Smoke

This past weekend, New York City Council Chairwoman Christine Quinn announced her candidacy for mayor. If she wins, she would be the city’s first female mayor, and first out gay mayor. 

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Assemblyman Steve Katz on the Bills Stadium

The next time you get all parochial and upset about something that’s happening in some other part of the state, and think to yourself, “why should we pay for that?” consider this.

Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) represents the 94th Assembly District, and is a Republican representing extreme northern Westchester and part of Putnam Counties. (He happens to be my parents’ Assemblyman). When confronted with a bill to send $60 million in state funds to renovate Ralph Wilson stadium, he said,

Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Herman Farrell, Jr., (D-Washington Heights) the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, brought up the examples of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn and the Jets and Giants playing in New Jersey. A Democrat from Manhattan defending your hobby fandom against a Republican from the rural New York exurbs? Consider that, Buffalo.

 

WBEN: Squadrismo Radio

Last week, I relayed the story that South Buffalo-based blogger Mike Blake wrote about, having to do with odd threats emanating from what can only be called the WBEN morning zookeeper and his virtual entourage of dummies – a pack of dubiously big-balled squadristi. Not content merely to brook no dissent on his radio program or on his popular, selfie-laden Facebook page, this person has lobbed threats against numerous people in recent days, including Blake’s brother, Patrick – a Buffalo firefighter. 

Friends of a paranoiac fascist zookeeper lob poorly spelled threats at radio listeners

You see, Patrick called WBEN during the zookeeper’s show and joked that a backup on the 33 was due to someone having fallen asleep during that day’s program. It wasn’t a prank call – it was just a joke. Here it is, complete with Bauerle’s best Alex Jones impression: 

http://podcast.wben.com/wben2/3887120.mp3

For those unaware, a listener (my brother) called Bauerle and reported that an accident on the 33 was caused by motorists falling asleep while listening to his show. That’s when things got strange. According to my brother, a man sounding like Bauerle, phoned him from a private number. In a whiny voice, he called him an A-hole and said he ruined his show with his phone call.

It didn’t end there. My brother then received threatening texts from people associated with Bauerle. One informed him that we “know a lot of people”…

This led to a barrage of insults from the zookeeper and his friends, and on Monday, Blake added some additional examples to the mix

 

Evidence of a crime?

One of my favorites comes from someone whose daddy works for Verizon, and this Bauerle hanger-on threatens that daddy might shut off Blake’s paid-for Verizon contract.

Daddy is a regional guy! Daddy will shut you down!

Patrick Blake committed no crime, and broke no rules by calling in to a radio show’s call-in number to make a joke about the host. It wasn’t mean-spirited; it wasn’t even a “prank” call. What’s far, far more alarming is that the radio host’s ego is so hyper-fragile that a throwaway joke that he could have removed from air using the station’s delay became an obsession so stark that he didn’t just whine to Blake, but got other people to complain about how this somehow, magically, affects the radio host’s “livelihood”. 

I corresponded with Patrick Blake on Monday, and he notes that most of the texts came from numbers marked “private”, as well as the Florida number shown above and a Texas number. None of these threatmongers have the stones to contact Mr. Blake by a phone number that can be traced or is otherwise evident, because they know they’re likely committing the crime of harassment. When Blake tried to call the numbers back, the calls wouldn’t or couldn’t go through. 

While none of the messages or texts directly threatened bodily harm, they all demanded that he “back off” his one joke phone call “or else”. Blake believes that several of the messages came from people who were cops or had some other connection to law enforcement.

Blake says, “I called WBEN and told what was happening to a guy that said he was a manager. He told me it was above his pay grade and he would put me through to Tim Wenger. I left a message with him but never got a call back. After about 10 calls to my phone I called their *930 call-in number, and told them if they did not stop I would give out their address . After that i got a crazy text saying i had threatened to bring force against WBEN and my phone would be shut off. I never threatened anyone and this was after many calls to my phone.”

When I asked Blake whether he had kept any of the voice mails he received, he replied, “Most were just music like the Adam Sandler song “you’re an asshole” and some other song about “Jesus loves you but everyone hates you”.”

As I documented last week, the station’s program director and head of operations pretends that his morning host and his squadristi aren’t completely out of control. 

Tuesday: Show Your Support for Buffalo's Food Trucks

Today at 2pm, Buffalo’s Food Trucks will be at the Common Council as the city’s legislature debates how the food truck law might be changed. The law sunsets in April and in the past 12 months, not a single complaint has been lodged from any source against any truck. 

The trucks, however, find themselves up against some intransigent lawmakers and some brick and mortar restaurants that believe they have the right to regulate and control what the trucks do and how they do it. Also on the agenda is expanding access to downtown Buffalo Place locations and freeing Canalside up to the trucks. 

If you enjoy buying food from Buffalo’s food trucks, please come and show your support. 

Because in the end, this isn’t about whether or not the law is fair for the trucks or fair for the restaurants – this is about you. This is about you telling the city, the trucks, and the brick & mortars – I like having a choice; I like the product that the trucks offer and I want more access to more trucks – not more restrictive access to fewer trucks. We’ve already lost the Cheesy Chick grilled cheese food truck due in part to the high cost of doing business across multiple municipalities in WNY. 

Buffalo charges trucks $1,000 per year, while it costs a restaurant between $175 – 325 per year to hold a take out license. The city claims that it needs to charge trucks $1,000 per year because of the administrative costs involved, yet refuses to release a breakdown of those costs. 

Ultimately, it might be time for a regionwide statute that is applicable to all municipalities in Erie County with a single fee paid. You want to encourage and help entrepreneurship in western New York? Then this should be the test case. 

But for the time being, please show your support for your favorite food trucks. They need it, and the city’s lawmakers need to understand that this isn’t only about the trucks and the restaurants – it’s about you. 

Medicare for All

nhs_0_108664While our most dysfunctional Congress continues to debate whether we should repeal Obamacare or not, every single other industrialized nation in the contemporary, modern world goes about its merry way having long ago settled the question, “should all our citizens have access to quality health care on demand, regardless of ability to pay?” The American inability or unwillingness to answer that question in the affirmative with some semblance of unanimity is a failure. 

Obamacare is by no means perfect – neither ideal nor, perhaps, even wanted. But it is the great liberal compromise, adopting a conservative way to health insurance reform as its own. Indeed, it seems to be the only way Democrats seem to win lately on national issues – adopt the conservative thinking, and wait for the conservatives to pounce with furious indignation disguised as opposition. 

The very poor and children receive health insurance through Medicaid. The old receive health insurance through the wildly efficient and popular Medicare program. The rest of us, the ones in the middle, are seeing coverage dwindle and cost go up, and we’re told by smugRepublicans that it’s Obamacare’s fault despite it being a year away from full implementation. 

CNN looked at the perpetual American political crisis over healthcare and one conclusion is that we manage disease instead of preventing it. But suggest that people should eat healthier, and you’ll be denigrated as the soda police, as New York Mayor Bloomberg has. 

The issues are cost and access. Medicare is extremely efficient and popular. It is a single-payer health insurance scheme that one pays into throughout their work life and is an “entitlement” insofar as you’ve paid for it, like Social Security. Expansion of Medicare to all Americans is the easiest, most rational way to ensure universal coverage for not only managing disease, but also preventing it. Canadians have liberty, too – liberty from medical bills for routine health care, and the myths that Canadians die while queueing up for services are just that – myths. Canada’s systemis not perfect, either, but it is more perfect than what we have. The British system would be less of a political headache, because it allows for private physician and clinic alternatives – something Canada forbids. 

So, given that every industrialized pluralist democracy in the world offers its citizens some form of universal health care access – as many different models as there are nation-states – why is it that we as Americans move in baby-steps into some sort of conservative plan involving health insurers and mandates? Why not just expand Medicare to all persons of every age, and make health insurance become something truly private and competitive, where you can buy enhanced coverage of some sort on an open market? In other words, if you need cancer treatments that would otherwise cost millions of dollars, you’ll never see a bill. If you want your hospital room to have a spa in it, you can pay extra for that. 

Our revolution was fought to replace a colonial feudalism with bourgeois meritocracy. Expanding health care to all Americans, including the middle class, is something we’ve discussed as a country since the end of World War II. People still, however, go bankrupt from medical bills in what is billed as the greatest superpower in Christendom. It is that – not the notion of “socialized medicine” – which is the disgrace. 

 

I'll Beat You Up, Said the Zookeeper

South Buffalo-based blogger Mike Blake relates the following story:

In response to a traffic accident on the 33 Expressway, my brother called in and said the accident was caused by a motorist falling asleep while listening to Bauerle’s show. Instead of simply moving on, Bauerle went on a long rant in response to the call. I’m not an expert on talk shows, but it seems like the exact opposite of what he should have done. I get negative responses to my site all the time. But the last thing on my mind would be to dignify them with a response.

Bauerle then took it an unnecessary step further by forwarding my brother’s phone number to his friends. They in turn sent him threatening texts. Very strange and bizarre that any member of the local media would do something like this, especially in an age where it is so easy to document and trace everything. In fact, here is one of the threatening texts Bauerle had one of his people send…


Apparently, WBEN’s morning zookeeper spent about 10 minutes of Thursday’s show not only acknowledging that Blake’s story is true, but by expressing pride that his “friends” would threaten a caller who made a joke, and that they “hold a trump card” of some sort. Of course, if you give out your phone number and ask for phone calls, some of those calls may make fun of the host. This wasn’t even a prank call – there was no Baba Booey moment – this was just a joke.

Is this a perpetual middle school where every real or perceived slight is met with harassment and threats?

When asked, WBEN’s program director/operations manager, Tim Wenger, shrugged.


The discussion got bogged down in a specific issue – whether WBEN’s Telos system displays caller ID information for the host. That’s not the issue. Perhaps the screener had the caller ID information and relayed it to the host some other way. The issue is that the person who made a joke on the air received a threat that the radio host acknowledged on the air as having happened. When confronted with that information, we get an argument about caller ID from the station’s PD – any responsible manager would be appalled that an employee had threatened a consumer of their product.

WBEN’s host is out of control because the station is out of control – between 4 hour-long gun rally infomercials and 4 hour-long Carl Paladino for school board infomercials, the station has abandoned any sense of journalistic ethics or propriety and become nothing more than a right-wing advocacy group, and one that encourages belligerence from its staff.

Pat Blake should be able to make a joke without fearing threats of bodily harm. If so much as a hair on his head is misplaced by another, the radio host, the station, and its corporate parent all share liability and deep pockets.

By the way, the screener hits *69 at Entercom.

Welcome to the third world.

Stompin' Tom Connors 1936 – 2013

Yesterday, I learned that Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away. You’ve likely heard his “Hockey Song”, which has become that sport’s de facto anthem, but he leaves behind 50 years’ worth of uniquely Canadian music. Connors was 77. 

I first became aware of Stompin’ Tom while listening to the Dr. Demento show in LA back in the late 80s. Dr. Demento was known for playing wacky, obscure songs and I heard “Bud the Spud” – a Connors song about a happy truck driver transporting potatoes from the “bright red mud” of Prince Edward Island to market in “T’ronno”. It’s catchy and funny, and it was something of an earbug for years until 1996 when we took a road trip up through the Canadian Maritimes. Somehow, I remembered “Bud the Spud” and bought a Stompin’ Tom best of cassette, which we listened to non-stop for months. 

When I say the songs are uniquely Canadian – there’s one about the back-breaking tobacco picking near Tillsonburg, there’s one about the Leamington tomatoes, there’s the song about an obscure small plane crash in the Arctic where an “Eskimo boy” sacrificed his life to try and save the pilot, whose legs were both broken. His music wasn’t as dark as Johnny Cash’s, but Connors was as central to Canadian country-folk music as Cash was to Americans. 

He was so nationalistic – uncharacteristically so for Canadians at the time – that he halted his career in the late 70s to protest the lack of radio support for Canadian artists. He returned to the stage in the late 80s and performed right into this year.  His website released this statement yesterday:

We must regretfully announce today the passing of the Great and Patriotic Stompin’ Tom Connors. He died this March 6th 2013 with his Family seeing him off. His family have given us a message from Tom that he wanted passed along to all of you upon his death:

“Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”

“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”

“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”

“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”

Sincerely,

Your Friend always,

Stompin’ Tom Connors

Here’s some of his work: 

Geneva 2013: Cars for Emirs and Oligarchs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shoes

UK Border

During my recent travels, I was lucky enough to encounter a security scheme that was distinctly post post-9/11 and rational.

Security at Toronto Pearson and London Heathrow did not make us remove our shoes.

At Pearson, it was because my family holds NEXUS passes, meaning we are pre-screened and designated as low-risk, trusted travelers. We flash the NEXUS card and get to cut the line, and when we arrive at screening, we were able to keep our shoes on. Oh, glorious day! 

Although Heathrow made us remove iPads as well as laptops from our carryons, shoes could stay on there, too.

When approaching security at T5 at Heathrow, there were greeters at the entryway handing out free liter-sized ziploc bags for passengers to use for liquids. There were easily 20 open security lanes, all moving rapidly with minimal lines. The bins used for loose items were conveniently obtained via an automatic dispenser under the conveyor belt – not by having to go back for a mess of buckets for 4 people and their stuff.

But the shoes – not having to remove shoes makes a huge difference in terms of speed and at least perceived convenience.

Paladino and Thompson Either Lied or Hacked

In Sunday’s Buffalo News, Bob McCarthy lazily transcribed tea party guy and Paladino henchman Rus Thompson thusly: 

[Rus] Thompson said the Paladino campaign engaged investigators to track the email trail.

“So we know where it came from,” he said.

I wrote about that here, yesterday. Paladino and Thompson both cite the release of the emails as being the last straw in the Higgins – Paladino relationship, because Paladino accuses Higgins of leaking them. Thompson tells McCarthy that they had proof via some “investigation”. 

But others who were involved in that campaign say there was no such “investigation”. 

Anyone with even minimal knowledge knows that you can’t “investigate” and “track” an outgoing email trail unless you have access to the recipient’s email. One can’t go into Paladino’s outbox and determine what the recipients of a particular email did with it. You can’t determine what any of the recipient’s recipients did with a particular email, etc. If Paladino felt it was embarrassing and caused “anguish” for his racist, pornographic emails to reach the general public, it was his responsibility to not share them. 

On the other hand, if Paladino and Thompson are alleging that an investigator really did learn who sent the email to me, the only way that could have happened is if they hacked into or otherwise illegally accessed my personal Gmail account – i.e., committed a crime. It’s lose:lose. Had Bob McCarthy verified the information his dopey source mouthshat at him, he could have factored that into the semi-informed, drool-moistened nonsense he wrote regarding a turning point in the relationship he was profiling.  

Here’s what McCarthy’s source had to say for himself when challenged yesterday

That’s pretty definitive and not open to interpretation. Rus KNOWS. 

Watch Rus take the “investigation” bike and start pedaling backwards: 

 

The timestamp is about 3 – 4 hours later than EST, and as of this morning there’s no reply to that. Why? Because there is no “investigation”. There was no fantastical “tracking” of what one of the people on Carl’s email list did with the emails once they received it. They can’t produce the name of the person who disclosed the emails to me, and they have absolutely no proof that Higgins or his staff provided me with the emails. 

When you let sources lie to you on the record, and you don’t reach out to other people involved to verify the information, you’re committing some pretty shoddy “journalism” there.

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