th), Turkey (154th) and United Arab Emirates (118th).

“We must demonstrate our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world’s other Charlies,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo.”

The authorities have announced the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Gabonese President Ali Bongo.

“Obama marches in streets of Paris with leaders of oppressive regimes” would have been the right-wing meme in the alternative universe where Obama attended the march. The cover of Liberation focused on Netanyahu visiting the Kosher supermarket that was attacked, noting that some media reported that Netanyahu came to Paris uninvited. Liberation only noted that American media were criticizing Obama’s no-show; it did not echo any actual French sentiment along those lines. Le Monde noted how former French Premier Nicolas Sarkozy “shook protocol” by getting up to the front of the line. It also focused on the French debate over whether they should implement something like our “Patriot Act”. Le Monde noted that Obama wasn’t at the Paris rally, but covered his visit to the French Ambassador to Washington.

Had Obama gone, these people with their fake outrage would have been sharing some semi-literate Breitbart or Twitchy piece about how that uppity Obama and his fat wife and stupid kids used Air Force One to go to a thing at a place.

The people angriest about Obama not going to march with the Gabonese, Malian, and Palestinian heads of state in Paris are the ones who would criticize him for doing just that if he had gone. France isn’t mad; it didn’t necessarily need Obama to be there, and the feigned outrage over his absence comes from one particular sentiment that had no business being part of that rally – American chauvinism. We don’t always have to make everything about us.

The people most vocally feigning anger at Obama not marching in Paris are the very people who viscerally hate Obama’s very existence. They blame him for not going because what – he supports terrorism? Because he’s a seekrit Moozlim and supports the jihadists?

Let’s dismiss it as the nonsense it is.

Hate Radio in Real Life

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Yesterday afternoon, after my kid got in some epic sledding, we stopped in at our local coffee shop for some hot chocolate. This coffee shop is all decked out in a sort of eclectic-ish, faux-Nepalese decor, and it was pretty empty, except for a guy working on his laptop and two middle-aged guys seated at the table behind us.

The four of us were warming up and chatting when the conversation behind us became suddenly audible. “I’m telling you, Obama is deliberately ruining this country” said the guy who was facing our direction. “We’re going to end up just like France if this keeps up”, he continued. There was some more generic Obamaphobia before he launched into a diatribe about how immigrants like the Irish and Italians never “strapped on bombs” like these “people from Yemen” coming here now, who even have their own supermarkets and whatnot.

I am not about to get into an argument with ignorant stranger 1 and 2, so at that, I just told my family I couldn’t listen to this conversation behind me, and got up to leave. I might have repeated that as I came back to get them after I threw out my trash. Worse than second-hand smoke, I was escaping the effects of second-hand hatred.

But seriously, I’m obviously not going to argue with some stranger in the hippie-ish coffee shop, but I didn’t want to listen to anti-immigrant, racist, ignorant garbage. It’s like when you’re listening to WBEN to get the traffic and weather, and then the host comes back on and the topic is whatever Tim Wenger skimmed on Breitbart that morning. So I did what I usually do – I turned the dial. Only in real life, by leaving the coffee shop.

I mean, I could have explained to this guy how the US has absolutely nothing culturally, nationally, politically, racially, or ethnically in common with France. I could ask, “what’s so bad about France, anyway?” I could have suggested that this guy read up on France’s colonial history and ask himself why it would have Arab Muslim immigrants who were poorly assimilated into an otherwise homogeneous nation-state. Perhaps I might have pointed out how other immigrant groups had histories of violence (the Mafia, the Westies), and even their own ethnic groceries (Guercio’s, Redlinski’s, Hoowa), yet no one finds any of that to be indicative of ingrained, genetic homicidal behavior or refusal to assimilate. As this guy moaned about those violent Muslims, I could have mentioned how many mass killings have taken place at the hands of Christians – everything from the pogroms to Eric Rudolph to Srebrenica to the Spanish Inquisition to the Army of God/Christian Identity/Christian Patriot types.

The conversation at home, however, was better than that. We talked about the Christmas break and the summer ahead, and how we’re going to the Detroit car show for the first time in several years. We talked about things having to do with the excitement and love of life, fear and hatred.

So, what do you do when a Limbaugh show breaks out in your neighborhood coffee shop?

There’s Petty, Then There’s Small Town Petty

clartownhallIn 2013, Ronald Kucinski, Jr. circulated petitions to run as a Republican for the Clarence Town Board. Apparently, his bid didn’t have the support of the town committee. Kucinski’s petitions were challenged, and thrown out. He was understandably upset about it, and sent a letter to the editor of the Clarence Bee, expressing his displeasure.

So you want to run for office and get into the world of politics? You have ideas, you have guts and the determination?

I gave it a shot only to be defeated by my own party. This is what I found out:

The “good-old-boy network” is alive and well in Clarence. We are fortunate to live in a country where anyone can run for public office. However the political machine here in Clarence does not believe in a Democracy where the residents choose their candidates.

Clarence Republican Committee chair Dan Michnik, incidentally, works at the county Board of Elections. He also picks up a small stipend from the town.

But Kucinski’s wasn’t the only letter the Bee published on the matter.  There was also this one, sent in by Beverly Campochiaro.

How self-serving that a small number representing the Republican Party can dictate whom they want to win, whether or not they are doing what’s right for the town.

This is a democracy, and we are entitled to more. The fact that the Republican Party makes that choice for us is unacceptable.

We had a qualified candidate ready, willing and able to serve the residents of Clarence. But the good ol’ boys were not going to let that happen.

Many residents took a stand regarding the school budget. Maybe it’s time to take a stand regarding our local politicians.

Let’s not look at this upcoming election as party versus party. It’s not about that; it’s the first step to make a change. With each election, we need to get involved and tell our local party leaders enough is enough.

Campochiaro’s letter was arguably stronger than Kucinski’s, and there’s a connection here; Campochiaro happens to be Kucinski’s mother-in-law.

Campochiaro is also a longtime member of the volunteer board of the Clarence Youth Bureau. She helped found it, she’s volunteered for 9 years, she’s a former chairwoman and secretary, and heads up a great speaker’s series. By all accounts, she’s a hard worker, well-liked by the kids and her colleagues, and has never had a problem there.

That is, until her son-in-law tried to run for town office.

The Clarence Town Board is 100% Republican and an all-male revue. At a working session last week, it voted 3 – 2 to not recommend Ms. Campochiaro’s re-appointment to the Clarence Youth Bureau.

Word of this vote got out, and members of the Youth Bureau board and other concerned parties undertook a letter-writing and call-in campaign to change the Town Board’s mind.

It should be noted that the town board maintains a liaison with the Clarence Youth Bureau. Most recently, it was Robert Geiger, who was one of the two “no” votes and who respects Campochiaro’s work. The other “no” vote was from Bernie Kolber, who has strong personal feelings against Campochiaro for her “good old boy” cracks, but nevertheless could not allow those feelings to cloud his judgment or direct his vote. The liaison who served prior to Geiger was Peter DiCostanzo, who was instrumental in this attempt to oust Campochiaro from the Youth Board; a board which, incidentally, already has a vacancy the town can’t fill.

I spoke with Campochiaro earlier this week, and she notes that, once the letter-writing campaign started, and the media began digging, the December 29th vote suddenly became “preliminary”. Councilman Pat Casilio, who voted against Campochiaro’s re-appointment on the 29th told me an email that “no final decision has been made yet”. (Supervisor Hartzell and Councilmember DiCostanzo did not reply to an email sent January 5th asking why they voted against reappointment).

For her part, Campochiaro is aghast over this. She loves volunteering for the Youth Bureau and no one has had the decency to explain to her why it is that her reappointment to the Youth Bureau board, (which already has a vacancy), is being called into question. She says it’s like “defamation of character” to have a sort of scarlet letter around her neck – not convicted or even accused of any malfeasance – yet to be singled out as a disposable troublemaker. There’s not even the typical small town excuse – getting rid of one person to make way for a patronage hack.  After all, the position is unpaid.

Campochiaro believes that this is nothing more than blatant political retribution. She relates a story about a board meeting that was held at the Youth Bureau some time ago, which has 7 student members. There was a discussion held about a speaker who was going to talk about drug abuse among middle school students. Mr. DiCostanzo was the Town Board liaison at the time, and he said, “any kid that carries a backpack is using drugs or selling drugs.”

Nothing was said at the time, but that remark was a shocker. Just about every kid in that school district, after all, carries a backpack, so the comment was either stupid, or a bad joke. Campochiaro later corresponded with DiCostanzo, and chided him for his “inappropriate” remark, reminding him that he’s there to show leadership, to be a role model, and to support the kids and town. She told him that if parents heard what he said, they’d be appalled. DiCostanzo responded angrily – Campochiaro says he “ripped [her] apart in an email”, claiming that it was just a joke. No one found it funny.

Campochiaro contacted Supervisor Hartzell to make an appointment to meet with him about this issue. She soon thought better of it, and figured she’d let it go; she cancelled the appointment. However, Hartzell saw this and called her to find out what the problem was. She told him about DiCostanzo’s remark, and complained that he should be replaced as liaison at the next reorganization. According to Campochiaro, Hartzell was appalled by DiCostanzo’s remark, and at the next reorg, Geiger replaced DiCostanzo as liaison.

In the absence of any other rational explanation, Campochiaro accuses DiCostanzo of exacting his revenge for her son-in-law’s run for office, her letter to the editor critical of the town Republican machine, and for having the Supervisor remove DiCostanzo as Youth Bureau liaison. Incidentally, Hartzell was the third December 29th vote to reject Campochiaro’s reappointment. In the Clarence Bee, Steve Jagord writes,

DiCostanzo denied any personal ill will towards Campochiaro and in an email called into question her personalization of the decision.

“It is not a personal or political thing,” DiCostanzo said. “People who really know me know I don’t let petty politics affect my decision making.”

However, no reason was given for not reappointing Campochiaro. Casilio and Hartzell did not respond to requests for comment in time for this week’s edition.

The Bee also published a strong editorial chiding the Town Board for, in effect, discouraging volunteer participation. The whole thing has a chilling effect.

The Town Board met on Wednesday for its 2015 reorganization meeting. Councilman Geiger was reappointed as liaison to the Youth Bureau. Cooler heads prevailed, and Mrs. Campochiaro was reappointed to the Youth Bureau’s board.

During the allotted period of public comment on the town board’s reorganization agenda, Campochiaro thanked the board for reappointing her, adding that the last week had been a very trying one for her and her family. Addressing DiCostanzo, who couldn’t be bothered to lift his head or look her in the eye, Campochiaro responded to comment to the Bee, claiming that this wasn’t about personality. She said, “you know and I know that it is.” She hoped, however, that they could put this entire episode behind them and continue the good work that the Youth Bureau does for the town and its citizens.

To this day, however, not one of the three “no” votes has explained himself. Campochiaro is logically to conclude that they had allowed personal animus to influence their duties as town trustees. The smallest beam of light can work wonders.

Paladino: New Year, New Lies

Carl Paladino _ Flickr - Photo Sharing! - Google Chrome 2015-01-06 13.49.18Carl Paladino loves to send emails. In fact, outside of WNY, that’s sort of what he’s famous for. Anyone who was on the email list for his gubernatorial run gets these, but this one is special.

From: Carl Paladino

Sent: Monday, January 05, 2015 9:10 AM

Subject: FW: ACTION ALERT To FIRE John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

We’re off to the races, with everyone’s favorite cranky uncle Carl forwarding other people’s emails. But here, he adds his own two cents.

John Boehner is an establishment boy who was conditioned to think that you go along to get along. He’s a pro at the Washington 2 step. He was a complete bust on Benghazi never ostracizing Obama for the stand down order, the IRS, (the criminality of which just vanished in the night), the disaster of Obamacare, etc., etc., etc.

The Republican effort to turn Benghazi into a scandal is notable because it has been an utter and repeated failure. When efforts to blame the Obama Administration for lying to the public about what caused the attacks went nowhere, they pivoted to accusing the government of ordering troops to “stand down”.  That is the lie that Paladino is parroting in this email, and it’s an especially repugnant one.

The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee expressly considered and rejected the notion that any “stand down” order was issued.  Paladino is lying.

Ingrained in that carefully crafted lie is a central theme that Obama is the “other” – not “American”.  That he is so foreign in name, visage, heritage, birth, and religion that it is believable that he would have done anything short of personally ordering or directing the terrorist attack on the compound that killed four American diplomats. This endlessly repeated “Obama let Benghazi happen” lie has its roots in xenophobia and racism. It’s not surprising, then, that Paladino – who famously forwarded emails depicting the Obamas as a 70’s-era pimp and whore, Africans as apes, and an image containing the n-word – believes that the President would deliberately put American diplomats in harm’s way.

As for the IRS “scandal”, its “criminality vanished” because there never was any to begin with.

It’s time for real leadership. Send the establishment gang-led by Boehner and McConnell- packing. That is what the American people want. Grow a set balls. How could any representative of the people give any respect to a President who ordered his military to stand down and leave American soldiers on the battlefield.

All of that is [sic], by the way. I’m hard-pressed to remember an incident where Boehner or McConnell gave a whole lot of respect to Obama in the first place, but again – Paladino thinks that these two Republican Congressional leaders aren’t extreme enough.

Incidentally, the 246 Congressional Republicans held their vote for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. John Boehner won 216 – 25. Another Paladino / tea party victory.

How can any American family allow their child, father, or husband to put his or her life at risk and feel comfortable with the military leadership.

You know, the Commander in Chief is a black man. First one, ever.

Wake Washington up. If it is to be Jeb Bush and business as usual, forget about 2016.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. If Jeb Bush is the nominee, forget it.

The American people want the lying and scheming Obama politically destroyed.

When was that? In 2008, or 2012? The irony of Paladino – in this missive – accusing anyone of being a liar is fantastic.

They want the likes of Gruber and the liberal elitist crowd to be gone from the landscape.

Gruber is the MIT economics professor who said something stupid about how Obamacare (Romneycare) was passed thanks to the stupidity of the American voter. In what way does Paladino want MIT professors whom he hates, or with whom he disagrees, “gone from the landscape”? Which landscape? “Gone” how? He was never an elected official. He’s not on any landscape, except MIT’s.

They want a strong military, respect from the rest of the world and a domestic policy that encourages achievement and is fair to all. They want leadership they can be proud of.

Our military is the most expensive thing in the federal budget. We throw money at it like there’s no tomorrow. What, exactly, does Paladino think is so weak about it? The fact that it’s been mired in two Asian land wars in the last 14 years? What part of the domestic policy discourages achievement or is unfair? Obama is well-admired domestically, and our country is respected by some, and disrespected by others, same as it’s ever been.

One thing is for sure – Americans do want “leadership they can be proud of.”

That’s why, since 2011, the title of Governor of the state of New York has been held by Andrew Cuomo.

New Yorkers know a disgrace when we see one.

The Books that Assemblyman David DiPietro Wants to Ban

With respect to Librarian of Basra and Nasreen’s Secret School, the craven, ignorant opportunist David DiPietro alleged that:

The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom!

Luckily, we have the internet. And Google. And YouTube.

 

Someone needs to run against – and defeat – this imbecile.

David DiPietro’s Jihad on Learning

Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora has declared a holy war on book lernin‘. ‘Specially that Moozlim kind. (It’s not the first time, either. DiPietro was convinced Obama was a seekrit Moozlim back in 2010).

Just talked to an irate parent. Parkdale school in East Aurora is teaching third graders(8-9 year olds) about the Koran, Mohammed and the Muslim faith. It is MANDATORY reading for Common Core! The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom! MORE TO COME!

This has quickly become a cause celebre (that’s French) among the tea party anti-learning set.

I have a third grader in a public school, and neither the Koran, Mohammed, nor the Muslim faith is MANDATORY ALL CAPS reading under Common Core or any other standard, so I immediately know DiPietro is lying. What are the books, you ask?

Nasreen’s Secret School is a children’s picture book, described thusly:

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared.

In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?

Based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.

A review from the “School Library Journal” describes the premise thusly:

Grade 2–4—This story begins with an author’s note that succinctly explains the drastic changes that occurred when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996. The focus is primarily on the regime’s impact on women, who were no longer allowed to attend school or leave home without a male chaperone, and had to cover their heads and bodies with a burqa. After Nasreen’s parents disappeared, the child neither spoke nor smiled. Her grandmother, the story’s narrator, took her to a secret school, where she slowly discovered a world of art, literature, and history obscured by the harsh prohibitions of the Taliban. As she did in The Librarian of Basra (Harcourt, 2005), Winter manages to achieve that delicate balance that is respectful of the seriousness of the experience, yet presents it in a way that is appropriate for young children. Winter’s acrylic paintings make effective use of color, with dramatic purples and grays, with clouds and shadows dominating the scenes in which the Taliban are featured, and light, hopeful pinks both framing and featured in the scenes at school. This is an important book that makes events in a faraway place immediate and real. It is a true testament to the remarkable, inspiring courage of individuals when placed in such dire circumstances.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ END

Interestingly enough, “Librarian of Basra” is the other book in question.

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.'”*

–Alia Muhammad Baker

 

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

 

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

 

And

Starred Review. Grade 2-4 – When war seemed imminent, Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library, was determined to protect the library’s holdings. In spite of the government’s refusal to help, she moved the books into a nearby restaurant only nine days before the library burned to the ground. When the fighting moved on, this courageous woman transferred the 30,000 volumes to her and her friends’ homes to await peace and the rebuilding of a new library. In telling this story, first reported in the New York Timeson July 27, 2003, by Shaila K. Dewan, Winter artfully achieves a fine balance between honestly describing the casualties of war and not making the story too frightening for young children. The text is spare and matter-of-fact. It is in the illustrations, executed in acrylic and ink in her signature style, that Winter suggests the impending horror. The artist uses color to evoke mood, moving from a yellow sky to orange, to deep maroon during the bombing, and then blues and pinks with doves flying aloft as the librarian hopes for a brighter future. Palm trees, architecture, dress, and Arabic writing on the flag convey a sense of place and culture. Although the invading country is never mentioned, this is an important story that puts a human face on the victims of war and demonstrates that a love of books and learning is a value that unites people everywhere. – Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT

 

The theme in both books is the universal importance of education and knowledge, even in the face of adversity or outright hostility. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach young readers than that. To use real stories about real kids to convey that is moving and powerful. These are books that I will go out of my way to acquire and have my child read, because of the irony at work.

Books. Education. Knowledge. Having and accomplishing these things in the face of war or religious fanaticism. Nasreen isn’t a book about religion, it’s about fighting religious extremism. Basra isn’t a book about religion, it’s a book about the importance of reading; protecting your culture and heritage. It’s heartbreakingly anti-American to condemn and ban these books, with these themes.

Both Basra and Nasreen are on the recommended book list for grades 3 – 5 under the National Catholic Educational Association. Nasreen teaches “justice”, and Basra teaches “courage”.

DiPietro is on local AM radio this afternoon concern-trolling about how these books mention Islam, and that’s wrong because Christian and Jewish mentions are forbidden. Like “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

David DiPietro and other book-killers like he are tantamount to the religious fanatics in Basra and Nasreen who would deny books, knowledge, and an education to the protagonists. Unable to see beyond his own limited and prejudiced worldview, DiPietro is seemingly seeking to withhold these important and age-appropriate stories from local children because the protaganists are of the Muslim faith.

As we learned in Clarence in March 2014, the books aren’t the problem, it’s the book banners. Tyrannies ban books.

(Join Banned Books Week on Facebook if you believe in freedom of education and expression; freedom to learn).

Parsing the Concern-Trolling Fracker

frac_truckIn late 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo banned horizontal hydrofracking in New York State. While this will likely have some unknown, untested economic downside, it will eliminate the risk of environmental damage or catastrophe. This is a good thing, on balance.

Not everyone is pleased, however. Consider this “Another Voice” in the Buffalo News. To call it concern-trolling is kind; it is an appeal purely to emotion. Rush Limbaugh or the editorial board of the New York Post couldn’t have written anything better, and the only thing missing is an “Il Duce” reference to Cuomo’s Italian heritage, and some sort of irrelevant side-swipe at the NY SAFE Act.

We begin with ad hominem attacks on “Ithaca” and “Park Avenue”(?) liberals, who would be the caricature, I suppose, of the typical anti-fracking, pro-environment activist.

New York’s hardened anti-hydrofracking environmentalists are whooping it up! The hills of Ithaca and the lowlands of Park Avenue are alight with joy. Like-minded billionaires in California have joined the party, too. Their investments are finally paying off.

With the help of well-placed funds and attention-grabbing headlines, they have moved an entire political system into their self-serving camp. No wonder they are calling New York’s continued moratorium on fracking a huge victory. And it is. It is a huge pyrrhic victory.

I’m wondering what is “self-serving” about wanting to protect our shared environment? What is “self-serving” about wanting to avoid, e.g., the public cost of cleaning up some sort of environmental disaster? Isn’t that the opposite of self-serving? Is there some direct, pecuniary benefit that Ithaca or Park Avenue derive from a fracking ban?

There’s a lot of “pity the poor oil companies” going on.

Let’s break it down into winners and losers.

The progressive elites in New York’s well-heeled communities win. But why shouldn’t they? They have a long history of winning. Nuisances like the truth have no place at these heights.

Every time this author references “progressive elites,” I’m suspecting he’s too geographically ignorant to know that “Park Avenue” isn’t what he was looking for. He’s imagining this stereotype, as Woody Allen described in Annie Hall: “New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper…”

More and more, this game of shutting down oil and gas development is done at the pleasure of the rich. They are pulling the strings from the shadows. Some are, no doubt, good people with good intentions, but many are using their extreme wealth to blur the lines in a war they are waging on the prosperity and well-being of America and Americans.

Then there’s the Hollywood crowd, many of them unfamiliar with the ivy walls of higher education but fabulously wealthy nonetheless. They jet into events on private planes, dumping carbon onto the rooftops of the less privileged.

In brief, these are the winners. And that’s OK, because they are already winning at the game of life. They should win. But this time their victory has come at our cost.

So, the people who are opposed to hydrofracking are the wealthy “Park Avenue” crowd, and the wealthy “Hollywood” crowd. I suspect that the author is referring to Mark Ruffalo, who is a vocal fracking opponent who also happens to live in New York. In fact, his interest in fracking came in reference to land his family owns in upstate Sullivan County. So, you know, substitute “Callicoon” for “Hollywood”, and you’re on the right track.

Notice, however, the glaring omission of any evidence – even a mention – of the way in which these rich caricatures benefit in any way from a fracking ban. Instead, we have this appeal to what someone on the right would typically call “class warfare”, if the shoe was on the other foot:

Now for the losers. That’s you and me. That’s the farmers who saw their neighbors to the south in Pennsylvania collect fees of up to $5,000 an acre and royalties of close to 20 percent on $7 million wells. They won’t be sending their children to the same universities as the Cornell crowd. There is no moneyed legacy in these battered little towns and rural communities. They don’t have a voice. So in this case the well-heeled progressive crowd was able to do what the powerful always do – crush the less well off.

Well, no. It’s not “you and me”.

I’m not a fracking “loser” here, because I was never slated to collect any fees or royalties on my property. Chances are you weren’t, either. Furthermore, because fracking is allowed in states that have analyzed the relative costs and benefits of that extraction method and reached a different conclusion, I actually get the benefits of cheaper natural gas without the potential environmental difficulties. Sounds to me like a win/win for New Yorkers who are not directly affected by dint of location.

So, some hypothetical farmer in the Southern Tier won’t benefit from a huge petro-windfall of cash money, and we’re going to throw shade at Cornell – sorry the “Cornell crowd”? Furthermore, what’s absolutely astonishing about this editorial’s use of class warfare is the supposition that all of these super-wealthy pointy-headed nerds at Cornell, alongside the Hollywood and “Park Avenue” communists conspired to shut out the poor, lowly oil companies. If only these oil and gas companies could come close to competing with the juggernaut of Ruffalos and Finger Lake eco-nerds!

There are 62 hydrofracking operators in Pennsylvania, and that they have racked up 3,880 violations resulting in almost $6 million in fines. For instance, there have been 141 violations since 2009 for “discharge of pollutional material into waterways of the Commonwealth”. How dare these New York liberal elites fight for clean water!

Furthermore, Pennsylvania is unique in that it refuses to tax natural gas production in the state. It imposes some drilling fees,

But revenue generated by the fee has not kept pace with production. Gas pulled from the ground in Pennsylvania doubled from 2011 to 2012, soaring from a yield of roughly 1 trillion cubic feet the first year to more than 2 trillion the next. Yet the flow of money from the impact fee actually decreased in that same interval. The state brought in roughly $204 million from the fee in 2011. The following year, revenue dropped to $202.5 million.

Between 2012 and 2013, revenue from the fee increased by 11 percent, jumping to a record high of close to $225 million last year. But the leap was significantly smaller than the overall rise in production. Natural-gas output increased by more than 37 percent in the same period, when it rose to 3.1 trillion cubic feet, according to Pennsylvania state estimates.

It’s safe to assume that, had New York permitted this sort of fracking, it’d have taxed the crap out of it. But our Park-Avenue-and-Cornell-hating correspondent argues that the poor loser farmers in the Southern Tier were the out-spent victims of professors and rich Park Avenue Hollywood types. But if 2013 natural gas production in Pennsylvania reached 3.1 trillion cubic feet, presumably these companies – the implication being that they’d jump right into production in the Southern Tier of NYS – could have used a tiny bit of their revenue to advocate for people and policies that would have brought about fracking? Are the poor gas companies too impoverished to help out these downtrodden farmers who are losing out on millions in royalties and leases?

Natural gas is traded on the NY Mercantile Exchange in $x per million BTU. If you take that measure and multiply it by 1.025, you get the price per thousand cubic feet. Right now, about $3.10/mcf. So, 3.1 trillion cubic feet is worth about $3.17 billion right now. Surely, the poor, downtrodden farmers could have benefited from some of that money being thrown around to, say, elect Rob Astorino, right?

So now that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has talked the talk, will he walk the walk? In this case, he would personally stop using carbon-based fuels, since he is disallowing the production of them. He would ask his friends to park their planes and dock their yachts. He would not want to be seen as a taker. He would shut off the heat in his house. He would eat cold food. He would start walking foot trails only (after all, pavement is carbon-based, too).

This is some fundamentally stupid bullshit. It’s an argument by 14 year-old would be embarrassed to proffer. So, if someone who lives in Westchester County opposes nuclear energy, they should take themselves off the grid? Andrew Cuomo isn’t a hypocrite if he bans fracking and uses fossil fuels; he’d be a hypocrite if he banned fracking while owning land where fracking wells were present. All the Cornell professors need to “park their planes and dock their yachts”? Why the hatred against the wealthy, son? I mean, should an Obamacare opponent quit his health insurance and use cash for all doctor’s visits? My tax dollars go to pay for things I disagree with on a daily basis. Do I move to Monaco and renounce my citizenship, lest some dummy call me a hypocrite in the Buffalo News?

Anything less and Cuomo could paint himself as a phony. That would not bode well for his political ambitions, at least for those of us who believe that politicians are capable of the truth.

I get the distinct impression that this writer’s concern with Cuomo’s “political ambitions” is disingenuous, don’t you? What about that author, by the way?

Dan Doyle is president of Reliance Well Services, a hydraulic fracturing company based in Pennsylvania.

Because of course he is. Reliance Well Services is based in Erie, PA and counts Chautauqua, Alleghany, and Cattaraugus Counties as being within its territory. It operates “frac trucks” which are used to support drilling activities. Presumably, opening up the three NYS counties closest to Erie, PA to fracking would have resulted in a professional bonanza for Mr. Doyle and his company.

Mr. Doyle throws shade at Cornell professors and downstate activists for acting out of “self-interest” without defining or backing up that allegation in any way. He invokes the poor, downtrodden farmer as the real “loser” in this scenario, and demands that Governor Cuomo revert to a 18th century way of living for refusing to open up NYS land to hydrofracking. But in the end, the only one with “self-interest” is Mr. Doyle, who couldn’t be bothered to simply be honest about the fact that Governor Cuomo dealt a blow to his business plan and bottom line.

Pennsylvania may have a great need for the revenue that fracking delivers (despite the fact that its tax and regulation scheme leaves a lot to be desired). New York State coffers can rely on other, dependable, renewable sources of tax revenue to help keep it afloat. (See Wall Street, e.g.) The NYS unemployment rate stands at 5.9%. In Pennsylvania, it’s 5.1%. Seems to me like New York can do ok without fracking. Perhaps some future governor will disagree and open the state up to fracking. But for now, we’ll be ok.

The Public & Me

Beginning today, my blogging will primarily be taking place at the Public (dailypublic.com). The direct link to my author page is here: http://www.dailypublic.com/authors/alan-bedenko.

I’m really excited about this opportunity, and offer special thanks to Geoff Kelly, Aaron Lowinger, Cory Perla, and everyone else at the Public who are trusting me with their creative and innovative publication.

It was Geoff who originally set Chris Smith and me up at Artvoice, and I’m beyond pleased to be working with him again.

This site will continue to archive my content. Follow along at the Public and on Twitter @buffalopundit.

Thank you!

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