#Buffalove

Sometimes you come across things that defy explanation. My favorite is the use of an image of what is clearly somewhere in or around Rochester. 

The Reagan Legacy

Here is 30 years’ worth of Reaganomics / Trickle-Down Economics / Supply-Side Economics / Voodoo Economics in one chart: 

And another, for good measure: 

 

The wealth. It didn’t trickle down. Let’s revive the middle class. End the experiment. 

Political Mandela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://static.c-spanvideo.org/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.swf?pid=150197-1

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

The Trump Gambit

Yesterday a junket of desperate Republicans met with noted Birther and tack merchant Donald Trump, urging him to run for governor of the state of New York against Andrew Cuomo. Among them was local political consultant and public relations maven Michael Caputo and birther tea party freshman Assemblyman David DiPietro. 

In this episode of “let’s recruit the rich guy“, the Republican left on the sidelines is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a solid Republican executive with wins under his belt, but little name recognition outside of downstate.  Astorino also doesn’t plaster his name on all kinds of stuff or have a billion dollars, nor is he the Sarah Palin of billionaires. But New York State Republicans are not beneath screwing the guy who earns something in favor of the self-funding rich guy. Right, David Bellavia

New York State has a population of just under 20 million people, almost half of whom live in the five boroughs of New York City. Add a million from Westchester, 1.5 million in Suffolk County, 1.4 million in Nassau, 317k in Rockland, 375k in Orange, and 100k in Putnam, and you have about 13.5 million of 19.5 million residents living within the immediate New York City metropolitan area – people who largely have no use for Albany or upstate in general, not to mention western New York. 

Trump’s especial brand of anti-Obama birtherism plays well for like-minded fellas like David DiPietro and his tea party cohorts. While much is being made of the duration of yesterday’s meeting, and the fact that Trump is no longer ruling anything out, this may have something to do with Trump’s new feud against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman’s office recently brought a $40 million fraud lawsuit against something called “Trump University” – or as the AG called it, a “nationwide scam” and  bait & switch fraud. Trump just this week filed an ethics complaint against Schneiderman, citing the prominent case of Argle v. Bargle

Really what this amounts to is recruiting a richer, downstate-friendly Carl Paladino. Trump is just as plainspoken, just as filled with scandal, just as flawed as our local loudmouth developer, but the difference is that Trump has name recognition downstate, to whom Paladino was a profane stranger, and Trump has actual friends in downstate media – even the NY Post was against Paladino. 

Donald Trump is the dream candidate for the angry, defeatist white male upstate voter with a “repeal NY SAFE Act” lawnsign because to the WBEN listener Rus Thompson set, Cuomo is the devil, and Obama isn’t even human. They aspire to be just like Donald Trump, and they love that he thinks like they do – and he has the money and name recognition to not care what anyone thinks. His downstate bona fides explain why he’s being wooed. 

Donald Trump would accomplish nothing in New York State. He would do nothing for education, for the poor, for upstate’s economic malaise, for Buffalo, or for anyone except the tea party and the ultrarich. I will also bet you that part of the strategy is a fusion party line or two, meaning that Trump would take advantage of the single-most corrupt process in New York politics. 

The headlines yesterday should have read, “Lawmakers to Massage Trump Ego, Trump Reacts Favorably”. 

Sense of Place, For Real

While the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors’ Bureau is busy attracting geriatric architecture nerds to come and look at cornices and decorative concrete, the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is doing this: 

There is no mention of “sense of place” or that “this place matters”. There is no talk of “for real“, or Buffalo being more authentic than other places. There is a complete absence of talking heads praising our unmatched street grid or making completely ignorant claims about Buffalo having the only water sunsets west of the Pacific. The CVB’s “For Real” series of videos, hosted by local musician Nelson Starr, are better at showing off the people and things to do in the region, but the signature pieces are pedantic and verbose. 

What this simple video from a local business development agency does that the CVB hasn’t been able to articulate is what makes Buffalo different and attractive. Yes, I realize that it was developed for a wholly different purpose and a completely different audience. But the message and its delivery are matter-of-fact, and emphasize people having fun in our natural and built environments; not the environments themselves. 

Nice work, BNE. You made Buffalo seem like a nice place to live, work, and play. 

Chris Collins’ Iranthmetic


The image to the left of this text shows my Congressman’s Facebook reaction to a deal that the “P5+1” countries reached with Iran over its nuclear weapons and energy program. 

The deal was a modest thing, significant for the fact that Iran came to the table in apparent good faith at all. It would dilute existing nuclear material so that it could only be used for energy, and not weaponry, and there would be a 6 month halt to its nuclear weapon program altogether. The aim would be a final deal within 6 or 12 months, allowing for one 6 month extension of the pause. 

Iran’s economy has been absolutely devastated by international sanctions over its nuclear program, and it has a huge incentive to roll back its pariah status. The world benefits if Iran has no nuclear weapons to use against its myriad enemies. To my mind, the whole thing should be rolled into deal whereby Iran ends its support of Hezbollah and recognizes Israel, but diplomacy is often about baby steps. 

So, turning to the representative of NY-27, we could certainly fisk his simplistic statement to kingdom come – e.g., it wasn’t an “Obama Administration” deal, it was a deal between Iran on the one hand, and the US, Russia, China, and the European Union (read: the UK, France, and Germany – it’s called “P5+1” because it includes the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, meaning it would be veto-proof in that body, plus Germany) on the other.  Germany, for its part, does huge business with Iran, and all of these powers – working together – have the ability together to put great pressure on Iran to behave and comply. 

I could snarkily comment on Collins’ recent praise of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, or the fact that Collins chooses to manufacture his tchotchkes in China, but I also realize that his public pronouncements are not meant to be taken seriously. I think that we’re witnessing an Andy Kaufman-like comedic performance art that is, unfortunately, unfunny and predictable. Collins is a caricature of a closed-minded conservative backbencher. 

The point of diplomacy, of course, isn’t just to talk with friends. The diplomatic process involves talking with our sworn enemies, as well; to work out differences in a peaceful way rather than war. 

So, why would our caricature be so knee-jerkedly opposed to a rather contextually modest, temporary deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of some sanctions? Because he’s effectively been paid to oppose it

Just this past August, Collins took his son on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel. The trip was financed by a private lobbying group, the American Israel Education Foundation. It paid for transportation, lodging, meals, and all incidentals for Collins (who is well able to afford spending $18,000 to visit Israel) and his son, who visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. 

WGRZ called Collins out on it

Dr. Craig Holman with the government watchdog group Public Citizen said the trips are designed to influence and lobby members of Congress.

“These types of travel junkets have long been one of the favorite means for special interests and lobbyists to use to try to influence members of Congress and peddle their wares on Capitol Hill,” Dr. Holman said.

While AIEF is a non-profit, it is simply the charity wing of the AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is the largest pro-Israel lobby in America.

AIPAC and its lobbyists are prohibited from giving lawmakers or staff members gifts, including trips. So the group’s charity wing does it for them.

“(The ethics committees) have allowed a lobbying organization — any lobbying entity — to set up a 501(c)3, a charity wing even just on paper,” Dr. Holman said. “And if that (c)3 itself doesn’t employ lobbyists, then it can pay for these congressional travel junkets.”

Neither Congressman Reed nor Congressman Collins would speak with 2 On Your Side either on camera or by phone. They each emailed statements through their spokespeople.

“Congressman Collins’ trip – vetted and approved by the House Ethics Committee – was paid for exclusively by private donations at zero expense to taxpayers,” Collins Spokesperson Grant Loomis said by email. “The bipartisan effort involves both Democrats and Republicans and is critical to educating Members of Congress on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and protecting American interests in the Middle East.”

Israel, for its part, has slammed the Iran nuclear deal, and her Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it an “accommodation” and “political theater” that will “wreak havoc” in the region. Well, not all of Israel. For instance, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has taken a much more conciliatory tone, arguing that the 6 month Iran deal gives Israel an opening to solve the Palestinian crisis so that Israel and the Arab world can be united in putting pressure on Iran. The opposition Labour Party has blasted Netanyahu, as has at least one of his former associates, 

On April 27, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were not fit to stand at helm of the Israeli regime. 

“I will tell you things that might be harsh. I cannot trust Netanyahu and Barak at the wheel in confronting Iran. They are infected with messianic feelings over Iran,” Diskin said. 

Later on Sunday, Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan expressed support for Diskin, saying he was stating his “internal truth.” 

Israel’s Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said on April 25 that he does not believe Iran will pursue nuclear weapons after years of efforts made by Tel Aviv and its allies to convince the world otherwise. 

Gantz described Iran’s leadership as “very rational” who would not make such a decision. 

There hasn’t been a havoc-free day in the last 3,000 years anywhere surrounding Israel, given its neighbors’ insistence that it be eliminated. Yet with careful diplomacy, Arab and Islamic enemies have succumbed and recognized Israel. It happened with Egypt and Jordan, it could happen with others if talks would take place, but as with all things in the Middle East, it’s just too complicated and fraught with peril. 

If Chris Collins was so effusive with his praise for Putin’s supposed out-maneuvering in Syria, which pledged to destroy its chemical weapons to avoid American military action, his heart should be just as full of praise for the Iran deal, because there isn’t a damn reason why anyone would trust Syria’s Bashir Assad more or less than any of Iran’s mullahs. 

Rob Ford, Buffalonian

Channel 2 anchor Mary Alice Demler met Toronto’s figurehead mayor Rob Ford at the Bills game yesterday and came away thinking he’s a troubled guy with a sweet punim

A man who was until recently entrusted – the city council stripped Ford of almost all of his powers by an overwhelming margin a few weeks ago – with running one of the largest and most vibrant cities in North America, has not merely descended into self-parody. He is the subject of a massive police investigation into crack-dealing Etobicoke gangs, may be implicated in some homicides, and has lied to his constituents about his crack use and otherwise embarrassed himself, his family, his political party, and his city. The guy is a mess who should have been removed from office a month ago

But because the Bills played a game in Toronto yesterday (that socialist hellhole has more people and money than WNY), everyone pretended like everything was normal. Under normal circumstances, Channel 2 would be “holding people in power accountable” and wondering how Ford got a ticket and how much he paid. 

But technically speaking, Ford is no longer “in power”, so Channel 2 can leave it to the Star, CP24, the Globe & Mail, CityTV, the CBC, CTV, and other media up there to hold him “accountable”. 

Instead, 

She deleted the original Tweet, so here’s Buffalo Rising’s re-Tweet of it.

The Bills are so shockingly popular in Toronto that a whopping 40,000 people showed up to watch them lose to Atlanta. The Rogers Centre has a football capacity of 54,000; the Ralph can fit almost 75,000. Let’s keep trying to make fetch happen.

But it’s good to know everyone can overlook shocking criminality and a Mayor who apparently stole someone else’s seat and tell us he’s a sweetheart who squeezed himself into a Bills jersey because he’s been effectively stripped of the powers of his real job. 

But he sort of looks like he belongs here, so maybe we should gush over him. He eats chicken wings, after all. 

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