Kiss Jingoism Hello


98.5 has “Kiss the Summer Hello”

103.3 has “EdgeFest”

107.7 has “Kerfuffle”

106.5 has “Taste of Country”

Not to be outdone, “Newsradio” 930 WBEN has a summer festival of its own: “The Rally for America”. 

While other radio stations book a string of national acts to come and sing a hit or two for local fans, WBEN is getting deep into the right-wing grift and will be monetizing patriotism itself

Now, you’d think that a “rally” would be a free event to drum up support for something – a candidate, an idea, a cause. No, sir, not on Tim Wenger’s watch, and not on Entercom’s dime. Instead, this will be “Kiss the Summer Hello” for right wing assholes. Who else would pay money to see Ann Coulter at a ballpark? Or a washed-up has-been, Rudy Giuliani? They’re even trotting out local war hero and WBEN fill-in host, David Bellavia. 

WBEN had been promoting this for the better part of a week, telling listeners to “save the date”. Only when Ann Coulter called in to Tom Bauerle’s radio program on Thursday night and plugged the fact that she was finishing the book that she’ll be promoting at the rally that my suspicions were raised, and when they said that tickets would go on sale Friday morning, I realized it was all part of the right-wing grift. Incidentally, Coulter’s upcoming book is called, “Adios, America” because brown people and Spanish-speaking people equal the death of America. 

It’s not so much a meet & greet as a meet & sheet. 

Anyway, you know how the grift goes – AM talk radio riles up the angry, grumpy, and aggrieved. It gets them to hate and fear just the right people and things, and then capitalizes on that by selling them gold certificates or kits to prepare for the apocalypse or books that essentially transcribe facile Limbaughisms into easy-to-read text. 

Here, they’re going to have a book tour masquerading as a patriotism festival. 

The “Monetizing Jingoism” rally will be held in a small corner of Coca Cola field’s right field. 

“A night of patriotism at a time when it is needed most.” Pay $35 and Make America Great Again. Pay $50 and get that much closer to Ann Coulter’s hate-speech. But hark, what’s this about VIP packages? 

Oh, be still my heart. A chance to meet Ann Coulter and/or Rudy Giuliani? Only $250 and no personal photos, no personal cameras, and no autographs? You enter through Pettibone’s? My goodness, I never knew just how luxurious and exclusive being a VIP could be. Also, note the diss to Bellavia – the meet & bleat takes place while he’s speaking. 

I applaud the patriotism of WBEN and Entercom in setting up this festival of MAGA cap and “End the SAFE Act” enthusiasts. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Maserati dealer: forget that. You know WNY has arrived when its right-wing media outlet has figured out how best to separate its listenership from their money. 

Mazurek’s Unlikely Candidacy


In the Assembly – in Albany – there is a comfortable, albeit old-fashioned leather swivel chair, and the two people who most recently moistened it will have abandoned it in disgrace. The endorsed Democrat, Monica Piga Wallace, is an accomplished lawyer and the very embodiment of responsibility and accomplishment. Wallace’s new challenger, Kristy Mazurek, is under such a thick cloud of suspicion that, were she already serving as an elected official, she’d be called on to resign. For Democrats, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. 

Dennis Gabryzsak resigned amid a flurry of allegations that he sexually harassed his female staffers. Gabryszak’s behavior was inexcusable, and the timing was fortuitous for people aligned with perennial pseudo-Democratic gadfly, G. Stephen Pigeon and his band of co-dependents. Gabryszak’s fall coincided nicely with the re-election campaign of Senator Tim Kennedy – the A-143 and Kennedy’s district share Cheektowaga and part of Depew – and a competitive Democratic primary for the assembly seat in 2014 would artificially bolster white Cheektowagan turnout for Kennedy, thwarting Betty Jean Grant’s second effort to unseat the incumbent. In 2012, Grant had come excruciatingly close to ousting Kennedy, but Kennedy was prepared in 2014, and won handily. 

Also in 2014, longtime Democratic operative Camille Brandon was running as a Democrat for A-143, and she had the support of both Democratic HQ and breakaway Democrats led by Frank Max.  But helping Tim Kennedy trumped unity, so Pigeon and Mazurek ran a primary using Mazurek’s brother, Mark, who went on to win the September primary. Mazurek’s campaign faltered in November, however, and he lost to current occupant/disgrace Angela Wozniak. Mark’s sister, Kristy ran his campaign effort that year. It wasn’t a failure, though. The larger mission was accomplished in September for Kennedy. 

For her part, Kristy Mazurek is the former host of “2Sides”, a political talk show she co-hosted with a variety of Republican operatives such as Stefan Mychajliw and Michael Caputo. In 2012, Mazurek ran the failed David Shenk for Comptroller campaign against Mychajliw. Throughout her return to WNY, she has been aligned with Steve Pigeon, and at war with Democratic HQ.

In 2013, Mazurek was famously the treasurer for the WNY Progressive Caucus, or “AwfulPAC“. That campaign committee’s campaign finance irregularities led to the May 28, 2015 raids of the homes of Steve Pigeon, Steve Casey, and Chris Grant, (a.k.a. “Preetsmas“), ultimately leading to the recent empaneling of a special Grand Jury to investigate any and all crimes arising out of that commitee and those searches. 

The Buffalo News reported in mid-2015 that investigators had questioned Mazurek, and that her home wasn’t raided because she was cooperating with law enforcement. 

As it stands now, AwfulPAC maintains an outstanding $15,000 campaign debt owed to printing firm Marketing Tech, last reported in its January 2015 disclosure. AwfulPAC also last disclosed over $26,000 cash on hand in that same disclosure, so query why it hasn’t yet satisfied that debt to Marketing Tech. Since then, AwfulPAC has filed, “no activity” statements.  Mark Mazurek’s Assembly campaign committee last reported $900 on hand, and has failed and refused to make mandatory financial disclosures to the Board of Elections in January and July of 2015, and January of 2016. 

The Public revealed the extent and ongoing nature of federal tax liens that the IRS has filed against Steve Pigeon, calling into question his proclamations of financial liquidity to the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy, and selective revelation of his tax returns. For a guy who told Bob McCarthy he could easily afford personally to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into obscure political committees, he found himself facing: 

  • March 1, 2012: $26,527 federal tax lien
  • October 30, 2013: Lien for unpaid condo fees of $1,123 for 1003 Admiral’s Walk (owned by Dan Humiston, occupied by Steve Pigeon)
  • March 31, 2014: $118,650 federal tax lien
  • August 18, 2014: Lien for unpaid condo fees of $9,264 for 1003 Admiral’s Walk
  • June 2, 2015: $126,259 federal tax lien for the 2011 and 2013 tax years
  • November 24, 2015: $65,806 federal tax lien for the 2014 tax year
  • December 22, 2015: Lien for unpaid condo fees of $4,486 for 704 Admiral’s Walk (owned by Steve Pigeon)

That’s almost $337,000 in federal tax liens alone. The suspicion is that federal investigators with access to Pigeon’s financial records could see money passing through his accounts for political activities, which Pigeon perhaps didn’t report as income. 

Similarly, Mazurek finds herself the subject of federal tax liens as follows: 

  • June 19, 2014: $16,432 federal tax lien for the 2007 tax year 
  • October 8, 2014: $4,125 federal tax lien for the 2012 tax year
  • October 27, 2014: $7,785 federal tax lien for the 2010 and 2013 tax years

Could it be that at least some of these liens are the fruit of the Preetsmas raids? Could law enforcement with access to banking records have revealed monies flowing through Mazurek and Pigeon’s accounts for political purposes from other sources? Money that should have been declared as income, but wasn’t? 

Mazurek’s candidacy has been rumored for some time, and a post on a particularly irresponsible local blog announced/press released it thusly: 

Kristy Mazurek, the local socialite and muckraking journalist whose pioneering career spanned decades in a half dozen American media markets, intends to wage an aggressive campaign for New York State State Assembly against a little known candidate recruited by Erie County Democrat Party headquarters.

Socialite: ‘sōSHəˌlīt/ (n) “a person who is well known in fashionable society and is fond of social activities and entertainment.” “A socially prominent person”. I am not aware of the qualities and qualificiations that being a “socialite” might lend to someone running for office, but it seems to be a euphemism for “unemployed”. 

In this, the year of anti-corruption sentiment, it seems an odd choice to elect to the Assembly a person so close to an ongoing federal and state investigation. As for the “little known candidate”, that’s Monica Piga Wallace, a law professor at UB with over a decade’s experience as the confidential law clerk for a federal court judge. She’s a wife and mother with an adorable family, and any party chairman, regardless of political affiliation, would count himself lucky to have such an excellent outsider/newcomer candidate run for elected office. 

Mazurek is a formidable political contender with fundraising prowess and a well placed network of supporters. The consummate activist, Mazurek has been involved in local politics since she was a child and her father represented the Polonia neighborhood on the County Legislature. Mazurek is a Cheektowaga resident and Chairperson of the town’s Polish Heritage Festival.

Mazurek is almost $30,000 in arrears to the federal government for unpaid income taxes, her activities as treasurer for AwfulPAC find her in the center of an ongoing criminal investigation, the campaigns she has been most closely affiliated with (Shenk, Moore, and Mazurek) were all failures, and her fundraising “prowess” amounted to $38,500 for her brother, not including thousands in family loans. By contrast, Conservative fusion Party candidate Angela Wozniak – who defeated Mazurek’s candidate in 2014 – quickly raised close to $60,000 in a traditionally Democratic district, not counting $30,000 in Republican PAC money. 

Jeremy Zellner, beleaguered by controversy relating to a 2014 incident in which he was perceived to be extorting bribes from judicial candidates, is backing Mazurek’s opponent. Zellner’s leadership of the Democrat Party has attracted much scrutiny. The chairman’s ouster is expected at the next party reorganization meeting later this year.

Translation: some people have an acute, chronic, exhausting case of butthurtitis and sour grapes over Steve Pigeon’s ouster as Erie County Democratic Chairman over a decade ago. Inter-party squabbles like this swing from cold to hot every so often, and Mazurek, who is busy accepting service of legal process for Pigeon at his former apartment, is merely doing her boss’ bidding. 

This is how Mazurek announced her candidacy: 

Nothing about ethics and corruption in Albany. Nothing about public service. Nothing about what she might do differently from her predecessors, or a hint at what her platform might be. Nothing about how she is more qualified or better suited than, say, Monica Wallace. With this Facebook post, Mazurek lays bare her entire reason for running: this isn’t a campaign. It’s a vendetta.

Remember: even though Albany corruption matters, Donald Trump shows us that 2016 is the year of grievance politics, and for that Mazurek has a deep well. 

Mazurek alleges that she reported Gabryszak’s “attacking behavior” to Len Lenihan and Jeremy Zellner, and, I suppose, she’ll say they did nothing about it. But even if true, party bosses aren’t in charge of an Assemblyman’s behavior. An Assembly staffer who is subjected to “attacking behavior” at the hands of her boss has other channels to use. There is a grievance procedure spelled out in the Assembly rules, for instance. Had Mazurek followed that, she would have complained to the Counsel to the Majority. If attacked, she could have gone to the police. She could have brought a lawsuit. Complaining to Lenihan and Zellner seems odd, especially if she’s alleging that another party boss, like Pigeon, would have acted differently. Perhaps all of this is prologue to the inevitable, failed attempt to oust Zellner at the party reorganization later this year. 

Mazurek did bring a lawsuit, incidentally. She left Gabryszak’s office in 2009. She was the last of Gabryszak’s accusers to bring a lawsuit, in November 2014. The court dismissed it: 

The court’s dismissal of Mazurek’s complaint against Gabryszak is up on appeal, but why wait over three years to bring suit? Why blow through and past the statute of limitations? Was it because the timing was inopportune before November 2014?  How? Gabryszak resigned in January. Election day was November 4th.

In her complaint, she mentions only complaining to Gabryszak’s chief of staff, Adam Locher. Not to Zellner nor Lenihan. The Cheektowaga electorate may be attracted to Mazurek’s surname and grievances, but on the issue of ethics and accomplishments, Mazurek has a very steep hill to climb.

One thing is for sure, in a year where Albany corruption, ethics, and good government are at the fore; in the year where both Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos were tried, convicted, and sentenced for crimes arising out of their theft of honest services, it seems beyond odd for a key player in an ongoing local political corruption scandal to run for elected office. We have our Preetsmas candidate.

The Buffalo News’ War on Teachers


The Buffalo News’ anti-public school agenda has already been thoroughly studied and analyzed. The News even went so far as to give a shockingly strong endorsement of Carl Paladino for Buffalo school board; for the News, his animus towards the teachers’ union outweighs the tonnage of negatives. 

It is absolutely ridiculous that the public gets to vote on the approval of school budgets. No other governmental taxing entity is subjected to an annual plebiscite, and that fundamental unfairness seems lost on everybody. If school districts must put their annual budgets up for a vote, then why not town boards? The library? The county legislature? Albany? New York is a state where referenda are few and far-between, yet when it comes to funding the education of our children, we leave it up to a tiny electorate, largely ignorant to the personalities and issues, who are asked to come in on a weird election day in an off-month to vote on whether kids get the resources they need to learn. 

The reason why this happens is simple – it allows Albany politicians to play political games every year with education funding (see, e.g., “Gap Elimination Adjustment”) and avoid any blowback. It permits Albany to pass along mandates and declarations, not provide statewide funding for them, and pass the expense on to the voters in a municipality. To add insult to financial injury, it makes the rubes vote on it, too. 

The span of time from 2008 – 2015 were disastrous for the school districts in the state that rely on annual budget plebiscite. The theft of anticipated state funding due to the global financial meltdown, and subsequent emergencies with respect to the teachers’ pension system created a perfect storm of financial problems borne by local taxpayers. The implementation of a wildly amorphous tax cap system complicated matters, and further hamstrung school districts’ ability locally to make up for lost state aid. 

While the burden weighed heavily on taxpayers and school district policymakers, the real aggrieved parties are the students themselves. When financial hard times hit, the immediate divestment was in non-mandated courses and programs. When that didn’t solve the problem, personnel were let go, meaning more crowded classrooms, loss of electives, loss of AP classes, loss of enrichment programs, and painful cuts in clubs, extracurriculars, and sports. Some districts found themselves cutting entire departments.

All of this harmed not just teachers, but primarily students. They don’t get a do-over when the emergency ends. It’s fundamentally unfair for kids to look forward to classes and programs that their older peers enjoyed, only to find that they’ve vanished by the time their turn comes to experience them. 

The Buffalo News’ takeaway from a reasonably uneventful school budget vote season was offensively cynical and appalling.

The problem is in the real concern that these victories are the product of union activism, including efforts by New York State United Teachers, which has been aggressive in its largely successful efforts to strangle progress toward education reform in New York…

…Now the local teachers unions, sometimes in conjunction with NYSUT, are angling to influence or control everything from the kinds of contracts they approve, how or if teacher evaluations are implemented and the way student testing is organized. It’s a clear conflict that holds the potential to undermine education in New York.

It wasn’t all bad news, as voters across Erie and Niagara counties approved the budgets with which they were presented. Much of that was no doubt based on New York State’s record increase in education funding this year – an action that raises its own difficult issues – but the fact is that when school budgets are defeated, they do little to lower costs while still managing to penalize students. It’s not automatically bad news that these school district budgets were approved, given the nature of the system.

But the troubling fact is that New Yorkers pay more for education, pupil for pupil, than any other state and, for that, get results that are only middling. So, when voters approve these budgets they are also, tacitly and maybe even reluctantly, supporting a system that is simultaneously abusing their bank accounts and failing their children…

…Voters and taxpayers should watch over the coming weeks and months to see how these new school boards perform. The key question will be: Where do their loyalties lie?

This sort of rhetoric is absolutely irresponsible. It makes sweeping and broad generalizations, and presumes that organized teachers would act against the interests of the children whom they teach. 

To break it down further, the act of voting against a school budget should, in theory, only be done by an informed electorate. Yet, that absolutely doesn’t happen. (Believe me. I’ve heard some of the most asinine arguments come out of the mouths and blogs of the loud and ignorant “no” contingent in my town.) Most school board meetings are sparsely attended in the suburban districts, unless there’s some specific draw, like “Redskins” or an award ceremony. The act of voting down a school budget should be done only in circumstances that demand it – a spendthrift board, declining graduation rates or other indicators of quality services, for example. Anyone who advocates for a “no” vote on a school budget, absent some dire emergency, is frankly acting against society and its betterment; against children and their one shot at an education. 

When the emergency came to my town, the board proposed a dramatic hike in the tax levy – not the rate, the levy. It was voted down. I disagreed with the “no” voters, but they at least had a legitimate point. Since then, every proposed levy has come in at or below the cap. In that case, you have no business voting down a budget when the levy hikes remain well within the historical inflationary pattern; you’re just being a vandal. 

But voting “no” to send a “message” to the district or to Albany about how schools are funded is so pointless as to be disgusting, ignorant, and harms no one but the students. If you want to change the system, you don’t do it on the backs of students and teachers, you do it through electing good people to go to Albany, where these decisions are made.

Let’s talk about the teachers, and how the News scapegoats them here; or, more accurately, shames them for having the audacity to fight for good pay, good benefits, and the best for their students. As a friend Tweeted, 

Seriously. The nerve.

The Buffalo News promotes and puffs its support for “education reform”.  This is a convenient euphemism for the expansion of quasi-public charter schools, more reliance on student testing as a barometer of teacher effectiveness, and for floppily-defined “accountability”. It assumes several things; that teachers are lazy, unmotivated malcontents, that all public schools are failing (or, as described above, “middling”), and that the greatest threat to education is the notion that public school teachers have no right to organize or bargain collectively with the boards of education that run their school districts. 

On the matter of charter schools, they operate outside the traditional public school rules, but rely on them for funding. They get to pick and choose the students they take, unlike traditional public schools, and teachers are seldom unionized or subject to union rules. These schools may have a useful purpose in a failing district, but they are wholly unnecessary in one that performs well; much less one that exceeds expectations. They are an emergency response unit; a last resort. 

Unions endorse political candidates all the time. When it comes to school district races, I don’t think unions expect anything more than a fair hearing and good faith. A lot of what I see from anti-public-education activists reveals that teachers can expect neither. Is an expectation of good faith and fair dealings too much for New York’s tested, certified, and degreed squadron of teachers to ask? The News thinks so, and this is succor to the vandals. 

Do New Yorkers pay more for education, per pupil, than other places? Yes, we do. We also outperform the majority of those places. If we’re looking statewide, a lot of that high cost can be ascribed to the cost in New York City – a notoriously expensive place. But why taint every district in the state as unreasonably expensive and “only middling”? This is fundamentally unfair and untrue. You lump in the inexpensive, excellent districts into that equation and that fuels the malcontents who think that teachers are overpaid with excessive benefits and don’t deserve any of it. When you have a cheap, good district is that “yes” voter “supporting a system that is…abusing their bank accounts and failing their children”? How shamefully irresponsible. Furthermore, it costs more to educate kids in distress, whether it be poverty, family instability, or special needs. Denigrate the cost of education, and you essentially declare it pointless to do what’s necessary to help our most vulnerable children. How heartlessly despicable can you get? 

Would it be too much to ask for the Buffalo News simply to exhort people to get involved in their school districts, attend board meetings, ask questions, demand accountability, and vote in such a way that reflects the realities of that district’s cost and performance?

I guess so. It’s much easier to simply scapegoat teachers and their union and paint every school as a wasteful failure. 

In New York, we remunerate our teachers better than other states. Consider, 

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and Décor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again…

The starting salary varies in New York district by district – in some places perhaps even lower than $39,000 – but a veteran teacher can make close to $100,000. Is that offensive? These are people with masters’ degrees and over 20 years’ experience; as the article says, they make 14% less than similarly situated people in the private sector. That’s why their benefits are better – to attract and keep motivated, bright people to deal with the first ten years’ worth of “middling” salaries before getting larger bumps in pay as they gain more experience. 

…every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They’re mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect.

Lack of support and respect. Even the Buffalo News perpetuates the myth of the teacher as a conniving, overpaid failure. How do you think the tea party will use that every May? The Buffalo News and the so-called “reform” advocates consistently rely on divestment from public schools and treating teachers more harshly – lower pay, demonizing the union, and reliance on test scores. While complaining about spending public money for public education, it completely misses the point of what we’re trying to achieve here as a society. 

If we want world-class schools and results that aren’t just “middling”, maybe divestment and demonization aren’t the best way to go

Imagine a novice teacher, thrown into an urban school, told to teach five classes a day, with up to 40 students each. At the year’s end, if test scores haven’t risen enough, he or she is called a bad teacher. For college graduates who have other options, this kind of pressure, for such low pay, doesn’t make much sense. So every year 20 percent of teachers in urban districts quit. Nationwide, 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year. The turnover costs the United States $7.34 billion yearly. The effect within schools — especially those in urban communities where turnover is highest — is devastating.

But we can reverse course. In the next 10 years, over half of the nation’s nearly 3.2 million public school teachers will become eligible for retirement. Who will replace them? How do we attract and keep the best minds in the profession?

People talk about accountability, measurements, tenure, test scores and pay for performance. These questions are worthy of debate, but are secondary to recruiting and training teachers and treating them fairly. There is no silver bullet that will fix every last school in America, but until we solve the problem of teacher turnover, we don’t have a chance.

Can we do better? Can we generate “A Plan”? Of course.

The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.

McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a minimum of $150,000.

So, what do we want? Do we want excellence? If so, are we prepared to pay for it? If excellence is the goal, are we prepared to re-invest in public schools as part of a nationwide educational Marshall Plan? We get the results we’re willing to pay for. The teachers and their unions aren’t the problem – we are the problem. Our trans-generational obsession with running things that aren’t businesses “like a business”, and our societal refusal to pay big bucks for things we need and use – like roads and schools, lead to “middling” results, rather than world-class ones. 

It’s high time the Buffalo News stopped scapegoating teachers while pushing its privatization agenda, when the solution to the problems it identifies are pretty much the opposite of what they propose. 

After all, the article I quote above that advocates for teachers to be treated less shoddily was written in 2011. We haven’t learned a thing in that time. That’s some poor educating on the part of our community voices and elected officials. 

This is serious stuff that affects kids’ lives in a very real and palpable way. It would be helpful if the Buffalo News’ editorial page treated education policy with thoughtfulness and respect, rather than half-baked, semi-informed tea party rhetoric. 

Chris Collins Calls Donald Trump a Liar


Building a wall along our border with Mexico – and getting Mexico to pay for it – is one of Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises, and his biggest applause line. He went so far as to explain that he would halt the flow of remittances to Mexico from the United States

The rounding up and deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants is another promise that Trump’s supporters really get behind, and the ovations keep coming. 

Donald Trump will end birthright citizenship, without which I would have been born a citizen of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, despite never having lived there. 

Trump’s indefinite, total ban of Muslims from entry to the United States is also one of presumptive GOP nominee’s big, bold, forward-thinking ideas for America. He now says it’s just a “suggestion”, but that’s got to be a lie. That proposal is right there on his campaign website. From Trump’s own statement, it is not temporary, but indefinite. The ban is not a suggestion, but a platform plank. He purports to make exceptions for his Saudi friends or the Mayor of London, but it says, “total and complete shutdown“. It would (a) apply to American citizens of the Muslim faith; (b) be pretty difficult to enforce – how do you tell if someone is Muslim? Their name? Their nationality? A modern interpretation of the works of Arthur de Gobineau

To my mind, if you are a lawmaker who has endorsed Donald Trump, you endorse all of these policies, positions, and proposals.  Every one of them. If you are, say, Representative Chris Collins (R-NY), then you have bought into all of this; you co-own it. This is especially true given his status as the co-chair of Trump’s “House Leadership Committee“, which is an irony and a misnomer if ever one existed. 

In the Buffalo News, Chris Collins – who has become Trump’s most high-profile Congressional puffer – Trump’s “man on the Hill” – is now attempting to do something quite elaborate and complicated that he should be wholly foreclosed from doing. He is trying to pretend that Trump’s controversial proposals aren’t real. They’re make-believe. Let’s hop on Trolley and see what King Friday has to say

Of the wall: 

I have called it a virtual wall. Maybe we will be building a wall over some aspects of it; I don’t know. 

Of the identification, detention, and deportation of 11 – 12 million men, women, and children: 

I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people. They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they’ve got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States, so there was a virtual deportation as they left that door for processing and came in this door. We’re not going to put them on a bus, and we’re not going to drive them across the border.

Of Trump’s indefinite, total ban on Muslim entry to the United States: 

[Collins] was encouraged that Trump recently said on Fox News Radio that his proposal for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration was “just a suggestion.” The congressman said that he disagrees with an overall ban on Muslim immigration and that he thinks Trump may have oversimplified his views on the issue to some extent. “When I hear the word ‘Islam,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean terrorist extremists,” Collins said. “It’s a religion. That’s me, and that’s why I say I don’t agree with the way he has said it.” Collins said he thinks that what Trump meant to say was that Syrian refugees who are undocumented and who can’t pass an FBI security check because of their lack of documentation should be banned until the FBI director can say they are safe to admit to the United States. “I disagree with his broad-based ban, but I am comfortable that this is what he really meant,” Collins said.

This is insanity. We are through the looking glass. Donald Trump has finagled for himself what is bound to be the Republican nomination for President in part due to his tough talk on Muslims and immigration, yet he doesn’t really mean it? It’s all “virtual“? This is such utter, unmitigated, unfiltered bullshit. 

Donald Trump doesn’t get the support and ovations based on “virtual” deportations out a Congressman’s door and back again with temporary work papers. Trump has sold these people the idea of an anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim pogrom, and by God, a pogrom is what these people want. Because the entire ethos of Trump’s campaign has been based on victimhood and resentment.

Collins brushed those differences away by basically saying he doesn’t look at Trump’s campaign promises as promises. They are, he said, merely the opening offers in a series of policy negotiations.

“Sometimes Donald says some absolutes,” Collins said. “And a CEO saying that means, ‘Challenge me on it. Let’s have a debate on it.’ … That’s Donald’s background. It’s not people hanging on every word, every nuance and saying that you can never modify what you said.”

Yes, but which CEO basically calls for the identification and rounding-up of 11 million men, women, and children, then detaining them in Arpaio-style camps near our Southern Border prior to deportation? Aside from costing half a trillion dollars, aside from it doing unnecessary harm to our GDP, and aside from it bringing about a humanitarian crisis of Biblical proportions, and aside from it being something not seen since 1945 in Northern Europe, (or 1995 in Southern Europe), and aside from the way in which the optics of this thing will absolutely destroy America’s standing in the world for centuries, what “policy negotiation” is all this meant to “open”? 

I suppose Collins realizes that this whole Trump thing isn’t a sure bet, and he wants to hedge a bit so it’s not too awkward when he bumps into a Muslim physician at the Spaulding Lake Club one warm summer evening. Perhaps Collins remembers that a lot of his constituents are farmers who rely a great deal on migrant labor – documented or not. Either way, you have a Presidential candidate who got where he is on domination politics and a contemporary version of the “stabbed-in-the-back” mythology. Just tell people that their misfortunes are the fault of Mexicans or Muslims or Chinese or Indians, and that we need to do something about the people who so took advantage of us. This is extraordinarily dangerous and ugly territory, but Collins is happy to hold Trump’s hand through it. 

Collins’ weak explanations and excuses don’t resonate quite like Trump’s plagiarism of Reagan’s “Make America Great Again”. 

In the end, either Trump is a liar, or Collins is a dupe – maybe both are true (probably). But the next time you hear some loudmouthed right-wing lunatic express admiration for Carl Paladino or Donald Trump, and their willingness to “say what everyone else is thinking”, remember this fundamental truth

The giveaway was this bit from Trump about [NYT Reporter Serge] Kovaleski: “He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.” That’s what Trump’s fans think is going on all over the place. The blacks, the Hispanics, the disabled, the immigrants, the poor: sure, they’ve got problems, but who doesn’t? They’re just making a big deal out of it in order to gain sympathy and government bennies that the rest of us have to pay for. And the worst part is that you know what everyone else is already thinking about this claptrap, but you get in trouble if you say it. Republican candidates have tapped this vein of resentment for years, but usually in coded ways that won’t get them in too much hot water. Trump just dives in. Other politicians may have paved the way, but it’s Trump who’s finally figured out how to turn it into electoral gold.

When Ballot Fraud was Treason


Here is an interesting news story from 2011

The coordinator of Western New York’s largest Tea Party Friday announced that a reward has been posted for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction in Erie County’s ballot tampering case.  

Local Tea Party coordinator Rus Thompson says a donor, who asked to remain anonymous, pledged to pay a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information which results in an arrest in the Buffalo ballot fraud investigation.  

It was revealed last week that a Democratic appointee to the Erie County Board of Elections tampered with at least ten absentee ballots in an attempt to affect the outcome of the County Executive race.  Sheriff investigators examined the case, but no arrests have been made.  

“A donor who asked to remain anonymous pledged to pay a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information which results in a bust in the Buffalo ballot fraud investigation,” said Rus Thompson, coordinator of Tea New York. “To me, ballot fraud is the same as treason and the Tea Party will not stand by to watch our rights erased by Democratic Party political hacks.”
Thompson goes as far as releasing a name of a potential suspect.

“The mainstream media so far has refused to name the Democrat who is under investigation, but we know it is lifelong Democratic Party activist Mark Galvin,” Thompson said. “It has also come to our attention that Galvin is the godson of Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan,”

Let’s pull the key quote from that: 

“To me, ballot fraud is the same as treason and the Tea Party will not stand by to watch our rights erased by Democratic Party political hacks”

Niagara Falls resident and Grand Island evictee Rus Thompson stands accused of ballot fraud. By his own logic, he is guilty of treason. But when he felt aggrieved in 2011, he called for an investigation. Now that he stands accused of voter fraud, he and his entourage wonder why the district attorney is troubling himself with these sorts of things

On another note, 

Taunting? Yes. Intimidating? No. Mocking. You are absolutely mockable, and you are a lawbreaker and a hypocrite. 

Rus Thompson Rejects Plea Deal


In 2015, Niagara Falls resident Rus Thompson found himself purged from the voter registration rolls on Grand Island. This is as it should be; it was done in October 2014 at his wife’s request, when she informed the Erie County Board of Elections that they had moved to Niagara County.

Yet, Thompson still wanted to vote in Erie County. After all, he had spent the better part of the year working to oust every elected Republican in Grand Island – including, but not limited to, former Supervisor Mary Cooke – and what’s the point of all that if you don’t have the right to vote? 

So, Rus Thompson voted in the 2015 primary election, the 2015 general election, and possibly in the 2016 Presidential election on Grand Island, a place where he hadn’t lived since he was evicted from his home there in the fall of 2014. When his name wasn’t in the book of registered voters, he filled out an affidavit ballot, swearing an oath tto God that he had been living at his Bedell Road address on Grand Island, “for at least 30 days before the election.”

Except, he hadn’t. He lied under oath; perjured himself. The oath very clearly states that the penalty is a fine and prison term. All of the relevant documentation is available here

Rus appeared before Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns today, where prosecutors offered him a plea down to false voter registration. Per the Election Law,

§ 17–104. False registration Any person who: 1. Registers or attempts to register as an elector in more than one election district for the same election, or more than once in the same election district; or, 2. Registers or attempts to register as an elector, knowing that he will not be a qualified voter in the district at the election for which such registration is made; or 3. Registers or attempts to register as an elector under any name but his own; or 4. Knowingly gives a false residence within the election district when registering as an elector; or 5. Knowingly permits, aids, assists, abets, procures, commands or advises another to commit any such act, is guilty of a felony.

Rus Thompson attempted to vote in a municipality where he didn’t live for any of the 30 days preceding the election. It’s a pretty clear violation of the law. Thompson can have his entire entourage show up and call this an improper witch hunt, but I find the tea party’s sudden disregard for anti-voter fraud laws amusing and ironic. 

Thompson is represented by top-shelf criminal defense attorney Tom Eoannou, whose bill is almost certainly being paid by Thompson benefactor Carl Paladino. Here’s what Eoannou told TWC News

“(He) Went to his polling place to vote in the primary as he always does. He went there, he was told his name was not on the voter registration. He used an old address so he could vote where he always has and chooses to vote. He’s now being prosecuted for that in the felony posture. This statue is seldom if ever used, we believe there are four of five reported cases since Susan B. Anthony in the 1850s who was prosecuted under this very statute.”

He used an “old address” to vote “where he always has and chooses to vote”. 

Why is Tom Eoannou setting forth to the media facts to establish that his client knowingly and intentionally committed voter fraud? It’s likely that there are few reported cases regarding Election Law § 5–210(6) because it’s black-letter law; there’s nothing controversial about it, and there’s nothing complicated about its plain language. You vote where you live. You register where you live. To vote in an election, you must have lived at the appropriate address for at least the preceding 30 days. 

Susan B. Anthony was tried for illegal voting in 1872 at a time when females were disenfranchised. The comparison is misogynistic in its falsity. Susan B. Anthony was fighting for a right to which she was entitled, but that government was denying her. Rus Thompson is not – was not – never has been disenfranchised. He lived on Grand Island for years, and had the vote.

As Carl Sandburg admonished, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

When he moved to Niagara Falls, there was absolutely nothing stopping Thompson from re-registering at his new address.  He was not denied the right to register in Niagara County. He was not disenfranchised in any way, except perhaps by his own laziness, stupidity, or criminality; maybe all three. 

Rus Thompson was going to ensure that he cast his vote for the liberal Democrat he endorsed for Grand Island town Supervisor in 2015, regardless of his eligibility to do so. His race was the Dyster election in Niagara Falls, not anything on Grand Island. He didn’t do it by accident; he did it knowingly and intentionally. He did it repeatedly. 

The matter now goes to the Grand Jury, where a panel of citizens will decide whether probable cause exists that Rus Thompson committed an election law felony. If indicted, Thompson can take a plea or take the matter to trial. All of the tea partiers who yell about how brown people need to show ID to vote in case they’re illegal or ISISMUSLIMS all of a sudden think voter fraud is no big deal.

To those who think that the prosecution of Rus Thompson for voter fraud amounts to political persecution, get over yourselves. Rus Thompson torches every political bridge he’s ever had – except the to Paladino’s wallet. He is as reviled on the right as he is on the left; perhaps more. He is a political wannabe who shit-talks people behind their backs while pretending to be an ally. His political batting average is straight-up Delta House zero-point-zero. He and his band of tea party Trumpistas traipse around the eastern seaboard flexing non-existent political muscle and lording it over the trained, paid aides who use math and science to get people elected, rather than Facebook posts and slogans scrawled on napkins. 

Rus Thompson repeatedly voted in a town where he hadn’t lived for a year. That’s a crime. If you want to say it should be treated like a misdemeanor rather than a felony, whatever. I don’t care. But don’t tell me it’s a politically-motivated witch-hunt lest you sound like an imbecile.

UPDATE: Apologist for people who lie under oath Carl Paladino appeared on WBEN Friday afternoon to make excuse after excuse for Thompson. The one he and the host most commonly went back to is Rus’ apparent side of the story: he went to vote on Grand Island in his usual spot (despite having moved away a year prior). Since he and his missus had been evicted, they were looking for a new place on Grand Island.

Rus figured he would go to his old polling place and go ahead and vote there because he’ll vote wherever the hell he wants to, like the Founders intended. Since everyone knows Rus there, and his name wasn’t in the book, and they figured he still lived on Grand Island (not everyone is up to speed on Thompson’s whereabouts and evictions), they told him to use an affidavit. So, he did. And everyone smiled and had a glorious time. The problem is that Rus didn’t live on Grand Island, and the elections inspectors would have had no reason to know that. He certainly didn’t seem to go out of his way to let them know, and the burden was on him to follow the law and tell the truth while under oath. 

Again – If you’re in court, he’s innocent until proven guilty. He may or may not be indicted. Maybe it’s something that should be treated as a misdemeanor. That’s all about giving Rus a break, because he’s saying he lied under oath out of stupidity or ignorance, rather than malice. The funniest part of the jihad that Carl and Bauerle declared on acting DA Flaherty is that Flaherty has been sniffing around to get the Republican line. 

All the while, Carl Paladino made a complete fool of himself on WBEN pining for the good old days of Frank Clark and Frank Sedita, when Erie County Districts Attorney didn’t bother to prosecute crimes involving violations of the election law. 

No, Carl. These prosecutions are exactly what we need, and they’re exactly what people – and good government – demand. For shame. 

Rus Thompson Accused of Voter Fraud


Rus Thompson is to Carl Paladino as Joe Percoco is to Andrew Cuomo. A confidant. A right-hand man. Rus Thompson and Carl Paladino are loudly and brashly supporting Donald Trump for President – Paladino is the statewide co-chair. Paladino has the support of Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy and lying liar of a Congressman, Chris Collins. Donald Trump is the bigot they’ve all selected to lead our great nation and the free world.

Let that sink in. 

Rus Thompson considers himself a mover and shaker in Erie County politics. The problem is, he doesn’t live here anymore; he doesn’t live on Grand Island anymore. He might be busy waging a vendetta in the press and courts with former Grand Island Supervisor Mary Cooke, but for what? He’s lived in Niagara Falls since about October 2014. 

On or about October 3, 2014, Rus’ wife, Julianne M. Thompson transmitted the following to the Erie County Board of Elections: 

Please remove us from the Erie County voter roles [sic] and from the ECBOE mailings. We are moving out of Erie County. Thank you. Julianne M. Thompson.

As it happens, they moved to the City of Niagara Falls in Niagara County. The problem is that Rus Thompson didn’t register to vote in Niagara Falls—he never has, to this day. In fact, he’s still registered at his old address on Grand Island in Erie County

Whether or not Jul Thompson had the legal authority to have her husband’s name removed from the voter registration rolls via the scribble shown above is irrelevant; it establishes when they left the county, and it appears that Mr. Thompson may have falsely attested to living at an address he no longer occupied as his residence. 

The state statute on voter registration is pretty clear. In order to vote, you must: 

  • be a United States citizen;
  • be 18 years old by December 31 of the year in which you file this form (note: you must be 18 years old by the date of the general, primary or other election in which you want to vote);
  • live at your present address at least 30 days before an election;
  • not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction and;
  • not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court;
  • not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

It’s the address part that’s tripping Rus up here. You don’t get to vote where you work; you vote where you live. If you change your address, and plan on voting at your new domicile, you should notify the Board of Elections as soon as possible, but at least about 20 days before an election.  If you want to keep voting in the town from which you’ve moved, that might be possible, but it’s illegal. It’s voter fraud, and it’s a felony. 

As of Wednesday May 11th, Niagara Falls resident Rus Thompson is registered to vote at an address on Bedell Rd. on Grand Island, in Erie County. 

Voter history indicates that he voted in the primary and general elections in Erie County in September and November 2015. It’s unknown at this time whether he voted in the Presidential primary. 

Thompson has told at least one media outlet that his alleged voter fraud isn’t his fault; that his name was mysteriously purged from the voter rolls. I think we’ve solved the mystery, because his wife clearly notified the Erie County Board of Elections to do exactly that in October 2014. 

Here is Thompson’s affidavit ballot, dated September 10, 2015, which he used to vote in the primary election: 

Here is the text of the very specific oath Mr. Thompson took: 

So, based on what we know, in 2015, Rus Thompson found himself purged from the voter registration rolls on Grand Island. This was done at his wife’s request in October 2014 when they moved to Niagara County. Yet he still wanted to vote in Erie County, and when his name wasn’t in the book, he filled out an affidavit ballot. The problem for him is that when you execute an affidavit, you are swearing an oath that certain things are true; in this case, that, Rus has “lived in the county, city or village for at least 30 days before the election.” He hadn’t. The oath very clearly states that the penalty is a fine and prison term. 

When we checked in mid-April, Rus and three twenty-somethings sharing his surname were still registered on Grand Island; one Conservative fusion, one Independence fusion, and one Republican. At that time, Jul Thompson was not found in a current voter database in either Erie or Niagara Counties. 

However, the fact that Jul is not registered to vote did not in any way impact her civic duty to campaign in and out of state for Donald Trump, or to circulate Conservative fusion Party petitions for Shelly Schratz. On those petitions, Mrs. Thompson gave an address on Lewiston Road in Niagara Falls. Interestingly, one of the aforementioned twenty-somethings, Abram Thompson, was the only person registered to vote at that Niagara Falls address. It is possible that there was some processing error in Mrs. Thompson’s enrollment/change of address, since it appears that the Niagara County BOE either never informed Erie County of Abram’s change of address, or more likely, Abram mistakenly registered as a new voter, and neglected to fill in the area asking if he had registered at another address previously).

It would tough for the Thompsons to chalk this up to a government conspiracy against them when representatives of both major parties oversee each board of elections, but that’s likely how they’ll play this. Already, Thompson is rushing the Paladino victimhood playbook. Regardless, you have 5 people at 2 addresses enrolled in as many as 3 different political parties. And this is after Rus’s history as being enrolled as a Republican, an Independent, a Conservative and as a Democrat (remember how he was going to primary Antoine Thompson?) There’s clearly some weirdness happening here. Also, TEA New York now operates out of a PO Box on Grand Island. (A PO Box also doesn’t establish residency, by the way). 

From TWC News

According to sources, Thompson moved from his Grand Island rental property to Niagara Falls. But when he voted in last November’s election, he filled out an affidavit ballot at his usual polling place on Grand Island and used his old Grand Island address, allegedly voting in a district where he did not reside. Thompson would not comment Wednesday, but said there is another side to this story and already there are some high-profile Grand Island residents coming to his defense.

The rules are that you have to have been a resident of the place where you are voting for the immediate preceding thirty days. If Rus Thompson was a Niagara County resident, at any point in the 30 days leading up to any vote, he had no right to do so on Grand Island, in Erie County. Furthermore, when you execute an affidavit ballot, you are swearing an oath to God that you are eligible to vote in that location; that you are eligible in every way, including but not limited to having been a resident for the past thirty days. 

On the Tea NY website, they link to the extreme right-wing organization, the “Oath Keepers”.  Rus Thompson appears to have violated an oath, which is ironic and hilarious. On their site, Thompson and his wife have posted no fewer than ten posts referencing voter fraud. (No links because that website once falsely accused me of having fraudulently manufactured Carl Paladino’s pornographic, bestiality, racist, misogynist, bigoted emails; Rus and Jul Thompson are despicable liars.) In one, he writes, 

We are now, as Carl Paladino says, focusing like a laser beam on single issues, and have determined the following to be our top priorities:

2nd Amendment Rights
Agenda 21
Voter Fraud

Just days after President Obama’s re-election, Thompson chalked it up to massive Soros/Obama voter fraud, 

No wonder the election result was “unbelievable.”
…because it can’t be believed.  Massive voter fraud and the numbers just don’t add up.

I eagerly await Rus and Carl’s expose on voter fraud and Agenda 21. What does Rus have to say about it all? 

Some houses are made from glass. Other houses are already surrounded by shattered glass. The past few weeks have brought about a cornucopia of allegations of criminality and breaches of public trust. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his corruption; former Republican Senate President Dean Skelos awaits his fate. The Buffalo Billion trudges along under a cloud of accusations of bid-rigging and corruption arising out of the contracting process. Governor Cuomo’s right-hand man, Joe Percoco is under investigation, as is a lobbyist with ties to the governor and various firms with Buffalo Billion contracts. Locally, there may or may not be a special grand jury looking into allegations of widespread corruption as it relates to political operatives and patronage. 

New York is a big state run by some very flawed people. I’m pleased when law enforcement swoops in to hold those in power truly accountable. 

But it’s not just the powerful – it’s also a problem with the wannabe powerful. 

And when actual scandal hits local Democrats – think back to Dennis Gabryszak – our local leadership demands their resignation. We’re not afraid to call out our own for their misdeeds. The Republicans, however, have no similar urge. 

Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, who sexually harassed a staffer, may choose not to run again, but she isn’t resigning. Hell, Langworthy can’t even bring up the guts to demand it. He refused to condemn her actions in any way, except to say it was something she needed to deal with on her own. No condemnation, no call for resignation, no demand that she not run again – just mealy-mouthed weasel words and silence. The same happened when Carl Paladino’s bigoted, pornographic emails came to light. The same will happen with tea party activist and indicted Niagara County resident Rus Thompson. They’ll say nothing; the Erie County Republican Committee simply lacks the courage or ethics to call out one of its own for corruption or misconduct; ever. 

Let’s also make another thing clear: when people like Rus Thompson call for an end to voter fraud, or the implementation of an ID requirement, it wouldn’t have made a difference in this case. Everyone knew who Rus was at his polling place; they just didn’t realize he was now a Niagara County resident. He appears to have lied under oath in order to vote where he used to live. 

Thompson was to be arraigned before County Court Judge Kenneth Case Wednesday, and the indictment against him unsealed. That didn’t happen; since Judge Case and Thompson are Facebook friends, the matter was transferred to Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns, and adjourned to Friday at 10:30. 

Rus Thompson and his wife accused me of something they know I didn’t do, and she wished she could “sue the pants off” me and get me to take a “lie detector test” over Carl’s emails. Whatever; that’s the thanks I get from these creatures after defending them and their motives when the Tea Party split in 2010. Yet, as far as the courts are concerned, Rus Thompson is innocent until proven guilty. He deserves his day in court, and he may get off for being stupid or lazy rather than malicious. 

That’s one hell of a political epitaph. 

Wozniak: Movin’ Out


(With Deep Apologies to Billy Joel)

Angela works as a legislator,
on ethics she hoped to make headway. 
Elias wouldn’t be bae anymore
So she canned him, that isn’t just hearsay
Bid adieu, Assemblywoman
You oughta know by now (You oughta know by now)
Now just make sure that your bags are packed. 
You’ve failed, and finished in Albany. 

It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up
Then I’m movin’ out
I’m movin’ out

Monica Wallace should be in that seat,
She’d be a real Albany mender. 
She wants to clean up all the scandals and the lies and deceit,
On ethics, she is a contender. 
For integrity and principle to come back-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack
You oughta know by now (You oughta know by now)
To get a broken entity back on track,
At least you can vote for, and send her. 

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.

Angela, like Dennis should resign-ign-ign-ign-ign-ign-ign-ign
She oughta know by now,
She can stay in her house in the summertime, 
The weather’s supposed to be sunny.
If that’s not what you have in mind,
If that’s what it’s all about,
Good luck movin’ up
‘Cause I’m moving out
I’m moving out

I’m moving out

Preetsmas: Grand Jury and Speculation

Web Image 2016-05-09 05-51-56

What’s a Grand Jury, Anyway? 

According to multiple sources, and as reported in the Buffalo News, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is expected to convene a “special grand jury” in connection with the allegations of criminality arising out of the raids that took place on May 28, 2015. 

Unless a defendant executes a waiver, any felony accusation must be presented to a grand jury for consideration. The grand jury, made up of 23 regular WNYers (16 are needed for a quorum), hear witnesses, consider evidence, and decide whether or not to indict, or may issue a “grand jury report”. A prosecutor oversees the proceeding – there’s no judge, and no defense attorney unless an accused is giving testimony.

An indictment means the grand jury has determined that (a) there is sufficient evidence – corroborated, if required by law – that the defendant committed the offense; and (b) through the review of competent and admissible evidence, the grand jury concludes that probable cause exists that a crime has been committed. The proceeding is generally held in secret, and a grand jury’s duties are purely investigatory; they do not determine guilt or innocence, but who shall be charged.

A special grand jury is convened to hear evidence regarding a variety of cases involving allegations of widespread illegality and misconduct, such as organized crime, drug activity, or corruption. It is unclear whether the special grand jury being contemplated for the Preetsmas incidents will be asked to indict, or to issue a report. If it issues a report alleging misconduct, nonfeasance or neglect in public office, the court may only accept it for filing if it is based upon facts “supported by a preponderance of credible and legally admissible evidence”, and only if everyone named had an opportunity to testify. 

Since the Attorney General is expected to convene a special grand jury, this will likely take a long time as the grand jury hears witness testimony and reviews reams of other evidence developed over the past year, and possibly more. This entire investigation has been a joint state/federal affair throughout, so query whether there may be some announcement from Bharara’s office. Although western New York is within Hochul’s purview, Bharara’s office has been handling all of the matters arising out of the defunct Moreland Commission. 

Rumor & Speculation

Former Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, one of the targets of the May 28, 2015 Preetsmas Day raids, is allegedly cooperating with law enforcement. Casey left his job at City Hall to head up the Scott Congel megaproject in West Seneca, and rumor has it that his attorney recently, abruptly stopped participating in coordination conference calls with the other lawyers involved in the case. 

It’s also being floated that anywhere from two to as many as five Supreme Court and Buffalo City Court judges may become entangled in this Preetsmas mess. 

Finally, a spy forwards these images of Steve Pigeon’s personal assistant, Kristy Mazurek, checking out of the Buffalo Hyatt this past week.

Mazurek was the former treasurer for the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, or AwfulPAC, whose allegedly improper activities and campaign finance irregularities brought the entire Preetsmas investigation about.

More recently, she accepted service of process of a lawsuit against Pigeon at the Humiston-owned apartment he was using at 1003 Admiral’s Walk.

Caputi v. Pigeon: Affidavit of Service by Alan Bedenko

That lawsuit arose out of Pigeon’s unwillingness or inability to consummate a deal to sell his own apartment in the complex at 704 Admiral’s Walk. Humiston has since sold 1003. 

Take a look at the Complaint, as well as the relevant Exhibits (A, B, C, D, E) and the Notice of Appearance of the U.S. Attorney to protect its interests regarding the almost $300,000 in federal tax liens filed against Mr. Pigeon for unpaid taxes. 

What’s up at the Hyatt? New post-Admiral Walk digs for the Pigeonistas? 

Esmonde’s Paladino Arc


Donn Esmonde is a hypocrite and an inveterate asshole who has no business ever using his fingers to type about school matters again. After being caught pimping charter schools operated by his close friends, or caught vilifying teachers’ unions, despite his wife being a former Buffalo schoolteacher and himself a former union member, his opinion is as worthless as a farthing. 

He now calls on Carl Paladino to resign from the Buffalo School Board. It would be a fitting, Palinistic resignation, but as one Twitter commenter opined, 

Indeed. Who would have thought. 

Donn Esmonde. Donn Esmonde thought and knew. 

He knew in 2013

Paladino’s blowtorch style and email history make this board a potential tinderbox. But I think he’s there for the right reasons. Expending his time and energy in the name of helping school kids – nearly 80 percent of whom are minority – doesn’t strike me as racist. But I think it would go a long way if he dropped the “sisterhood” condemnations.

He knew when he pimped James Sampson in 2013

Sampson was swept onto the board with Carl Paladino on a reformist tide. Paladino gets the press, Sampson – who co-founded West Buffalo Charter School – co-sets the reform agenda. He is as radical as the board’s resident rattlesnake, minus the fangs and venom. I am not a big fan of Paladino’s personal-attack style. But he, Sampson and a potential reform-majority board will force-feed change to a calcified district – and may doom its oddly detached superintendent, Pamela Brown.

He knew when he tried to make light of matters involving the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of Buffalo, 

Despite the absence of a Kardashian, this was another episode of “As the Board Turns.” African-American board members referenced “Selma.” Minority-bloc member Theresa Harris-Tigg claimed the majority is “treating children and parents as property, and we know from history where that went.” About a dozen spectators rose at one point and turned their backs to protest board majority’s tactics. A chant of “Shame” broke out after words were exchanged between majority board member Carl Paladino and School Board attorney Rashondra Martin, a black woman. The exchange prompted one black male in the audience to walk toward the board table, saying to Paladino, “You can’t talk to her like that,” and sparked the removal of several spectators by Buffalo cops.

A late-comer asked me if anyone had been led away in handcuffs. No. For better or worse, that’s a different movie – not “Selma,” but “50 Shades of Grey.” Although sitting through nearly four hours of boardroom theater felt at times like an exercise in masochism.

He knew in May 2015, when his vaunted “reform” majority acted like dictators

A my-way-or-the-highway creed may work at a private company, though I have my doubts. But it’s undeniably a bad fit for a public school board. It makes me wonder whether some of the board majority, particularly Paladino, are temperamentally unsuited for the job. I don’t doubt the developer’s passion or intentions. But Paladino’s bully tactics of demonizing anyone who disagrees with him, personalizing disputes and launching frequent email rants against an ever-shifting cast of targets is no way to win friends and influence people.

“They’re acting like bullies, the five of them,” said Jim Anderson of Citizen Action, the good-government group. “They need to learn how to play with others.”

I agree with much of what the board majority wants to do. But they can’t make decisions from on high – without consensus or collaboration – and expect parents, clergy and community groups to nod their heads and march in lockstep.

He knew when the board hired Kriner Cash as the new Superintendent. 

Ignore Carl Paladino – Like a tantrum-prone child, Buffalo’s mini-Trump isn’t easily tuned out. Let the board majority’s lightning rod kick, scream and rant. In Paladino’s bully-world, there are angels and devils, no in-between. As everyone from departed Superintendent Don Ogilvie to board President Jim Sampson discovered, you are the second coming until the first time you stray from Paladino’s extreme-reform party line. At which point the nitro-tempered developer launches an email assault and tries to get you voted off the island. Roll with it.

He knew. Donn Esmonde knew, but he promoted the simplistic privatization agenda of the “reform” bloc, which has now found itself transformed into a 3-person minority. Not necessarily because of the meritoriousness of its ideas, but also because of the dictatorial obnoxiousness of its most outspoken member; a vulgar, petty, man who casually utters racist and sexist nonsense in the name of not being “P.C.”, a man who deserves no elected office, no public trust, and no respect from the western New York community.

Donn Esmonde, who clearly doesn’t believe in public education, should never write about schools again. 

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