Contemporary Misogyny and LGBT-phobia

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In the Brave New World Donald Trump has developed around himself, it is “political correctness” that led to his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski standing accused of misdemeanor battery.

In the regressive dystopia of North Carolina, hatred of LGBT people and suspiciously eyeing the notion of “civil rights” remains in vogue. 

Far be it from me to defend an ultra-conservative refugee from the Breitbart nihilistic fabrication consortium, but when a man intentionally puts his hands on a woman against her will, and leaves a mark, that’s a battery. This is what happened to reporter Michelle Fields, and none of it has anything to do with political correctness. 

More to the point, there didn’t need to be a mark. There just had to be an intentional unwanted touching, however slight. Corey Lewandowski is not a law enforcement or Secret Service agent or in any other capacity that would lend him immunity from a battery charge. 

Fields’ story has never changed. She claimed Lewandowski grabbed her very hard and almost lost her balance. She made the error of attempting to ask a Presidential candidate a question as he moved through a ballroom where he had just pretended like Trump Steaks and Trump Magazine still existed.  Luckily, he didn’t attempt to argue that Trump Shuttle was still around. 

What we learned is that Trump values his “brand” so much, he’ll affix his name to any old tasteless tack. Like his campaign effort. 

But the way Trump and Lewandowski have reacted is right out of the domestic abusers’ playbook. 

When in doubt, just blame the victim and suggest she’s lying. 

But alas, Fields’ audio recorded caught the whole thing, and her instantaneous, contemporaneous reaction was quite amazing. Lawyers call it an “excited utterance”. 

Holy shit, I can’t believe he just did that. That was so hard. Was that Corey? You should have felt how hard he just grabbed me. 

Fields detailed what happened in a story at Breitbart, and at first the website called on Lewandowski to apologize, highlighting how he and Trump were accusing Fields of making it all up. But the outfit was too afraid of Trump to stand by its reporter, and like a petulant little army of amateur Jim Garrisons analyzing myriad Zapruder films, began questioning her story immediately. Seriously, consider the idea of a putative “news” outlet trusting its reporter enough to hire her, but not enough to back her up when she says someone from a campaign put his hands on her. Fields and her colleague Ben Shapiro left Breitbart on March 14th over this, and some more people quit a few days later

From the Times

Ms. Fields said she was trying to ask Mr. Trump a question about affirmative action when Mr. Lewandowski grabbed her and nearly knocked her off her feet. She posted on Twitter a picture of finger-shaped bruises on her arm.

Mr. Lewandowski denied touching her, but Ms. Fields pressed charges three days later. The investigating officer, Detective Marc Bujnowski, took statements from her and from a Washington Post reporter, Ben Terris, who was a witness.

Security video footage from the Trump golf club “parallels what Fields had told me,” the detective wrote: Mr. Lewandowski “grabbed Fields left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back.”

Indeed, the new security-camera images show Mr. Lewandowski reaching for and then grabbing Ms. Fields’s arm, tugging at her clothing as he pulls her, then walking ahead of her as she reacts, close behind Mr. Trump. The entire episode takes less than four seconds.

The abuser is being prosecuted. Police – who have no axe to grind – interviewed witnesses and reviewed audio and video tape to determine that probable cause exists to charge Lewandowski. Whom are you going to believe? Donald Trump and his paid staffer, or your lying eyes and ears? 

Astonishingly, macho hero Trump is now claiming that Fields – a 100 lb woman with Trump campaign press credentials – posed a threat to him because she was holding a pen, which may have been a “little bomb”.  I shit you not. 

Turning to North Carolina, its legislature bulldozed a law onto the books that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, mostly over bathrooms. Lawmakers had to ask for five minutes to read its text. Under pressure from businesses and professional and amateur sporting associations, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is playing defense.

This law basically nullifies any policy made by any municipal entity that would allow transgendered people to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender with which they identify. While private businesses can do whatever they want – including discriminating against LGBT patrons – state facilities require that a person use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with what it says on his birth certificate. 

50 years ago, the South was the epicenter of denying black people equal rights. Today, the South is the epicenter of denying rights to LGBT Americans. How far we’ve come. 

This wild intrusion into people’s privacy would seem to require a bathroom police to check people’s birth certificates. Will this be via checkpoint or random enforcement? Will North Carolinians and visitors be required to have their birth certificates on their person when they use a bathroom stall? Where will the checkpoints be set up? 

Think of it this way: 81 year-old Renee Richards, who made headlines in – and has lived as a woman since – the mid-70s, might be forced to use the men’s room at a North Carolina highway rest stop. McCrory says people who undergo sex change operations can get their birth certificates changed, but all this underscores that North Carolina will need to set up some sort of Birth Certificate Police infrastructure – a Toilet Stasi – to ensure compliance. 

When a transgender person is using a bathroom stall – any bathroom stall – whose rights or privacy are under assault? 

In other words, the only way to respect people’s difference is through discriminatory legislation. North Carolina’s Attorney General calls the law an embarrassment and won’t defend it in court. Here is what Governor McCrory said: 

We have not taken away any rights that currently existed in any city in North Carolina — from Raleigh, to Durham, to Chapel Hill, to Charlotte. Every city and every corporation has the exact same discrimination policy this week as they had two weeks ago. There’s a very well-coordinated campaign — a national campaign — which is distorting the truth — which is frankly smearing our state in an inaccurate way — which I’m working to correct… We have not changed one policy of any business in North Carolina or one policy of any employment status of any city government or county government in North Carolina.

Except that’s not at all true. The state has now overridden any NC municipal government that offered anti-discrimination protection stronger than the state’s own, including laws in Charlotte, Asheville, Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Bessemer City, Durham, High Point, and Winston-Salem – and several counties. The UNC system can no longer enforce its own LGBT anti-discrimination policy, and these schools are now expressly prohibited from accommodating transgender students, faculty, alumni, and parents. 

The governor explained

“We are too much politically correct. This political correctness in our nation has taken over common sense, and the common sense is not to have a government regulation telling a business who they allow in what restroom, or locker room, or shower facility. I’m going to let them decide.”

“We’re throwing away basic etiquette,” he claimed. “I wonder if your daughter or son was showering and all of a sudden a man walks into the locker room and says, ‘This is what I am.’ Would you want that for your child?”

Of course, Charlotte’s law, like LGBT protections in cities and states across the country, would have done nothing to allow for any inappropriate or illegal behavior in restrooms. By calling transgender women “men” and suggesting that they are somehow a threat to children, the governor is relying on ignorance and fear to support his position.

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo barred any and all non-essential travel to North Carolina on the state’s dime. Governor McCrory shot back

Syracuse is playing the Final Four in Houston where voters overwhelmingly rejected a bathroom ordinance that was also rejected by the state of North Carolina. Is Governor Cuomo going to ask the Syracuse team to boycott the game in Houston? It’s total hypocrisy and demagoguery if the governor does not, considering he also visited Cuba, a communist country with a deplorable record of human rights violations.

Syracuse is a private institution. Cuba may be a communist country, but unlike North Carolina, it is opening up – not going backwards. Also, non-essential state-funded travel to Cuba is also not permitted. 

Finally, odious Representative Chris Collins, who endorsed for President the guy who said this: 

and recommended that women who undergo abortions – which he would outlaw – be “punished”,  posted this to Facebook: 

Someone ask this depraved opportunist what the state policy is for non-essential state travel to Cuba. Hint: it’s not allowed. This whole “Cuba” thing is not only the dumbest argument, ever, but it’s completely outside this clown’s jurisdiction. He should stick to stealing other people’s patents and manufacturing shit in Communist China.

Incidentally, Cuomo’s trip to Cuba brought a lung cancer vaccine to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. By throwing shade at Cuomo for that trip, Collins proves himself to be objectively pro-lung cancer. 

It wouldn’t be the first time

The healthcare reforms Collins said he would push would be tort reform and open up competition in insurance by allowing policies across state lines.

Collins also argued that modern healthcare is expensive for a reason.

“People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things,” Collins said.

Do better, America. We didn’t spend 240 years building our country to let it be so shoddily treated by misogynists, homophobes, and craven, despicable nouveau-career politicians. 

Wozniak Denounces Bill She Co-Sponsored

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Erie County Republicans have their Antoine Thompson, and her name is Angela Wozniak. 

In 2007, then-state Senator Antoine Thompson made statewide news in this particularly embarrassing way:

Senator Antoine M. Thompson of Buffalo, a freshman Democrat, made a fiery speech on the Senate floor last week, denouncing the bill to increase legislators’ salaries when it came up for a vote in his chamber. He cited the lack of raises for Buffalo city workers, police officers, teachers and sanitation workers, and said, “I can’t in good conscience vote for myself, or anyone else, a raise.”

That led Senator Frank Padavan, a Queens Republican, to pose a question:

“Why did your conscience allow you to be a sponsor of this bill?”

Indeed, all 29 Senate Democrats, including Mr. Thompson, had co-sponsored the bill days earlier, but, in a speedy turnabout, almost all of them ultimately voted against the measure, as the governor urged.

That made Thompson a local laughingstock pretty quickly, and that was before he had staffers pretending to be other people

Now, embattled ethical basketcase Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak (C-143), (see here, here, and here) took to the floor of the state Assembly to apparently speak out critically of a bill she sponsored. From the Daily News’ political blog, Wozniak

…raised eyebrows when she expressed fears during a floor debate last week that a bill to legalize mixed martial arts could open the door for sex offenders to prey on kids at MMA training schools.

The comments struck many on both sides of the aisle as odd given that Wozniak (R-Erie County) was not only listed as a co-sponsor of the MMA bill, but also recently was sanactioned by the Assembly for retaliating against a staffer with whom she had an extramarital affair.

“It made no logical sense what she was saying,” said one Democrat.

Wozniak during the debate on the bill raised concerns that legalizing mixed martial arts would somehow lead to registered sex offenders owning schools that teach amateur mixed martial arts to kids.

Pay special attention to the following passage: 

“We can’t be naïve to the fact that these people target these schools,” she said. “They know what they’re doing. They know that if they’re teaching a child they can put that child in a situation where they’re doing a maneuver perhaps to touch them in a way that that the child might not even realize they’re being touched or they can gain trust with that child and really harm that child.”

What is the pathology here where Wozniak assumes that anyone and everyone is out to sexually assault children? What is she talking about when she says that sex offenders would run MMA training facilities? What sort of a “maneuver” could lead to an MMA teacher touching a child in a way “that that the child might not even realize they’re being touched”? 

She urged passage of a separate MMA bill she introduced that would regulate the amateur levels of the sport.

Noting that much money had been spent on lobbying for passage of the legalization of professional mixed martial arts, Wozniak said “I really hope it isn’t just about the money. I think that’s deplorable.”

She then voted in favor of the bill.

So, blusterblusterbluster, assume everyone’s out to be weird with kids, and then vote the way you were going to vote anyway. All the while, you’ve just been sanctioned for sexual harassment. But that passage I highlighted above reminded me of what Wozniak told WGRZ’s Danny Spewak in December, when she appeared at a Lancaster School Board meeting to demagogue against a proposed LGBT anti-discrimination policy and displayed knowledge that was both an inch wide and an inch deep. She “explained” her position thusly, 

How is a child s’posed to feel safe and have dignity when they’re having to be forced into a situation where they’re having to be watched when they’re potentially naked in front of someone of the opposite sex who sexually prefers them. This is wrong, and this I think that’s why we have such a strong turnout of parents speaking out against it tonight.

Again: arglebargle and assume everyone wants to be weird with kids. It really deserves to be seen (start at 1:58): 

Wozniak seems preoccupied with all the sex offenders who are going to rush out to run amateur MMA training centers, and upset that the proposed bill doesn’t address that, but, (a) chances are pretty high that registered sex offenders whose crimes involved minors are already barred from having contact; and (b) the proposed bill involved the legalization of professional MMA bouts and had nothing to do with amateur MMA or the training of fighters. So, Wozniak got up to get some screen time during the debate on a bill likely to attract media attention, and looked ridiculous in the process. 

Astonishingly, it’s now been several weeks since Wozniak was admonished and censured for sexual harassment of a member of her staff, yet she’s still in Albany, she’s still running for re-election, and neither GOP chairman Nick Langworthy nor Conservative fusion Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo have publicly demanded her resignation or withdrawal from the race. 

The Collins-Paladino-Trump Axis

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Representative Chris Collins has never been a thoughtful politician, and has always been something of a hypocrite. He’s a tough-talking Spaulding Lake elitist millionaire who spent his time as County Executive cutting services to the middle class and poor to pay for things like his multi-million dollar Six Sigma experiment. 

He’s also a political opportunist, willing to back a neofascist charlatan like Donald Trump for his own political gain. It’s a gamble, for sure – but it’s a calculated risk that takes Collins’ own ambitions into account, at the expense of his constituents. Remember that Collins is neither leader nor follower – he is an anti-democratic tax-raising bureaucrat’s bureaucrat. This is a guy who, when a majority of the representative County Legislature overrode his veto, simply tried to declare the override, “null and void“. With those dictatorial bona fides, maybe Collins has more in common than Donald Trump than we thought. 

In the couple of weeks since Collins officially boarded the Trump roller coaster, we’ve come to find out more about how and why it happened. Specifically, we can turn to this interview with Collins that appeared in the Huffington Post. Before you yell, “smear job” and “nonsense” notice that this story transcribes actual questions posed to – and answers given by – a sitting Congressman from WNY. 

For weeks now, local developer and equine porn enthusiast Carl Paladino had made threats against Republican members of the New York congressional delegation, demanding that they line up and support Trump. The theory seems to be that it’s best for constituents if their congressmen succumb to empty threats from bigoted failed candidates for statewide office. Chris Collins is just that kind of guy, sending the following text message to his GOP colleagues from New York

I know Carl Paladino has been aggressively pushing all of you to endorse Trump. And I know he has indicated he will start ‘attacking’ NYers who don’t endorse Trump. You may or may not care, but he does have a formidable email list.

Oh, formidable indeed. 

So, here’s a sitting Congressman sending a text message to other sitting Congresspeople, playing “good cop” to Paladino’s “loud and obnoxious cop”. The HuffPo interviewer catches Collins at first denying that Paladino had anything to do with his Trumpdorsement, before acknowledging quite clearly that this was all about Paladino. 

Collins told HuffPost that his role between Paladino and the other New York Republican members was brokering a sort of detente, where Paladino would lay off pushing for an endorsement before the primary filing deadline and Collins would remind his colleagues that, once the deadline had passed, Paladino would be back at it.

This is about appeasement. If you want the bully to be quiet, you don’t confront him or ignore him – you give him exactly what he wants. Collins went on to explain his rationale for backing Trump, 

He’s the only chief executive, not chief politician.

Right. Maybe Trump can do for the country what he did for the Trump Taj Mahal, the Trump Plaza Hotel, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, and Trump Entertainment Resorts. Maybe as part of Trump’s cabinet, Collins can do for the country what he did to the men and women whom he stiffed out of a mandated and contracted-for prevailing wage as part of one of his company’s contracts with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Collins evidently agrees when Trump says that “wages [are] too high.” He was then confronted about Trump’s more ridiculous and sexist comments, and the exchange went like this: 

When asked whether he has any concerns about some of Trump’s more egregious behavior and remarks, Collins came up with an explanation that was downright Trumpian.

“What I’m going to say is he’s been misquoted many times,” Collins said.

When pressed that he’s clearly been accurately quoted many times, saying horrific things about women and minorities, among others, Collins said, “Well, he’s also been misquoted, and they’ve taken things out of context.”

After some crosstalk, Collins said, “I’m very comfortable with his stance on defense, I’m very comfortable with his stance on jobs, I’m very comfortable with — his actions speak louder than words on the women’s issues.”

Pressed about Trump’s statements on women, Collins interrupted the question and blurted out, “I’m saying actions speak louder than words!”

I mean, such as?! 

Trump’s stance on defense and jobs are taken from the same playbook of dominance politics that informs Trump’s entire disjointed series of thoughts that make up his platform. If you can set forth a narrative portraying America as a loser who is being humiliated and defeated by everyone at every turn, then you make your central thesis about turning the tables and getting back at our perceived tormentors. 

Carl Paladino, Donald Trump, and Chris Collins are three New York politicians who are allies because of their patent similarities. They are millionaires. They believe that the very wealthy are victims of the poor and middle class. They appeal not to our better angels, but to our darkest prejudices. They focus on what divides us. 

Donald Trump is going to win the Republican primary in New York State not only because he’s a local, but because he’s on track to become the Republican Party’s nominee for President. Donald Trump is going to win the Republican primary here because he has widespread support from right-wing upstaters, and because a plurality of downstate Republicans are attracted to his message, and the remainder are split between Kasich and Cruz. 

Normally, Kasich would be the perfect New York Republican pick. Unlike Trump and Cruz, he’s not a lunatic. Unlike Trump and Cruz, he’s as close to a political centrist as you’re likely to get out of a contemporary Republican nationwide candidate. Having just finished seasons 3 and 4 of House of Cards, I’m amazed that the real-life 2016 is crazier than the soap opera version. 

Kasich, however, isn’t going to win New York because Donald Trump is a reality TV icon, a right-wing hero, and a guy with whom downstate New Yorkers have been familiar since Abe Beame was mayor. 

Congressmen and women, who have been duly elected to serve and represent a particular constituency, have earned the right to back whomever they want for President of the United States. But this isn’t just for electeds – under normal circumstances, inter-party squabbles are held in abeyance for the purposes of Presidential primaries, because people recognize each other’s right to vote their conscience. Just because you support Sanders over Clinton – or vice-versa – doesn’t make you any less of a Democrat. 

But Paladino and Collins are teaming up to make the New York GOP primary a litmus test for the Paladino/Palin wing of the tea party, which in New York makes up a minority faction of a minority party. They’re loud, but they’re ineffective – don’t believe me? Ask Senator Kevin Stocker. They are a paper tiger, and any self-respecting Republican elected official in New York should feel perfectly comfortable rejecting these empty, childish threats from political gangsters. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a Harvard graduate with solid GOP credentials, should feel perfectly comfortable ignoring Collins’ and Paladino’s Trump protection racket.  

Do you side with thoughtfulness and principle, or do you side with threats and intimidation? 

The Wenger Protection Program

trumpworthy

Supreme Court Poker

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First of all, let’s point and laugh at the wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Industries, Chris Collins, who posted this ridiculousness to his Facebook yesterday: 

You’re in the House; you’re not in the Senate. The Constitution leaves the confirmation of SCOTUS justices up to the Senate and not the House. On this issue, your opinion is as persuasive and valid as your pet’s. Secondly, the American people also elect the President, who is Constitutionally charged with appointing a SCOTUS justice. President Obama was re-elected in 2012 and continues to serve today. We voters don’t elect or have any other say in the appointment or promotion of federal judges, so the entire underlying notion is false. 

Now, look at the language in the image. “The American people elect their representatives to serve as their voice in Congress, and they should be empowered to decide the direction of their Supreme Court.” 

Who should be empowered? The people or their representatives? From what statute or regulation does Mr. Collins extrapolate this fantastical “empowerment”? Because “representatives” are how we refer to members of the House, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Supreme Court. The people of the state of New York have elected Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and I’m sure their position differs from Mr. Collins’. 

For his entire Presidential career – from campaign to White House – President Obama has been expert at giving the Republicans just enough rope to hang themselves. This is just the latest example. D.C. Circuit Justice Merrick Garland is a perfect Obama pick – a centrist who is well-respected, and about whom Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said this just days ago

“Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Newsmax on Friday that President Obama wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Utah senator was proven wrong.

“The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told the conservative news site on Friday.

“[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he continued. “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Well, he didn’t. President Obama nominated a centrist, consensus candidate whom the Republicans have supported before. Bluff called, and make no mistake – liberals are pissed off. They see this as Obama selling them out, mostly because they care more about ideology than winning. 

But the contemporary conservative movement being the grift that it is, ignorant commentators are already ignoring reality and history by smearing Judge Garland. Good luck with that. 

The underlying argument for this unprecedented obstructionism, where Republican Senators refuse even to meet with Judge Garland, is that the “people should have a voice”, and holding off until after the election. That would mean that Democrats could hammer the Republicans for this every single day from now until November, and it’s perfectly possible that Republicans lose Senate seats over this. So, this entire calculus is based on the idea – as it stands now – that Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton in November. This seems to me to be entirely unlikely, albeit possible, but a very risky proposition. 

“I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence. Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term; neither should a senator.”

Because what happens if the Senate continues with this particular obstruction is that if Hillary Clinton becomes President-elect, President Obama can withdraw Judge Garland from consideration, in favor of allowing the new President an opportunity to name her own pick, and the Republicans will have had a chance to confirm a palatable centrist, but instead find the court with a liberal majority. So, if Clinton wins in November, the GOP are kidding themselves if they think they’ll have a chance to confirm Garland at that time in a lame duck session. 

From the Times

Republicans quickly rejected Mr. Obama’s challenge. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, appeared on the Senate floor shortly after the president’s remarks to declare an end to Judge Garland’s nomination, no matter his qualifications. In case there was any doubt, Mr. McConnell later called Judge Garland personally to say he would not be receiving him in his Capitol office, nor taking any action on his nomination.

“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor. “The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”

So, if the principle is “let the people have their say”, and they elect Clinton, that means you’ve set up a scenario whereby you must honor whomever President Clinton nominates, and you cannot confirm Judge Garland in lame duck session. 

“We can’t have it both ways,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) said. “We cannot say ‘let the people speak,’ and then say ‘no, you can’t.’ If you are going to let the people speak, let ’em speak and honor their choice.”

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, agrees that Republicans could not change their minds in the lame duck session and move forward with Garland.

But the upshot of all of this is that Chris Collins is a foolish man who is politicizing an issue that exists far above his rank or pay-grade, and has the added bonus of being completely out of sync with the Constitution. 

Diana Kastenbaum, a business owner from Batavia, is running against Chris Collins. For the uninitiated, 

“As a small business owner from Batavia, I am well aware of the realities that face middle class families,” said Kastenbaum. “Using my years of experience as a businesswoman, I will bring new ideas and solutions to the problems we face in Western NY. We need a Member of Congress who will fight for Western NY on the issues that matter most; good paying jobs, ending income inequality, making college more affordable, and providing access to affordable healthcare. Where Congress has failed us, I will lead.”

Kastenbaum’s family has owned and operated Pinnacle, a zinc and aluminum dye casting manufacturing company, since 1972.  She is a graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

So far, she hasn’t tried to politicize a matter that exists wholly within the legal purview of the President and Senate. 

Fight For Your Kids’ Education

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We’ve sprung ahead an hour, the daily temperature is routinely above freezing, which can mean only one thing: school tax plebiscite season is upon us. 

Schools are the only municipal entities that have to submit their budgets to public referendum. Kids’ educations are subject to annual taxpayer whim, unlike literally any other governmental body. Kids shouldn’t have to line streets to beg for votes. Parents shouldn’t have to worry every year whether their kids’ favorite sport, club, or desired elective will be funded or exist. 

In suburban school districts throughout New York State, school boards are engaging in a budget construction process. The administration presents financial and pedagogical realities and tries to marry the two, and solicits public input to determine how the scales should be set. This year is especially tricky for some districts because the statewide tax cap is under 1%. It is anticipated that a record number of districts throughout the state may seek a tax levy hike in excess of the cap, necessitating a supermajority of local voters’ support. 

Clarence made that attempt in 2013 and failed, while in the midst of a statewide pension funding crisis brought about by the 2008 stock market crash. It was a lesson the school board took seriously, and in the following two budget years saw levies well under the tax cap. Because Clarence has positive growth, that and other factors result in a tax cap in excess of 3%. The proposed tax levy increase for 2016 – 2017 will be 2.99% to raise the $1.3 million the district needs. 

In all, the Clarence district has been extremely careful and frugal since the 2013 crisis, when a failed above-cap budget saw dozens of teaching and staff layoffs. Hundreds of kids lost myriad opportunities as a result of abandoned electives and overcrowded classrooms. 

Monday night, the Clarence Board of Education meeting featured three distinct presentations: how to spend a $2 million state technology grant, recommendations from a music curriculum task force, and the third budget construction meeting. As always, there was a small contingent of people who belong to a local anti-tax group that seems only to concern itself with school taxes, not any others. 

At Monday’s meeting, one member of the anti-taxers queried why the district needed the $2 million to buy iPads and laptops for classrooms. Did this mean the district couldn’t afford its tech needs because the teachers were overpaid? Why did the district need a state grant for this spending? 

The answer, of course, is that a state grant to a district is on a “use it or lose it” basis. Also, this grant is a result of a statewide referendum. In order to qualify for the grant, the district needs to come up with a plan, present it to the community, and submit it to the state for approval. It is a single shot of cash to bring classrooms into the 21st century, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the district’s ability to pay for it out of its operating budget. Indeed, all technology spending is done in partnership with the state. The anti-tax folks were misinformed and wrong about what this spending represented, but they tried to make it seem sinister. 

The music task force noted that participation in choral, orchestral, and band is steady or up throughout the district. Our music program is excellent and attracts not only kids from within the district, but acts as a magnet for families who come to Clarence because of it. Here were two eye-opening slides: 

The lesson ratio for some instruments is closer to 16:1, rather than the ideal 4:1, and the task force recommended hiring one teacher each for the band, orchestral, and choral programs, as well as a teacher’s aide to help with the larger ensembles. 

This then segued into the third and final budget construction presentation, which noted the Albany budget process was underway. With the budget due by April 1st, and both the Assembly and Senate had put forth proposals more generous than Governor Cuomo’s, it was likely that districts would get more aid than anticipated. 

Since 2013, the district has bent over backwards to appease the anti-tax people who came out in droves to oppose the above-cap budget. This presentation represents the third consecutive below-cap budget, with a modest tax levy increase of under 3%. This enables the district to maintain current staffing levels and class sizes, and if the state grants more aid, the administration recommends applying the money back into the fund balance for a rainy day – and this is a rainy year for many districts. 

While past projections have called for a drop in enrollment, this year’s kindergarten class was larger than anticipated, and elementary enrollment is expected to level off sooner than expected. 

The median home price in Clarence is $250,000, and a house of that value would see a school tax increase of $70/year, which comes out to 19 cents per day, or $5.83/month. Last year, a massive town-wide re-assessment took place just days before the school budget plebiscite. Most homes saw their assessments go up, but this means that the tax rate has dropped dramatically, as set forth here: 

Spending for next year is up 3% because wages are up 3%. The anti-tax people hone in on this as unsustainable or excessive – that 75% of the school budget is dedicated to payroll. But schools don’t manufacture widgets; they educate kids. This must be done with teachers – without them, there’s no school. 

Nationwide, there is a teacher shortage. Low pay, public scapegoating and lack of support, and a reliance on testing has turned the teaching profession into an unattractive one throughout the country. Not so much, however, in New York, where teachers are paid reasonably well, compared to other places. If the anti-tax people had their way, teacher pay would simply stagnate or drop. That would lead to teacher abandonment of the district in favor of better pay and benefits. One person took to the microphone to ask why teachers didn’t voluntarily give up pay and benefits in order to help fund the additional personnel the music department needs. You don’t attract the best teachers by scapegoating them every year and demanding that they forfeit money that they’ve earned. 

The budget proposal underscored the financial stability and concern for tax fatigue that threatened the district 3 years ago. Only a small pack of die-hards can oppose with s atraight face a below-cap levy increase with a drop in the tax rate. 

Another issue that came up was a contract renewal with the school administrators’ union. During the 2013 crisis, the administrators voluntarily re-opened their contract and took two years’ worth of a pay freeze to help the district. The administrators got a pay raise of 2.95% over the next three years. One anti-school commentator queried how the district could justify that. 

Two members of the school board were elected in 2013 during the budget crisis, and both of them advocated a vote against the above-cap budget, pledging to work for sustainability of school taxes and budgets. Both of them voted in favor of the administrators’ contract, noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed wage growth of about 2.2%, and this was within a range they could support for the district’s hard-working personnel. The anti-tax demagogue alleged that this was not happening in the private sector, and that the majority of Erie County residents worked for government. 

That, however, isn’t true. By my calculation, about 10% of Erie County workers are employees of the federal, state, or county governments. If you factor in municipal hires, that number probably grows somewhat, but not to over 50%. If the facts don’t back your assertion up, you can’t make up data.

Nowhere nearly enough parents show up for board of education meetings in most places. There’s nothing more important to a parent than their kids’ education, and when a school board is in its fourth year of being under assault by people not embarrassed to lie and manipulate data in order to make a false point, parents need to stand up and fight. If you’re in Clarence, please join Keep Clarence Schools Great. If you live in another municipality, let’s talk about how we combat WBEN-type anti-school rhetoric to ensure that kids’ educations aren’t sacrificed at the altar of stasis. 

Chaos and Trump: A Perfect Pair

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A lie 

gets halfway around the world

before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

There is a woman shown in a picture from the Chicago anti-Trump action, decked out in Trump memorabilia giving a Hitlergruß. Someone took to the internet to say that it was a set-up; that she’s really a Sanders plant. While we have no idea if she is or isn’t a Sanders plant, it’s not Portia Boulger, whom Donald Trump, Jr. publicly identified her to be. Ms. Boulger was in Chillicothe, IL when the rioting in Chicago happened. It’s a lie. It’s also defamation. 

The Chicago rallies have been cheered/concern-trolled as good for Donald Trump

For some strange reason, despite the fact that their positions on issues differ only slightly (if at all) from Donald Trump’s, no violence has taken place at campaign rallies for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. The reason has to do with the fact that neither of those candidates have specifically appealed to people’s worst fears and prejudices like Trump has. Neither of them have incited or condoned violence by their supporters towards anyone else. 

Ted Cruz is 100% worse for America than Trump, yet his followers don’t routinely assault & batter people. Curious, that.

Holding up an anti-Trump sign at a campaign rally isn’t an invitation to assault. Or a sucker-punch. Or a lynching. 

In the 20s and 30s, the Nazis sent gangs of thugs to break up rallies. The Freikorps and, later, the SA, fought in the streets against Jews, immigrants, the SPD, and Communists. They also held rallies of their own to demand a restoration of German greatness in the face of its destruction at the hands of a foreign “other” that must be destroyed. Black Lives Matter is Trump‘s Versaillesdiktat – his convenient excuse to keep inciting more violence. Chicago was Trump’s Reichstag fire – blame BLM and other “leftists” for protesting a person who has targeted them as “thugs” who deserve to be beaten, deported, excluded, or killed. 

I have no doubt whatsoever that history will prove that the way in which Chicago was handled was carefully engineered stagecraft by the Trump people. They needed to flip the story on the violence at these rallies, and instead of asking the candidate to stop inciting it, they decided that nightly news footage of a rally shut down by protesters would serve Trump’s narrative of a valiant, all-American “us” vs. a foreign “them”. Trump appeals to a particular audience. 

Trump took his violent circus to an actual big, diverse city. It was in the downtown – not at an airport hangar, where access can be more carefully controlled. He has inflamed the passions of the people he has targeted as the “other”, at whom all of his – and his supporters’ – hatred is directed. For some reason, people seem not to take kindly to being scapegoated for all of the problems in America. It’s not the first time Trump‘s gone down this road. Back in 1989, he all but called for the lynching of the Central Park Five, all of whom were later found to have been innocent and wrongfully accused, tried, and convicted. Innocent

I’m going to go out on a limb and conclude that Donald Trump, Jr. doesn’t Tweet shit out about an innocent old lady as a Sanders plant in Trump regalia giving the Hitlergruss unless it’s part of the campaign narrative. The picture is an integral part of the message being pushed.

Donald Trump set all of these events in motion, and he is being advised by some of the dirtiest tricksters in American politics today. Do not for a moment think that today’s spin about Chicago hasn’t played right into the hands of the singular candidate who relies on racialist chaos to get ahead. 

Wozniak’s Attempt at Damage Control

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You wouldn’t let a PR professional represent you in court, so don’t have a lawyer do your PR for you. Especially when it comes out looking like a hostage video, grainy video, bad sound, frightened look and all. 

Everything about this is as ill-considered as Wozniak’s original brilliant decision to cheat on her husband with her legislative aide, or to then have her lawyer demolish her paramour in the press when he tried to break it off. 

It’s customary for the hostage in the video to be holding up today’s paper to establish proof of life.

American Fascism

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I caught myself engaged in a debate over Donald Trump and fascism one recent morning. It all started when a conservative friend of mine posted this: 

Technically, “Socialism” would be everyone pooling money together to get that guy his own sign. Someone responded to me, channeling Joe the Plumber, “not when the government is the one enforcing socialism. The government is the one that pools the money to hand it out to everyone.” I replied, “I don’t see a lot of people complaining about their socialized roads, socialized military, Social Security, Medicare, or other big, bad, evil socialist things. Social democracy, or democratic socialism, is the radical idea that people’s taxes should go to pay for things that people use.” 

When confronted with my lack of humor, I replied that, “it would be funny if it remotely reflected anything that Bernie Sanders advocates or stands for. This is just silly and banal.” My friend then retorted, “Like an out of context still frame of people raising their right hands at a Trump rally?”

Now, we get to the meat of this thing. 

I don’t know whether Donald Trump is, in reality, a fascist. If he’s not, he’s doing a spot-on impression of one; he plays one on TV. If Donald Trump isn’t a fascist, he is awakening an especially American form of fascism that is quite ugly, and he’s doing it by using the tools, propaganda, and drama of early 20th century fascist movements. Before you accuse me of violating Godwin’s Law, consider what this campaign has been all about. 

It has been about this: 

and this:

from a different angle:

Back on Facebook, I addressed the photo of people raising their right hands at a Trump rally. What was that, exactly? 

It was a loyalty oath; a pledge of allegiance to a person, rather than, e.g., a flag or a principle or the Constitution. This is what happened in Germany in 1934, after Hindenburg’s death and the unification of the Chancellery and the Presidency.

Since 1942, when you give the pledge of allegiance, you put you hand over your heart. Before 1942, you gave the “Bellamy salute”, named after the author of the pledge, it had you do this: 

Raising your right hand in a salute to a Leader who puts his hand up half-way in order to somewhat catch it hearkens back to something very sinister. Trump keeps doing it at his rallies, and when interviewed about it on the Today Show, pretended like he didn’t know anybody had a problem with it. Yet the day before, Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League specifically called Trump out on this.
 

“As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America,” Foxman said. “It is a fascist gesture.”

“He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him,”

On NBC, Trump explained away his salute by saying that people “love it”. Well, German people loved it in 1934, too. When you pair that with the things that he’s said about Mexicans, and Muslims, and women, the parallels are far too close for this to be treated as innocent. Trump knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s too interested in winning to care that he’s – among other things – scaring the shit out of Holocaust survivors. GOP pols are expert at blowing dog-whistles, but I’m afraid this one is calling a dog no one wants to see come running. 

The rebuttal was that people raise their hands all the time in non-sinister ways – to become citizens, or to be called on in class, or to vote on something. 

But there’s a difference. To become a citizen, you raise your right hand and swear this: 

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Nothing there about fealty to the President in general, or to Obama in particular – or to any person specifically. When you’re raising your hand to be called on, you’re not pledging a loyalty blood oath to any person, nor is it the same as a Leader at a podium, exhorting his followers to pledge a loyalty oath to him. In response, I was told that criticisms such as mine only feed the Trump monster, and bolster his support, but I’m not going to apologize for criticizing the fascist because it fuels his followers.

Again, this is a parallel to Germany in the 1930s; if you criticize the Nazis for their anti-Semitism, it only made the Nazis stronger (and you’d find yourself under an S.A. boot). The problem isn’t necessarily just with Trump’s exploitation of hatred and bigotry, it’s with the underlying hatred and bigotry itself. Trump isn’t the only problem, his followers are the real problem, and quite frankly now we see how popular fascism is when it comes to America, wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. It only happens to be about 90 years late.

Hannah Arendt, I suspect, would have much to say on the matter.

Locally, another para-fascist degenerate, Carl Paladino, decided to take to his favorite medium – email – to threaten New York’s Republican Congressional delegation into supporting Donald Trump. So far, only Chris Collins (NY-27) – who finds himself in hot water of his own for his “business acumen” – has swallowed the Trump pill. 

Paladino’s email reads like something your racist uncle forwards to you and 50 other people

Paladino said he sent an email blast to 50,000 supporters on Tuesday after a series of unsuccessful phone calls to convince New York’s eight other Republican House members to support Trump. So far, Collins has stood alone in his endorsement.

Trump has said that New York, and its large number of Republican delegates up for grabs in the April 19 primary, is a key to his strategy to win the GOP nomination for president. Trump boasted on CNN last month that in Upstate New York, “I’m like the most popular person that has ever lived, virtually.”

In his email, Paladino said of the eight GOP House members: “None of you is a profile in courage…You cannot stay neutral any longer; it conflicts with your job description.”

He added, “You are supposed to make decisions in the best interests of your constituents. They’re angry. It’s a festering anger, built up over the years by a smoke and mirrors government working to keep the political class comfortably feeding at the public trough.”

Says the guy whose business relies in part on rent from the state, and tax breaks and “incentives”. 

“This is the beginning,” Paladino said of Tuesday’s email. “This is the nice one. It’s going to get worse for those that continue to hold out. I’m being nice.”

Asked how he will increase pressure, Paladino said, “I’ll up the ante a little bit more in the next one I send. For those that continue to hold out, I will do everything I can to marginalize them. People like to read what their representatives are doing”…

…Others contacted by Paladino include Reps. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook; Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld; and Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island. Paladino said he also tried unsuccessfully to speak with Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, whose name he mispronounced.

“They’re treacherous,” Paladino said of the New York Republican House members. “They’re all a bunch of RINOs (Republican In Name Only). They are not doing the will of the people.”

Says the guy who contributes to Democrats. 

Accusing people of being disloyal? Calling on the mob to react as you “up the ante” in successive email blasts? I’m trying to remember what other major 20th century political ideology relied on hatred, insults, and intimidation to gain power. 

Godwin’s Law isn’t applicable here: fascism has arrived. My congressman supports it.

It’s doing great in the polls, winning Republican primaries, and going so far as to pimp Leader-branded water, wine, and steaks at political rallies. Mein Steaks. 

Make no mistake: if you endorse or support this fascist, you own it. You own every bit of this behavior, because you can’t say you weren’t warned, and you can’t weasel your way out of it by cherry-picking the stuff about Trump you like from what you pretend you don’t. You own all of it, Nick Langworthy. You own all of it, Carl Paladino. You own all of it, Chris Collins. 

Now What for the Wozniak Seat?

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The Assembly’s bipartisan Ethics and Guidance Commission censured Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak (C, 143) on Wednesday. Wozniak and her legislative aide Elias Farah had an inappropriate, adulterous affair, and when Farah tried to break it off, she harassed him, defamed him, and made it impossible for him to perform the functions of his job. 

Longtime listeners of the Howard Stern show know that “143” is a code for “I love you”, which Sal Governale’s wife texted to her “emotional friend”. That storyline fed the Stern show for months, and made it into Sarah Silverman’s lyrics for “Stop the Clock”, performed at Stern’s 60th birthday bash a few years ago. It would seem that New York’s Assembly district 143 seat, covering Cheektowaga and Lancaster, has somehow become a magnet for inappropriate, pervy behavior. 

Dennis Gabryszak resigned from the state Assembly in January 2014 when a parade of former female staffers accused – some sued – him of inappropriate and sexist conduct. Those accusations became public in late 2013, and Albany “ethics” boards recenty fined him $100,000 for his behavior. 

While there’s little question that Gabryszak’s own creepy behavior cost him that seat, cognoscenti theorize that the Steve Pigeon axis carefully coordinated that Gabryszak takedown to help Tim Kennedy in his September 2014 primary rematch against Betty Jean Grant. With Gabryszak out, there was an open (D) seat up for grabs. Since there exists overlap of A-143 and SD-63 – notably in Cheektowaga – the nasty (D) Assembly brawl between Mark Mazurek and Camille Brandon worked nicely to help Kennedy decisively defeat Grant after an embarrassingly close call two years earlier. 

Registered member of the Conservative fusion Party Angela Wozniak succeeded Gabryszak. Her tenure has been largely unremarkable and uneventful, except for that time she went to a Lancaster school board meeting to demagogue against LGBT rights while quite clearly having little idea what she was talking about. 

Wozniak’s win in a traditionally Democratic stronghold was pretty significant, seen as a huge get for ECGOP chair Nick Langworthy and Conservative fusion chair Ralph Lorigo. She was going to fight for the taxpayer. She was going to clean up Albany and “fight” the “status quo”. She was going to advocate for term limits, fight corruption, and institute “the nation’s toughest ethics plan”. 

Being the second consecutive A-143 Assemblyman to be sanctioned for ethical violations arising out of sexual misconduct is pretty much a facile maintenance of the status quo. 

Wozniak’s accuser, Elias Farah, is a Republican who recently ran for county legislature. There has been a flurry of hateful criticism thrown his way by Republican insiders, mostly because all of this must be embarrasing for a pol who ran on an anti-corruption platform. 

Reports indicate, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s letter confirms that Wozniak, “entered a consensual sexual relationship with her director of legislation in June 2015. The staffer objected to and tried to stop the sexual nature of the relationship, which ended after Wozniak told her husband. The report found Wozniak banned the staffer from working in the district office or attending community meetings she was at.” 

The report found Wozniak spoke negatively of the staffer to damage his job performance, and her counsel told reporters the name of the staffer and used the press to tarnish him further by saying she’d go after “anyone who maliciously defamed her.” The report says inconsistencies between both parties made it hard to determine if this was quid pro quo sexual harassment by Wozniak.

Certainly any report on “ethics” coming from a contemporary Assembly-run corruption watchdog should be taken with a grain of salt, as there is a long history of the Assembly coddling and protecting harassers. In 2007, Republican Assemblyman Mike Cole was similarly censured for getting drunk at a party and sleeping on a female intern’s apartment floor. While he insisted nothing happened, he lost the Republican nomination to Jane Corwin the following year. 

It’s hard to see a path forward to Wozniak here. She promised the people of Cheektowaga that she would be different; that she would end the corruption and ethical lapses that led to her predecessor’s downfall. Yet here she is, two years later, accused of sexual harassment. The sanctions against her include

That a letter of admonition be issued publicly to Assemblymember Wozniak by the Speaker on behalf of the Assembly, enumerating the findings of the Committee, and indicating that Assemblymember Wozniak’s conduct violated the Assembly’s Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation as it pertains to retaliation and is inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which members of the Assembly should be held;

That’s pretty toothless, but damning nonetheless. 

That Assemblymember Wozniak is hereby directed to cease publicizing details of the investigation and to cease making disparaging statements against her former Director of Legislation, unless reasonably necessary to defend herself in the event of any claims brought against her in an administrative agency or a court of law.

This one is significant. Her lawyer, HoganWillig’s Steve Cohen, went out of his way to try this thing in the media. As of right now, Farah has not filed a lawsuit against Wozniak or anyone else for what happened to him, so the viciousness with which he’s been attacked by has been puzzling. 

That the Assembly will make efforts to place Assemblymember Wozniak’s former Director of Legislation into a comparable job with comparable pay and benefits and until such placement has been made, he shall receive pay at the same rate at which he was earning during his employment, beginning February 9, 2016 through and including February 8, 2017, or the end of Assemblymember Wozniak’s term, whichever is sooner.  All such pay is to be allotted solely from Assemblymember Wozniak’s staff budget, and her staff budget shall not be increased from its current amount;

That is par for the course for any complaining victim of workplace sexual harassment, whose perpetrator has jeopardized his job. 

That Assemblymember Wozniak is precluded from having any interns working in her Assembly office or her district office; this prohibition applies to interns assigned by the Assembly as well as any interns that might be engaged through unofficial channels;

Angela Wozniak is not trusted to have free student labor in her office. 

That an independent investigator conduct climate surveys of all of Assemblymember Wozniak’s Assembly employees at least semi-annually to ensure that there is no repeat of the conduct; and

That Assemblymember Wozniak be required to attend immediate and comprehensive supplemental sexual harassment and retaliation prevention training.

One tidbit that most people missed came in October from Time Warner Cable News. It appears that Farah is represented by Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei, a favorite of Steve Pigeon’s. Bartolomei also represents several of the complainants against Dennis Gabryszak. If the theory set forth above is true, could it be that the Pigeon team is working to get one of theirs back into the Assembly? The plan would have been for Mark Mazurek to take the seat, and his sister has been quite famously aligned with Pigeon in recent years – just Google, “Preetsmas + Mazurek“. That didn’t go as planned, so now they have to fix the Wozniak mistake. 

So far, two Democrats have announced bids for A-143; Jim Rogowski and Monica Wallace. Wallace is a former law clerk for federal judge Richard Arcara, and is now a lecturer at UB School of Law. Rogowski is a Cheektowaga town councilman. It’s not hard to decipher which one might have the backing of the Pigeon squad: 

That Tweet is from January 2014 – right after Gabryszak’s resignation.

Rogowski didn’t run, and neither did Kristy Mazurek – but her brother did, and lost. So, try, try again.

Rogowski’s election disclosures show contributions from a PAC controlled by a Pigeon associate, and Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats. He donated $60 to Cheektowaga’s “Right Democratic Team”, which is still out of compliance (read: breaking the law) by not filing campaign disclosure of any sort since the 2015 11 day pre-primary report. By my last count, the “Right Democratic Team” has failed to account for over $2,000 that others say they donated to it. Max’s crew does the same thing

Now, that figure approaches $4,000 that other people say they contributed to the “Right Democratic Team“, which never disclosed more than $125. 

Click to enlarge

Suffice it to say that if you think corruption in Albany is remotely important, these aren’t the people with whom you want to associate. That failure to disclose isn’t some sloppy mistake – it’s deliberate and calculated. 

As for Wozniak’s transgressions, Democratic candidate Monica Wallace released the following: 

Angela Wozniak’s misconduct as determined by the Assembly Ethics Committee is inexcusable and a textbook reminder of what is wrong with Albany. It is especially shocking that a legislator who ran on a platform of family values and personal ethics should be sanctioned for precisely the behavior she once condemned. This wasn’t just bad judgment; it was unethical and illegal.

This kind of conduct has no place in Albany or anywhere else. The people of this District expect and deserve an elected official who is as hard-working, honest, and principled as they are. We are tired of the culture of scandal and corruption that has undermined the public’s faith in state government. It is time for leadership this community can be proud of. 

It would seem that the voters in A-143 have a clear choice this year when it comes to ethics.

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