12th Day of Preetsmas: Schneiderman’s Remarks


Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a press conference in his Buffalo office Thursday afternoon to discuss the conviction of former State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek on corruption and bribery charges, and the arraignment earlier today of political operative G. Stephen Pigeon. 

Schneiderman expounded on the charges against Pigeon, and provided some more detail about underlying facts of the case, and Pigeon and Michalek’s allegedly corrupt relationship. Notably, a representative from the FBI confirmed that there also exists an ongoing, parallel federal investigation into Mr. Pigeon’s dealings – an investigation that hasn’t yet brought about any charges. Mr. Schneiderman also would not confirm or deny whether a special grand jury was considering any additional charges, but confirmed that the investigation is “ongoing”. He would not comment on whether any additional charges might be brought arising out of the underlying election law violations that gave rise to this investigation in the first place. 

Mr. Schneiderman would not identify the owner of the Sabres’ box Pigeon invited Michalek to use, nor would he identify the receiver from whom Pigeon demanded a “kickback”, because that person, in the end, was a victim himself. Schneiderman did let slip that this attorney had only been practicing law for a short time. A review of approved Erie County court receivers finds Mr. Pigeon is listed

The violation of public trust was something about which Mr. Schneiderman was obviously angry, and he said that every American should be outraged by these allegations. He said he believes in laws and in an independent, impartial judiciary, and that it is offensive to every American when a judge sells his office for cash and benefits. As to Michalek’s misdeeds, the Office of Court Administration has begun looking into cases that were assigned to him, and dealing with any evidence of impropriety through its own process. Mr. Schneiderman described the “scheme” concocted by Mr. Michalek and Pigeon as, “extremely disturbing” and “un-American”. 


12th Day of Preetsmas: Pigeon Arraigned


Political operative G. Steven Pigeon appeared in state Supreme Court in Buffalo Thursday morning before Justice Donald Cerio to be arraigned on an indictment alleging nine felony counts. Pigeon pled not guilty. 

The special grand jury that had been meeting in Buffalo for many weeks returned its sealed indictment on June 28th. Assistant Attorney General Susan Sadinsky from the Public Integrity Bureau unsealed and served the indictment on Pigeon and his counsel, Paul Cambria in court Thursday morning. 

The grand jury indicted Pigeon on bribery in the 2nd and 3rd degree, six counts of rewarding official misconduct in the 2nd degree, and grand larceny in the 3rd degree. If convicted, Pigeon faces a sentence of 15 years in prison on the grand larceny charge.

The charges are related to those that brought down former Supreme Court Justice John Michalek on Wednesday, but here it is alleged that Michalek appointed a Pigeon associate to a lucrative receivership, selecting an attorney of Pigeon’s choosing who was absent from a court list of qualified receivers. To secure the appointment, Michalek filed a document with the Office of Court Administration falsely claiming that he required that attorney’s expertise in handling that receivership. In turn, Pigeon is alleged to have committed grand larceny by extortion by illegally extracting a $5,000 “consulting fee” from the receiver who had refused to hire several of Pigeon’s “cronies.” 

In a press release, Attorney General Schneiderman characterizes the Pigeon-related corruption inquiry as “ongoing.”

Assistant AG Sadinsky sought that Judge Cerio impose $25,000 bail to secure Pigeon’s future attendance in court, citing his penchant for international travel and the seriousness of the charges. Cambria argued that Pigeon vehemently denies the charges, and that Pigeon is not a flight risk due as evidenced by his presence in court today, his law license, and his ties to the community. Judge Cerio imposed $10,000 cash bail and $25,000 bond, which Pigeon arranged for immediately after the arraignment. Motions will be heard in mid-September.

Afterwards, Cambria addressed the press and indicated that he was not aware of any ongoing law enforcement inquiry into the matters that led to the Preetsmas raids of May 28, 2015

Former Assistant District Attorney Mark Sacha, who is running for the office this year, also addressed the press. Sacha was disappointed that none of the underlying election law violations that led to the 2015 raids were being pursued, and confirmed that some of them were still ripe for prosecution. He suspects that political concerns are playing a role in letting those charges go. 

Schneiderman will be in Buffalo this afternoon to address the press and provide an update as to the status of these corruption investigations. 

Courtesy of WGRZ, here is the text of the indictment against Pigeon: 

Pigeon Indictment by WGRZ-TV

District Attorney candidate John Flynn issued the following press release: 

Today’s indictments are exactly the reason community members and leaders from both law enforcement and the legal profession asked me to run for Erie County District Attorney.

Over the past several years, allegations of illegal campaign finance schemes and transactions were brought to then Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita and First Deputy District Attorney Mike Flaherty.  Both looked the other way when it came to Steve Pigeon for one reason: he was their political ally.  Obviously NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman thought there was enough evidence to investigate the complaints and as a result found extensive criminal behavior which was outlined in court over the last two days.

Steve Pigeon and other bad actors could have been stopped years earlier, and crimes prevented, if only Mike Flaherty and the DA’s office had taken an interest in political corruption.

It is time for a change in the DA’s office.  Today’s indictment combined with the fact that Steve Pigeon associates are running Mike Flaherty’s campaign are reason enough why Flaherty is not a credible candidate for Erie County District Attorney.  As District Attorney, I will follow the evidence wherever it leads and work to restore confidence by changing the culture of the DA’s office, and taking politics out of the decision making process.

On the 12th Day of Preetsmas


Unc Steve, how’d you do with the Gov???? – former Supreme Court Justice John Michalek asking G. Steven Pigeon about his efforts to help Michalek ascend to the Appellate Division, 4th Department

Bombshells fell on Buffalo’s legal and political circles Wednesday when it was announced that Supreme Court Justice Michalek would plead guilty to charges relating to bribery and filing a false instrument, and that former Erie County Democratic Chairman and Pedro Espada patronage hire G. Steven Pigeon would appear in court on similar allegations on Thursday. 

On May 28, 2015, state and federal law enforcement executed search warrants at the homes of Pigeon, former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Chris Grant, former chief of staff to Congressman Chris Collins. The raids stemmed from allegations of campaign finance illegalities arising out of a failed political committee run by Assembly candidate Kristy Mazurek in 2013 called the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, or as I call it, “AwfulPAC”. (Click this link to see the complete compendium of Preetsmas/AwfulPAC posts since 2015).

Since then, Western New Yorkers have wondered what was going on with this investigation, especially as the statute of limitations for campaign misdemeanors came and went. We now have part of the answer: The first domino to fall will be Judge Michalek, a well-regarded straight-shooter of a judge. A huge cache of emails from Pigeon’s computers revealed a scheme to engage in bribery

State prosecutors will contend that an “understanding” existed between Michalek and Pigeon that the judge would engage in “official misconduct which advanced Pigeon’s interests,” according to the source who is familiar with the felony charges. The charges will accuse Michalek of “accepting and agreeing to accept benefits from Pigeon,” the source said.

In exchange for Pigeon’s help in finding jobs for two of Michalek’s relatives, and Pigeon’s help recommending Michalek for a seat on the Appellate Division of the 4th Department in Rochester, Michalek would make rulings on cases that were favorable to Pigeon’s interests, and went so far as to have Pigeon appointed referee on an Amherst foreclosure, which would have netted Pigeon a few hundred dollars. 

Here, it should be noted that it was Pigeon’s once supposedly tight relationship with Governor Cuomo that likely would have prompted Judge Michalek to reach out for help getting an “App Div” appointment in 2012, and Pigeon responded, “I will start talking u up.”  

According to one of the seized emails, Michalek assigned Pigeon to work on a foreclosure, with more emails between Pigeon and Michalek illustrating the judge’s official misconduct and the benefits that Pigeon provided to the judge and his family members, the source said.

In March 2012, Michalek emailed Pigeon regarding a lawsuit pending before him, providing Pigeon with nonpublic details concerning a motion filed by a nonparty to the litigation seeking a protective order from a subpoena served by one of the parties, the source said.

In a written decision issued about two weeks later, Michalek denied the motion for a protective order, just as Pigeon had requested. Michalek then sent Pigeon an email with a copy of the decision attached and thanked Pigeon for “his efforts” on behalf of his first relative looking for a job, the source said.

Pigeon responded by email a short time later with an offer of additional assistance to the relative.

Small potatoes stuff—this is the political equivalent of nabbing Al Capone on tax evasion. But it’s a start, and we’ll wait and see what’s in the Pigeon indictment, and whether Schneiderman might have more cases still left to unpack. 

While at first blush a lot of this seems like just a guy helping his buddy’s relative get a job or two, there are concrete allegations that there was a series of quids pro quo between Michalek and Pigeon—at least enough to get them both disbarred. This is the tip of a massive iceberg—think of all the petty corruption you suspect or know about that never gets reported, much less prosecuted. Michalek has pled guilty, so it’s safe to say that Michalek agreed to manipulate the outcome of cases before him in exchange for the use of whatever influence Steve Pigeon might have had at the time regarding a handful of jobs and patronage appointments. 

A sitting Supreme Court Justice just pled guilty to two felonies related to bribery, and will be sentenced in late September. He is cooperating with law enforcement, and Steve Pigeon is next to appear in court regarding charges arising out of the same set of facts—possibly more. 

Query why then-DA Frank Sedita didn’t pursue the complaints made by his deputy Mark Sacha around 2009, or the AwfulPAC allegations in 2013. 

It looks like Preetsmas is finally here, and that there’s quite obviously much more to come. And it’s been a long time coming. 

Here, courtesy of WGRZ, is the text of the indictment against Michalek. 

Michalek Indictment – From New York State Attorney General’s Office by WGRZ-TV

Williamsville Gets Defensive


I received word over the weekend that food trucks were having a tough go of it in Williamsville. A proposed statute had been crafted that would have imposed very heavy fees and untenable restrictions on food trucks, effectively banning them from operating in the Village of Williamsville, which is a separate taxing entity overlapping the towns of Amherst and Cheektowaga. 

I wrote about it here. Actually, I essentially re-crafted correspondence that the food trucks’ lawyer had sent to the Village, objecting to many of the proposals. The goal was merely to inform the public about the completely outrageous restrictions and rules being proposed in Williamsville, and to criticize them. I did not attack – by name or otherwise – any specific public official. 

Based on the reaction from three of the Village’s elected officials, you’d think I had insulted all of their mothers. 

Here is a comment from the Village’s attorney, Chip Grieco: 

First, by way of disclosure, I am the attorney for the Village. I realize this is an “opinion” piece and not a “news” article, but its important to point out that this is little more than a re-print of piece written by the attorney for the food truck association. While the author has every right to agree with the association attorney, as a journalist (as well as a lawyer, by the way) he might have wanted to at least reach out to someone at the Village or done a modicum of research before parroting these mischaracterizations.

I’m not a journalist, nor am I a lawyer representing any party in any case. I helped the food trucks fight similarly short-sighted proposed restrictions in other municipalities in the past, and am happy to help them earn the right and ability to safely and fairly ply their trade in the Village of Williamsville – a right that was at risk, based on the draft proposal. Because this is commentary, and because everything I wrote was accurate, there was no need to contact village officials. There are 44 cities, towns, and villages in Erie County, and these food trucks need to go through this costly and time-consuming process in each and every one of them in which they wish to operate. In some towns, trucks need to deal with a village government that is contained within one or more towns. 

Kevin Gaughan made a thing of this a decade ago with “the Cost”. At that time, he explained how much village governments and redundant taxing districts cost Erie County taxpayers. At the time, Buffalo had 45 local governments employing 439 elected officials. The Baltimore area, which had 77% more people, had 3 local governments with 95 elected officials.  

Williamsville did not re-write the script, and the draft local law is, substantively, nearly identical to the Town of Amherst’s law (which law does not and cannot cover the Village) in terms of application procedures and permit restrictions (except that draft the Village law stripped away the protectionist provisions and expanded the permissible hours of operation). With respect to the supposedly nefarious Myaor’s permit, the author may have wanted to take the 10 minutes of free online research it would have taken to learn that virtually all non-building code permits and licenses are issued by the Mayor under the Public Order Chapter (Ch. 73) of the VIllage Code. Why is that? Because New York State Village Law Section 4-400(1)(m) designates the Mayor as the “licensing officer” of the Village and authorizes the Mayor to “issue all licenses” in the Village. The law allows the Mayor to designate the Village Clerk as the licensing offer, but it is not the least bit unusual (and certainly not improper) for a Village Mayor to serve this statutorily-conferred role. And there is clearly a good reason for the “licensing officer” of the Village to retain discretion to ensure that the locations at which food trucks operate are safe, particularly in a highly coingested area such as Main Street in the Village of Williamsville. Another 5 minutes of online research would have also answered the author’s other critiques regarding enforcement and penalties. Chapter 1 of the Village Code clearly provides that, unless otherwise provided, all violations of the code are punishable by a fine of up to $250, imprisonment of up to 15 days, or both.

This is all a very important recitation of Village law, and the problem with discretion is that it can be abused, and any such abuse is only rectified through costly court action. According to the Buffalo News, the Village “opted out” of Amherst’s law, implying that there was a choice there. If the News is right, then the Amherst law can cover the Village, it just chose not to. But either way, the Village could have simply duplicated Amherst’s already-extant statute and simply offered trucks the predictability and uniformity they sought. Mr. Grieco’s snark seems misplaced, but speaks volumes.  

It may be true that village mayors can issue permits for yard sales and bonfires, etc., but it is essentially unprecedented and untenable for any one elected official to retain potential veto power over a business. It’s my understanding that at the public hearing held Monday night, the fee process will be revamped, the inspection scheme will be streamlined, and the Mayor will evidently issue the annual permit once those criteria are objectively met, without the possibility of arbitrary denial. Also, it appears that the proposed $50 fire prevention fee will now instead be a no-fee notification requirement that trucks fill out a form alerting the Village as to when they’ll be operating in the town. This would provide notice to fire and police services, and ensure that trucks aren’t conflicting with block parties or major events like Old Home Days.

One wonders why that sort of thing wasn’t included in the first draft, instead being a compendium of wild ideas proposed in some cases by individuals, businesses, or groups with overt hostility towards food trucks. 

The Village “Code Enforcement Officer” (crazy, right?) enforces violations of the Village Code. Amherst Police enforce violations of State law (including the V&T law) or other laws of general applicability. Last point, this is a DRAFT law, and Village welcomes input from interested persions. That is how the process is supposed to work.

No one was assailing the process. I was criticizing the substance of the proposal. But it’s notable that Mr. Grieco and Mayor Brian Kulpa (see below), opted so vigorously to defend the process, because the substance of the proposed law was apparently as indefensible as I suggested on Sunday; little more than a compendium of redundant or dumb ideas. But what of the process, now that you mention it? Perhaps it might be as flawed as the substance? Sure, the food trucks and their attorney reached out to me because they believed that they were being treated unfairly and were under assault. Monday night’s meeting went differently in part because of the efforts of people defending the food trucks, who seem to run into similarly ignorant battles with local leaderships throughout our myriad and sundry taxing districts in the region. 

A village in a region with a recent history of population shrinkage needs its own code enforcement officer, given that said village is almost wholly enveloped by a town whose own government has its own codes and its own code enforcement officer. What a chronic waste of money and effort. 

Village of Williamsville Deputy Mayor Chris Duquin had this to say, 

The Williamsville Village Board laid on the table legislation to regulate food trucks that contained a lot of provisions, inspections and fees, why? Because we wanted public input from residents, food truck owners and business in the Village about how to best protect public safety. This is exactly what government should do! In an open and transparent way we laid legislation on the table for public comment. We will listen again tonight to that public comment and will keep the public hearing open for even more public comment in the future. At some point, when we feel that we have heard allinterested parties we will deliberate in public and decide on how to best protect public safety in the Village of Williamsville. The Village board does NOT regulate commerce. We clearly understand this and will not include anything in the final legislation (unlike Amherst that tries to regulate commerce by having distances from brick and mortar restaurants, which is clearly illegal.) To be vilified in the article is disappointing. To suggest that we have not studied the City of Buffalo and Town of Amherst law is ridiculous. To suggest that we are in any way trying to protect our restaurants or stop competition in 100% false. The Village of Williamsville board is one of the most progressive in the region. We are open and transparent in everything we do. We understand that operating in this way opens us up to people with their own agendas disseminating patently false information. We will continue to live with the haters misinforming the public. Everyone is welcome to come to the Village Board meeting tonight at 7:30pm and tell us how you think we should protect public safety in the village through reasonable legislation. And when we finally approve legislation we will hope that all those that clouded a real exercise in in open government will report fairly on what we approve. – Chris Duquin, Deputy Mayor

LOL agendas. What do you think my “agenda” is, exactly? I’ll answer that: my agenda is “Lloyd’s should have the ability legally to sell tacos from a designated public parking spot, subject to reasonable fees, inspections, and time, place, and manner restrictions”. That’s my agenda, and I use Lloyd’s only as an example – the same should be true for every food truck. Quite literally anything that deviates from that simply stated “agenda” is nonsense and surplusage. It doesn’t matter how open and transparent you are if the end product is illegal, odious, or excessive. It doesn’t matter if the deputy mayor demeans criticism from denigrated “haters”, or hurls accusations of misinformation. In the end, no one said that what I wrote about the substance of the proposed statute was false – only that it was part of a “process” on which I was “hating”. 

All of this overreaction smacks of either personal animus or Williamsville considering itself to be some special geographical snowflake; that it can protect its public in a way that Amherst or Buffalo won’t or can’t. Incidentally, I don’t know whether it is illegal for municipalities to require food trucks to be a certain distance from brick and mortar restaurants – it hasn’t been tested in the courts in New York that I’m aware. But Amherst and Buffalo have this as part of their statutes, and the trucks go along with them (as long as they’re reasonable) because it’s fair, and they don’t want to be accused of poaching business from a restaurant, choosing instead to coexist peacefully with them. 

As for the bleating about openness and transparency, that’s all very laudable, of course, but it doesn’t justify or legitimize stupid provisions contained in a proposed law. So, we turn to the Village Mayor, Brian Kulpa, who engaged me on Twitter. Note the bit where he accuses me of playing “I got you”, which I wasn’t doing. Funny, given his colleagues’ condescending snark.  

On Monday Williamsville held a public hearing on the proposed food truck statute described in my piece last weekend. I wasn’t there, but apparently my name came up in the work session prior to the public hearing. Kulpa complained to Village Trustees that he and others spent a good portion of the morning having to, “set Alan Bedenko straight on Twitter”. I’m glad that my article had that impact, highlighting the Village’s proposed law and the ways in which it was unfair, onerous, and untenable. That’s why just about all of the most objectionable items will not exist in whatever follow-up statute is crafted. The earliest that the Village will vote on that won’t be until late July. Amazing, though, that I needed to be “set straight” although I accurately described what the Village was contemporaneously proposing. 

I re-read my original piece to see what I might have written that would have engendered such vituperous reaction from no fewer than three of Williamsville’s elected officials. When not offering condescending lectures about obscure laws governing redundant taxing strata, they were adamant about the fairness of their open government and transparent process. I guess here, the Village talks about it, then proposes a codification mirroring the demands made by people who voted to advocate for a ban on food trucks, then talk about it some more. Let the people decide and deliberate everything, and government merely acts as scribe and wind vane.

The only people playing “I got you” here are employed by the Village. Use whatever process you want, but when the resulting work-product is garbage, don’t be surprised when people complain. 

Williamsville vs. the Food Trucks


In 2012, the battle over the legalization of food trucks in the City of Buffalo was joined, and an uproar from average citizens helped prompt the city’s leaders to codify reasonable regulations that protected the rights of truck owners and brick & mortar restaurateurs alike. It came down to a fair fee and inspection protocol, and reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on truck operations. 

The trucks are now engaged in a similar battle in the Village of Williamsville, and the proposed ordinance there is outrageous in its inequity. The proposed local law, which was the subject of a June 13th public hearing, would dramatically change what already exists within the town of Amherst, in which most of Williamsville is situated. While Village representatives suggest that their proposal is, “the same as the Town of Amherst, but without the proximity restrictions,” its licensing and fee requirements are more onerous, and the location where a truck can operate is left to the sole discretion of the village’s mayor. The Village proposal differs vastly from the Town’s ordinance in several respects — in particular regarding the licensing process, the annual fees charged by the municipality, and the apparent sole discretion of the Mayor of Williamsville in determining who, when and — presumably — where food trucks may operate within the Village.

Amherst charges an initial fee of $400 for the first truck, and $200 for every additional truck, and renewal is $200 per year. Originally, the town wanted to charge $500, and the food trucks objected; after all, the fifty largest metros in the country charge around $50 to $250 per business (not per truck). The license fee should technically cover a municipality’s cost of operating its licensing and inspection scheme – not a new revenue source. 

Williamsville, however, proposes an annual registration fee of $200 per truck (not per business), plus a $50 “fire prevention permit fee per event on private property”. At the Village’s public hearing, Ms. Rebecca Donahue of SS. Peter & Paul Church noted that a food truck operating weekly on their private property over the summer would pay upwards of $650 of weekly fees — in addition to the annual fee of $200 — for a gross Village fee of at least $850 for only three months of operation—not including the additional $200-$400 annual Town of Amherst fee.

Yet food trucks undergo—and must pass—fire inspections, so this $50 per private event fee is redundant and unjustified. It serves simply to deter trucks from operating on private property, and is a naked money-grab. As it happens, the trucks that serve tacos and burgers on Church property kick back 10% of their gross receipts to the church. The Village’s outrageous fee scheme would harm this—and other—charitable organizations. 

But that’s not all. Williamsville is also proposing that trucks pay a “Mayor’s Permit Fee as determined from time to time by the Village Board of Trustees.” Food truck require and deserve some predictability of costs, and this merely acts as a threat of additional, arbitrary fees and taxes to be imposed on these businesses. There is no rational basis for such a provision in any statute. 

Amherst and Buffalo—indeed, most food truck laws—require that payment of the fees and passage of inspections entitles an operator to a license to operate, issued by the town clerk. Williamsville, however, would empower its mayor to issue the license at his sole discretion. Furthermore, the village permit would require the applicant to specify where it intended to operate, a silly requirement for a mobile vendor. In every other jurisdiction, licensed and inspected food trucks may operate wherever they can obtain a legal parking spot, within the bounds of DMV regulations and any codified local time and proximity restrictions. 

Williamsville’s proposal is vague and subject to arbitrary application, and certain Williamsville businesses opposing food trucks argue that these mobile vendors be prohibited from working on public streets, or be permitted only in certain designated spots, or in rear parking lots. This isn’t based on any rational health and safety argument, but merely an attempt by brick and mortar restaurants to punish and restrict food truck operations. 

It was argued that Main Street in Williamsville is too congested to allow for food trucks to operate, yet food trucks have operated for years on Main, Allen, Hertel, and Elmwood in Buffalo, and on far more congested streets in bigger cities throughout the country. These arguments are false on their face. The Buffalo experience is instructive here—the city has reduced the initial and renewal fees for trucks, and the food truck scene has a dynamism that a Williamsville should seek to emulate. 

The Williamsville Board of Trustees’ sole function is to pass legislation that protects the health and safety of its constituents without unduly regulating or favoring one form of business over another.  The Williamsville Business Association is publicly lobbying to ban food truck operations on Main Street as well as on all other public streets in the village. The village wants trucks to undergo a separate inspection and purchase a separate fire inspection permit, but all of them are registered with the state, most with the DOT, they must meet all applicable safety regulations, and undergo extant health, safety, and fire inspections in contiguous, surrounding, and overlapping jurisdictions. Williamsville should either honor those identical certificates, or include the cost of any duplicate inspections within the permitting cost, rather than adding a separate fee. Furthermore, the village doesn’t specify who will enforce its code, or what the penalties for non-compliance might be. 

Regulating food trucks isn’t a new thing anymore, and Williamsville doesn’t have any need to re-write the script. If it feels the need to duplicate the towns within which it is situated, then it should simply do so, and rather than institute punitive regulations, it should do the minimum required to ensure residents’ health and safety. 

Ex Multis Telis Telum


It took the mass murder of twenty 1st graders and a handful of their teachers, aides, and administrators in an elementary school in Connecticut to prompt New York State to react and pass the NY SAFE Act. Having not “grabbed” anyone’s guns, it’s now known mostly for rural and suburban lawn signs demanding its repeal. After its passage, 2nd Amendment absolutists wailed, but the same Supreme Court that declared that individuals have a right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment has also consistently held that the right is not unlimited or unrestricted. Recently, the NY SAFE Act’s Constitutionality was affirmed when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the 2nd Circuit

Specifically, the 2nd Circuit upheld New York’s ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. It also upheld Justice Skretny’s District Court decision striking down the part of the law prohibiting people from loading more than 7 rounds into at 10-round magazine. 

After Orlando, there were many arguments over the semantics of “radical Islamic terror” because the murderer was a Muslim who supposedly pledged “allegiance” to the Islamic State. It got so stupid that when the FBI released redacted transcripts of his 911 calls from the murderer during the shooting, people howled because the omitted words dealt with his calls for jihad and other nonsense. The FBI explained that they were being sensitive to the victims’ families on the one hand, and reluctant to publicize the shooter’s own ridiculous propaganda, on the other. Nevertheless, it became the morning’s mini-scandal and the FBI relented, and the shooter’s words are now available to all, as he wished and intended. 

Others argued that this was a religious problem and not a gun control problem, but how could that be true? After 9/11, we didn’t just put in place the Patriot Act, we completely overhauled our air travel security system, requiring armored cockpit doors, hiring air marshals, creating the TSA and tightening security for air travel. There have only been about 14 hijackings of aircraft since 2001, and none of them were on American carriers or over American airspace. It was a jihadist issue and also an aircraft security issue. 

Likewise, our easy retail access to arsenals have not merely enabled twisted jihadists to commit mass murder. Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, San Ysidro – none of them involved anything resembling the magic words, “radical Islamic terror”. It’s not just an issue involving the shooters’ intentions – it also involves their ability to carry out their mass murder. 

Radical Islamic terrorism – or whatever you want to call it – is a very serious problem, but not the only one. It’s not just a issue of intent, but also of logistics. It is perverse how easy we make it for lunatics of any faith or ethnicity to commit quick, efficient mass murder. Members of Congress have attempted to introduce the following in recent weeks: 

  • Californian Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed an amendment whereby the attorney general could refuse a gun sale to anyone if there is a “reasonable belief” that the prospective purchaser was likely to be a terrorist. This would not just apply to people on the no-fly list, but to anyone on a terrorist watch list maintained by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. 
  • Texan Republican Senator John Cornyn proposed a requirement that law enforcement is alerted if anyone on a terror watch list attempted to buy firearms from a licensed dealer. If the purchaser had been investigated for terrorism in the preceding five years, the sale could be blocked for at least 3 days. 
  • Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, proposed legislation – again – that would close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check, and to expand the background check database.

I don’t know what the “armored cockpit doors” solution is to our gun problem, but doing nothing at all isn’t working. Neither psychopaths nor terrorists have a 2nd Amendment right to own a firearm.

To suggest otherwise is tantamount to defiantly committing national suicide. 

The Obscenity of Chris Collins


Representative Chris Collins (NY-27), a prominent Trump campaign surrogate, appeared on WBEN’s morning show on Tuesday to react to the massacre of patrons at an LGBT club in Orlando. 

Listen as he assails Democrats for “politicizing” this massacre, and then in literally the next breath, gets in a plug for Donald Trump. When asked whether the mass murder by a madman armed with a handgun and an AR-15 might lead to tighter restrictions on gun ownership, Mr. Collins replied

“No…it’s actually quite shameful. Our president politicizes every tragedy with a suggestion to Americans that some sort of gun legislation to take away Americans’ second Amendment rights would stop this from happening, and that’s just not truthful. In fact, it’s an outright lie. When you think about it, this was a security guard who obviously had weapons, and it…anything that the President would have suggested, this person still would have had his weapons, and unfortunately the tragedy still would have occured.  We should be focused on the root cause, which in this case is ISIS – it’s Islamic terrorism, it’s those who don’t respect America’s way of life, who hate women, who hate gays, and hate America.  And that’s the difference you saw yesterday – we need to identify the enemy – it is ISIS, we need to take the fight to them and we shouldn’t try to divide America, and especially suggesting that there’s some sort of law we could pass that would stop ISIS, whether this was a lone wolf or not, from attacking Americans. So, I was very … not pleased at all with the response of the President, Hillary Clinton, or Chuck Schumer, who yet again are politicizing tragedy.

I will say this – I think there’s a lot of Americans waking up this morning saying, who’s going to keep me safe? Who’s putting America first? And in fact that is Donald Trump, I think this could be a bit of a turning point as people are focused not only on jobs and the economy, but they’re focused on their own safety, and I think Americans know who the enemy is, and it’s not the Republican Party. So I was yet again disappointed, and that’s just a mild adjective, in the President, and certainly Hillary Clinton, but I wasn’t surprised…they politicize every tragedy, and it’s shameful. 

Notice the bolded text. I was worried there for a moment that Chris Collins couldn’t assail the politicization of an LGBT hate crime while simultaneously politicizing it by attacking – by name – President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Chuck Schumer. I was concerned for a moment that Collins wouldn’t have found the political upside for Donald Trump in the mass murder in an LGBT club. But, dang it, he did it. That’s some class-A surrogateship, right there. Use 49 lives to attack Obama, Clinton, Schumer, and the Democrats while puffing Trump. Kudos. 

The next question from the WBEN morning zoo mentioned that it was Trump’s birthday, and queried whether it was a good idea that Trump wants to somehow suspend immigration from places where there is terrorism. (Like, apparently, Orlando and San Bernardino).

A little common sense – sometimes we wake up in the morning and our heads bob up and down, say, “yup” – that’s common sense. When the director of the FBI cannot certify that these people immigrating from these dangerous parts of the world where ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations are operating, you’re darn right, it’s time to put America first, keep America safe, our fallback position should be, we’re gonna keep America safe until our intelligence people can tell us the folks coming into our country are, in fact, who they say they are, or they are not a risk to Americans, and I think most Americans would say, it’s about time we put America first. 

I’m not quite sure why no one’s being specific, and mentioning that this discussion is about the humanitarian crisis of millions of Syrian refugees escaping a protracted civil war being waged by terrorist organizations against an authoritarian dictatorship. I suspect the focus groups indicate that keeping it all vague and abstract allows people to forget the human scope of what’s happening. 

Finally, a question whether Mr. Collins has heard from constituents regarding the tightening of gun restrictions. 

Oh, I hear from people all the time, and they’re all saying much of what I’m saying, as well. We know who the enemy is, and the leader – in this case the President – should be identifying and focusing all our efforts on defeating ISIS, and we have a President who won’t even use the terms, “radical Islamic terrorist”, and that distracts all of us from focusing with one laser focus on the enemy, and so – we saw this coming, there was actually disruption on the House floor yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the Democrats actually disrupted the entire House floor because right then and there they wanted to start a debate on gun control yet again, it’s very disrespectful, and – you know – our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, but here we’ve got the Democrats – and let’s face it, that’s what it is – trying to politicize yet another tragedy, and that’s shameful. 

Thanks in large part to the President, ISIS’ territory in Syria and Iraq has shrunk, they’re on the run, and they are significantly weakened. As I noted in this column, the phrase, “radical Islamic terrorist”, which Mr. Collins claims a deep need to have the President repeat verbatim, has no magical properties. It’s not like saying, “Beetlejuice” three times. He knows it, too – without prompting, he attempts to explain that phrase’s significance, and the best he can do is say that Obama’s failure to utter it, “distracts all of us” – himself included, presumably – from “focusing with one laser focus on the enemy.” 

What that means is that until and unless Barack Hussein Obama (get it?) utters the phrase, “radical Islamic terrorist/m” Chris Collins and our military and House Republicans just can’t get the laser to focus on ISIS or al Qaeda. It’s a dramatically weak, stupid, and pathetic argument. A 4th grader could do better. 

Meanwhile, Collins gets in a quick, almost begrudging, “thoughts and prayers” template, and again names two Democrats to attack while denouncing the “politicization” of something that isn’t so much a tragedy as it is an obscenity. 

It’s not just an obscenity because it was a hate crime against LGBT people. It’s an obscenity because the shooter was known to law enforcement as a person with terrorist sympathies, yet he was still legally allowed to purchase and own the tools that enabled his mass murder. 

In December 2015, it was revealed that people on the Department of Homeland Security’s “no-fly” list were eligible to buy and keep firearms. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) proposed a bill that would have essentially been, “no-fly, no buy”.

It’s that “common sense” Mr. Collins discussed – head bobbing and all. If law enforcement and intelligence agencies have determined that you are too much of a risk to allow you to board a plane, surely you’re too much of a risk to buy or own a gun. 

The vote was held on the day after the San Bernardino shootings, which were also perpetrated by “radical Islamic terrorists” who were known to law enforcement. The bill had originally been proposed by President George W. Bush in 2007

The NRA did not respond to a request on Friday for comment. But the gun rights lobby group told MSBC last month it wants to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the terrorist list are are afforded their constitutional right to due process.

However, the bill would allow people to legally challenge a denial by the Justice Department to purchase a firearm, if they believe they were mistakenly placed on the terrorist watchlist.

The GOP-controlled Senate refusal to pass new gun control measures came weeks after the Washington Post reported that suspected terrorists had successfully purchased more than 2,000 guns from American dealers between 2004 and 2014, even though law enforcement is notifiedwhenever someone on the FBI’s watchlist attempts to purchase a firearm.

Also on Thursday, the Senate failed to pass another bill that would have expanded background checks to gun show and online firearms sales. The measure would also prevents convicted felons and the mentally ill from having access to weapons.

So, when Democrats disrupt the House so that Republicans can’t have their meaningless, empty “thoughts and prayers” or “minute of silence” for victims, it’s because flaccid sentiment and jingoism are not adequate replacements for sane gun policy. The 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, but not all arms, not all individuals, and it is not an unrestricted, unlimited right. Just as the 1st Amendment does not allow for libel or inciting a riot, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t have a built-in allowance for people on a terrorist watchlist to own an AR-15

Empty rhetoric and showmanship is what Chris Collins is fighting for here. That, and an opportunity for him to hypocritically pivot from attacking the politicization of this massacre in one sentence, while politicizing it himself in the next. 

Shameful isn’t strong enough a word here for Chris Collins, who objectively wants people on terrorist watch lists to have free and open access to legal firearm purchases. 

Rus Thompson: Indicted


An Erie County grand jury has indicted Rus Thompson, the Grand Island Niagara Falls tea party gadfly, of charges relating to voter fraud. In a typically intemperate and ill-advised post to Facebook, his wife broke the news to the literally tens of people who have contributed $2,700 to Thompson’s GoFundMe, towards a claimed goal of $30,000. 

Note the letter: Jul and Rus Thompson received that letter at their home in Niagara Falls. That is where they live. They are, therefore, ineligible to vote on Grand Island, and have been since they were evicted a few years ago. 

You know that when law enforcement notifies you that you’re being indicted for various felonies, it’s always a good idea to insult the DA. 

Find out the details about the allegations against Thompson here and here. In a nutshell, Thompson voted – possibly as many as three times – on Grand Island, purporting to be a Grand Island resident when, in fact, he was domiciled in Niagara Falls. Thompson’s name wasn’t on the list of voters because his wife had notified the Erie County Board of Elections that they had moved. Nevertheless, Thompson voted in Erie County via affidavit ballot, swearing that he lived in Grand Island when, in fact, he didn’t. 

Thompson’s supporters, for their part, wish that the DA and law enforcement would turn to more pressing matters, like Hitlery Klintoon’s relationship with Huma Abedin, the Whitey Tape, and the pixels and layers on Obama’s Birth Certificate. 


The LGBT Massacre in Orlando


Allow me to set this up properly. There is profanity ahead. 

Years ago, I used to jump to conclusions much more vehemently and quickly than I do today. I used to assign blame to things and movements and come up with bumper-sticker solutions to problems that were complex and difficult. When it comes to mass shootings or domestic terrorism or whatever you want to call it, I found that my own prejudices were not serving me well and that it was valuable to avoid knee-jerk reactions and sound-bite solutions. I don’t always succeed, but I try. 

I don’t think that all religion is a problem; I have people in my Facebook friends list who are extremely devout and – even if we don’t always agree – they are fundamentally kindhearted. I don’t think gun control is the answer to the problem, mostly because it won’t happen. There is no political will or public consensus for tightening gun laws, because we had an incident where twenty 1st graders were shot dead, and we as a society did nothing. Regardless of the amorality of that non-reaction, it is our reality and we must live within it. If our country won’t respond to Sandy Hook, what hope is there that gun laws will be modernized or tightened when, say, a lunatic shoots up an LGBT nightclub? 

And of that: I could have succumbed to the very strong desire to liken conservative anti-gay sentiment to what happened in Orlando, but to what end? What good will come of getting conservatives’ backs up on this? Regard them now, as they use innocent LGBT lives as ammunition to assail the President. It’s despicable and craven, but see how it forces them to even inadvertently value the LGBT lives lost. 

On Saturday, America had another massacre, and it wasn’t remotely random: it was a targeted attack against the LGBT community. The right wing seem intent on using this as a political matter: but not as a way to strengthen or bolster LGBT rights. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to assail the President and Democrats. Cheap shit by cheap actors. My left-wing friends are all-in for the lost cause of keeping AR-15s out of the hands of violent mass-murderers. I went out of my way to avoid jerking my knee in any direction, except to feel deep sadness and confusion. Here is what I wrote on my Facebook timeline: 

This is an unimaginable tragedy that transcends politics.

This is a terrorist action perpetrated by a madman, and I have not once, not on any social media or blog, blamed Republicans or gun control, or lack of mental health treatment, or Muslims, or Obama, or Bush, or anything. I have laid blame on no one other than the gunman who did this, because the bodies aren’t even cold yet.

But it’s ok for [right wingers] to point out that the shooter was supposedly a registered Democrat—something completely irrelevant, as if being a lunatic with a gun is something only one political party owns. I won’t demean myself to make the comparative, because it’s cheap and meaningless. Fuck you for making it. You suck dog dicks in hell.

But it’s ok for conservatives on my timeline to blame Obama, or to say… that it’s ok for [former NYS Attorney General] Dennis Vacco to attack President Obama, as if that is in any way relevant to anything having to do with this tragedy. It doesn’t, and everyone knows it doesn’t, but politics > humanity, so we’re going to pretend that Obama is “calling radical Islamist terror a gun control problem.” He didn’t, and it’s false to suggest that.

No, actually, the mass shootings are a gun control problem. The Islamist terror is a national security problem, and when you allow Americans who are known Islamists to buy guns, the two coalesce and become one overarching sur-problem.

When the Bataclan was attacked, my timeline was polluted by the mentally diseased ramblings from fetid assholes arguing that it would never happen here because Parisians are “pussies” with “pussy” gun laws. Can’t make that argument when it’s Florida.

[Here are President Obama’s remarks], because apparently some of you don’t know how to read, or your ears are broken. Or you’re just too far up your own political sphincter that what he actually said is beside the point of Obama and Democrat bashing.

The most hilarious is that there’s been quite the effort this year to legislate away LGBT rights because they “mock God” or whatever awful justification some people concoct, yet now we’re supposed to believe that these same people give a shit about LGBT lives. They don’t just matter when you get to accuse Obama of being a terrorist, or coddling terrorists, or whatever the fuck semi-lucid point you’re trying to make: they matter all the time, even when they want to marry. Even when they want to adopt. Even when a transgender American wants to use the bathroom with which they identify.

As for Obama, here are the key paragraphs:

“The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us…

“…So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.”

That’s a statement of 11 paragraphs, and 5 sentences remarked upon the ease with which someone even known to the government as being sympathetic to Islamist causes can obtain firearms. Dennis Vacco is a disgusting creature for politicizing this tragedy, and his remarks are absolutely inexcusable. Completely unbecoming.

50 people are dead you motherfuckers. Have a little bit of respect: if not for them, then for yourself.

So, I wrote that and it’s profane and angry. My rant brought about some discussion, and I added a few key points: 

One person reacted, “because the terrorist was a radical Islamist.”

Even if he was a radical Islamist, which is frankly very doubtful, (a) using the words “radical Islamist terrorist” has no magical effect; and (b) and then what? What were law enforcement or intelligence agencies supposed to do with this guy, within Constitutional bounds? There are so many things that contribute to all of this, and I don’t think anyone in American politics has the smarts, patience, or stomach to truly address it honestly or effectively. As for this “radical Islamic terrorism” word-fetishism, I don’t get it. I don’t get why the President won’t use the phrase, and I don’t get why conservatives think it matters one whit. Semantic arguments like this are so beyond relevance. They’re bikeshedding.

So let’s placate everyone and use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Now what? Not that the President is ignorant to it, as our bombs and drones and Special Forces shrink ISIS’ holdings in Syria (unfortunately with Russian “help”) and in Iraq. The “war on terror” continues apace. We know that horrible people in the US will attempt or carry out more massacres like Orlando. What, precisely, should we do that we aren’t already doing? How do we set up the Department of Pre-Crime?

How does “radical Islamic terrorism” explain Sandy Hook or Charleston or Aurora, Colorado—all terrorist acts. The blood of those shootings’ victims ran just as red as those from Orlando. 

To me, it would seem to be common sense that people suspected of terrorist sympathies be prohibited from owning firearms. If the FBI has had to interview you even once about your particiation in jihadist websites or similar, you should be barred from owning a gun of any sort. But any such action has 1st and 2nd Amendment consequences. What’s the constitutional threshold for revoking a prospective jihadist’s right to bear arms? The perpetrator of the Orlando shootings was born in this country. You can’t eject him, and you can’t refuse him entry. 

And when you label him as a jihadist, what do you do, except to publicize and legitimize his despicable “cause”? Dylann Roof slaughtered nine people for completely different reasons. Was he somehow less of a monster? 

To me, life in a free society is replete with risks and responsibilities. We tickle the edges of totalitarianism when we start to infinge on rights of religious and political expression in the name of security. 

Knee-jerk social media reactions are meaningless.  I don’t know what the answers are and anyone who suggests that they know is lying.


Patriotism Canceled for Lack Of Interest

A few weeks ago, WBEN announced a summer event designed to best separate its septuagenarian listenership from their hard-earned money. At the top of the bill were $250 improbably named “VIP” tickets that would enable well-to-do dupes attendees to meet Ann Coulter and Rudolph Giuliani while David Bellavia was on stage warming up the crowd. As recently as this past week, tickets were still available in the second row, indicting that in three weeks only a small number had been sold. 

Saturday afternoon my phone blew up with texts from people confirming that the “Trump the Summer Hello” or “Coulterpalooza” event was being canceled. Kaput. The grift didn’t work in Buffalo.

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. Or tickets to a book tour masquerading as a patriotism festival. 

Monetizing jingoism fail. 

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