America: Great Again?

ICE

There are two hugely anti-American things going on right now that are getting very little, if any, regular mainstream media attention. The first is the absolutely disgraceful process to restore power to Puerto Rico. The hurricane that knocked the American territory’s power out on September 20th, and as of earlier this week only a fraction of electricity had been restored to the island…before a freak accident knocked it all out again this week

We complain when NYSEG doesn’t get us a restoration time within a couple of hours – imagine being without power since September. National newscasts should all start with “day 210” like this countdown at the Daily News.  It’s 2018 – there’s no legitimate excuse for this. 

The second story has to do with ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal police force. Since Trump’s inauguration, there have been myriad stories from throughout the country that are straight up Gestapo or Stasi tactics. Warrantless searches and arbitrary apprehensions. Families torn apart. Parents detained by ICE and sent to detention facilities thousands of miles away, out of nothing more than animus or spite. Children left without parents. We’re talking, for instance, about people with some form of legal status who were abiding by all of ICE’s rules being suddenly apprehended and imprisoned indefinitely pending deportation – the check-ins ultimately providing nothing more than the time and place best to make the arrest, in many cases with kids around. We’re talking about people being thrown out of the country over minor paperwork errors or delays. 

Now, we have this story from near Rome, New York, where ICE came onto a farm to rough up and apprehend a Guatemalan farmhand who had legal status. When the owner of the farm confronted ICE about them being on his property without a warrant and tried to take cellphone video, they knocked the phone to the floor and handcuffed the farmer. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted this: 

Efforts to restore power to Puerto Rico are making America great again, if by “again” you mean “2005” and if by “America” you mean “New Orleans”. ICE is making America great again, if by “again” you mean 1961 and by “America” you mean East Germany. The two most affected groups of people happen to have one thing in common. 

Naters gonna Nate

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Just around lunchtime Monday, the Buffalo News’ political columnist, Bob McCarthy, tweeted this: 

What a bombshell, right? “Last minute efforts are underway” to replace Nate McMurray, the Democratic challenger to Chris Collins, with former Congresswoman and current Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. McCarthy indicates that Hochul’s people were unavailable for comment, but omits any mention of McMurray’s campaign. The whole thing was worded to make it seem like a fait accompli – omitting McMurray made it seem as if they had somehow confirmed the story. McCarthy says he has two sources! Efforts are “underway”.  It’s a done deal, people! 

Within seconds, I had McMurray on the phone and he vehemently denied that he was stepping aside. McCarthy later posted a story to the Buffalo News site going into more detail about this story, but the damage was already done. 

Democrats are in disarray! They are disappointed with McMurray, whose fundraising figures, released this week, were lackluster compared even to the guys who stepped aside in the race! McMurray was a placeholder for Hochul this whole time! With one ill-worded, semi-accurate Tweet, the Buffalo News’ coiumnist had done someone’s work for them, and helped sink the Democrats in the process. 

Did Illuzzi call from the grave? Did Pigeon call so he could help some crony get a job? 

Here’s how the story goes: the rumor comes courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Seeing a challenge from the left from current Working Families Party endorsee Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo knows he’s got trouble downstate. In the City and its environs, there’s not a lot of love for Hamburg’s Kathy Hochul, and she may be especially vulnerable in the Lieutenant Governor’s race against the WFP candidate, Brooklyn’s Jumaane Williams. City residents don’t care about the SAFE Act or Buffalo Billions shenanigans, but they do care about the fact that the state-run MTA is falling apart and affecting people’s ability to get on with their lives. Nixon has siezed on that issue. 

The Governor primarily tasked former Assemblyman and more recent Empire State Development executive Sam Hoyt to be the point man to cajole McMurray to hand the race over to Hochul. This would solve Cuomo’s “I need a leftist” problem downstate, and give Hochul an exciting re-match in a suddenly and unexpectedly competitive NY-27 race. 

Cuomo’s emissaries spent the weekend alternately offering McMurray the sun, moon, and stars, and mixing a little bad cop in the mix, too. 

McMurray had already been viewed suspiciously by some in the anti-Collins coalition because he was endorsed by party bosses over people like Sean Bunny and Nick Stankevich, who had announced their candidacies earlier. It would be sheer insanity for McMurray now to do the same in favor of Hochul. Not only would it underscore a “Democrats can’t shoot straight” narrative, but McMurray and his people just spent a month or so collecting signatures in the snow for him; not for Kathy Hochul. The governor’s exercise was an insult to the grassroots that has coalesced behind McMurray in recent weeks. 

As an aside, I like and respect Kathy Hochul and love that she still represents our interests in Albany. I don’t believe she was the impetus behind this effort – I have heard nothing to indicate this to be the case. This was more about Cuomo’s war on two fronts, rather than Hochul wanting in on a rematch against Collins. 

If Andrew Cuomo is spooked by Cynthia Nixon, that’s not a problem that he’s going to solve by strong-arming plucky Congressional challengers in a rural upstate race. It is unconscionable that he attempted to toy with this race in this way – first, do not harm. The harm here is incalculable, not because of the clumsy effort to shunt McMurray aside – that could have come and gone without a peep. The harm comes from the idiotic and ill-considered yammering to McCarthy’s dutiful transcription service, which took to twitter to word it as a done deal. 

The Republicans are already crowing about McMurray’s fundraising. We really could have done without the Democratic Governor giving them even more nonsense about which to crow. 

I won’t be sold on Cynthia Nixon until she visits an upstate city not called “Albany” Buffalo and sets out her platform for areas not within the five boroughs, but right now I’ve lost an amazing volume of respect for the Governor, and Nixon’s job just got a whole lot easier. After all, she’s not gone to the media to sabotage any local Democratic campaigns, of which I’m aware. (Updated to reflect that she did, in fact, visit Syracuse on 4/5, and Rochester on 4/6. She has not, however, visited Buffalo nor mentioned it in any meaningful way.)

In any event, Gen Xers will appreciate McMurray’s clever web ad taking on Collins’ positions on Social Security. 

Collins Hand-Picks His Green Party Surrogate

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Did you hear the news? Mike Zak is running for Congress on the Green Party line. 

No, not that Mike Zak, the Green Party member and environmental entrepreneur who helped to start a “Gro-operative” for sustainable food production. 

In a dramatic display of weakness and fear, the Chris Collins for Congress campaign recruited a MAGA white power guy to run on the Green Party line. This is a typical game the Republicans play because evidently, having the Conservative Fusion Party line, and the so-called “Independence Party” line locked up just isn’t enough. The re-election of Chris Collins will depend, at least in part, on Republican apparatchiks collecting petition signatures for some hand-picked goon who will do nothing but squat on the Green line. The strategy preys on people’s ignorance, and they can count on maybe 1 – 2% of the left-of-center electorate to fill in the green ovals on their ballots. 

The Green Party, for its part, is sick and tired of Republicans co-opting their line. It’s not the first time it’s happened. In 2016, the Greens went to court over the Republican hostile takeover of their party line. They should do so again. After all, the four pillars of the Green Party platform are “peace, ecology, social justice, and democracy”. 

Collins and his coterie of disingenuous goons talk a big game, but actions speak louder than words. They’re afraid this year. The Democrats are going to vote for McMurray, and the hardline Conservatives will vote for Trump’s reliable TV shill, Collins. But there’s a mushy area in the middle of the (R) constituency that doesn’t like Collins and really doesn’t like Trump.

It’s hard to know whether these are, e.g., suburban parents who don’t like taxes but really don’t like kids getting shot in schools, evangelical types who don’t like the pornstar payoff eruptions, or whether it’s people with Infowars stickers on their car bumpers who hate interventionism. Either way, Collins doesn’t have the entirety of the district’s right-of-center electorate nicely tied up in a bow; he has a sale to make this year, and Trump isn’t the key. Instead, he will try and paint McMurray as an effete liberal “Obamapelosi” Democrat who is coming for your guns, and stealing the Green Party line is just a convenient, extra hedge.

If Nate McMurray is the joke they accuse him of being, they’d be ignoring him; but the Collins crew’s attacks on McMurray have been vicious and relentless, and this sort of behavior is by no means what one would expect from a Republican candidate in a safe Republican district. Sort of like calling earnest high school kids “radical partisans”, Collins is known for hyperbole that’s as breathless as it is disproportionate. The totality of what’s going on reveals that they’re spooked by this year’s numbers, and they know McMurray has a shot, remote though it may still be. They know that it wouldn’t take very much for McMurray to reveal himself to be a reasonable, middle-of-the-road candidate who, above all, isn’t afraid to put himself in front of people who are predisposed to disliking him and his policies. Unlike Collins, who cowers in abject horror at the thought of listening to a middle-schooler advocating for the right to not be shot in math class, McMurray will talk and listen to anyone. 

What if “Obamapelosi” isn’t the magic word in 2018 that it was in 2014? 

In 2015, Republican committee chairman Nick Langworthy himself collected petition signatures for someone to squat on the Green Party line in a county legislative race. Republicans did the same thing to Amber Small in the SD-60 race in 2016. Even Ted Morton did it in 2015. The Green Party does not play the fusion game – they do not issue Wilson-Pakulas granting non-members permission to run on their line. Instead, Republicans take advantage of the “opportunity to ballot”, which allows non-members to run on the line of a party to which he does not belong. Even better? Just find some dupe to register as a Green voter and go out and collect petitions. 

That’s what Collins’ crew did this month. They found Mike Zak – not the Buffalo eco-startup guy, but a West Seneca version who shares – publicly – Trump memes and ‘white lives matter’ stuff on his Facebook page. Mr. Zak registered as a Green on or about April 5th. His petitions – 77 signatures in all – were exclusively circulated by Republican patronage hires; he needed 66.  

Ross Kosetcky is the designated contact for Mr. Zak’s petition filing, and he collected fully 63 of the 77 submitted petition signatures. He is a member of the Republican staff at the Erie County Legislature, and was an alternate delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, the year he ran on the Republican line against Crystal Peoples-Stokes for the State Assembly. Dennis Ball, a member of the Aurora Republican Committee, collected signatures for Zak’s candidacy when he wasn’t collecting checks for Collins fundraisers (link now deleted) or the Director of Operations at the Erie County Water Authority.  The remaining signatures were collected by someone from Niagara County whose signature is illegible, and Brian Pollner, the “director of operations” for the Republican County Legislators, and a full-time employee of the County Legislature’s Republican Caucus; he is a co-worker of Kosetcky’s. 

Mr. Zak, the nominal Green “candidate”, did not obtain a single petition signature. His own wife didn’t sign a petition for him; not a single signature was collected for him in his hometown of West Seneca, mostly because he lives in Higgins’ district, and not in Collins’. (So much for the “McMurray is a carpetbagger” argument). A former West Seneca school board candidate reached out and recommended a glance at Zak’s Facebook. This is the person whom Collins hand-picked to help his candidacy, and I have to assume that he endorses all of this. 

Here’s the origin of the whole “it’s OK to be white” meme. None of this exactly screams “Green Party”.

As an aside, in 2010, we needed sources to provide us with Carl Paladino’s emails. In 2018, people just have these things hanging out on their publicly accessible Facebook accounts. 

Upon learning of this latest party-raiding scam, McMurray reached out to the Green Party, and posted this

…I spoke to Eric Jones, Chairman of the Erie County Green Party, and he shares my shock, horror, and disappointment—they especially do not want to play spoiler for Collins
· You see, this race could be close, and the two or three percentage points that might go to the Green Party could possibly take votes away from me.

Why is this wrong?

· If the evidence available is correct, it is not only terribly shocking that the GOP and Collins would circulate petitions in this manner, but that they would do it for this particular man
· Specifically, people who likely hate the Green Party lied to Green Party members by going door-to-door and telling unsuspecting people, “We have a great candidate we want to get on the ballot, do you mind signing?”
· This does not happen in most jurisdictions
· It happens mostly in Erie and Niagara County
· It is the unethical act of a strong party (and wealthy candidate) taking advantage of the Green Party
· It’s also anti-Democratic, because they are trying to fool voters

What can we do?

· I will petition to open the ballot, which means we are collecting signatures this weekend
· Even if I get enough signatures, however, my name will not appear on the ballot
· Green Party members will have to write my name in
· Spread the word—don’t let them get away with this scam

Transparency and an aversion to trickery and cheating. What a refreshing thing from a Congressional candidate. 

Chris Collins and Mike Zak are united in interest, and one has to assume that Collins’ crew of bright young Republican stars checked out and vetted their surrogate. There is no sunlight between Collins and Zak, the anti-McMurray partnership.  

UPDATE: Early Monday, the Erie County Green Party released the following statement: 

For Immediate Release

Green Party denounces theft of ballot line by Republicans in CD-27

Erie County Green Party officers and members are greatly disturbed by the actions of local Republican operatives acting on behalf of Congressman Chris Collins to place a fake candidate on the Green Party line in the 27th congressional district. These operatives misled Green Party members into signing a petition for a candidate who does not represent the Green Party.

The candidate in question has been identified as a supporter of right wing causes who only recently registered as a Green for the sole purpose of stealing the line. He does not represent in any way our party’s four pillars: Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy and Non-Violence.

By filing this petition Chris Collins and the local Republican Party have shown voters how they truly feel about democracy. They would rather trick residents of the 27th congressional district into voting for a false candidate than provide them with an honest election. This would be a deplorable action for any candidate, but it is especially so for a sitting member of Congress.

The Green Party is an international progressive political party. The Erie County Green Party currently has 1,700 registrants. For more information, please visit our website www.eriecountygreenparty.org.

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Trump Cares About Innocent Civilians

trump_syria_skittles_-_Google_Search

The United States’ record of military intervention in the Middle East over the past three decades has been an abject failure. Our great adventures in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria have not resulted in the promised peace or democracy. More to the point, none of this has resulted in regional stability and security – for anyone. Not the US, not Israel, not Egypt – no one. 

Last night, the US, Britain, and France hurled some missiles into Syria to punish its dictatorship for gassing its innocent citizens. 

So, Trump, who Tweeted this… 

…has evidently changed his tune. Trump retained bellicose neoconservative John Bolton to be his new National Security Advisor, and literally within days launched unauthorized missiles in the general direction of Syria. President Trump denounced Syrian dictator Assad for gassing, “innocent men, women, and children.”

It’s nice that Trump makes mouth-noises about chemical weapons being used against innocent Syrian people, but these are the same innocent people for whom Trump has slammed shut America’s doors. 

I reject this idiotic and disgusting meme, but honestly – we’ll bomb the Skittles but not give the Skittles refuge? There is nothing honorable going on here. 

Kids Clap Back at Collins

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Last week, I wrote of Chris Collins’ extraordinarily hyperbolic attacks on his young constituents: There were a lot of moms, dads, and kids at those marches. You call them all “radical extremists” at your peril; the only reasons you’d use such laughably extreme hyperbole is if you’re scared, and you need to rile up a shrinking base. Collins – afraid to face constituents or the media – sent out a flak to accuse his teenaged constituents as Marxist shills, “radical partisans have co-opted the Parkland tragedy in an effort to score cheap political points.”

All of that to avoid appearing at a student-organized forum on school gun violence. He thinks these attacks will trick his core electorate into thinking that his refusal comes from a position of strength. 

But like the Parkland kids, the typical right-wing smears don’t stick. Just like extreme right-wing Fox News propagandist Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland survivor David Hogg for not getting into UCLA – and lost all of her advertisers as a result – these kids don’t give up, they don’t acquiesce, and they don’t vet their responses through a bunch of Democratic consultants before taking to social media and jabbing back. Specifically

Here’s the problem Ingraham and her ilk: they have nothing, not a god damned thing, to counter the fairly modest proposals made by the Parkland students. Normally, when these assholes have zip diddly, they simply launch into whatever low-grade, unfunny ad hominem they can dream up. But with the MSD group, ad hominems are a third rail – after all, these kids had friends and family gunned down, and one of them who spoke last Saturday still carries shrapnel from the attack in her face. So, really, the only choice that someone like Ingraham has is to argue her case without ad hominems. But, for her, that’s like baking a cake without an oven or driving a car without wheels. It simply can’t be done.

and the old rules don’t apply

Not these kids. They have clear messages that haven’t been muddied by technocratic bullshit- “My friends got shot and there are too many fucking guns and we’re going to do something about it and we’re going to go after people who won’t.” The end result, obviously, is legislation, but these kids are not pushing specific laws- they’ll let legislators do that.

And it is working. A clear message, the moral high ground, and inclusive approach, and most importantly, not taking any shit. Someone throws bullshit at them, they turn it back around and amplify it on their target. See also, Laura Ingraham. And when they get minor victories, like the weak laws that passed in Florida, they don’t celebrate, they nod and get back to going after the motherfuckers who keep putting guns on the street.

So, when Chris Collins sends out some spokesdrone to denigrate kids in his district who may not vote yet, but whose parents do – and they’re probably Republicans – as being “radical partisans”, they’re going to clap back and it’s not going to go well for the guy pushing 70. 

These students are trying to get their elected officials to come together and find solutions to a real problem, and Chris Collins has cavalierly attacked them, and they’re not going to take it. They’re not going to be defamed by Donald Trump’s most reliable TV shill. 

Here is the information for the students’ gun summit. Elected officials denigrate them – and this meeting – at their peril. Maybe it’s the “accountable” language. 

Saturday April 7th, 1:30pm @ St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, NY.

NY-26’s Rep Brian Higgins will be there as well as Collins’ opponents.