Collins Sells Out Your Online Privacy


It’s an Obama-era regulation with such broad support, even many Breitbart commenters can’t believe it’s being repealed. 

Over the past week, the Republican Senate and House voted to strike FCC Internet privacy rules which would have, “required home Internet and mobile broadband providers to get consumers’ opt-in consent before selling or sharing Web browsing history, app usage history, and other private information with advertisers and other companies.” So, Spectrum and FiOS and Comcast Xfinity can track the websites you visit and sell that data to advertisers. 

Local Representative Chris Collins (R-NY27) voted in favor of allowing internet service providers collecting and monetizing your web and app histories, without your knowledge or consent. It seems like a no-brainer – the only rationale that backers of this rule have proffered is that websites had some sort of unfair advantage over ISPs. So, Facebook and Google would remain free to monetize your online activity, but your ISP wouldn’t. The problem with this logic is that people have a choice whether to visit Google or Facebook or any other website – there is seldom any meaningful competition among ISPs. Most of western New York has only Spectrum for Broadband service. A small handful of communities have FiOS. That’s it – the ISPs enjoy the advantage of monopoly. 

The only entities cheering this development are ISPs and advertisers, which stand to profit from Congress selling out your internet and app history. You revert back from being a broadband customer and internet user to being a marketing data point. Your ISP can continue to make money off your online behavior, while you deal with internet speeds that are fraudulently slow or ridiculously poor

The privacy concerns are legitimate

ISPs can’t see encrypted traffic, so if you visit an HTTPS site, ISPs will see only the domain (like rather than each page you visit. But that’s still plenty, said Dallas Harris, an attorney who specializes in broadband privacy and is a policy fellow at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.

ISPs might be able to figure out where you bank, your political views, and your sexual orientation based on what sites you visit, Harris told Ars.

“You don’t need to see the contents of every communication” to develop efficient ad tracking mechanisms, she said. “The fact that you’re looking at a website can reveal when you’re home, when you’re not home.”

An ISP might notice that a particular tablet often visits children’s websites. From that, “they can infer that this tablet then belongs to a child” and deliver advertising targeted to kids. “The level of information that they can figure out is beyond what even most customers expect,” Harris said.

This Republican handover of web traffic data to ISPs didn’t come cheap. The Verge has tallied how much the telecom industry donated to each of the 265 Republican (and it was only Republican) lawmakers who voted to sell you out, revealing that Chris Collins received $57,500 from the telecom lobby. 

$57k to a guy who has deep pockets to self-finance is a drop in the bucket, so this isn’t so much about money as priorities. You – as a consumer or a constituent – have less value to Collins than any big corporate entity. That’s why Collins votes against your privacy in order to further enrich monopolistic telecom giants. It’s also why Collins opposes net neutrality – the rules put in place to ensure that ISPs can’t prioritize what traffic gets to you fastest. For instance, if your ISP, Spectrum, bought Hulu, net neutrality prevents it from throttling or slowing traffic from Netflix or any other competitor; net neutrality stands for the proposition that you – not your ISP – should have the freedom to choose what traffic your broadband connection should deliver to you.

One enterprising activist is raising money to buy the internet browsing and app histories of the Republicans who voted for the repeal of this privacy rule. Check it out here

Of course, Representative Collins didn’t, doesn’t, and won’t care what you think about any of this. His only point of contact with any potentially disgruntled constituent will be the phones lackadaisically operated by a gaggle of unpaid fugitive from this month’s Vineyard Vines catalog. No town hall, no meetings with privacy advocates – nothing. 

Not that it would have mattered. Not only did Collins vote for the anti-privacy bill…

he was one of its co-sponsors

Lewiston Nazi: A Play in 3 Acts


ACT I: “Lewiston residents disgusted by fliers they call racist” (emphasis added)

From WIVB “News 4”: 

Some people living in Lewiston say someone is spreading racist fliers across the village. They were found on driveways on three different streets Thursday morning.

Lewiston Police told News 4 they received about 20 complaints from residents that were alarmed and outraged.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” said Lewiston resident, Jackie Rapp.

“I hope whoever has done this knows that they are not welcome here,” said Wendy Swearingen, resident.

Dozens of people found baggies filled with fliers in their driveways that they say are clearly racist. The baggie contained three fliers- all informational about white lives matter, stopping illegal immigrants and black on white crime. On the bottom of the flier were two hashtags, one said Aryan Renaissance Society.

“It was like a supremacist type letter, something I’ve never seen in my life before,” said Linda Alaimo, Lewiston resident.

“I think it’s reprehensible, introducing the racist, neo-nazi element in our village,” said Swearingen.

Lewiston Police say none of the fliers advocated any violence or threats.

“The content doesn’t really rise to the point of being a criminal act because again there’s nothing in there, just informational. The only thing we’re looking at and the reason that we looked into that is because of the distribution, the way they distributed them because they were left and thrown on driveways, so technically that would be a littering offense,” said Chief Frank Previte, Lewiston Police Department.

Chief Previte says they’re looking into possible suspects, but he doesn’t believe the person lives in Lewiston. He says he’s never seen anything like this before.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had something of this nature in our jurisdiction,” said Previte.

“I’ve never seen anything like that the whole time I’ve lived in Lewiston and I grew up in Lewiston,” said Alaimo.

People in the neighborhood say this kind of act will not be tolerated.

“People are becoming emboldened to become more racist and it’s very ugly and we don’t want it here,” said Swearingen.

The fliers were mostly left on driveways on Mohawk street, Chicora and Lower River road. Because the fliers don’t contain any threats, police say the only thing they can do at this point is charge whoever is responsible with a violation.

ACT II: “Man explains “white lives matter” flyers”


From WKBW Eyewitness News (the video embed link is broken, so catch the link instead): 

Scott Lacy is setting the record straight.

“There’s been misrepresentations of what was on those flyers and why they were passed out in the area they were passed out in.”

Lacy’s responsible for distributing flyers condemning illegal immigration and promoting the “white lives matter” message in Lewiston last week.

Why? “The purpose of these flyers is to raise awareness with whites about the plight our people face in this country,” he said.

Lacy is new to the area and chose to leave the flyers in predominately white areas based on a suggestion from a friend. He said all of the information is factual. “There was crime statistics based on race which is part of the FBI database. It’s not something fabricated out of the blue, you know?”

Blair Hoplight is one of several dozen who woke up Thursday morning to find a “stop illegal immigration” flyer inside a plastic bag on his driveway. “This gave me the impression they were putting other people down. That doesn’t work. It’s not going to make our country any better,” he said.

Lacy sees things differently. “I consider myself a racist but not because I believe in hatred towards anybody else. It’s because I love my own people.”

Lacy said he’s actually received positive feedback since he distributed the flyers. That’s why he plans to hand the out in other communities. He says he won’t stop standing up for what he believes in.

ACT III: “Who’s Who in ‘White Lives Matter'”

From the Anti-Defamation League:  

Horace Scott Lacy.  Lacy is another ARS member from the Houston area; like Chism, he is one of the oldest WLM activists, born in 1967. Before Lacy was involved with ARS, he was a member and “special assignments major” in the large and violent Texas-based white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Circle. He became an Aryan Circle member in the 1990s and was still a member as late as 2009. Lacy is a felon with an extensive criminal history dating back to 1985, including convictions for possession of a controlled substance, aggravated robbery, and multiple theft charges.  He was arrested in April 2016 on aggravated robbery charges.


What does Mr. white pride have to be proud of? 

In case anyone’s wondering, the flyers weren’t just filled with what “some say” are racist things; they’re racist, full stop. Mr. Lacy can come here from Texas and condescend to tell us about all the white pride he has, but the flyers aren’t about positivity and pride – they’re about hatred of anyone not white, and demonization of immigrants and minorities.

That’s “Voice of the Aryan Renaissance Society”, which the ADL says is a, “…small but long-lived white supremacist group that has resembled both a racist skinhead group and a prison clique at times. It has had members from a variety of places, but many came from Texas and New Jersey. Its logo is a phoenix image superimposed with a lightning bolt and a runic symbol.

The trash that organized a Nazi rally last year in Cazenovia Park used to be in with the “Renaissance” society

A similar shit lit drop happened in Connecticut, and someone did a little digging – it didn’t take long to find a swastika. Take a ride down the hashtag train, and it’s all a bunch of nobodies yelling about how “diversity is code for white genocide”. 

Collins Will Explain Trumpcare. How?


Representative Chris Collins is one of the biggest cheerleaders for Trumpcare, which will cost Americans more money for no guarantee of coverage for essential medical services, and throw 24 million people off their health insurance. Mr. Collins, a multi-millionaire, can afford whatever insurance he wants, or use the health insurance offered to him as a member of Congress. He also refuses to hold meetings or town halls with constituents who are concerned about losing their insurance, or not being able to afford it anymore. 

Trumpcare is an unmitigated disaster; when the CBO score showed that it would reduce the deficit by over $300 billion over time, and throw 24 million off of their insurance, Republicans went back to the drawing board. What they came up with has been scored by the CBO as reducing the deficit by half as much as the original proposal, and throwing the same 24 million people off their policies. 

Their fix was to spend $186 billion more for no gain in coverage. 

But what’s also evident is that no one knows what’s in this health insurance revocation act. It was literally thrown together in a couple of weeks, done in secret, and Democrats have been completely shut out of the process – not one Democratic amendment has been considered, as opposed to Obamacare, which included around 100 Republican amendments. 

Chris Collins, ever the cheerleader for Donald Trump, predicts “victory”, and asks his constituents to be patient

“In my district right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what it is we’re doing,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) told MSNBC’s Brian Williams. “And once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain it.”

Williams had asked Collins how he would explain the bill to residents of his district who may stand to lose insurance coverage.

“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Collins responded.

I wish there existed a way for a Chris Collins to come before his constituents to fix their “misunderstanding” and “really explain it”. 

Sounds a lot like we have to pass the bill before we can explain to people what’s in it. Nihilism is a failing ideology. 

Trumpcare and Republican Nihilism


Republicans have had 7 years to repeal Obamacare.

They failed.

They lied about it for 7 years, scaring you with false claims about “death panels” and rationing. 

They failed. 

They had 7 years to come up with a better or cheaper plan that would insure the same number of people, or more.

They failed.

Over 7 years, they took no fewer than 60 votes to repeal Obamacare, or key parts of it.

They failed.

They had 7 years to devise, develop, disseminate, and sell an alternative health insurance scheme.

They failed.

They wanted to hold the vote on March 23rd – the 7th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

They failed.

They held a meeting at the White House to discuss women’s health care. The result was downright Saudi


They’re now promoting Trumpcare, which is a tax handout to the wealthy and takes away 24 million people’s coverage.

It seems that this, too, has failed.

They tried to fix it. 

They failed

A Quinnipiac Poll revealed that a whopping 17% of Americans back the Trumpcare proposal


Obamacare was a yearlong process, and about 100 Republican amendments made their way into the bill. Trumpcare was devised in secret, kept in a secret room, is incomplete, and no one will know what’s in it until the vote is held. 


Representative Chris Collins openly called for “retribution” against Republican Congressmen who vote against Trumpcare

Ever notice how the news sounds more and more like we’re living through a fascist coup? 

They’ve decided to take away the requirement that insurance actually cover essential healthcare benefits, “doctor’s visits, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, lab tests, pediatrics, rehabilitation, and preventative services.” They say – with serious voices and not as a joke – that men shouldn’t have to pay for prenatal or pediatric care. 

Here, they fail morally, ethically, and vocabularily, apparently not understanding how insurance works. 

Trump is throwing around ultimatums. “You’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning“. 

When your defining ideology is little more than lying nihilism, you fail.

Encyclopedia Bauerle & Bellavia and the Case of Westminster Bridge


Who is most culpable for the grotesque, murderous terrorist attacks in Westminster this week? Could it be the perpetrator, who is reportedly a man born in the UK and whose vicious, murderous attack was influenced by homicidal Islamist terrorism? 


They – like Donald Trump, Jr. – have identified the real culprit. It’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who happens also to be Muslim. 

What was this all about?

To sum up, it’s a blood libel; accusing Mayor Khan of being insensitive or cavalier about terrorist attacks in big cities. As the New York Times explains

Mr. Trump mischaracterized the London mayor’s remarks. Mr. Khan did not describe terrorism as “part of living in a big city,” as if bombings and shootings were an inescapable fact of life. He said that terrorism preparedness, including providing sufficient support to the police, was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.”

“That means being vigilant, having a police force that is in touch with communities; it means the security services being ready, but it also means exchanging ideas and best practice,” Mr. Khan said in a video interview published by The Evening Standard, another British paper. (For the record, Mr. Khan did say the victims of the Chelsea bombing were in his “thoughts and prayers.”)

“Nothing is more important to me than keeping Londoners safe,” Mr. Khan added. “I want to be reassured that every single agency and individual involved in protecting our city has the resources and expertise they need to respond in the event that London is attacked.”

To label as irresponsible Trump Junior’s and Bauerle/Bellavia’s reaction to a fiction is a dramatic understatement. Bauerle and Bellavia’s criticism of Mayor Khan perpetuates a worldview that perceives all Muslims as suspect or, as Bauerle has put it multiple times, “not compatible with Western democracy“. 

It’s not the first time Bauerle and Bellavia have similarly misquoted a Muslim public figure in order to defame him. Just last November, they circulated a lie about the owner of Chobani Yogurt – a Kurdish Muslim immigrant from Turkey, claiming that he once said he wanted to “choke the United States with Islam” – something he never said ever to anyone in any place in any way. It bears mentioning that the Kurds have been an historically oppressed minority in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. 

Perhaps this is all instructive on how free societies should react to terror and murder. Hunt down the terrorists and terror cells who plot to do us harm. Arrest them, prosecute them, jail them. Use everything legally available to disrupt them and their networks. What we can’t do is sit there and mix fear with ignorance in order to brew up some fresh hatred. Islamist terror is not going away anytime soon, and our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are tasked with doing whatever they can to prevent these acts from occurring. They won’t always succeed. Banning immigrants or refugees won’t work, because most of these attackers are home-grown, radicalized on YouTube and message boards. 

Here is Mayor Khan’s actual reaction to yesterday’s terror attack: 

Mayor Khan is right – preparedness, intelligence, and providing needed support to police agencies are now routine in big cities in order to do battle against cowards who would attack civilians to advance some sick perversion of a political or religious motive. Belonging to a jihadist cult is appealing to unemployed foreign youth living in western countries where they don’t feel they belong. That doesn’t, however, explain people like Adam Lanza who murdered twenty 1st graders in a matter of minutes for no known reason whatsoever. 

In any event, this reaction seems typically British, profanity and all. 

By the way, as it turns out the perpetrator was a Briton – born in Dartford in Kent – who had apparently converted to Islam and become radicalized. He was a loser and a thug who had been imprisoned for various assaults in the past. On the day of the attack, Bauerle and Bellavia accused a different violent Islamist criminal as the perpetrator. On the radio all afternoon, and twice on Twitter. They were wrong; that guy was in jail at the time

I eagerly await all the ways that things like Trump’s travel ban would prevent native-born Americans – or even native-born Britons – from committing terrorist acts in the US.

Preetsmas: Niagara Edition


An Albany Grand Jury yesterday indicted state Senator Robert Ortt (R-N Tonawanda) and former state Senator George Maziarz on felony election law violations arising out of Maziarz’s 2012 and 2013 campaign finance disclosures. The details of the indictment remain under seal, so the details are unknown, but investigations into the handling of Maziarz’s campaign accounts have been swirling since the time of the defunct Moreland Commission. Former US Attorney Preet Bharara took over the Moreland investigations after Governor Cuomo dissolved the commission, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has had parallel investigations underway, which generated these indictments.

Bharara’s office transferred to Schneiderman’s the investigation into allegedly improper spending from Maziarz’s campaign accounts – the term “money laundering” had been used in prior reports. Maziarz’s still-active campaign committee recently sued its former treasurer over $200,000 in spending. The Gazette reports that the former treasurer has been cooperating with authorities.

Former Niagara County Republican Committee chairman Henry Wojtaszek pled guilty to related election law misdemeanors yesterday. Wojtaszek was chairman until 2009, when he returned to his law practice. Questions are now swirling over whether he can keep his gig as head of the regional Off-Track Betting organization

Maziarz now works for an Albany lobbying outfit whose clients include Wojtaszek’s OTB operation

Ortt and Maziarz are both from North Tonawanda, and the Buffalo News reports that Ortt will face three charges of “offering a false instrument for filing”. Ortt testified before the grand jury on the eve of his surprise indictment, as did his wife, Meghan. Meghan Ortt was given immunity, and Senator Ortt waived immunityThe Niagara Gazette reports

The Gazette confirmed Meghan Ortt’s service as a consultant to a pair of Niagara County companies are also involved in the investigation, including Lockport-based Regency Communications, a public relations firm established in 2011 by former Niagara County lawmaker and one-time aide to Maziarz, Glenn Aronow. The other company is Synor Marketing Co., a Lockport firm that has for years specialized in the production of campaign materials for candidates and political parties in Niagara County.

Both Aronow and Synor have also been subpoenaed in the Maziarz case. 

Meghan Ortt, who received her associates degree in fine arts from Niagara County Community College and who also has a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College, was under retainer with both Synor Marketing and Regency Communications in the past.

In an ethics disclosure report filed with the state in 2014, Robert Ortt listed income in the form of consultation fees paid to his wife by Regency Communications in an amount described as more than $1,000 and less than $5,000.

Meghan Ortt is not believed to be a target of the investigation. Maziarz’s side has been silent, but Ortt has retained an Albany criminal defense lawyer and big-money crisis communication firm, which went out of its way to suggest that Ortt is the real victim because he’s a veteran, and that Attorney General Schneiderman is a Democrat. No joke. 

One thing is clear: the only reason I am included in this is to make their case politically appealing. As multiple news organizations have documented, Eric Schneiderman has been obsessed with using his political office to persecute his political enemies and protect his political allies…We look forward to telling voters the truth about Eric Schneiderman and exposing him for the power hungry, political opportunist he is and I will fight this ridiculous charge.

It cost Ortt a lot of money – likely from his campaign account – to get that much deflection from high-priced PR people. But really, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. The Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit doesn’t exist to blindly wage personal vendettas on Schneiderman’s behalf, and Ortt’s efforts to delegitimize this prosecution – which was presented to a grand jury before which Ortt himself testified – may work for Donald Trump, but sounds craven in this instance. 

The Maziarz investigation commenced in 2014 over $140,000 in unitemized campaign spending, indicating that people had possibly been essentially embezzling the fund for personal use. Shortly after that commencement, Maziarz retired, and Ortt was elected to replace him, defeating Democrat Johnny Destino. In 2014, Destino assailed the Niagara County GOP for valuing “loyalty over competency”, citing a panoply of fiscal issues and mismanagement in Lockport and Niagara County

New York’s campaign finance laws are lax, and enforcement is spotty. Manipulating the weaknesses in campaign finance requirements for political or personal gain has been a hallmark of the now-hibernating world of Steve Pigeon, and allegations of campaign finance irregularities should be taken seriously and pursued by law enforcement because they represent a breach of public trust – when a campaign treasurer files reports with the state they certify, under oath, that they’re true and accurate. 

While Ortt tries to grasp and hurl back some of the shit smearing his fan, it will be interesting to find out what the specific charges and underlying alleged facts are, in order to ensure that our elected officials are not knowingly or intentionally filing false reports in order to hide some wrongdoing. 

UPDATE: Ortt pled not guilty this morning

The charges unsealed in court stem from Ortt’s time as the mayor of North Tonawanda. Prosecutors allege Ortt’s wife was given a no-show job, being paid $21,500 between 2010 and 2014, in order to make up for a $5,000 reduction in his annual pay as mayor.

“No show jobs and secret payments are the lifeblood of public corruption,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials-not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation. These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust – and we will hold those responsible to account.”

Ortt faces up to 1-1/3 to 4 years on each count.

Uber Shaming


Remember when the new Lululemon in the Walden Galleria had to remove a mosaic at its threshold because people took offense at its invocation of local sports horrors such as “wide right” and “no goal”? Uber is now doing something worse on TV screens throughout western New York—shaming Buffalo for political gain.

App-based cyber-hitchhiking corporation Uber already has the state Senate and the governor on its side. Now, it has to convince the state Assembly to advance a bill that will legalize app ride hailing upstate. Most Western New York politicians—especially Republicans—would have you believe that legalizing Uber and Lyft are the answer to something, and directed $100,000 of public money to Visit Buffalo Niagara in order to help subsidize Uber’s expansion and marketing campaign. 

Uber even delivered ice cream and, more recently, Lloyd Tacos to app users as part of its marketing scheme. It’s all very cute, but it masks serious issues and questions. Uber doesn’t hire people, so if you drive for the company, you’re using your own insurance. However, your car insurance is likely voided if you drive someone for hire, so there needs to be some guarantee that there is valid coverage on an Uber car at all times.

Uber wants to offer a group umbrella policy of $1 million, but state government has balked at that. In New York City, where Uber and Lyft are allowed to operate under tight regulation from the city’s taxi and limousine commission, drivers must obtain a commercial hack policy.

The newest Assembly bill would allow local municipalities to permit and regulate ride-hailing, but that could lead to a hodgepodge of areas with different rules resembling a rural AT&T LTE coverage map. The Assembly also wants drivers to hold car policies with limits of $100,000 per person/$300,000 aggregate, plus $1.5 million while transporting a fare. (The mandatory minimum policy limits a regular passenger car must carry is $25,000/50,000).  While Uber evangelists argue that this is onerous, no one has any information on what the $1.5 million in-ride umbrella policy would cost drivers. Perhaps Uber could just subsidize that cost with the money it saves by not running ads anymore.  

In short, there is a balance to be struck between the public desire upstate for ridesharing and the public good it serves; and the social cost of allowing people to hitch a ride from a stranger on an app and the risks inherent in that transaction and activity. Certainly there is a way for the Assembly and the ride hailing lobby to strike a deal, and it should be noted that taxi companies are lobbying Albany heavily to ensure that, whatever shakes out, the ride-hailing services’ competitive advantage is not disproportionately large. 

Ride hailing proponents go out of their way to publicize people’s horror stories about taking cabs in Buffalo, and while Uber literally pays for political ads to expand and market in New York, without irony it denigrates the cabs as “special interests”. You’d think we were talking about some sort of critically important civil right, not a company that brings about stories with quotes like these, from CityLab: 

To name a few of the most spectacular ones: In late January, a firestorm erupted over Uber’s perceived strike-breaking amidst protests against President Trump’s early immigration ban, which coined the #deleteUber hashtag (and boosted the fortunes of arch-rival Lyft). February saw a video emerge of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s callous treatment of an Uber driver, a gut-wrenching chronicle of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination within the company by the former engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti, and revelations of the company’s use of a potentially illegal enforcement-deceiving software.

If these weren’t enough blows against the Uber empire, there’s also the fact that the emperor might not be wearing any clothes to begin with. The company is reportedly operating on huge lossesWrites Ryan Felton on Jalopnik: “Uber is doomed because it can’t actually make money.”

Uber only makes about 78 percent of the cost of an average fare—venture capital literally makes up the difference, and Uber is burning through cash. 

Now, with all that being said, I support the expansion of app-based ride-sharing in upstate and western New York, and I think that the Senate and Assembly should get together with the governor and hash out an acceptable compromise that does not effectively punish ride-hailing companies or treat them significantly differently from cabs upstate. I just don’t think that ride hailing is the civil rights issue it’s being made out to be. 

Which leads us to Uber’s most recent marketing push here in Buffalo. A handful of first round NCAA March Madness college basketball games will be held here over the next few days. A big event like this is another opportunity for Uber and Visit Buffalo Niagara to dip into their pockets to pay for some propaganda. Late last year, county government approved what amounts to a gift of $100,000 of public money to be paid to the convention and visitors’ bureau in order specifically to assist in Uber’s and Lyft’s marketing and expansion efforts. Now, Uber is running TV ads in Buffalo effectively shaming us for not having ride sharing. The ad is directed not to locals, asking them to contact their Assemblymembers; it’s not directed to Albany itself—it’s directed at visitors and all but shames us for being an anachronistic backwater because we don’t have Uber. 

Here is the copy:

If you’re in Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament, the biggest surprise isn’t going to be a 16 seed knocking off a 1

It’s finding out you can’t use Uber to get to the game

Or Uber to grab some wings to celebrate your team’s win

Or use Uber to get anywhere

Yeah, we’re kind of surprised about that, too

Buffalo is the largest city in America without ridesharing

So, while players can’t travel on the court, fans are going to find it pretty hard to travel off it

Let’s tell Albany, the ball’s in their court

Yes to Uber. No to special interests

Paid for by Uber Technologies

“If you’re in Buffalo” is about visitors—not locals. So, insult the city and harm our image to visiting basketball fans for something over which the local municipalities have no control. I guess, God forbid you walk, or use the NFTA, or use a designated driver, or *gasp* take a cab. You’d think that the world had never existed or functioned without ride-sharing apps. I’m old enough to remember not having a cell phone at all, much less carrying a mini-computer connected to the world in my pocket. Sure, it’s inconvenient that we don’t have Uber or Lyft, and Albany should figure this all out, but I don’t get the strategy of shaming Buffalo—directed at residents and visitors—to change Albany policy. 

From Uber’s press release, 

Today, Uber launched the #UberMadness campaign to mobilize residents and visitors who come to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo is the largest city in America without ridesharing. The campaign urges them to tell Albany to make this the last Buffalo event without Uber. The campaign includes a TV ad, radio ad, microsite, rider email, in-app message and web ads.

“The fact that visitors and residents can’t use Uber to get to the games is pure…madness,” said Josh Mohrer, General Manager, Uber Tri-State. “Buffalo is the largest city in the country without ridesharing and, as the city increasingly becomes a center for tech, food and other events, it’s critical that Albany listen to residents and act to bring services like Uber to Upstate.”

Nowhere does the ad offer a phone number or other means of contacting Albany pols to urge them to support ride-hailing. It doesn’t single out local (or downstate) legislators who are the impediments to this expansion. Just “tell Albany”. Albany already knows

As Uber’s own press release shows, polls already show that people favor the addition of ride-hailing upstate. So, whom are they trying to convince? We’ve already told Albany. Our Albany representatives, for the most part, all support Uber’s upstate expansion. The people who need to be convinced are downstate Assemblymembers and, most critically, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie

Lecturing Western New Yorkers and our visitors about what an ignorant backwater we are seems like a poorly considered strategy. 

Carl Paladino: White Nationalist


White nationalism is a polite term for “racist Nazi scumbag.” 

White nationalists believe that whiteness is not just a race, but also a national identity. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors and exposes hate groups, says, “white nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories – Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity – could also be fairly described as white nationalist.”

Over the last few days, Representative Steve King (R-IA) made news by going full white nationalist with this Tweet: 

King approvingly quotes Dutch anti-immigrant extremist and Geert Wilders, who wants to ban and expel all immigrants and close all mosques in the Netherlands. It’s standard European far-right fare – Dutch for the Dutch. In today’s anti-everything environment, Wilders’ party stands to win a majority of seats in Holland’s parliament

Immigration in Europe is a very big deal because it hasn’t historically existed – at least in this form. European immigration has, in the past, been a byproduct of imperialism – think Jamaicans and Indians and Pakistanis in the UK, or North Africans to France. Conquered nations who were, at least in theory, all part of the same empire; British or French by invasion. Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were true multi-national states, because they conquered their neighbors and kept going.

After World War II, Germany’s economic miracle was in desperate need of workers, so hundreds of thousands of “guest workers” (Gastarbeiter) were imported from Turkey and, later, Yugoslavia. 

But for the most part, European nation-states equate citizenship with ethnicity or nationality. Dutch people live in Holland, French people live in France, German people live in Germany, Irish people live in Ireland, and Danish people live in Denmark. Only a couple of European states are multi-ethnic – think Switzerland, Belgium, the UK, and the former Yugoslavia. Part of the reason theorists believe that fascism took hold in Italy and Germany has to do with the fact that those states were created late – in the late 1800s. The concept of German or Italian nationhood as citizens of a unified state was a new one. 

The United States and Canada are different, however. The British, French, and Spanish conquered and eliminated the people they found on this continent, and the eventual nation-states they left behind brought in immigrants. American and Canadian citizenship is not wrapped into the concept of ethnicity and nationhood – you can be any color, any religion, or from any nation and still be an American or Canadian. Our borders never connoted any ethnic or religious homogeneity, making King’s racist nonsense so ignorant and outrageous

So, that’s all a roundabout way of getting to racist scumbag white nationalist Carl Paladino’s emails. 

Before we get to them, it bears mentioning that when Italian immigrants came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, they were subjected to hatred and denigration not dissimilar from that now spat at immigrants from majority Muslim or Latin American countries: Dirty. Lazy. They refuse to assimilate. Their ways are backwards. Their religion and culture are not compatible with the American way of life. They are taking our jobs. Speak English! They are a drain on the economy. They are on the dole. They’re here to destroy us.

They lynched Italians in 1891 New Orleans. Teddy Roosevelt said the lynchings were a “good thing”, and the leader of the mob later became Governor of Louisiana. In fact, there were about 50 lynchings of Italians until the 1920s. Paladino could use a primer on that history of anti-Italian animus. 

On Monday, elected school board official Carl Paladino sent a mass email with the “re” line: “Good Ones”. It contained memes. 

Not surprised. Republicans love Putin now, overlooking his far-right, para-fascist, autocratic, kleptocratic, expansionist nationalism because Putin’s security services interfered in our election to help Hillary Clinton lose to Donald Trump. They think that Putin’s deliberate efforts to destabilize western democracy and institutions like NATO and the European Union are great

Putin and his ruling party – United Russia – have struck deals with far-right political parties throughout Europe, like Austria’s far-right FPÖ, Italy’s Lega Nord, Moldova’s PDM, three parties in Serbia, has funded Marine Le Pen in France, and has links to Hungary’s Jobbik. All are either EU-skeptic or virulently anti-immigrant. Why? Putin is waging war in Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in a brazen land grab with a phony plebiscite. The US and EU imposed sanctions that specifically targeted Putin and his oligarchs, and adversely affected their ability to access and spend their stolen money. So, Russia is now funding the biggest Calexit group, and anyone who will help dismantle the EU. 

Paladino is down with all that. 

The Obamas stayed in DC so that their daughters could finish up school there. Protests, though, are bad because now they’re directed at Trump now. The 1st Amendment is in deep peril. 

Isn’t it funny to see Carl Paladino complain about hatred whilst spreading hatred? 

Because all those lucky duckies who don’t work get paid for nothing. 

Yes. The left hates fascism and racism. It’s really nothing new, and again – isn’t it precious to see this guy who called First Lady Michelle Obama a male gorilla – complain about “hate”? 

Cuba and China are horrible dictatorships that oppress people, for sure. But by making this comparison, Paladino is defending the oppression of LGBTQ people in North Carolina. I suppose it makes sense for Americans to be concerned about the treatment of their own people within the 50 states. But here, this is just homophobia couched in concern-trolling about human rights. 

Again: the hypocrisy here is that they love Putin, a dictator who oppresses people – especially LGBTQ people

Carl Paladino, an elected school official, thinks murder is funny. 

But he saves the best for last. His pièce de résistance: 

Hug a white person because you need to take personal responsibility for “your own bad choices”. If you’re not white. A reverse image search reveals that this meme is used to mock and demean “Black Lives Matter”, and non-white people in general. 

Gosh, who ever would have known this Paladino guy was an unrepentant, despicable, degenerate racist

Obamacare Repeal: The Seven Year Pitch


When running for congress in 2012, Representative Chris Collins went on WBFO to claim – falsely – that Obamacare was identical to Canada’s single-payer Medicare system. While an overwhelming 86.2% of Canadians are satisfied with their health insurance system, in the US, it’s about half that

Obamacare isn’t perfect – no system is nor can be – but it did drop the rate of uninsured Americans from 20% to 9%, and polls now show that, by a wide margin, Americans want Obamacare fixed, rather than repealed. For the first time, a slim majority of Americans now says it wants to keep Obamacare rather than “repeal and replace”. 

Collins has been in Congress since 2013, and has a distinguished record of legislation renaming a few post offices. He has voted to repeal or cripple the Affordable Care Act multiple times; indeed, Republicans in Congress have had seven years to offer their own alternative to Obamacare that would lead to universal health insurance coverage using some scheme different from the individual mandate. They certainly voted to repeal Obamacare or its key elements on dozens of occasions during that time,  but never publicly offered a plan of their own, instead repeating pablum about insurance being available across state lines and restricting injured patients’ access to the courts to seek redress

We finally got a plan this week – a plan drafted in secret, kept in a locked room, and bearing no score or analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.  In normal times, it would be laughed out of Congress; nowadays, it might be the most serious and credible thing in town. The disastrous plan isn’t so much “repeal and replace” as it is, “placate and worsen” – it placates the people who like that insurers can’t exclude pre-existing conditions and who want to keep their kids on their policies until age 26. But make no mistake – this plan would fix none of the problems that people have with the ACA, namely that it’s too expensive in some cases and that it relies too heavily on high deductible plans that amount to an added tax on already cash-strapped families.

But the tea party wing of the Republican Party is already balking. They demand full repeal of Obamacare, without regard to the fact that such a move would automatically take away insurance held by about 30 million Americans. The tea party, however, is concerned about ideological purity rather than winning elections and majorities, and mainstream Republicans see that they’re between a rock and a hard place wholly of their own construction. They can’t simply repeal the ACA, and any replacement that takes away people’s insurance or makes it more expensive or harder to get sort of defeats the purpose and betrays everything they’ve complained about for the last seven years. 

Remember President Trump’s promise: “insurance for everyone” with “much lower deductibles”

I guess “insurance” may end up being the weasel word here, because you can cobble together any kind of thing sold on late-night TV and call it “insurance”. Senator Schumer said 

“After years of howling at the moon about Democrats rushing through the Affordable Care Act — the mantra they said over and over and over again on the floor here and in the House, ‘read the bill’ — Republicans are having committee votes two days after the bill is released,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor. “No wonder they don’t want anyone to know what’s in the bill.”

This isn’t governing. It’s grandstanding, and now without the threat of a Presidential veto, these clowns actually have to follow through. 

Collins will go along with whatever the White House tells him to do. He will vote to take away people’s health insurance without a second thought.

Where are the grownups? 

Let’s Talk About Chris Collins’ Constituents


Luckily, the Buffalo News’ Rod Watson wrote this opinion column, so I don’t have to. Watson succinctly spells out why and how Collins’ refusal to meet with constituents in a town hall, (or other setting), is disgraceful and cowardly. In a nutshell: Collins works for us, but he doesn’t see it that way. 

…Collins, the Clarence millionaire, explain[s] his refusal to hold town hall meetings by telling WGRZ-TV such sessions are “useless.” In fact, he explained, “They are not what you hope they would be, which is a give-and-take from people actually interested in getting some facts.

You see? Collins sees constituents as people who should dummy up and listen to him to “get some facts”. Never in his world could it feasibly work the other way around. Oh, sure, when someone’s kid gets into West Point or asks for Passport help or needs a Capitol tour, Collins’ office is as responsive as anyone’s; however, we’re not talking about constituent services – we’re talking about policy.

By the way, Collins has literally never held a town hall meeting, nor any other event for constituents that was open to the general public. How would he know whether it would be “useless”? 

Collins is now a Trumpist – a branch of the Republican party that until recently I was calling “Palinist“. You may know them as the loudmouths formerly known as the “tea party”. They’re not conservatives in the traditional sense – they’re nativists; nationalists. They oppose free trade, environmental conservation and protection, and programs for the elderly and poor. They are for withdrawal from a world that they find scary or useless. 

Watson continues

The primary purpose of a town hall is for the politician to listen. The aim is for him to get the facts from the folks intimately affected by government policy so that he has a better understanding of how his votes and the policies he pushes affect average people, not just those is in his income bracket.

Yet the guy Roll Call pegged as worth $23.8 million in 2015 thinks he knows all about your life without ever coming out to listen to you.

Imagine that. A public employee who lives in a million-dollar mansion believes he has nothing to learn from people who don’t. The median income in NY-27 is $55,000 per year. 

A group of average constituents got together to demand a town hall meeting from Collins – over $7000 was raised for three billboards evoking “Where’s Waldo” publicly to shame Collins to meet with residents of NY-27 and listen to them

Why? Because, for example, every time Chris Collins denounces the Affordable Care Act as a “disaster”, there’s a family in his district that is petrified that they’ll lose their health insurance and, in turn, be bankrupted by medical expenses. That family deserves to tell Collins its story to his face; he works for them. They deserve to experience the satisfaction of telling their representative what will happen if his policies are carried out. 

Chris Collins’ constituents don’t owe him anything – he owes them everything. 

But it’s all for naught. Collins isn’t going to hold any town halls, mostly because of the political math. He represents the most conservative district in New York, and he’s safe in his +7 (R). His last two Democratic opponents were unknown and not well-funded, so he cruised to re-election both times. His defenders always point to those electoral successes as evidence that Collins’ constituents are satisfied. More on that below. 

But the opposition must have struck a nerve. If Collins was as safe as all that, the ragtag, poorly organized but motivated group’s billboards would have merited only silence as a response. Instead, the Republican establishment retained the services of crisis communications specialist Michael Caputo to push back. (He claims not to have been paid for this endeavor, and that he’s doing it for “fun”. Nevertheless, he acknowledges having given Erie GOP chair Nick Langworthy and Collins’ people a heads-up.) He started the GOP’s own billboard campaign, and here’s the text of the press release: 

A billboard funded by an online fundraising drive will start to be displayed in Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) district Monday, March 6 for a week – on the same Hamburg billboard where Collins detractors bought a billboard trying to force the Congressman to have his first town hall meeting.

The billboard art is attached. The location is 4536 Big Tree Road in Hamburg, New York.

“Sixty-seven percent of constituents in New York’s 27th Congressional District voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Rep. Chris Collins just a few months ago. Our simple and direct billboard thanks our congressman for a job well done,” organizer Michael Caputo of East Aurora said. “In fact, our billboard will be displayed on the same board where his opponents bought space last month.”

67% of constituents who bothered to vote – which was 66% of eligible voters – voted to re-elect Mr. Collins. My math might be wrong here, but 67% of a 66% turnout means that 44% of “constituents eligible to vote” re-elected Collins – the same amount who stayed home or didn’t tick the box. Not exactly the ringing endorsement being sold. Also, let’s not forget that people who are not eligible to vote, including kids, immigrants, and the migrant workers who seasonally toil in local farms, are all constituents. The population of NY-27 is 713,000. So, 220,000 people voted for Collins, given a Trump bump in turnout. That’s 30% of his constituents. Of eligible voters, 66% of the 66% who came out voted for him; fully 34% didn’t bother to vote at all. The results showed that, of ballots cast in NY-27, 25,500 of them were blank on the congressional line, meaning they voted for other offices, but didn’t bother with the Collins race.

The fundraising drive, hosted on, raised $1,700 in just one day – a testament to the strong support Rep. Collins enjoys in his vast district that spans across rural and suburban Western New York. The campaign was in response to a similar drive by Collins’ leftist opponents who have failed miserably to defeat him in three Congressional elections. 

Collins barely squeaked out a narrow victory against Kathy Hochul in 2012; it was 50.8 – 49.2. Is that a “miserable failure”? I don’t think so. There were 66 donations made to Caputo’s billboard effort. Caputo says he raised “$1,700 in just one day”.  I hope a media outlet checks that before reporting it as fact, because GoFundMe shows that 66 people raised $1,732 over the course of a twelve day long campaign.  

More to the point, those 66 donations only came in on four separate days: $160 on February 19th, $220 on February 20th, $1,132 on February 21st, and $220 on February 22nd. So, that’s $1,700 in four days, not one. 

“Rep. Collins represents the most Republican district in New York, by far,” Caputo said. “The leftists’ failed effort to force him to have a town hall meeting was just an attempt to give marginal activists from outside the district a forum to scream at the Congressman – a theatrical production designed by national groups as part of a national leftist program. Needless to say, they failed.”

Now, Caputo is lying. I’m a member of the group that organized the billboard and as been demanding town hall meetings with our employee, Mr. Collins. It’s not “theatrical”, it’s not “marginal activists”, and they’re not from “outside the district”. This is a slander. Query why it’s necessary. 

It’s necessary because the Republican strategy is to de-legitimize anyone who opposes them. Average citizens – housewives, teachers, fathers – who have organized a billboard campaign must be “marginal” professional outside agitators so that they can be dismissed and ignored. Caputo continues, 

Well-funded national activist organizations connected to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and billionaire George Soros were behind thousands of AstroTurf groups across the country similarly harassing Republican congressmen when they returned home for their February district work period. Rep. Collins ignored the local contingent’s demands and, according to Caputo, won’t suffer a bit for it in 2018.

George Soros. When they invoke the name of the International Jew, you know they’re spooked. Well, I guess we’ll see about that. I’ve been involved in every congressional campaign around here ever since Tom Reynolds defended Mark Foley’s pederasty by trotting out a bunch of kids. Only in the Hochul vs. Corwin special election race did I see anyone from the outside help in a concerted way, and that was the DCCC. Not George Soros. 

Here’s what Collins’ spokesman said to the Buffalo News about the anti-Collins billboard: 

The left-wing activists, many of which reside outside of NY-27, organizing these publicity stunts will never be satisfied, despite having multiple opportunities to share their message,” McAdams said. “The fact is only three months ago, voters in NY-27 overwhelming elected Congressman Collins with 68 percent of the vote.

I guess it’s not plagiarism when you’re all working from the same script. 

Here’s the billboard Caputo put together for the GOP: 

Your “Real Constituents”. 

So, first of all Caputo’s accusations of outside money AstroTurf (fake grassroots) related to the anti-Collins billboard is projection. Secondly, this GOP propaganda should be commended for finally putting in writing what Chris Collins truly thinks of constituents who disagree with or oppose him; they simply don’t count – they aren’t “real” constituents.

Caputo said on social media that it’s meant to be “snarky”.  It is, I guess. But Collins is already thought of as arrogant, inaccessible, and someone who doesn’t believe he has any duty or need to listen to people who might disagree. This billboard doesn’t help – it proves the very point “Citizens Against Collins” has made. In the battle of the billboards, Collins’ opponents are winning $7,000 – $1,700, and 3:1. 

Perhaps Tom Dolina of the local satirical site the “Tommunist” put it best

George Soros was unavailable for comment. 

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