McCarthy’s Quote of the Week: Roll Call

Why won’t Buffalo News political columnist Bob McCarthy cite his sources?

In Sunday’s column, he writes

• Quote of the Week comes from Congressman-elect Chris Collins, who while in Washington a few days ago mistakenly found himself in a caucus room with people like Nancy Pelosi – and not John Boehner.

According to one congressional source attending, Republican Collins – breakfast plate in hand – suddenly rushed over to him and asked: “Wait … what meeting is this?” – only to be told he was in the Democratic caucus.

“Oh s***, I’m in the wrong meeting,” Collins was quoted as saying. “Where are the Republicans meeting?”

New Chief of Staff Chris Grant seems to be getting the hang of Washington spin.

“Congressman-elect Collins believes very strongly in reaching bipartisan solutions to fix this country’s problems,” Grant said. “What better way to accomplish that than introducing himself to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle?”

Quoted where? To whom? Why did McCarthy so cavalierly write this up without mentioning his source; that it was printed online several days ago? The way in which he writes it for the News, you’d think it was his story – that some source of McCarthy’s provided him with these quotes. 

Well, if you read AV Daily, you’d have known on Thursday that the story came from the “Heard on the Hill” section of Roll Call. The byline for that story is Warren Rojas, and every single quote that McCarthy co-opts as his own come from Rojas’ story posted last Wednesday. An NYU handbook for journalism students explains

“Sources” may also be defined as research material, including newspapers, magazines, books, research reports, studies, polls, radio, television, newsreels, documentaries, movies, audio podcasts or video from the Web. All such sources, particularly secondary sources, should be carefully vetted. Good journalists don’t simply extract information, or claims, from written or broadcast material; they check that material against other or similar material for accuracy. Just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s accurate or fair. Wikipedia, for example, is not always an accurate source and should not be cited as such. 

The reporter must clearly indicate where information comes from. Failure to disclose your reliance on someone else’s work is unethical, and can leave readers or viewers in the dark about the legitimacy of the information. This does  not hold true if something is a well-known fact that is beyond reasonable dispute. For example, it would not be necessary to cite a source for “John Adams was the second president of the United States.”

McCarthy’s quote of the week comes from Roll Call, not Chris Collins. Omitting the source for his material is unethical. 

Unimpressed

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President Obama and McKayla Maroney are unimpressed. (White House Flickr Pool)

One Thing: Infomercials

Chris Smith and/or I regularly record podcasts with Brad Riter, which appear at Trending Buffalo. Oftentimes the podcasts are political in nature and cover matters already written about here, so we don’t always cross-promote. 

But seeing as it’s Friday, and seeing as it’s an apparently sunny day, and seeing as how the Bills won so the entire region seems to be satisfactorily covering up its collective regional depressive mood with the sports equivalent of Cymbalta, here is our podcast about infomercials. The language is wholly unsafe for a work environment, and you can see the referenced videos themselves by following this link. Have a good weekend

One Thing: Infomercials

Abortion: Politicking versus Real Life

Many people don’t realize that the 2012 Republican platform demands a ban on all abortions, with no exception made for rape, incest, or even to save the life of the mother. While some individual Republicans go along with those provisos, the party as a collective does not. This, in part, explains the rape eruptions from idiots suggesting that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape”, or that a pregnancy from rape is “part of God’s plan”, differentiating “emergency rape“, or that some women “rape easy” and what – deserve it?  

2012 Republican Platform: “Renewing American Values” : Repealing Obamacare 

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

2012 Republican Platform: A Restoration of Constitutional Government: The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital: Irish Times November 14, 2012

The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.

“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said, ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.

“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.

“That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics.

“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

Ms. Halappanavar developed sepsis and died. Had the abortion been performed when it became clear that she was miscarrying, Ms. Halappanavar, a 31 year-old non-Irish, Hindu dentist, might still be alive today. I realize that the example is from Ireland, but Ireland’s prohibition on abortion is what the Republican Party in the United States wants to implement. Nowhere in the party platform is an exception made for the life of the mother, rape, or incest. 

Taking and Mooching

1. Collins Mistakenly Crashes Dem Shindig

From Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” column, an entry entitled, “Dude, Where’s My Caucus?”

A Democratic staffer camped out at this morning’s caucus meeting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s big reveal witnessed a panicky exit by a perplexed newcomer.

“When they welcomed Leader Pelosi and everyone stood up to applaud, a frantic new member got up — breakfast plate in hand — rushed over to me and asked, ‘Wait … what meeting is this?!’ I said, ‘This is the Democratic Caucus.’ He said, ‘Oh s—, I’m in the wrong meeting. Where are the Republicans meeting?’” the anonymous tipster said of the mini-drama.

The confused caucuser? Rep.-elect Chris Collins, R-N.Y.

A Collins aide suggested it was all part of the boss’s master plan.

“Congressman-elect Collins believes very strongly in reaching bipartisan solutions to fix this country’s problems. What better way to accomplish that than introducing himself to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” the budding spinmeister assured HOH.

Ha ha very funny because Collins believes quite the opposite, based on what he said during the campaign. Collins only seeks bipartisanship when he controls the game, and as a freshman 1/435 he won’t be controlling anything.  After months’ worth of his hateful and negative Obamapelosi rhetoric, it’s delightful that he mistakenly crashed Pelosi’s party.  (Image courtesy Tom Dolina from Tommunisms.com).

2. Romney blames the 47% on his loss

Lest you thought that Romney tape wherein he asserts that he doesn’t care about – and can’t rely on – votes from the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes, and see themselves as entitled welfare queen taker/victims, was a fluke

In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Talk about class warfare. 

Making sure that every American has access to quality health care isn’t a free gift you find in some government Cracker Jack box. It’s something that literally every other industrialized democracy has had in place for decades. It’s something every other 1st world nation implemented generations ago yet we still struggle with because of stupid rhetoric. But what it actually does is help treat disease, mend broken bodies, fight cancers, helps cure infections. It helps people; being able to obtain treatment without fearing bankruptcy or resorting to the emergency room is a good thing individually and societally. Your county taxes go to pay millions to reimburse the hospitals for unpaid-for ER care. Obamacare is much cheaper and more effective. 

Everything else Romney has to say about why he lost is just as insulting and accusatory as what he said to donors in Florida about the shiftless laziness of the 47% of Americans who “take” and “want stuff”. 

Romney and people like him love it when government gives free stuff to big business and millionaires. When government gives regular folks something that helps them, it’s socialism and negative. Mitt Romney’s election would have been an utter disaster and the American middle class dodged a bullet. 

Thankfully, even some Republican recognize how awful this sort of rhetoric is, and are trying to get people to cut it out

“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal, the RGA’s incoming chairman, told reporters here. “If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100% of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period.”

Part of the American dream would include “not going bankrupt from medical care”, right? 

3. Social Media Fail

If someone leaves a negative (truthful) review of your business on Yelp, don’t threaten to sue them for their opinion. You may run into someone with some search engine optimization experience.

 4. Collins is dictating to President Obama

Reading this article, whereby rich person Chris Collins categorically refuses to raise taxes on himself and his neighbors, (what is proposed is a small hike in the rate on income earned in excess of $250,000) is infuriating mostly because of the dismissive way he refers to the President of the United States. It’s as if we elected a better-dressed, Botoxed Rus Thompson to go to Washington and stick his middle finger up at the President.  

“[T]ax increases and job creation “go together like oil and water.”” says Collins. Well, that’s patently untrue. What do you call someone who slavishly clings to an ideology that’s been proven wrong by empirical evidence? Hell, even Forbes acknowledges that the Bush tax cuts only affected 2.5% of small businesses. Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you’re a small business or that you in any way hire anyone except the household help. 

Luckily, Tom Reed seems to have gotten a different message from his constituents; that Congress should stop bickering. Also notable is that outgoing representative Kathy Hochul sees a path to compromise. This is why it’s so devastating that she – and her pragmatic work to find common ground – will leave New York’s 27th District. 

The American Right, Atwater, and the Southern Strategy

President Obama’s re-election has made some people on the right go absolutely crazy. Right-wing websites and listservs are replete with cries of “America RIP”, and gosh-darn it, these people are such strong tea party patriots that they’re resorting to the most patriotic thing they can think of, now that they’ve lost a competitive race in a democratic election. 

They want to secede from the Union

European-style socialism is even encroaching this weekend on our motorsports, as Formula 1 races in Texas; Texas this weekend. (Rooting for Alonso is a safe bet).  But for those of you who may still be surprised by the outcome of the election – an outcome that only surprised people who had rejected mathematics, science, statistical probability, and evidenceyou can now be well distracted by a scandal involving the military, sex, and an abuse of the surveillance state we’ve grown and expanded since a bunch of Saudis on tourist visas blew up 3,000 Americans. 

The overreaction in the fascist corner of the national Republican Party’s shrinking, overwhelmingly white tent, is a temper tantrum of a party in crisis.

Remember Dick Morris?  The former Clinton aide, prostitute toe-licker, and Fox News “analyst” famously predicted on October 31, 2012 that Mitt Romney was really ahead and would win the election in a “landslide”. Right away, the Morris Law;  “whatever Dick Morris says is the exact opposite of reality” couldn’t have been more starkly on display. 

Watch the latest video at <a href=”http://video.foxnews.com”>video.foxnews.com</a>

The idea that people watch a “news” channel that employs this fraud named “Dick Morris” is astonishing. The fact that he’s employed at all is amazing. But never fear, Dick Morris didn’t predict a Romney landslide because he’s wrong about everything, you guys. 

No, Dick Morris predicted the Romney landslide because he was lying. It was, as they say, math he made up as a Republican to make the Romney people feel better about themselves. He was the Republican Stu Smalley. Feelings. 

Sean [Hannity, naturally], I hope people aren’t mad at me about it… I spoke about what I believed and I think that there was a period of time when the Romney campaign was falling apart, people were not optimistic, nobody thought there was a chance of victory and I felt that it was my duty at that point to go out and say what I said. And at the time that I said it, I believe I was right.

I’m glad Republicans watching their confirmation bias station have people like Dick Morris to lie to them to make them all feel better about themselves. If the opposition wants to keep itself in an ignorant bubble of dumb Limbaugh talking point regurgitation, the Democratic Party will continue to win elections by merely promoting policies based on ideas and fact. 

As a final note, in the last week we’ve witnessed an utter implosion of the Karl Rove myth. As it turns out, “Bush’s brain” wasn’t, and if he was the wonk in that bunch, it’s no wonder the country was the victim of such utter governmental malpractice for eight long years. Some are calling the grassroots Republican outrage at Rove a “civil war”. Just over 1% of the money Rove’s “American Crossroads” SuperPAC spent during the last election cycle went to actually win a race. The people who contributed to that worse-than-a-Ponzi scheme are none too pleased. If something is going poorly for Karl Rove, this is good for America. 

But Rove is a piker; an illegitimate heir to the Republican strategy to win the South and demagogue against the “other” was best explained by Ronald Reagan’s own evil genius, Lee Atwater. 

Atwater is famous for having outlined the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” which that party has used since the 70s to sound racist dog-whistles and win in the conservative South – a South which had rejected Republicans ever since the Civil War. Lincoln, you’ll recall, was a Republican. The Southern Strategy exists even today, as people blame Obama’s victory on minorities “takers” who “want stuff”. Read more here, but the infamous Atwater quote goes as follows

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The Nation explains that, for years Republicans have bristled at that quote, hoping/claiming that it was made up. For the first time in history, the 42-minute audio of the Atwater interview from which that passage is pulled, is now online and available for you to hear. It has been found by the same fellow who earlier posted Romney’s 47% quip – James Carter IV.  

As the Republican Party searches for ways to re-invent itself, and as it complains about its electoral failure with non-white, non-male voters, it might want to consider not systematically spreading hate against those groups through its dog-whistle racism and its talk about “legitimate rape”. When the Republican Party becomes a post-Atwater entity, the country will hopefully be better off. 

A Must-Read

I had the misfortune of watching Fox News out of the corner of my eye last night and particularly watched Bill O’Reilly’s “talking points commentary” where he blamed Obama’s re-election on rising secularism in America. *sigh*. 

This open letter “to a future Republican strategist regarding white people” is something of a must-read, as it distills very neatly a lot of the problems and complaints that educated and rational Republicans have with the party’s contemporary politics and messaging. 

It starts out by confirming the authors’ bona fides as a white male who should be a loyal and dependable Republican voter. 

To whom it may concern regarding the United States federal elections of 2014, 2016 and beyond:

Allow me to introduce myself to you, the existing (or aspiring!) strategist for the Republican Party. My name is Eric Arnold Garland and I am a White Man. Boy, am I ever – you need sunglasses just to look at my photo!

If I read the news correctly, I fit a profile that is of extreme importance to the GOP, as I embody the archetype that fits your narrative of Real Americans. Just how much should my profile interest you? Are you sitting down?

  • My family lineage goes back to the MAYFLOWER, BOAT ONE!!! (Garland family of New England-> John Adams -> Howard Alden -> Plymouth colony ->KINGS OF MUTHAF***IN’ ENGLAND)
  • I am a heterosexual, married to the super Caucasian mother of my two beautiful children who are, inexplicably, EVEN WHITER THAN I AM.

He goes on to explain that he and his wife are educated and well-traveled, and that he has massive problems with the party’s positions and messaging on science, climate, healthcare, war, deficits/debt, and same-sex marriage. He goes on to complain about meanness. The passage on healthcare is particularly on-point: 

My wife and I are quite familiar with America’s healthcare system due to our professions, and having lived abroad extensively, also very aware of comparable systems. Your party’s insistence on declaring the private U.S. healthcare system “the best in the world” fails nearly every factual measure available to any curious mind. We watch our country piss away 60% more expenditures than the next most expensive system (Switzerland) for health outcomes that rival former Soviet bloc nations. On a personal scale, my wife watches poor WORKING people show up in emergency rooms with fourth-stage cancer because they were unable to afford primary care visits. I have watched countless small businesses unable to attract talented workers because of the outrageous and climbing cost of private insurance. And I watch European and Asian businesses outpace American companies because they can attract that talent without asking people to risk bankruptcy and death. That you think this state of affairs is somehow preferable to “Obamacare,” which you compared ludicrously to Trotskyite Russian communism, is a sign of deficient minds unfit to guide health policy in America.

I wholly endorse everything he says. Until the Republican Party returns to the world of facts and science, it will continue to marginalize itself both geographically and intellectually. 

(Tip of the hat to Little Green Footballs.) 

Pigeon Promotes Pizazz, Prejudice

I wrote this linked-to post during Wednesday and Thursday, with the intention of posting it first thing Monday morning. When I learned that the Buffalo News’ political columnist Bob McCarthy would be covering similar points, I accelerated publishing my own thoughts to Friday so they wouldn’t be seen as reactive. I’ll be bumping it to the top on Monday morning anyway, but this morning we have McCarthy’s transcription services to fisk. (Fisk definition).  

President Obama took Erie County in a landslide Election Day, but you might not have recognized that victory by some of the long faces at Democratic Party headquarters in Ellicott Square Tuesday might.

That’s because Erie County Democrats suffered through a dismal Election Night, losing three major offices.

On the flip side, the frowns and disappointment at Mitt Romney’s Boston headquarters never made their way to Buffalo. In fact, the local GOP appeared downright giddy after picking off a congressional seat and county comptroller’s office, while staving off an attempt to dethrone State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti.

Their successes gave a sense of accomplishment to local GOP leaders in a county where registered Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans and Obama garnered 220,506 votes to Romney’s 160,337.

“We went with our traditional recipe of having great candidates, the right message, and the revenues to get out that message,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. “The taxpayers are buying what we are selling because our issues are right.”

I don’t know if I’d go as far as that. I don’t know what Mr. Mychajliw’s “issues” are, nor am I too familiar with what Mr. Grisanti’s “issues” are. A big issue, for instance, is hydrofracking. Mr. Grisanti has been silent or indecisive on that. UB 2020 didn’t pass – SUNY 2020 did.  Under UB 2020, UB would have $4 billion to play with to transform itself from a socialistically redistributive public university into a quasi-private business incubator. Under SUNY 2020, all SUNY schools need to compete for a $35 million pot for capital improvements, administered by the Empire State Development Corporation. Mr. Collins’ issues? Obamapelosi and a promise to do whatever Speaker Boehner tells him to do. 

But it’s a far different story this post-election weekend for Democrats, and the bickering that marks the local party leadership has been revived.

Yes, it has. I addressed it here in a plea for everyone to act like grownups and re-assess how the Erie County Democratic Committee conducts itself. Whose opinions, pray, does Mr. McCarthy transcribe? 

“The Democrats ought to take a close look at what happened,” said former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon. “We should have had three wins, and we had three losses.”

Specifically, he blamed former county chairman Leonard R. Lenihan and the new chairman Jeremy J. Zellner.

“They put in a lackey who got [Lenihan’s] coffee,” Pigeon said of Zellner. “You can’t unify the party as long as Len Jr. is in the chairman’s seat.

“It’s a joke,” he added. “To have this little, junior, mid-level staffer as chairman of Erie County is an embarrassment. Zellner ought to step down.”

It’s funny, at first. It’s funny at first to read the petulant venom from a loser calling someone else a loser. It’s funny to see someone who hasn’t played a constructive role in WNY Democratic politics in forever lecture Len Lenihan and Jeremy Zellner. When you demand that someone resign a post that they just won in an election because you hate them, you display a remarkably childish arrogance underscored by the fact that none of Pigeon‘s own picks won anything this round. 

I know a lot of people don’t like Zellner any more than they liked Lenihan, but to insult him as having been Lenihan’s coffee boy is so ignorant and blind. First of all, even if Zellner had done nothing more in the last decade than get Lenihan’s coffee, that task would have been infinitely more productive for Erie County Democrats than what Pigeon‘s been doing during that same period of time. After all, being a coffee boy doesn’t actively do harm to Democratic candidacies. But, of course, Zellner was the executive director, not the coffee boy. That might be how Pigeon treated his ED when he was chairman, but Zellner was quite active in every Democratic race – won or lost – for a decade. 

Party unity? You can’t unify the party where “unity” is defined by at least one faction as being “taking control” and “getting everything I want.” But more on the whole notion of party unity below. 

Zellner laughed heartily at Pigeon’s suggestion about stepping aside before addressing the criticism.

He said he inherited a treasury with just $700 but got to work raising money and spending it on the local candidates.

“I’ve raised $200,000 and spent at least half of that on the election,” Zellner said. “I won’t be criticized by people from the past who are irrelevant anyway.”

Pigeon’s criticism against party leaders centered on fielding poor candidates and failing to do enough for Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, who barely lost the 27th Congressional District to Republican Chris Collins.

Pigeon may have been most frustrated with the State Senate race.

He was instrumental in recruiting former County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick to run in the Democratic primary for State Senate and also securing Conservative Party backing for him in the general election. But Swanick lost the primary to Michael L. Amodeo, who had the backing of the local party leaders, and then Grisanti won easily Tuesday.

In addition to blaming Lenihan and Zellner, Pigeon also took aim at County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward.

A strong Democratic enrollment advantage should have been enough to defeat Grisanti, Pigeon said.

Pigeon remains incensed over the party’s rejection of the Swanick candidacy, maintaining that if Lenihan and Poloncarz had agreed, a united Democratic front backed by Albany could have knocked off Grisanti.

“We would have had the Democratic, Conservative and Working Families lines, and instead Poloncarz gets Amodeo the [Democratic] line,” Pigeon said. “He searched high and low for another candidate because he perceived that Swanick would be close to me.”

Amodeo was a weak candidate who had previously lost an Assembly primary, Pigeon said, while Swanick was a moderate Democrat from the suburbs with a long history of success. 

And he blamed Poloncarz for insisting David J. Shenk be the comptroller candidate, when he felt others would have proven stronger candidates.

Swanick is a conservative Democrat-in-enrollment-only (is he, even?) whose entire candidacy was predicated on an anti-same-sex-marriage position he sold to Ralph Lorigo and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Lorigo was eager to punish incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti, who Lorigo believed had deceived him with respect to allowing gay couples to marry. Practically all of Swanick’s funding came from NOM or from “loans” that this retired railroad engineer is supposed to have made to his own campaign in the amount of $35,000. Did Democrats flock to his candidacy during the primary? Nope. Despite Al Coppola’s perennial presence on the primary ballot to siphon off Italian votes from Amodeo, Swanick only managed 26% of the vote (Al Coppola actually outperformed Swanick in the City of Buffalo).  That number is the homophobe dead-ender vote. Swanick had no business running as a Democrat in a race, regardless of who’s behind you or who has endorsed you. 

Democrats in Erie County shouldn’t sell out their principles to Ralph Lorigo just to get a “W”. 

But being conclusively rejected by Democrats wasn’t enough. Swanick – whose record of failure in the County legislature remains relatively fresh in people’s minds – stayed in the race and fared poorly (12%) in the general election, too. 

What’s Pigeon’s track record? Consider, when Byron Brown fired Pigeon in 2004 in advance of his run for Mayor, he said of Pigeon

“Unfortunately, he has been unable to move beyond his attitudes toward those whom he believes have wronged him politically in the past…It was painfully obvious he just wasn’t a positive influence on my staff.”

Nor was he a positive influence as Democratic county chairman. His profligate spending drove the party into debt, and his heavy hand fomented internecine wars that made politics rather than policy the focus of local government for most of his tenure. That’s why Brown had to separate himself from Pigeon if he wanted to become mayor; major funders around here made it clear that Brown was welcome to the second floor of City Hall but Pigeon was not.

Now? That same Steve Pigeon whines that the Erie County Democratic Committee refused to back a candidate who ran on a homophobe platform and couldn’t secure more than 20% of the vote from anyone, anywhere. Chuck Swanick was the last great hope to defeat Mark Grisanti, who had enough money to spend $20,000 per day in the campaigns waning days and had broad bipartisan support based on equality and inclusion? Everyone, everywhere rejected Chuck Swanick, and Pigeon is having a tantrum because he didn’t get a chance to be more widely rejected? That’s astonishing. 

As for McCarthy, it’s irresponsible for him to transcribe these sneering accusations without challenge in his “opinion column”. 

Instead, Republican Stefan Mychajliw snared the post – considered a major coup in a Democratic county with strong turnout in a presidential year.

“He puts in a guy who is not prepared, has no resume or base, and with no pizazz as a candidate,” Pigeon said. “In a presidential year, we lose a countywide race because of the pettiness of Poloncarz, Lenihan and Ward.”

“This shows you Poloncarz’s leadership of the Democratic Party is abysmal,” Pigeon said.

Consider that for a moment. 

Poloncarz is the County Executive. Shenk was running for County Comptroller. The County Comptroller is supposed to be independent from the County Executive. If he isn’t, the post is meaningless and could lead to bad government.

Just ask Nancy Naples and Joel Giambra. 

If Poloncarz had become involved in the Comptroller race, a tremendous volume of feces would have sprayed all over him and Shenk, from having hit the fan. 

And whom would Pigeon have put in place as Comptroller? George Hasiotis, he who proposes now a $1.5 billion Dubai-like waterfront stadium for a failing team in a shrinking city? We’re entertaining a tantrum because Erie County voters lost out on Hasiotis’ “pizazz”? 

Hey, Bob, let’s ask the worst political person imaginable and a breakfast-hosting fusion pimp what he thinks!

Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo contended a united front behind Swanick would have worked.

“One candidate would have been extremely viable and probably be successful,” he said.

Translation: I backed this homophobe because he was as opposed to queer marriage as I was, and you Democrats screwed it up by nominating some queer-lover. 

“Looking back a year ago, there were stories about the death of the Republican Party in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “It’s fair to say the people spoke on Tuesday, and you have to respect that.”

Meanwhile, Langworthy and his GOP are experiencing none of the flak aimed at Democratic leaders. The Grisanti and Mychajliw victories rank as especially significant because they occurred in a presidential year with high Democratic turnout, he said.

I think Democrats locally have a lot of soul-searching to do. I’ve laid it out here. But I think part of it is to ignore the sour grapes from a set of tainted, malignant has-beens who promote prejudiced, failed, or “pizazz”-free candidacies. 

Being a Democrat means more than just winning elections. It also means standing on principle. Sometimes we win, sometimes we won’t; but winning while selling out critical parts of our fundamental party coalition isn’t really “winning.” Winning an election by selling out our principles isn’t winning. We may not have defeated Mark Grisanti, but we didn’t whore ourselves out, either. We may not have defeated Stefan Mychajliw, but it speaks to an undesirable job with an exceedingly shallow bench, and it underscores that selling out our principles for political expediency results in cynicism and people deciding not be active in the party. 

When that happens, all you’ll have left is a bunch of transactional hacks looking for jobs

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Erie County Democrats, Politics, and Governing

The Democratic Party in Erie County needs to change, and it needs to do so fast. 

In just a short period of time – less than 10 years – the Erie County Republican Party has gotten its act together while the Democrats have foundered. The fault for this lies not with Len Lenihan or Jeremy Zellner. It doesn’t lie with Erie County Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo or with the state Independence Party chair Frank MacKay. It doesn’t lie with Steve Pigeon. It lies with everyone. 

Frank Max partisans will go out of their way to blame Jeremy Zellner. What good does that do? From a micro standpoint, it might make you feel better – even though we are without any evidence that any electoral outcomes would have been different had he been the party’s chairman. But from a macro standpoint – for the overall good of Democratic politics in Erie County, it is a further descent down a rabbit hole of recriminations and unnecessary shaming and blaming, which is wholly counterproductive. 

Want to blame someone? Look in the mirror. 

I’m writing this because I want Democrats in Erie County to succeed. 

Republicans don’t even have to do battle with Democrats. Democrats are perfectly fine battling amongst themselves. It’s dumb, it’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop

On Election Night, the Erie County Democratic Party lost key high-profile races, Kirsten Gillbrand, Barack Obama, and Brian Higgins will serve new terms. Mike Amodeo lost, Kathy Hochul lost, and David Shenk lost. While some factions will gloat about this, and declare that it proves some intramural point, it reflects poorly on everybody in every faction

In the last ten years the Republicans in Erie County have gone from being an elitist club of enduring failure (excepting some safe suburban zones), and completely reinvented themselves into a party with young candidates, brash candidates, new and controversial ideas, and – most importantly – a large pot of money.

Let’s look at the Comptroller’s race. After two Poloncarz victories – countywide milestones for Democrats – we lost this time. Millionaires and developers like the Collinses, the Corwins, Paladino and his collection of companies have used their deep pockets to expand their political influence. That new reality allowed races like Stefan Mychajliw’s to be exceedingly well funded against an awkward Democratic unknown from a small exurb whose selection was almost cynical in its electoral tone-deafness. After 2010, Democrats lost Paladino’s money for good – he was sometimes a reliable Democratic donor in certain, key races. Mychajliw has no personal fortune from which to draw – indeed, he made much of his thrift during the campaign – beater car, cracked-screen smartphone. Whereas just 6 or 7 years ago, a Republican candidate like Stefan would have been expected to self-fund and expect little help from the party, there is now a vat of reliable fundraising from within and without the region. This is in large part thanks to the rise of suburban new-money political activism, but also the unchallenged leadership of its party committee, led by all-around nice guy/hardnosed warrior Nick Langworthy. 

Republicans also suffer from infighting; they just don’t turn it into World War III. 

Shenk was poorly funded, unlike his opponent. Shenk was an unknown, unlike his opponent. Shenk seemed out-of-place, awkward, unlike his polished opponent. What Shenk had was a large Democratic enrollment advantage. His job performance as interim comptroller? He literally sent out a release critical of Poloncarz’s proposed property tax hikes the day before election day – too little, far too late, and completely overshadowed by other news.  His first advertisement was introductory; in a 30-second spot, he wasted 5 seconds telling you he commuted to work every morning. His script had him emphasize that he was “your” county comptroller, as if that was somehow persuasive to viewers who probably don’t know what the comptroller does. Hell, the comptroller-elect ran on an  “I’ll stop patronage” platform – well outside a comptroller’s job description.  Shenk the unknown battling against Stefan Mychajliw – a person who came into your living rooms every night for years as “red coat” asking the “tough questions” of politicians – had to go directly on offense. He had to knock down Mychajliw’s favorables immediately to have a fighting chance. It wouldn’t have been hard – Mychajliw is uniquely unqualified to be comptroller; after the Republicans spent so much effort explaining that Phil Kadet (2009) or John Canavan (2005) were CPAs, now we had a Republican who had no finance background whatsoever. Instead, we learned about Shenk’s commute. 

Shenk’s second ad was much better, but it was too late. In the end, it was a closer race than I expected it to be, but it was a failure nonetheless. Mychajliw had already wrapped up the Conservative and Independence fusion party lines, theoretically giving Democrats a way to vote for him without using the (R) line. Advantage: Stefan. 

The Amodeo race was even more shambolic; he was never given a fair shot. Like Shenk, he was underfunded. Like Shenk, he didn’t set out to contrast himself against his opponent’s weakness. Like Shenk, he was the victim of the anti-Lenihan/Zellner faction, which used Steve Pigeon’s ties with Ralph Lorigo’s Conservative Party to run Chuck Swanick, first in a Democratic primary, and later in the general election, gleaning the 12% homophobe vote. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Swanick’s sole reason for being in that State Senate race was to punish Grisanti for his vote in favor of same-sex marriage. He was funded almost exclusively by “loans” and money from the gay-hating “National Organization for Marriage”. When he failed to get the Democratic endorsement, Swanick continued with his campaign, appearing in exactly one TV spot, paid for by the Conservative Party. In it, he looked like Ralph Lorigo’s kidnap victim.

There was nothing whatsoever wrong with Amodeo as a Democrat, by the way – the whole thing had to do with the fact that Lenihan wouldn’t endorse Swanick. And why should he have? Swanick was most recently a failed party-switcher; reeking still from the stench of the recent Erie County budget meltdown and tax hikes. Why would Lenihan have endorsed someone so virulently anti-marriage-equality and anti-gay that he accepted money from a PAC totally opposed to the type of progressive policies the Democratic Party should be promoting? Grisanti had buckets of money and support from bipartisan sources. He outspent Amodeo by a ridiculous amount, even going negative against him for no apparent reason. It was a uniquely vicious and relentless campaign from someone who really had the race sewn up tight. $20,000 per day in advertising, the Democrats were caught looking like beggars. 

Yet Democrats I spoke with in the waning days of the campaign brought up Amodeo within their first breath. It was their big hope – he could still pull it off!  But Amodeo wasn’t just underfunded – he was the direct victim of an epic battle for control of the party, and had only one party line against a guy with the (C) and (I) endorsements lined up.

Some of the recriminations are hilarious. For instance, when Shenk personally asked Buffalo’s Mayor for help with his campaign, the Mayor flatly refused. When others in the party tried to intervene for help from the Mayor’s faction with the Hochul, Shenk, and Amodeo races, they were met with the mayor explaining that none of those people concerned him. Pigeon’s faction went one step further – they actively opposed the Democratic candidates for Comptroller and State Senate. When Democrats are in the trenches, all Democrats should pull together to help out; to do their part. Primary season is one thing, but when they’re over, that’s no time to go AWOL because your guy lost. 

Here is the most important lessons the Democrats in Erie County should take from the whole thing: you need to recruit new blood to what’s become a shallow bench of candidates. Too often we see the same names over and over again, and most of them do absolutely nothing, except ensure their own longevity. You need to locate and cultivate new sources of campaign funding. You need to come to the realization that an enrollment advantage means nothing in the face of a Republican candidate who can credibly appeal to Democrats.

One of my biggest criticisms of Mayor Byron Brown is that he is too concentrated on the politics and interoffice management of the city’s government, and offers up no broad, aspirational goals, nor any plan to achieve them. Democrats in Erie County need to maintain existing relationships with labor, and continue the hard work to reverse years’ worth of right-wing demagoguery against worker rights, but start coming up with some new ideas and better plans for the future that can appeal across party lines. 

Finally, Kathy Hochul’s loss to Chris Collins was particularly devastating. The blame for that loss cannot be affixed to the party apparatus, or to any sort of factionalism. Instead, she was out-spent in a district that became even more red than the one she won in 2011. She had her own funding and her own excellent campaign infrastructure at her disposal, and she lost because she lost. She ran an aggressive campaign and did as well as any Democrat could be expected to do. 

On the other hand, Justin Rooney from Newstead mounted a credible challenge to Mike Ranzenhofer in SD-61, which has recently expanded to the Rochester area – new territory for them both. We need more Justin Rooneys, and Justin Rooneys need more support and more money. 

So, what can we do immediately to stop this? First of all, the best way to maintain weakness through factional squabbles is to start laying blame for it on anyone, or any side. Whether you’re in with the Mayor, with Pigeon, or with Zellner: you’re a Democrat. Start acting like one. That means the governing should be more important than the politics should be more important than the power. The factionalism exists because it’s a battle over control – a battle over patronage and the money and political loyalty that comes from it. (The Republicans are not immune here – their cozy relationships with the (I) and (C) fusion parties has to do with overcoming their enrollment disadvantage in exchange for patronage and favors. This is why electoral fusion is a horror that anyone with any interest in good government should strongly oppose). I don’t care how the factions decide to make peace and unify, but without it, the party will continue to fail or underperform. Things Democrats stand for will lose in the battle of ideas to things Republicans do  – fiscal meltdowns, “trickle down” fantasies, union-busting, homophobia, corporate welfare, punishing the poor and working class, playing budgetary games to hide fiscal time bombs. 

We need to not only stop associating with the likes of Ralph Lorigo, we should be openly challenging his party’s entire platform (such as it is), and electoral fusion itself. 

We need to not only stop associating with the so-called “Independence Party” and add “abolition of electoral fusion” as a platform plank. 

We need to stop playing factions off each other and get back to the work of electing good-quality Democrats to office. 

We need to overhaul our messaging and become more transparent and inclusive. 

We need to start better appealing to suburban voters who self-identify as small-c conservatives. 

We need to come up with a specific vision for this county, and propose ways to get us there. 

We need to improve outreach to people who sit on the sidelines because the system is so sordid, and solicit ideas, advice, assistance, and counsel. 

We need to grow our bench, and encourage more people to come in from the private sector to make government work better. 

We need to locate and cultivate new and more reliable sources of funding of campaigns. 

We need to especially target elected officials who have spent more than 20 years in office and have little achievement to show for it – regardless of party. 

We need to start thinking outside the traditional Democratic box and realize that western New York’s unique position within a unique statewide power structure leaves us as a political, economic afterthought, but with that comes flexibility and freedom. 

We need to identify structural and infrastructural problems that cost us money due to years’ worth of bad planning, bad politics, and bad government. 

We need to outperform the Republicans on the battleground of ideas. 

We need to change how we perceive ourselves before we can change how others perceive us. 

We need to consider abandoning the practice of endorsing candidates in a Democratic primary. 

When the primaries are over, Democrats should back Democrats, period. 

We need to create and implement policy-based criteria for endorsements.  Why, at the reorganization, did the party not consider adopting marriage equality, anti-fracking, or minimum wage platforms? Then use them as criteria for endorsements.

You know who cares about trivial gossip fed to the Gramignas and other Illuzzi heirs about this faction and that faction? No one, that’s who. 

We need to come to the stark realization that the infighting and toxic recriminations are repelling good people from becoming (or staying) involved in the system. What you’ll have left is people with their hands out, looking for their cush jobs, and the region will be stuck in neutral, if not reverse. 

We need to stop fighting Democrats and start fighting Republicans and Conservatives and the Independence Party. 

By the same token, we should welcome, support, and encourage good ideas, regardless of their source. 

At the very least, we should be having open, honest, vibrant debate about these ideas in a transparent process. 

I’ve been writing about this stuff for almost ten years. I’m still hopeful about this region’s future, despite how acutely screwed up everything is. I see a lot of good things happening on the fringes – things happening not because of government or politics, but in spite of them. There is so much love for this area, and so much energy out there just waiting to be unleashed if someone would just take the lead. If someone would come out and say, this is what we should be doing,  and here’s how we can get there together. Democrats in Erie County should be at the forefront, helping to lead that discussion and helping to formulate that plan. 

But the longer we continue down the same, generations-long path of 50s era thinking, pandering to fusion opportunists, and reluctance to change, plan, and expand, the longer we’ll keep seeing results like Tuesday’s. Let’s stop being Pigeonistas and Headquarters guys and Byron’s people and start being Democrats. 

 

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