Sweet Land of Liberty


Kathy Griffin, best known for directing homo jokes at Anderson Cooper every New Year’s Eve, and who plays club dates most of the remainder of the year, is a comedian about whom few people think. An image of her holding a fake severed head of Donald Trump caused a furore yesterday. She claims she was trying to do comedy, and went over the line. Clearly she crossed it – joking about murdering the President is never funny. 

It is never funny or appropriate. At best, it’s tasteless. At worst, it could get you a visit from the Secret Service. 

But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about or seeing Kathy Griffin, so I’m not going to pretend like I care, beyond what I wrote above. 

What I want to focus on instead is something that happened in Oregon. 

Last weekend, a man stabbed three men, killing two, on a commuter train. The killer had been harassing two African-American girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. The victims stepped in to ask the man to shut up and leave the girls alone. The killer, it turns out, is a big fan of the idea of a white ethnostate called “Cascadia”. 

At a right-wing “free speech” rally held on April 29th, the killer had shown up, yelling “Hail Vinland!” and giving the Hitlergruß hither and thither. 

At the park, a Trump supporter carrying a baseball bat (quickly confiscated by police) tried to fight people, and yelled “fuck all you n****rs.” He’d later give the Nazi salute. 

The Portland Mercury has pictures, video, and excerpts from the killer’s social media showing his outspoken hatred for Jewish people, black people, and a variety of other types of people. The killer was a devotee of terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik, and was a Hitler enthusiast, too

In the squad car after his arrest, the killer said

“I told him, ‘You ain’t gonna heal punk,'” Christian said, according to the affidavit. “And he still wants to put his hands on me. Die bitch. Fucking die. Stupid motherfucker. That’s what liberalism gets you.”

The killer was arraigned Tuesday, and had an outburst in court. 

“Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe space. This is America, get out if you don’t like free speech. You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism,” he continued. “You hear me? Die.”

I have a much bigger problem with Jeremy Christian than with Kathy Griffin. In her tasteless picture, Kathy Griffin hurt nothing except people’s feelings. Jeremy Christian stabbed in the neck three men who stepped in to try and stop his racist outburst. He did it – by his own admission – because “that’s what liberalism gets you”. The Jeremy Christians of the world, who suddenly feel empowered and emboldened to harass black girls and kill in the name of “free speech” and “patriotism”, are a clearer and more present danger than tasteless comedians. Similarly, I have a much bigger problem with the Niagara Falls Nazis than with what some edgy B-list comic might have to say. 

Which brings us to this: 

I went to look and see whether Mr. Langworthy had Tweeted anything to denounce the murder of two men – and the assault of a third – who were attacked because, “that’s what liberalism gets you”.

I didn’t find anything.

I looked to see if he had any words to reject or condemn the murder of two men who stepped in to protect two innocent women from a racist, bigoted attack.

I didn’t find anything. 

Right wing media are replete with literally hourly attacks on “liberalism” as un-American, supportive of terrorism (especially jihadist terrorism), and otherwise in opposition to our values or our nation. It has been a constant drumbeat for decades – liberals were attacked in the 70s and 80s for being Sandinista or Soviet stooges. 

How did the Portland killer become radicalized? What about the guy who murdered Richard Collins, III? How did Charleston terrorist Dylann Roof become radicalized? According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing white supremacist terrorism is as great a threat as jihadist terrorism, yet I don’t see Nick Langworthy wringing his hands over the apparently racially targeted murder of a black Army lieutenant by a kid who spent a lot of time wanking to the hatred on an “alt-reich” white supremacist Facebook group

It seems as if something has happened in this country over the last few years where white supremacy has become normalized, as incidents – mostly non-fatal – seem to pop up every week. The radicalized alt-right has a friend in the White House, and to that extremist group, any violence is justified against blacks or Muslims or “that’s what liberalism gets you”. Fascinating that Nick Langworthy has a bigger problem with Kathy Griffin than with the targeted murder of liberals by a fan of Mr. Trump’s. The latter seems like a much bigger problem than what some washed up comic did in a photograph. 

Year Zero


It is Year Zero – the year that the United States turned its back on the great postwar alliances of the industrialized, democratic western world

Never before has an American President treated our European allies with such dismissive disrespect. 

It is Year Zero – the year that a Republican candidate for Congress brazenly assaulted and battered a young reporter because he asked a relevant, newsworthy question twice. 

He then released a statement filled with lies, despite the statements of four witnesses, and the existence of a tape that clearly revealed what happened. 

It is Year Zero – a year in which a man who wished President Obama dead and called his wife an ape still sits on the board of a predominately minority school district. 

Carl Paladino is an unapologetic, deluded racist who belongs nowhere near the education of any child, anywhere, at any time. 

It is Year Zero – a year in which that congressional candidate was elected to Congress the day after he battered and injured an innocent reporter. 

He only apologized after he had won

It is Year Zero – the year in which so-called “conservative” pundits and the neofascist “alt-right” laughed about the battering of an innocent reporter, and insulted the victim’s manhood. 

Even the right-wing National Review is appalled

It is Year Zero – a year in which WBEN listeners here in Buffalo texted in virtual howls of derisive laughter at the notion of the big, tough Congressional candidate beating the shit out of a reporter. 

Ask them if they’d think it was so funny if some intemperate local politician assaulted WBEN’s Mike Baggerman or Brian Mazurowski. 

It is Year Zero – the year when Donald Trump quite deliberately failed and refused to approvingly mention the cornerstone of the NATO alliance, Article V of its constituent document, which holds that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on them all.

Article V has been invoked exactly once – in defense of the US after 9/11. 

It is Year Zero – the year when Donald Trump decides to treat the NATO alliance – a bulwark first against aggressive Communist expansion, and now against belligerent Russian provocation and jihadi terrorism – as some sort of Belgian Mar-a-Lago with a steep initiation fee where payment is somehow due the United States lest members be expelled. 

That’s not what it is, and not how it works. NATO defeated the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact. It protects its members – most significantly Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Poland, and Montenegro – against Putin’s Russia

It is Year Zero – the year where the growing evidence of Trump campaign collusion in 2016 with Russian intelligence drips out slowly, like water torture as all involved lawyer up and begin to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. 

Drip, drip. There’s more every day

It is Year Zero – the year in which Donald Trump fails to understand how the EU works, despite having had it all explained to him 11 times when German Chancellor Merkel came to Washington a few months ago. 

You don’t get to cut a separate deal with individual EU member states; the EU consists in part of a trading bloc and a customs union. 

It is Year Zero – when Donald Trump causes weekly international incidents with our closest allies, most recently characterizing Germany as “evil” because it dares to sell BMWs, VWs, and Mercedes in the US pursuant to trade deals with the EU. 

Mercedes builds in Alabama, BMW builds in South Carolina, and VW builds in Tennessee. It’d be a shame if anything happened to that. 

It is Year Zero – when Donald Trump genuflects to murderous dictators like Putin, Duterte, and the House of Saud but hectors and demeans our closest allies. 

When has Trump ever criticized Putin or Duterte? Even mildly? 

It is Year Zero – when Donald Trump’s desire to break up the EU is perfectly aligned with the interests of Vladimir Putin’s Russia


It is Year Zero – when Donald Trump’s belittling of NATO is perfectly aligned with the interests of Vladimir Putin’s Russia


It is Year Zero – where the “rule of law” is a partisan issue, and the Trump Administration’s blatant refusal to abide by its own promises not to violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution is met with Beltway shrugs and silence. 

Lock them up

It is Year Zero – as the Turkish strongman visiting the US sics his security forces and local thugs on peaceful American protesters in Washington DC as the Trump Administration reacts with silence. 

Not a peep from the White House. No expulsions, no arrests, no one from the Turkish diplomatic missions png’d.  

It is Year Zero – as Trump’s Education Secretary finds no issue whatsoever should private schools receiving federal funding decide to discriminate against a protected class of people. 

She would allow federal funding of exclusive, bigoted private schools. 

It is Year Zero – as Trump’s Education Secretary works to systematically de-fund and dismantle our public education system. 

Just as Article V is the cornerstone of NATO, and NATO is the cornerstone of the security of free western nations, public education is a cornerstone of our democracy. 

It is Year Zero – as the Trump Administration’s proposed budget grants massive tax cuts to the richest Americans, paid for by its poorest

No word yet on how this makes “America great again”. Class warfare is being waged, alright – by the superwealthy and the useful idiots in office they’ve bought. 

It is Year Zero – where a purported security expert, prospective Trump appointee, and elected law enforcement officer harassed a citizen for the crime of shaking his head at him

Sheriff Clarke’s stolen valor is something you’d expect the right to be howling about. Oddly enough, silence. 

It is Year Zero – Donald Trump calls Filipino murderer Duterte and lavishes praise

During the same call, he revealed the presence of two American nuclear subs in the vicinity of North Korea – a state secret

It is Year Zero – Trump told his Russian benefactors all about ISIS’ plans to blow up airliners. 

It was intelligence from the Israelis that Trump wasn’t even supposed to repeat to our closest allies, much less a hostile power. He doubled down on this during a meeting with PM Netanyahu in Israel

It is Year Zero – the President knowingly hired as National Security Advisor a man in the pay of the Turkish and Russian governments. 

Flynn lied on his security clearance forms, to boot

It is Year Zero. There is a revolution underway that would be fundamentally transforming the United States into an authoritarian dictatorship, if the Republicans still constituted a political party and not a radical insurgency. There is no wall, there is no repeal of Obamacare, there is no Muslim ban. So far, and for the most part, our system is protecting itself and us. Query how much more pressure it can take. 

For me, this is an appalling betrayal of the very idea of America. My parents didn’t escape one totalitarian dictatorship to end up living in another one 50 years later. They didn’t abandon Titoism in order to eventually end up with Trumpism, with its corporatist white supremacy that treats hostile powers with obsequiousness and our closest allies with hostility. They didn’t leave a state with mandatory one-party elections in order to be subjected to the neofascist fever dreams of semi-literate cretins who think democracy weak and our alliances cucked. 

And I’m a straight, privileged white guy. Imagine how all this feels to literally anyone who belongs to an historically marginalized or discriminated-against group. 

The Trump Administration suffers from a crushing combination of arrogance and ineptitude. Luckily, our bureaucracy is such that it can continue to function even in cases of neglect – benign and malignant. There is too much news; every day brings a month’s worth, and every month brings enough to fill an average year. Yet people also see this chaos for the distraction it is. 

None of this is normal, and all of it is fundamentally un-American. I don’t mean ha ha Putin’s puppet – I mean our head of state having nothing but praise for murderers and only disrespect for our closest friends. 

It’s Year Zero. Time to pay close attention to who, exactly, cheers for dictatorship over democracy. Never let them forget it. 

Collins and the 23 Million


Wednesday afternoon, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Trumpcare bill. It squeaked through the House of Representatives in early May 217-213.

Local Republican Congressman Chris Collins, a reliable cheerleader for the Trump Administration, voted in favor of the bill. He has refused to meet with constituents to explain and defend his vote, or – more critically – to hear from people who will be palpably harmed by poor, unaffordable health coverage. 

Paired with the massive cuts to Medicaid, Trumpcare would see 23 million Americans lose their health insurance over the course of the next 10 years. More dramatically, 14 million of them would lose their health coverage just next year. Once you get sick and actually use your health coverage, you would end up paying much more for it in the future. 

Because of the “McArthur Amendment”, which was used as bait to lure hard-line ultra-right wing House votes, states have the option to permit discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. In those cases, rates would skyrocket into the realm of hypothesis. Other states would have the ability to opt out of requiring health coverage to include things like prenatal care, mental health, and substance abuse. People would need to buy separate policies to cover these situations and ailments. 

In essence, Trumpcare would result in something arguably worse than the pre-Obamacare status quo. It starkly betrays every promise the Republicans made about making health insurance better, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and people losing coverage. The text of the bill was available for only 24 hours, and there were only about three hours’ worth of debate, and Democrats were shut out of the process. Once, House Republicans promised to read every bill, and that any bill’s text would be available to read for days in advance. They broke this pledge.

The rationale behind yanking health insurance from 23 million Americans is the cost savings, which will fund a massive tax cut to the superwealthy. While you and your family find themselves paying more for worse insurance, or you are being gouged due to your pre-existing diabetes or cancer, people making millions will have a little more cash in hand to fuel up the Gulfstream. Win-win!

It exchange, Trumpcare would roll back Medicaid expansions in certain states, offer paltry “tax credits” of a couple thousand dollars to ostensibly help people buy health coverage that would cost exponentially more per year. But Trumpcare would harm the elderly poor the most

The new report tends to validate criticism of the House Republican bill by AARP and other advocates for older Americans. “For older people with lower income, net premiums” — after tax credits — “would be much larger than under current law, on average,” the budget office said. As an example, it said, for a typical 64-year-old with an annual income of $26,500, the net premium in 2026 would average about $16,000 a year, compared with $1,700 under the Affordable Care Act.

Imagine paying 62% of your annual income on health coverage when you need it most. 

The 217 Republicans – including Clarence’s Chris Collins – who voted in favor of this Trumpcare disaster did so without first waiting for and reviewing the CBO’s analysis of its effects. This is, itself, wildly irresponsible. That irresponsibility is compounded by the fact that Collins never read the 100-page bill before voting on it, and had absolutely no idea of its effects. Mr. Collins is too busy buying up and puffing pharmaceutical penny stocks while promoting legislation that would directly help that investment. Now, he’s soliciting big-money contributions from DC’s wealthy, who will benefit most directly from the federal theft of people’s health coverage.  

Collins is willing to sell his presence to the highest Beltway bidder, but refuses freely to meet with constituents whom his legislation will harm. What a coward, essentially crossing his fingers and hoping the “R” after his name will be the key to yet another easy victory in 2018. But consider this passage, the day after the House vote on Trumpcare: 

Told by a Buffalo News reporter that the state’s largest loss of federal funds under the bill would be $3 billion annually that goes to the state’s Essential Health Plan, Collins said: “Explain that to me.”

The Essential Plan is an optional program under Obamacare, offered only by New York and Minnesota, that provides low-cost health insurance to low- and middle-income people who don’t qualify for Medicaid. State Health Department figures show that more than 19,000 people in Erie and Niagara counties were on the Essential Plan in January.

Asked by The Buffalo News if he was aware of the bill’s cut in funding to the Essential Plan, Collins said: “No. But it doesn’t surprise me for you to tell me that there were two states in the nation that were taking advantage of some other waiver program and New York was one of the two states.”

Chris Collins has no idea what he’s doing or whom he’s harming, and he refuses to meet with people who might tell him about it. He votes on bills he didn’t read, that weren’t posted long enough for people to review, and which had barely any debate and no minority input. He voted for a bill that will do real harm to people, weakening and fragmenting an industry representing a fifth of the economy. 

But hey, at least Collins hasn’t body-slammed any reporters yet. 

#Preetsmas: Federal Edition


Former Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman G. Steven Pigeon was arraigned in federal court yesterday on a criminal complaint alleging that he conspired to generate a $25,000 donation to the campaign of Governor Andrew Cuomo from a Canadian gambling conglomerate. The Cuomo campaign had rejected two previous attempts that foreign company made to contribute, but on the third try, it funneled the contribution through a US citizen, its Florida-based lawyer. 

The criminal complaint did not name the Canadian company or its CEO, nor even the campaign involved. It appears that David Baazov of Amaya Inc., filtered a $25,000 donation to Cuomo’s campaign through his company’s Florida-based attorney, Marlon Goldstein.

From its corporate communications page, “Amaya owns gaming and related consumer businesses and brands including PokerStars, Full Tilt, BetStars, StarsDraft, the European Poker Tour, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Latin American Poker Tour and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour.

Amaya has since retained the services of Bolton-St. John’s to undertake its Albany lobbying. (Jan – June 2014, Jul – Dec 2014), and in that latter half of 2014 also retained “Niagara Frontier Business Solutions, Inc.” located in a home in Buffalo and using the phone number of Bolton-St. John’s partner, Jack O’Donnell. Amaya paid O’Donnell $55,000 for the latter half of 2014 and $120,000 in 2015. Amaya, whose lobbying affairs after 2015 were being handled by executives located on the British tax haven the Isle of Man, paid O’Donnell another $20,000 in the first half of 2016, but in the latter half of last year reported only using Cozen O’Connor from New York City. 

The Buffalo News reports that Amaya paid Steve Pigeon’s and Gary Parenti’s “PaPi Consulting, LLC” $388,000 from 2010 – 2015 for Albany lobbying. In 2016, Quebec securities regulators charged Amaya’s Baazov with five counts of securities manipulation and insider trading. Former NATO Commander and Presidential candidate Wesley Clark is on Amaya’s Board of Directors. Clark is an associate of Pigeon’s

The Buffalo News explains that

The federal complaint, based on emails seized from Pigeon’s waterfront condo during a 2015 raid, alleges he conspired to hide the true source of the foreign contribution while arranging it for a Manhattan event featuring the governor. He could face five years in jail if convicted.

“Pigeon sought and successfully helped … a $388,000 client,” acting U.S. Attorney J.P. Kennedy said during an afternoon press conference, “allowing them to interfere in a U.S. election by making a significant contribution.

Pigeon spoke with the News’ Bob McCarthy after the arraignment, and attacked – oddly – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has no federal power or jurisdiction. 

These latest ridiculous charges – three in a row now – show what a political witch hunt this is…I was simply a co-host of a Cuomo party and invited a Canadian citizen to an event like what he attends all over the United States. I simply invited a person and I’m the only one charged…This is all the result of a politically motivated prosecutor and an obsessed federal agent on this case,” he said, calling the attorney general “the most political prosecutor in the history of this state….I have no idea why these people are piling on,” he said, adding that millions of dollars have been spent to put him under a “microscope.”

A lot of political actors in western New York have a word for that – karma. 

Schneiderman didn’t file this complaint. He doesn’t prosecute in federal court. The acting US Attorney’s office brought this prosecution under federal law. It has evidence that Pigeon knowingly conspired to mask an illegal foreign donation to Governor Cuomo through a U.S. person. The News details that the emails reveal a deliberate scheme to evade restrictions on foreign contributions. Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria, took an opportunity to throw the Governor under the nearest bus, 

The Cuomo people were aware of it,” he said, adding that his client is convinced of the political motivations, “at least from the state standpoint.”

It’s black letter law, re-affirmed even by a post-Citizens United SCOTUS decision

Foreign nationals, other than lawful permanent residents, are completely banned from donating to candidates or parties, or making independent expenditures in federal, state or local elections.

It is analogous to Nick Sinatra buying a handful of money orders to help fund Pigeon’s “WNY Progressive Caucus” (“AwfulPAC”) in 2013, and putting his employee’s name on the documents to hide his involvement. 

One question: all of this money flowing through Pigeon’s bank accounts from other sources to be used for political purposes – that’s income. Was it declared as such? 

It seems as if the sunlight on Pigeon’s emails and bank transactions is revealing a lot of ugly stuff, and prosecutors are only just beginning to unravel it all, apparently evealing a broad criminal enterprise designed improperly to influence elections by funneling massive sums of money to committees and campaigns.

Steve Pigeon’s Latest Tax Trouble


So far, within the context of the #Preetsmas series of stories regarding the prosecution of Steve Pigeon’s “WNY Progressive Caucus” (“AwfulPAC”) and its alleged misdeeds during the 2013 election season, the Public has reported on the following federal tax liens filed with the county clerk’s office against Pigeon: 

Part of Pigeon’s self-preservation involved convincing local political reporters that everything he was doing was totally above-board. The Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy, for instance, fell for it. In February 2015, Pigeon showed McCarthy his tax returns to address this question: Does Pigeon earn enough to make these huge 6-figure contributions and loans to quixotic PAC efforts

A few short months later, McCarthy had to eat crow. The IRS had filed multiple tax liens against Pigeon for unpaid taxes – one from 2012 for $25,527; one from 2014 for $118,650; and one from June 2015 for $126,259. The overwhelming bulk of that last one covered the 2013 tax year, when Pigeon’s AwfulPAC had been most active. 

In 2015, the IRS filed a fourth tax lien against Pigeon for $65,806 in unpaid taxes from the 2014 tax year. Even his condo association got in on the fun by asserting a lien of $4,400 for unpaid condo fees

Today, we can report that the IRS filed a fifth federal tax lien against Pigeon for unpaid taxes from the 2015 tax year in the amount of $79,494. 

Steve Pigeon Dec 2016 Tax Lien by Alan Bedenko on Scribd

That brings the total number of liens to six, with a grand total of $420,136. Rought calculations would tell us that this would represent the tax due and owing on easily seven figures’ worth of income. It could have been declared and unpaid, or it could have been undeclared and found through, for instance, some sort of law enforcement investigation into money transfers for election purposes. 

A call the Public placed Thursday to Mr. Pigeon’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, was not returned. 

#MAGA and the New Radical Chic


A conservative friend of mine shared this opinion piece by Shelby Steele. It’s entitled, “The Exhaustion of American Liberalism”, and it appeared in the March 7th print edition of Wall Street’s own reliably conservative Murdoch broadsheet. 

The thing that attracted me to this – and prompted me to analyze it – was, naturally, the title. “Exhaustion,” in this context, has a double meaning, doesn’t it? For liberals like me, the last several months have been absolutely exhausting. Watching the country to which my parents emigrated commence a rapid spiral down a dictatorial and autocratic hole is alarming; after all, they came here to escape dictatorial autocracy. But what I think Steele means here is that liberalism is “exhausted”, as in spent – empty. 

I’m familiar with Mr. Steele, a preeminent black, conservative intellectual. He’s also a septuagenarian baby boomer, about the same age as Donald Trump. He’s been studying the dynamics of race in America and how he believes that racial “victimization” is a double-edged sword. His experience with the subject undoubtedly far surpasses mine. 

But racism isn’t some abstract concept, but a very real thing, and Steele’s article speaks more to me about a generation gap than anything else. The progressive movement of the 60s begat the self-centered “me” generation of the 70s, then the yuppies of the 80s, and can trace its lineage all the way to the reactionary nihilism of Donald Trump. So, because of human mortality and the political leanings of the younger generations, any suggestion that liberalism is “exhausted” is something that piques my interest. Let’s examine

The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trump presidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos. Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.

Ah, the heavy hand of generational condescension. It was only too short a time ago when the generation born in the 20s denounced the kids born in the 40s as degenerate, lazy louts. Their long, unkempt hair and their rock ‘n roll were, in the 60s, emblematic of America’s decline. Now, the hippie generation are the squares, lecturing people born after the mid-60s about how their generation knew how to protest appropriately. They wore their “Sunday best” and carried themselves with “heroic dignity,” whereas you lot show up in your jeans and t-shirts and ironic pink hats. 

Do a Google image search for “60s protest” and you’ll see that it wasn’t all marches through Selma in jacket and tie, and that history didn’t end in 1964. Today’s pink pussy hat – a direct hommage to the President’s own description of his amorous tactics – is yesterday’s long hair and jeans. 

All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. What is ending?

So far, we’ve seen Mr. Steele set up a fake comparative, and now he’s going to brew up the bespoke conclusion it was designed to support. 

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

This is all nonsense. 

“White guilt” is being used here as a shield with which to excuse racism. Mid-19th century emancipation wasn’t the end of black America’s journey to freedom, but the beginning. It wasn’t until 100 years later – a mere 50 years ago – that our government codified the rights of minorities generally, and black Americans especially. The years immediately leading up to that legislation were tumultous, and that it took so long to do the right thing is a national dishonor. 

Conventional wisdom now informs us that Trump’s surprising victory was due in large part to the “white working class” and their “economic insecurity”. It explains the populist reaction to Wall Street bailouts, free trade deals, and even Brexit in the UK. But this is all too simplistic – there are as many reasons why a vote was cast for Trump as there were votes cast. I believe that part of the general pro-Trump equation has to do with what Steele is describing here, but I’d put it all a different way. It’s not about people being exhausted with “mock” white guilt – it’s a reaction to the expansion of civil liberties and the social changes that have taken place with such recent celerity, driven by the younger generations whom Steele mocks as undeserving pussy-hat wearers. 

The generation gap is nothing new, and we’re much more 1968 than 1963. We have our endless, rudderless wars. We have our LBJ and Nixon all wrapped up in one neat package. We also have acceptance of – and the expansion of – civil rights for LGBTQ Americans, and we have a recent, robust rejection of Confederate iconography. 

Steele characterizes “white guilt” as a “terror of being stigmatized” as a bigot. Just this week, I appropriately and accurately referred to septuagenarian Carl Paladino as exactly that – a bigot. As a private citizen, you can be the racist, homophobic xenophobe you want to be and no one can stop you. As a public official, however, bigotry becomes a public issue. As someone who is charged with representing a diverse constituency, it becomes relevant. But when you strip away the fancy talk, Steele is saying that bigots are tired of being called out on it. Once a bigot is branded as such, he becomes a “pariah”, but Steele’s solution isn’t to end bigotry, but for people to just sort of ignore it and shut up about it. 

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

I think there is definitely a crisis in the American left in Trump’s America, we won’t find solutions from those who casually excuse people’s worst instincts and prejudices. Elderly Baby Boomers are not the future; Millenials, and to a lesser extent Generation X, are. It is the younger generations that are driving the social changes that Steele denounces as “mock liberalism”.

Unlike Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millenials don’t generally get hired right out of college and enjoy a job for life. The concept of “freedom” is one that means different things to different people, and to people of different ages. 

There is “freedom from” and “freedom to”; negative liberty and positive liberty. We’ve always struggled politically to balance the two, as we grant Americans wider freedom to possess arms, and freedom from hunger and illness. As Boomers enjoy their single-payer Medicare, Millenials striving in the gig economy struggle to afford or obtain quality, affordable health insurance of any sort. As Boomers collect their Social Security benefits, Gen-Xers wonder whether the grand American bargain is going to still be around for them and their kids. Will the Boomers in Congress pull the Medicare rug out and privatize it? Will Social Security be strengthened or weakened? I enjoy the freedom to travel, to speak, to pray (or not), and myriad other freedoms we take for granted daily. I’d also like the freedom from usurious banks, predatory health insurers, and being taxed to keep Afghanistan safe. 

Steele is arguing for the rights of Americans freely to express their bigotry without shame, and freedom from any consequences – public or private – that might derive therefrom. America didn’t “become stigmatized” in the 60s as “racist, sexist, and militaristic”. It had long been all of those things. It still is. That’s part of what makes America as a multicultural political experiment so interesting. The anti-Italian bigotry of the early 20th century is different how, exactly, from the anti-Muslim bigotry of today? Conservatives denounce the notion of equal pay for equal work today, just as they killed the Equal Rights Amendment almost forty years ago. “Political correctness” is a concept that now exists only in conservative thought, to justify and defend the notion that it’s ok for people to treat other people horribly on the basis of their color, gender, religion, background, etc. Steele’s denunciation of “political correctness” and “environmental orthodoxy” and the “diversity cult” underscore his thesis that it’s not the bigotry that’s the problem, it’s that some people won’t put up with it any longer. 

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”

This anecdote proves nothing. There’s no data underlying this conclusion that people only voted for President Obama because he is black. The substance of Obama’s candidacy was about as traditionally American as it gets, and his platform was not dissimilar from that of any Democratic candidate since (interestingly enough) the mid-60s. The fact of the 2008 global financial meltdown made the Presidential choice that year rather stark – do you vote for the panicky Senator whose running mate is woefully unprepared, or for the cool, calm, and collected guy who exudes competence? If you voted for Obama based solely on his race, that’s pretty ignorant. 

For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.

For a lot of women, Mrs. Clinton’s loss served to remind them that women still had a long way to go before they’ll truly be considered men’s equals. Mr. Trump wasn’t just “soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist”, he was factually proven to be both, yet won anyway. The pussy grabbing tape was proof of his sexism, and his entire political career was founded on the racist fiction that President Obama didn’t just not feel American, but that he was actually foreign-born and unqualified to govern – evidence be damned. 

Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks— Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from a black heroine in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Ms. Warren was finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.

Yet when Senator Warren’s male colleagues read from the same text, they were not told to sit down and shut up. Note that Mr. Steele doesn’t address the substance of Mrs. King’s letter and testimony about Attorney General Sessions – merely the identities of the people involved. White liberal. Black heroine. White male. Who’s playing in the deep end of identity politics, now? 

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

Especially the door to the jailhouse

This is the reality that made Ms. Warren’s attack on Mr. Sessions so tiresome. And it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Congress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history.

Dark with doubt about the anti-democratic autocrat temporarily occupying the Oval Office. As President Trump heaps praise on Phillipine murderer Rodrigo Duterte, calls North Korean concentration camp operator Kim Jong Un a “smart cookie”, and praises Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Americans are left wondering how it is that “economic insecurity” justifies all this ethical rot. America isn’t just a place, it’s an idea. Its promise of opportunity and liberty have attracted people from around the world for centuries. It’s not, however, some conservative rebuke against “political correctness” that gives people pause. It’s the erosion of the very concept of America. You don’t “make America great again” by excusing bigotry, playing footsie with dictators, and rejecting science and knowledge. You want to have playtime in your new America that no longer has to “apologize” for being horrible to minorities or women or gay people? That’s fine, I guess, but for an elderly Boomer to declare the end of “liberalism” – or its “exhaustion” – when the younger generations stand overwhelmingly at odds against you, beware of whom you label an “anachronism”. 

Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad. Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.

Declaring without proof that today’s liberals don’t know “what poverty is” is the anachronism. How condescending – it’s like the Fox News alerts that shame the poor as not really poor because they own TVs and microwaves. In what way do liberals have “no grip” on “what American exceptionalism is” or what it means? It’s Trump – not “liberals” – who is systematically defunding and weakening our diplomatic corps – the front lines around the world of the very idea of “America”. Liberalism today isn’t simply defined by a static 1965. It’s also informed by a President who bullshat his way into a disastrous quagmire in Iraq. Today’s liberals are the ones screaming bloody murder at how Reaganomics and its ceaseless hangover have utterly destroyed the American middle class, and brought about intense concentration of wealth. Today’s liberals aren’t just content to not be bigots, but also believe that programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid need to be strengthened, not weakened. Most of us think Obamacare didn’t go far enough, and we’ll be damned if we let the conservatives on the Hill erode what little progress we’ve made towards universal health coverage. 

This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.

Steele’s projection of liberalism as an “anti-American” identity is a decades-old trope that was rendered impotent in the 90s. It isn’t the mid-60s anymore, but it’s not the mid-80s, either. This isn’t a thoughtful exposition on the state of liberalism in Trump’s America – it’s a blunt caricature ripped from the pages of any random issue of the New York Post from when Mayor Koch was running the city. 

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

Four thousand shootings in Chicago count for more than an anti-liberal totem for conservatives to hoist when they want to feel morally superior. It’s a problem that isn’t solved by, e.g., more guns or the abolition of social programs. What, precisely, is the anti-liberal solution to Chicago’s shootings? Surely by now President Trump or one of the members of his parade of idiots and nepotists could have solved it? And what does “sanctuary city” have to do with it? “Sanctuary city” means the city won’t abide an unfunded mandate that its police forces do ICE‘s job for it. “Sanctuary city” means that the police won’t arrest an undocumented immigrant who reports a crime. What does Chicago’s status as a “sanctuary city” have to do with “four thousand shootings” at all? It’s a non-sequitur. 

Steele’s piece tries inelegantly to do in a short column what Tom Wolfe did so brilliantly in Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers. Social commentary about white guilt has been done better, earlier. That’s what Steele is talking about, after all: the time of the rich coastal elites and their radical chic moral superiority is over! 

The problem is that Steele’s analysis – such as it is – is the real anachronism here. He’s still fighting the battles of the late 60s and early 70s, and sees contemporary politics through that lens. Ironically enough, he is a part of the coastal elite – working at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, which is limited both in its middle-classhood and economic anxiety. 

Liberalism isn’t over. Hell, the Bernie Sanders rally at UB in 2016 had a much bigger turnout with much less promotion or fanfare than Trump’s circus at the KeyBank Center. The idea that government has a role in the economy – and can solve problems – didn’t go away. The concept of “don’t be a complete prick to people different from you” isn’t dead or “exhausted” in any sense of the term. On the contrary, while there exists now a backlash against, perhaps, Obama and same-sex marriage and whatever other bogeyman you can conjure, know that it’s only temporary, and the future lives in liberty and democracy, rather than dictatorship and hatred. The future is with the youth, and they don’t wish President Obama dead or characterize Michelle Obama as a male gorilla

But for now, the radical chic is to excuse bigotry and to otherwise “Make America Great Again”. 

Fisking Paladino’s Missive to Board Colleagues


Prominent local bigot Carl Paladino sent an email to three of his Buffalo school board colleagues – Jennifer Mecozzi, Paulette Woods, and board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. It was hilariously condescending, but more importantly underscores the fact that he doesn’t have the courage to speak to these women in any way to their faces – he takes to email to hector and lecture them, accusing them of collusion, ethical lapses, and corruption. 

That’s what bullies do. The problem is that these three strong women – who are duly elected members of the same public board as Paladino – are having none of it. So, hypothetically, let’s imagine that the recipients of this childish rant took the time and effort to actually respond to this semi-literate missive from this malignant personality. Paladino’s text is quoted. 


Why can’t he even exert the effort to type first names, never mind address fellow Board members with respect? 

Jennifer, I believe that you and Paula…

Who is Paula? How disgraceful is it that you have served on the Board with these individuals for a year AND STILL CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO LEARN THEIR NAMES?

…are a disgrace to the citizens of the City who put you in office to do the right thing for all of the children, including all of the minority children of the City. 

Racist guy who wished President Obama dead and called Michelle Obama a male ape just told minority women that they are a disgrace to minorities? YES.

I feel you participated in a reckless and incompetent collusion with others in the approval of a $1.5 Billion Teachers contract without any knowledge of the financial impact on the budget of the BPS 

Awe. Feelings. How effete.

District officials estimate the contract will cost about $98.8 million over its three-year term. What is it with you Trumpists and alternative facts? Are you suggesting that we didn’t attend the executive sessions where all of this was fully explained to the Board? You know – the sessions which, with conscious and deliberate intent, YOU VIOLATED CONFIDENTIALITY RULES by publishing their details in an Artvoice article? An article that is now the subject of a petition for your removal? WAIT a minute! WE WERE THERE! You said so in Artvoice!

 You deliberately marginalized the opportunity for Larry Quinn and I to have transparency at the approval meeting.

*Quinn and me, but OMG REALLY? You and Larry were marginalized? You don’t know the meaning of the word Carl.  This is how is works on a Board, you know MAJORITY VOTE prevails.

You knew that the terms were not what had been authorized in earlier discussions. 

Authorized by whom? The Superintendent was authorized by the Board to negotiate a contract, and the terms were fluid, as they should be in the negotiation process. 

You had no qualms about voting for a rigged contract which you knew had been rigged.

Carl, your tinpot Infowars conspiracy theories are laughable. Rigged by whom? Are you implying that our votes were bought? Your paranoia here further calls into question your ability to serve on a public board. 

You and the others deserve no respect from the people of Buffalo.

Are you lecturing us about respect? You? A vile racist, misogynistic, hate mongererer? That is precious.

You breached your fiduciary responsibility to the children.  The News reported a $10 billion deficit.  Wrong.

Hey, Carl, stop trying to copy your cult leader, Donald Trump. He does all of this better than you.

The BPS presently has a $32 million deficit. What happens then?  Who bails us out? 

The BPS wants to cover part of the deficit with a major part of our $63 million in unrestricted reserves, which will be fully depleted next year. You appeal to your base while, all the while, you are well aware that the reserves were earmarked for this eventuality. There will be increased state and city funding. You are an alarmist banging the drum of your political agenda. The costs will be evened out with increased funding and decreased spending. Just like every major organization with a large budget, projections must be made without all available information and are, at best, educated guesses. It is a risk/cost/benefit analysis that was made and propagated by the CFO. 

The mayor said that he would not support or sign a contract that he did not know how to pay for.  Such stupidity has no place in responsible government.  Why should he bail out such stupidity?

The Mayor will invest in the future of this city: its children.

The 4 year plan shows impending insolvency.

Maybe your fellow tea party cultists playing under the confederate flag fall for this garbage, Carl, but educated people research and think before drawing conclusions. 

You are clueless as to the gravity of your actions.  If you had any sense of responsibility to the people of the City and our students you would tell them and the authorities how you were co-opted into that irresponsible collusion. You say you believe in transparency but you voted on a contract that had no public exposure before the vote.  You didn’t want to hear any comment on the one largest issue you will ever face on the Board.

Oh, that’s rich. Carl, let’s talk about responsibility. Before you start lecturing us on our “sense of responsibility” let’s spend some time talking about yours. Do you understand what the word “responsibility” even means? It’s “the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something”. Oh, my…can you even begin to take responsibility for your actions and decisions while elected to the Board?

You have a responsibility to your constituents – over 70% of whom who are black, brown, and other minorities. Your responsibility as an elected official extends into your public comments and persona.

You are responsible to carry yourself with grace and tact – or at the very least to behave like an adult. You are responsible for representing people who are black, brown, gay, transgender, and even Democrats. You alone are responsible for the continued upheaval on the Board; for the weekly protests, for exhausting your fellow board members’ time, money, and emotional investment with your adolescent inability to take responsibility for your own actions. You are responsible for the toll your behavior takes on the children of this district, the community at-large, and the region as your ridiculous ego continues to drive your insatiable quest for vengeance. 

You and Paula… 


…followed the leadership of the arrogant and condescending Hope Jay… 

That’s just textbook projection. In CarlSpeak, “arrogant and condescending” when describing a female means she’s educated and confident; not afraid to stand up to you. You can’t take it. There’s no room in Carl’s world for women whose opinions don’t jibe with his own.

…an admitted hopeless union oriented devotee who thinks her obligation to Phil Rumore, Richard Lipsitz and the others who supported her campaign comes before her obligation to represent the people of the City of Buffalo.

Your attempt to fashion a pun out of your opponent’s name is trite and childish, and other than that you hurl accusations around like they’re racial epithets. Your speculation is hilarious – you couldn’t possibly know what Hope Jay thinks, Carl.  After all, you’re too much of an unprofessional coward to actually to speak with her or any of the other Board members who don’t blindly follow you. 

She lacks basic ethical and moral responsibility to her constituency…

You know how they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Maybe Google Hope Jay’s father, who was a champion of ethical and moral responsibility. They’re traits that she takes very seriously. Now Google yourself, Carl, and see what a national laughingstock you are. You’re Buffalo’s most prominent black eye.

You and Paula were her lackeys.

LOL “Paula”. It’s funny how you think women can’t possibly have their own minds or make their own independent decisions. Par for the course for a misogynist who sees women only as sexual objects

Eventually, you will account for your bad actions.

Karma is a great concept, Carl. You should learn more about it, but that would entail opening up a firmly closed mind.

You are not dealing with neighborhood buffoonery any more.

Once again, your disdain for your constituents shines brightly. Housing and civil rights are mere “buffoonery” to this little man.

This is adult big boy stuff…

OMG, it’s big boy stuff?!  I mean, who the hell let these uppity women out of the kitchen, and allowed us into the boardroom with you big boys? I mean, what the hell, we little women – elected officials and all making decisions – it’s so crazy!

…and involves hundreds of millions of dollars and the lives and futures of thousands of forgotten minority children.

Yes, Carl, you sure did forget the minority children when you called for President Obama’s death and for the former First Lady to turn into “Maxie the Gorilla” and live in the “outback of Zimbabwe.” 

You did something wrong to take care of the teachers and set president for other unionized employees.


What did you do for the kids and all the programs we talk about like lowering class sizes, expanding Emerson and other criteria schools which are now at risk because we can’t pay for them? 

That mantle of martyrdom doesn’t quite fit, Carl. It’s too big. The world sees through you, Carl Paladino. We won’t rest until the people of Buffalo – and especially the pupils in the Buffalo schools – get the justice and leadership they so desperately deserve. We hope that’s clear enough a reply for you. We’re not your little cult followers, and we’re not some little women who will just dummy up when you try to intimidate us. We know what you are. You don’t frighten us; we’re not afraid of you.

Bring it. 

– J, P, & B