Fusion Voting Jamboree

The 5th Legislative District seat is so hot that people are tripping over themselves to obtain an infinitesimal electoral advantage through ballot shenanigans, including the outrageous and corrupt practice of electoral fusion. “Opportunity to Ballot” petitions were filed for two party lines in that district race. Republican county legislature staffer and Lancaster GOP Committee Chair Robert J. Matthews filed an OTB last Thursday for the Working Families Party – a fusion party not known for its close ties to the anti-labor Republicans. This is the same district where Nick Langworthy filed Green Party petitions for Lynnette Batt.

That’s some abrupt Republican love-fest with left/labor political parties!

An OTB for the Green Party and Working Families Party was also filed in LD-8, currently held by Republican Ted Morton.

All of this is a cheap farce. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Dem filing a Green or WFP petition, or a Republican filing a Green or WFP OTB petition. All of it is sleazy, all of it treats the electorate like cattle, and the entire ballot access and fusion systems in New York.

Somewhere recently, I stumbled upon these digital leavings from an obsessed fan:

Alan Bedenko, a local Democratic blogger and self-styled paragon of political virtue, has complained bitterly about these Republican efforts, but remains mysteriously silent on the activities of his pals Poloncarz and Zellner.   Maybe Bendeko wants to safeguard his law firm’s business with Erie County by not biting the hand that feeds?   Or is it Poloncarz appointments he so covets?  At least Langworthy isn’t attempting to steal the Green line.  If he was, he would have circulated an OTB petition for his candidate, Guy Marlette.   Looks like Langworthy didn’t start the war, he’s just playing defense.

I’m not sure that this article was “complaining bitterly” rather than simply pointing out how ridiculous the system has become. My mysterious silence had to do with the simple fact that Langworthy had submitted the petitions in the past tense, while “my pals Poloncarz and Zellner” had done no such thing by that point. So, it would seem to me to be premature to condemn something that hadn’t yet happened; after all, it doesn’t matter for whom you circulate petitions if you don’t file them.

I certainly don’t “covet” any further appointments – my appointment to serve as an unpaid volunteer on the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library board wasn’t something I sought, and I have already disclosed my firm’s representation of Erie County on multiple occasions. So, I suppose I’d respond by noting that probably no one in western New York has written more articles critical of New York’s fusion voting system than I. Indeed, ever since the days of Joe Illuzzi’s politico-financial love affair with one-time Independence Party chair Tony Orsini, I have written countless articles about how fusion and cross-endorsements count among the very roots of corruption in New York politics – unless you abolish fusion, no effort to clean up politics can be successful.

I think that the Green Party’s ballot should be unmolested by Democrats and Republicans alike – I find it unseemly that a Green OTB was filed for any candidate of any other party. As for the others – Working Families, Independence, Conservative – all of them should be forced either to run their own candidates or fold. The Independence fusion Party is a patronage pit designed to trick voters who intended to register as what New York calls “unenrolled”. It’s no accident that, at various times its line has been within the sole control of Steve Pigeon. The Conservative fusion Party also has an unholy alliance with Pigeon from time to time, especially insofar as it helps serve the dual purpose of (a) helping Republicans; and (b) sabotaging the Democratic committee.

As a partisan Democrat (I’m also a committeeman – full disclosure!) I deplore and denounce the use of fusion voting and minor parties, regardless of who’s doing it. All of it is designed to cheapen and degrade our system.

Join the Conservative Fusion Party’s “Police Brutality PAC”

Carl Paladino is shilling for the NYS Conservative Party, forwarding the email shown below (SFW): 

That’s pretty cool! Register with the Conservative Party, because the cops put a black man in an illegal-since-1993 chokehold and committed homicide! I mean, the NYPD is going to re-train officers as a result of this tragedy, but w/e! I mean, they killed this man and waited a full 7 minutes before trying CPR! He’s black, so he doesn’t count, right, Carl? Right, Conservative Party?  As Paladino so aptly put it in an earlier email

 

DEMOCRATS: STOP ASKING FOR THIS PARTY’S ENDORSEMENT.

IF YOU SEEK THE ENDORSEMENT OF THE CONSERVATIVE FUSION PARTY, YOU ARE EXPLICITLY ENDORSING SHIT LIKE THIS.

Ballot Access & Fusion: Keeping New York Corrupt

It’s petition day throughout New York State, and we’ll learn soon enough that Governor Cuomo will have a primary challenge from the left, and that locally, the Democratic race for the 63rd Senate District (Tim Kennedy, incumbent) is going to be especially fun, as will the Republican challenge to Mark Grisanti, as perennial party-switching candidate Rus Thompson clumsily attempts to manipulate the corrupt fusion system to try and oust the sane guy. 

But it’s not only electoral fusion that’s corrupt and awful, so is the petition process itself. It’s hypercomplicated and deliberately designed to be a minefield for the unwary. It’s not only time to abolish the electoral fusion system and shut down the Wilson Pakulas and backroom deals, but also to simplify the ballot access system to make it easier for candidates to run. The rules for petitioning should be simplified and written in plain English, and there should be an alternative whereby a candidate simply pays a fee (set on a sliding scale, depending on the scope of the office).  Hey, if the state needs another source of revenue, there you go. 

As it stands now, our petitioning process should rightly be named the Election Law Attorney Full Employment Act

As for SD-60, where Grisanti will possibly face off with Rus Thompson, here’s the entire campaign in a nutshell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the calm, professional man in the suit over the wildman in a sweatshirt. 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Albany’s Culture of Corruption & Fusion

In your real day-to-day life, does last week’s Zephyr Teachout / Working Families Party brinksmanship with Governor Cuomo matter to you? 

Mr. Langworthy hits on a key point of New York’s fundamentally corrupt electoral fusion system – all of this chasing of third, fourth, and fifth lines involves extortion and bribery.  All of it. Every single one.

The system is dirty because the system is set up to be dirty. 

You want to be angry about Cuomo dismantling the Moreland Commission on public corruption literally overnight to cut a budget deal? I’m angry, too, and hope the US Attorney in Manhattan truly does pursue what scraps he’s been able to gather. Asking Albany to clean house reminds me of Jesse Pinkman, the young henchman from Breaking Bad, attending group drug counseling so he can sell meth to other attendees. 

 But the system itself can’t be reformed as long as fusion is permitted to be legal. You can bet that just about very time a politico chases a minor party fusion line, there’s some degree of corruption afoot. The “Independence Party” is the worst, but they’re all cut from the same cloth. 

It really doesn’t get any simpler. If you want to end Albany’s culture of corruption, you have to end Albany’s culture of corruption. Just. Do. It. 

If you’re like I am, do you draw any comfort or satisfaction from the fact that Cuomo is equally reviled on both the hard left and hard right? 

Electoral Fusion And Terribleness

If you ever wanted to know how political staffers get their jobs, it’s by doing a lot of boring, annoying, time-consuming grunt work that no one else wants to do. They have to be loyal and trustworthy, and they have to be able to accomplish with a straight face the tasks required of their job. 

That’s not rocket science, that’s not automatically “bad”, it’s how it’s been done since time immemorial, everywhere, and isn’t going to change anytime soon. 

But New York State is unique the way in which it permits its politics to be manipulated, and it’s unique in how corrupt and pervasive it’s become. We are one of a very small handful of states that permit electoral fusion, which enables minor parties to endorse candidates who aren’t party members. We have a “Conservative Party” that has a conservative platform to which it adheres when convenient, and we have the Tom Golisano-founded “Independence Party”, which is never independent and exists largely to confuse people who want to register as small-i independents, and don’t realize that New York calls them “unenrolled”.  We also have the Working Families Party, which is very tight with both public and private sector unions, and is candid about its activist role. Only the Green Party eschews the fusion game. 

I have written about fusion for many years, and advocated for its abolition. It most recently came up during the State Senate’s debate of the same sex marriage law, when Conservative Party “leaders” were openly threatening Senator Mark Grisanti not to vote in favor of it. It’s notable that this horrible “party” is now endorsing anti-same-sex-marriage, nominal Democrat and former County Legislator Chuck Swanick to run against Grisanti. 

After the County budget crisis of the last decade, I thought it’d be impossible for Swanick to ever dare to re-gain elected office again. Or any job that didn’t end with the suffix “the clown”. At the time, Swanick had switched to the Republican Party in order to be elected legislature chairman, and even after that, he was at the forefront of a fiscal disaster, and had a hand in assisting Butch Holt to give a county contract to his brother’s Texas-based basketball camp, and a $3 million no-bid contract to a glorified answering service called “community corrections” – a huge attempted scam.

The Republican primary race in the newly constructed NY-27 district has revealed some dramatic cleaves in the WNY Republican firmament.  You have rich, country-club Republican against middle-class, war vet Republican. You have suburban vs. rural. You have conservative vs. crony capitalism. Above all, you have the story of David Bellavia and the Erie County GOP. In 2008, Bellavia agreed to step aside in favor of Chris Lee in the NY-26 race in a deal struck with current ECGOP chairman Nick Langworthy.  The deal was, Bellavia lets Lee have the seat, and when Lee vacates the seat, it would be Bellavia’s turn.

But it didn’t turn out that way, and Bellavia was not just snubbed in 2010 when Lee resigned in a Craigslist sex scandal – he was cajoled and threatened. In early 2011, Bellavia was cornered in a back room of an Elmwood Avenue cafe by Chris Collins, Carl Paladino, and Paladino’s lieutenant, Rus Thompson.  The trio played good cop/bad cop, attempting to clear the way for Collins’ neighbor, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, to get the NY-26 nod. They alternately threatened to reveal embarrassing information about Bellavia’s finances, then offering him an endorsement for an Assembly seat of his own.  Corwin went on to lose dramatically to Kathy Hochul in what turned out to be almost a frame-by-frame foreshadowing of the November 2011 County Executive race. 

To this day, the Erie County Republican Committee has refused to endorse Bellavia for any office, and has reneged completely on the deal it made to clear Chris Lee’s way to Washington. 

With redistricting, the lines have changed and Corwin isn’t trying again. Instead, in keeping with the apparent ECGOP policy that a chief qualification for Congress is that you reside on Cobblestone Drive in Clarence, the recently defeated hobbyist-politician Chris Collins has stepped out to yet again deny Bellavia a shot at a congressional race. Bellavia, however, is not bowing out. He has garnered the support of the xenophobic-but-wealthy Jack Davis, and the endorsement of the Republican committees of every one of the so-called “GLOW” (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming) counties. Bellavia’s campaign has been assisted by former Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo, and while his fundraising gap vs. Collins is wide, so is the enthusiasm gap – Collins hasn’t made many friends, and is finding that he’s a tough sell outside of Erie and Niagara Counties, within the Buffalo media market that treated him with kid gloves. 

There is some overlap between NY-27 and the State Senate district occupied by Michael Ranzenhofer. Although Ranzenhofer claims to be neutral in the Collins – Bellavia battle, he is a product of the Erie County Republican machine, and close friends with Collins ally and Washington strategist Michael Hook. A few weeks ago, one of Ranzenhofer’s Wyoming County-based staffers, Michelle McCullough, was named to Bellavia’s campaign’s steering committee. After all, she is a Wyoming County committeewoman and at worst, she was going along with her committee’s endorsement. She was quickly fired. The Batavian has a story that confirms the political rationale and scheming that led to McCullough’s termination. Text messages confirm that Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy criticized McCullough for her endorsement of Bellavia, and one of her colleagues warned her that “Hook called Ranz” just days before her termination. 

Ranzenhofer continues to insist that he is neutral in the NY-27 primary race. 

Yet that doesn’t explain another point that the Batavian revealed. In New York, one of the easiest ways you can circulate nominating petitions for a political party with which you’re not registered is to become a Notary Public. The Batavian story reveals that at least six of Ranzenhofer’s staffers are licensed notaries, and not coincidentally went out and collected petition signatures for Chris Collins for the Conservative Party line; everybody including Michelle McCullough, the staffer fired for her support of David Bellavia. All of the signatures were collected in eastern Erie County, following an instruction to ignore GLOW counties. 

In addition to the apparent lack of supposed neutrality in the Ranzenhofer office regarding the NY-27 race, sources confirm that Erie County Republican elections commissioner Ralph Mohr delivered the Conservative Party petitions to the Ranzenhofer staffers. They didn’t collect signatures on state time, but were asked to use their own “comp” time to do so – time that was theirs and that they had earned as time off. 

It shows that the Erie County Republican Committee is not just not neutral in this race, but that it is actively assisting Chris Collins’ effort, and working in concert – in effect controlling – the concomitant effort to get Collins on the Conservative Party ballot. 

This is nothing new, and it’s not unique to the Republican or Conservative Parties. The Erie County Independence Party has lost its right and ability to endorse candidates to the state party apparatus. This is because ECDC Chairman Len Lenihan had in 2006 attempted an outright takeover of the IP by urging Democrats to become active IP members. This resulted in the local committee endorsing one candidate, and the state committee endorsing another – a conflict that was resolved in the state’s favor through recent litigation. State committee chair Frank MacKay has taken to endorsing Republicans in recent local races

You’ll note that not one piece of information written above has anything whatsoever to do with good policy, platform positions, or anything else commonly associated with what government and politics are supposed to be about.  This is all about influence and power, and in the case of the minor fusion parties, their sole mission in life is to offer and execute Wilson Pakulas in exchange for influence, power, and – above all – jobs

One of the oldest and most-repeated excuses for why we allow fusion voting in New York has to do with the mythological straight-line voter. Presumably, such a voter who is, e.g., a registered and loyal Democrat would never, ever color in a Republican ballot oval, even if the choice was for an objectively superior candidate. (Think Antoine Thompson vs. Mark Grisanti). So, the minor party lines give that type of voter the cover to vote for the right person and not fill in the “R” line. 

I’m sure these people exist, but I’m not convinced that the existence of the “C” and “I” or “WFP” lines somehow magically give them the moral cover to do something they’d otherwise never do. I’d love to see some polling on that; I think it’s utter speculation and, if it exists, affects a very small number of voters. 

It wasn’t too long ago that the Erie County Independence Party was run by a Springville-based barber who was quite brazenly transactional. The current Erie County Conservative Party leader is well-regarded in political circles, and enjoys wide, multi-partisan friendship and support due to his friendly weekend kaffeeklatsches at Daisie’s in  Lackawanna. But during at least one local supervisor’s race last year, it was revealed that the Conservative Party endorsement could be inextricably linked with Mr. Lorigo’s own business interests, as it was alleged that he had withheld an endorsement on pretextual moral grounds, but in reality because the town board had voted against a zoning change that would have directly benefited Lorigo’s business interests, and he was punishing the sitting supervisor for not asserting more influence over the process. 

State Conservative Party chair Mike Long and Ralph Lorigo are persuasive when they threaten Mark Grisanti, who defeated Antoine Thompson by only about 500 votes, and 4,300 of his votes came on the Conservative line. It comes down not to doing the right thing, but counting votes.  But really,  the Conservative Party has no business wielding the political power it does. In 2010, about 4.6 million New Yorkers voted – only about 232,000 of them on the Conservative line; that’s 5% of people who cast ballots. The enrollment in Erie County breaks down this way: Democrats: 286,112; Republicans: 153,179; Conservative Party; 11,811; Independence Party: 24,962; Working Families Party: 2,665; Green Party: 1,225; Libertarian Party: 242; unenrolled: 90,908.  So, we have 571,104 registered Erie County voters, only 2% of whom are members of the Conservative Party, and only 4% of whom are registered as “Independent”. Yet these two little nothing parties with a negligible number of members have practical control over who gets elected.

The minor parties’ political influence exponentially outweighs their membership or ballot results. I’m tired of progress and legislation being held up by little men with little minds whose political parties are only mildly more legitimate and popular than the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party. Why was Tony Orsini taken seriously as a political player? Who is Ralph Lorigo to demand fealty from candidates? How did a panoply of Independence Party hacks get jobs at the Erie County Legislature in 2010? Are Lorigo’s decisions on endorsements based on Conservative Party principles, or on unprincipled self-interest?

To put it bluntly, electoral fusion is one of the chief reasons why we in western New York can’t have nice things. It ensures that our politics are uniquely and overwhelmingly transactional, to the benefit of the connected and the detriment of the average citizen. Somewhat ironically, fusion is the reason why fusion won’t be abolished anytime soon. Too many pols have too intense a reliance on a process that theoretically relies on inflexible low-information voters to succeed. The elected who campaigns too strenuously to unsuccessfully end fusion will find himself returned to the dreaded private sector, with its crappy health insurance and absence of fat, tax-free pensions. 

End electoral fusion, and New York will have enacted a very significant reform that will, in turn, help to hasten other policies and reforms that will help move the state forward. Next time you ask why any local pol chooses not to show leadership on some matter of controversy, refer back to transactional politics and fusion. 

Grisanti to Receive Endorsement of Other Horrible Transactional Fusion Party

At 1:30 pm today, a press conference will be held in Buffalo to announce that the Independence Party, which is neither independent nor really any sort of political party with any firm ideology or platform aside from the personal ambitions of its leadership, will endorse Mark Grisanti for re-election. 

This comes quickly on the heels of the recent announcement that the Conservative Party, which is hardly conservative nor really any sort of political party with a firm and consistent set of policy positions except for a generalized abhorrence of gays, modern society, and taxes, will attempt to throw WNY under a massive bendy bus by endorsing reprehensible homophobic retread Chuck Swanick – star of the mid-last-decade county financial meltdown – in a deal cut with former Pedro Espada patronage hire Steve Pigeon.  With Espada’s indictment, Pigeon finds himself needing something more to do than just ally himself with Albany-based cults.  

Also, Swanick received the endorsement of the reactionary homophobic bigots at the improperly named “National Organization for Marriage“. 

If you want to stop how pitifully transactional our local politics have become, and begin cleaning things up; if you want to promote good policy and less patronage-laden dealmaking, abolish electoral fusion in New York State. 

A Candidate Scoffs

The 60th Senate District: is there something in the water? Are the fumes from the NOCO tanks near the South Grand Island bridge getting to people? Senator – now Judge – Mark Grisanti was elected to represent that district twice – until the tea party ousted him in an almost comically outrageous fit of pique. Was it about gun control and the SAFE Act, or was it about his change of heart on same sex marriage? It doesn’t much matter, because the ingenious political machinations from the tea party resulted in liberal Democrat Marc Panepinto now occupying that seat. 

Think about the sheer stupidity here. The tea party thought Grisanti was too liberal of a Republican – a “RINO” – that they engineered a win for a genuine liberal Democrat, instead. 

The tea party’s preferred candidate was Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker, who is now likely eligible to have the word “perennial” precede the word “candidate”.  Stocker beat Grisanti in the primary, but lost in a four-way race, and all but told head tea party derpegist Rus Thompson to pound salt. 

A decade ago, Panepinto was firmly in the Sam Hoyt / Len Lenihan camp of the oft-squabbling Democratic Party. Now, however, he is perceived to be more closely aligned with the breakaway Democratic faction whose figurehead is Steve Pigeon. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Panepinto finds himself challenged for the Democratic nod. Under normal circumstances, he should be fine. He’s got the power of incumbency and the support of big labor – especially NYSUT, the state teachers’ union. Challenging him, however, is Parkside community activist Amber Small. 

The winner of this contest will get to run against multimillionaire developer, closing time changemaker, and County Clerk Chris Jacobs. 

This being New York, however, we have to pay some minimal attention to the almost criminally fraudulent fusion parties. The Independence Party is neither independent nor a party, having no principles or manifesto. Statewide, it backs whomever it thinks will win. Locally, in the past few cycles, its endorsements have almost universally mirrored the GOP slate. So, in WNY, the IP has become a GOP front group, designed to trick people who think they’re voting for “independent” candidates. It’s an elaborate fraud designed to trick the poorly informed.  

The Greens don’t do fusion, so that leaves two sides of the same coin – the Working Families Party and the Conservative Party. 

The WFP exists so that the more self-righteous left has a party line to select. Think union stewards and everyone you know on Facebook whose posts have become insufferable all-Sanders all the time. If you’ve ever uttered the term, “corporate Democrats”, the WFP is for you. Its principles and platform are not especially flexible or centrist. They begrudgingly backed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid, but the true believers really wanted Zephyr Teachout. 

The Conservative Party purports to have principles, but it’s just an arm of the Republicans. Gosh, one might think that the Republican Party is so unpopular in New York State that it needs to gerrymander districts and control a bunch of extra fusion lines to win the occasional election. Locally, the Conservative Party is run by attorney, power broker, and professional breakfastist Ralph Lorigo. His party hands out endorsements, and his party committeepeople get jobs. It has backed Democrats occasionally – again, depending on likelihood of success, and that jobs might result. Its platform is made up of all the WBEN bogeymen – anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-gun control. But it has endorsed pro-LGBT or pro-choice Democrats when it’s suited them. 

Lately, the Conservative Party has been known for its deep bench of candidates, like not-ready-for-primetime Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak and vulgarian Joe Mascia

Which all brings us to the relationship that Democrats have with the Conservative Party. Quite simply, one shouldn’t exist. In 2015, Mark Poloncarz somewhat publicly refused to solicit the Conservative endorsement. He didn’t need it, and he didn’t want it. I have, in the past, urged Democrats to reject the Conservative Party fusion line because it is the complete antithesis of everything for which Democrats are supposed to stand. More specifically, the Conservative line has been used in deals between Lorigo and nominal Democrat Steve Pigeon to back candidates who would not be loyal to Democratic county HQ. For instance, in 2012 Pigeon and Lorigo backed the Senate candidacy of homophobe Chuck Swanick. 

This all brings us to the current Senate race. Amber Small is challenging Marc Panepinto for the Democratic nomination for SD-60. She made a bit of a splash by “scoffing” in a press release at any suggestion that she might seek the Conservative line. This is significant because Panepinto is telling everyone who will listen that Small is a DINO who will align herself with the Independent Democratic Caucus, which backs the Republicans in the state Senate and gives the GOP their majority. So, she needs to beat back the IDC smear. 

So, it’s somewhat ironic, then, that Panepinto would be openly courting the Conservative line. One would suspect that County Clerk Jacobs would more quickly win that slot. Small explained that, “The Conservative Party is anti women, anti LGBT, anti environment, and anti reasonable gun safety laws.  I will never sacrifice my progressive beliefs to curry political favor and campaign contributions. I am running for State Senate to focus on bettering our communities and providing the 60th district with the resources we deserve.  I am a Democrat, and I am committed to providing every child with a quality education, fighting for the rights of women and families, protecting the environment, and creating economic opportunity.  I think the residents of this district are fed up with Albany insiders and the games that they play.”

So, it’s pretty straightforward. If you believe in the things in which Democrats are supposed to believe, you eschew the Conservative line. 

Small said, “I’m a progressive Democrat with progressive Democratic values and that’s something the voters need to know.” 

The last time around in SD-60, the Conservatives didn’t run a fusion ticket, but a placeholder, who got almost 7,000 votes just by virtue of the “Conservative” label. That candidate did no campaigning and had no money. While Lorigo points to this as proof of his party’s clout, it really means that almost 7,000 people voted for a candidate who had the word, “conservative” next to his name even thought they didn’t know anything else about him. That’s how fusion works – it’s a trick. It’s a scam. It is about patronage, and it’s the very root of Albany and New York political corruption. In 2014, it drew votes away from Stocker and ended up helping Panepinto. Think of it as a non-endorsement endorsement. 

All candidates should reject the phony Conservative and Independent lines, and fusion should be repealed. If these minor parties want to run candidates, run them. A system that relies on trickery should end. But most importantly, no Democrat should solicit or accept the Conservative fusion line, ever. 

Beware the Nitwit

What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than to assail an idiotic thing that soon-to-be Trump ’16 NYS chair Carl Paladino sent around to his flock, and a ridiculous letter to the editor of the Buffalo News?

Carl and Marx

I tried to hunt down the opening quote, but the only place it shows up is on conservative blogs and sites re-printing this very post.

That quote I underlined in red for Marx: there’s no evidence that Marx ever wrote or said any such thing. At best, it appears to be a juvenile paraphrasing of Ronald Reagan’s, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”. Karl Marx said a lot of things, but not too many on the subject of “freedom”. Indeed, when he did touch on “freedom”, it was within the context of class struggle and the relative freedoms of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie. If one looks back to the crises of capitalism that bookeneded the 1920s and, which exists in our post-2008 crash world today, we see that Marx warned of growing concentration of wealth at the very top of the social classes, and that this would lead to proletarian anger and revolt. To a certain degree, that explains the appeal of Trump and Sanders in a country that doesn’t go in for coups d’etat.

So, Carl Paladino kicks off his regurgitation of an email forward with a quote that Marx never said or wrote, but why bother checking?

The story goes on to explain how you can attract wild pigs by throwing free food at them, and then gradually pen them in while they’re busy feeding. This is a handy way to set up your anti-Obama analogy, and also to denigrate the poor and blame them for their own misery by likening them to wild animals. The email ends,

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare entitlements, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to share this with your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably not share this.

BUT, God help us all when the gate slams shut!

Quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered.”

So, let’s say you’re dying and in hospice, and it’s covered by Medicare. That’s you being a wild pig losing your freedom.

Perhaps you’re a cancer patient on a subsidized health insurance plan under Obamacare. You receiving chemotherapy covered by your health insurance, as opposed to million-dollar bills and medical bankruptcy: that’s you getting penned in with your free lunch.

If you’re a poor black kid who has the misfortune of being a student in the shoddily run school system over which Mr. Paladino presides, your education, your subsidized lunch, your Medicaid – that’s you losing your freedom. Freedom, I assume, to be uneducated and hungry.

If you’ve engaged in “estate planning” to sell off your elderly parent’s belongings to qualify her for Medicaid, in order that the state will cover a $50,000/month nursing home bill – you’re just a wild hog, too.

Did you notice the line about “tax exemptions”? I guess that makes Carl a wild pig, too, for every project he builds that gets an IDA grant, or pays a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT)  instead of straight-up property and school taxes.

Paladino, however, modified that “quote for today” at the end in order to mimic a common right-wing radio trope:

You can pick at that all day – from the clumsy use of pronouns to the idea that some people vote in order to maintain their free ride through life. In a way, that might explain Mr. Paladino’s own political theater. This is a guy who wages childish verbal wars with alleged “RINOs”, but he’s all too happy to donate money to Democrats when there’s a freebie or benefit in it for him.

The KISS Dentist on Transgenders

Cheektowaga’s Eric Schroeder is better-known as the “KISS” Dentist on Harlem Road. He has strong opinions about what a school board a few towns away is up to:

The parents of the Hamburg School District should be outraged. For the School Board to take one minute to determine a “transgender” policy shows the lack of consideration to the rest of the students, parents and staff.

No, they shouldn’t be outraged at all. As a matter of fact, the parents in Hamburg should be relieved that their school board has the reading comprehension and critical thinking skills to see that the state Education Department’s gender identity policy protects not only the transgender and gender non-conforming students, but all students. You can read more about it at this post.

Children today are already horribly oversexualized, and allowing mixed sexes in bathrooms and locker rooms is just plain wrong. In any grade, there is no reason to let girls into boys locker rooms or boys into girls locker rooms. If this were done in any other public institutions, it wouldn’t stand. How does this stand in our public schools?

This gets back to one of the points I made in my earlier post: the people equating transgender and gender non-conforming kids to simple cross-dressers have it all wrong. Kids don’t just get to decide one day that they’re going to use a different bathroom or locker room. Hell, for all Dr. Schroeder knows, there might be a transgender male using the locker room at his gym as we speak.

Whether kids today are any more or less “horribly oversexualized” than any prior generation is, I suppose, up for debate. But if you equate bathrooms or locker rooms with sex, maybe you’re the one who needs to get right in the head.

This kind of sexual exposure is in line with endangering the welfare of a child and violates parents’ rights and responsibilities to their children. If I were a parent in Hamburg or any other district that put forth such nonsense, there would be the start of a class action lawsuit for endangering the welfare of my child.

“Endangering the welfare of a child” is a crime, not grounds for a civil action, much less a class action. If our dentist friend had bothered to read the text of the policy as it relates to locker rooms, he’d have found this: “[t]he district will allow a transgender or GNC (gender non-conforming) student to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the student’s consistently expressed gender identity at school. Any student requesting increased privacy or other accommodations when using bathrooms or locker rooms will be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, but they will not be required to use that alternative.” Did you see that text I highlighted there? ANY student. So, if a Hamburg student or parent has a problem with this, they can request an alternative.

Catering to one or a small group of people is bad enough. Now School Board members are listening to young children, full of confusion and raging hormones, rather than their own reason and the parents who pay school taxes.

You know, the fact that you pay school taxes doesn’t give you some license to override or decide every policy you don’t like. In this case, the Cheektowaga dentist does not pay Hamburg school taxes, as far as I can tell. Also, this isn’t up to the school board to implement; the board makes the policy, the administration carries it out. It’s up to the principals and teachers to figure out how best to implement the policy and make whatever accommodations are necessary in order to guarantee the comfort of “any student”. What the dentist would like to say, but doesn’t have the stones to, is that he thinks transgender is all bullshit. I don’t really understand why more people don’t just come right out and say that, rather than dancing around a lot of weasel-words worse than any lawyer could muster. After all, these are the same characters who think political correctness is leading to the destruction of western civilization.

I’d like so see my tax dollars go to educating the kids of today about our rich and exceptional history, the great things we have sacrificed and done for other countries and the world. Shifting the thought process to something as ridiculous as “transgenderism” in such young children is a disservice to all and needs to come to an end.

This guy made it through dental school? This is a policy to deal with an issue that already exists. It has nothing to do with the school curriculum; a curriculum that is replete with courses and credits dedicated to American exceptionalism.

In doing annual battle against anti-school crusaders in my own town, I see these sorts of semi-informed arguments all the time.  I see the elevation of tax payment to a level surpassing that of student, teacher, parent, or average citizen. I see the appeals based on misinformation. I see the vacant wishes that the school curricula would teach something already being taught whilst anti-tax sentiment cuts things like music and extracurricular activities.

No other government is required to submit its budget to annual scrutiny and plebiscite like this. Only schools. And here, where schools are being asked to carry out the law and ensure fair and equitable treatment for all students while balancing that against the needs and rights of a microscopically small minority, complete strangers take to the pages of the Buffalo News and excrete words that promote division, hatred, and discrimination.

It’s the Christmas season – the holiday season, really, if you think that Jews, Muslims, and people who celebrate Kwanzaa count. I would hope that cour community could do a better job of celebrating peace on Earth and goodwill to all people than by transmitting nonsense such as that reproduced above.

#WNYVotes 2015

Mark_Poloncarz

Mark Poloncarz cruised to an overwhelming victory last night, defeating Assemblyman Ray Walter 65% – 34%. As a karmic aside, Poloncarz accomplished what Chris Collins couldn’t – re-election to that post.  In Lancaster, the town’s Republican slate – including thuggish incumbent supervisor Dino Fudoli – fared pretty horribly. Winning 58 – 42, Democrat Johanna Metz Coleman will become the town’s first female supervisor, and Democrat Diane Terranova will become town clerk. It was almost a clean sweep for the Democrats, and a humiliating rebuke for the Fudoli experiment.

What Fudoli seems to have learned from his erstwhile mentor Chris Collins is that western New Yorkers’ patience for obnoxious and thuggish political behavior has a short window.

Yesterday, an off-duty police officer coming in to vote at a fire hall in Lancaster overheard and accused Fudoli of muttering something about punching him in the face, and confronted him. It’s unknown whether Fudoli will be prosecuted, but it was emblematic of his ugly, bellicose, and childish behavior. The spectacle culminated in Fudoli and a representative from the Lancaster Police Benevolent Association calling in to Tom Bauerle’s show to explain their side of the story, Fudoli acknowledging he said something about punching the officer out, and that he had apologized. The gentleman from the PBA went on to explain Fudoli’s complaints about alleged police harassment by going into some detail about “suspicious vehicle” calls that prompted those incidents.

Western New York and Lancaster will be better off without Fudoli in elected office. I’m sure that “good government” and “good person” are not mutually exclusive.

Ray Walter – a good person – will go back to the Assembly and lives to fight another day. His campaign for County Executive was a bit quixotic, his sales tax proposal was fundamentally cynical, and he sell the idea of jettisoning a competent and hard-working incumbent. His inability to break 40% speaks volumes about Poloncarz’s continued political aptitude, both in policy and salesmanship.

We shouldn’t be electing judges at all, judicial candidates shouldn’t have to pander to an electorate, and cute ads with their kids hardly gives you an idea of a judge’s temperament or qualifications. Brenda Freedman defeated Kelly Brinkworth to go to Family Court, helped along by an ability to get her name on every fusion line while Brinkworth was only on the D line. No one voted for Freedman or Brinkworth on the merits, because no one had a clue about their respective merits. This was all about ballot placement and electoral fusion.

The County Legislature will maintain status quo, with Democrat Tom Loughran defeating challenger Guy Marlette, and Ted Morton easily defeated Democratic challenger Deb Liegl, in a hotly contested race.

On Grand Island, only two votes separate the two town supervisor candidates, so voting does matter. In West Seneca, incumbent Sheila Meegan defeated challenger Christina Bove. In something of a spectacle, apparent RINO Carl Paladino, in an email co-written by his dog, endorsed Democrat Meegan. The nexus of West Seneca shenanigans right now is that Scott Congel project by the Thruway near Ridge Road.

In Niagara Falls, incumbent Democrat Paul Dyster won re-election to become only the second three-term mayor in Niagara Falls history.

Finally, I watched with some interest that two TV stations use a Buffalo native but current New York City resident as a Democratic analyst. This person is a professional lobbyist and has been disloyal to Erie County Democratic Headquarters since Steve Pigeon was deposed from his chairmanship 15-ish years ago. (As an aside, this lobbyist wrote a book. At the book’s website, there were three glowing reviews; one from the author’s former boss, and the other two came from two newspapers the author co-owns). This person’s somewhat predictable analysis was that pretty much everything – any prospective result – was going to be bad news for Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner.

While the Democrats couldn’t seal the deal in the Liegl and Brinkworth races – in both cases due in part to the Republicans outmaneuvering the Democrats in setting up the minor fusion party lines – I think Zellner had a pretty good night, as his close confidant Mark Poloncarz won an overwhelming victory. Maybe WKBW and Time Warner Cable could find a more loyal, and local Democrat to comment on Democratic politics, they don’t seem to have a problem extending that courtesy to Republicans.

Primary Night 2015 in Goodenoughistan

goodenough“Goodenoughistan” is my term for western New Yorkers settling for whatever’s comfortable, convenient, easy, or familiar. It’s good enough, dear.

Thursday was primary election day, and the overwhelming winner was “staying home and not voting at all”. For the very few of you who are superprime voters and eagerly traipsed down to your local school, nursing home, fire hall, or church to vote, your choices were limited and races were won in some cases by a small handful of votes.

It all came down to energizing one’s base of support and getting that small superprime vote out.

Buffalo/Fillmore: We won’t have Joe Mascia to kick around any more, as he garnered just over 100 votes – someone on Twitter remarked that he didn’t realize that Mascia had that many family members in the district. Chalk up another loss for his comical spokesman. The win goes to incumbent David Franczyk, who only needed 490 votes to win.

Buffalo/Masten: Congratulations to Ulysses Wingo, who will have the coolest name in the Common Council.

Erie County Family Court: On the Democratic line, the Republican candidate garnered more votes than the Pigeon crowd’s candidate, Michele Brown. Congratulations to Kelly Brinkworth for that blow-out. Freedman has every other line for the battle in November.

Cheektowaga: A mixed bag, as the forces opposed to former chairman Frank Max won the race for Supervisor and Highway Superintendent, but lost 2/3 of the available council seats. It would be nice if Mr. Max’s group would deign to follow the rules of the New York State Board of Elections and make the proper disclosures regarding its activities.

Clarence: Huge blow-out of a win for Councilman Pat Casilio over incumbent Supervisor Dave Hartzell on the Republican line; completely lopsided win. Tough loss for town justice on the (D) line for Justin Kloss, as I’m at a loss to explain or understand how or why 87 more Democrats voted for the Republican incumbent over the Democrats’ endorsed candidate except to say: forget it, Jake. It’s Clarence.

Amherst: Deborah Bruch Bucki and Francina Spoth won and newcomer Hadar Borden lost.

West Seneca: incumbent Democratic Supervisor Sheila Meegan appears to have been very narrowly defeated by Christina Wleklinski Bove. Bove is a former county legislator who was an integral part of the Pigeon/Collins coup of 2009 – 2011.

Niagara Falls: Paul Dyster holds a remarkably narrow lead over Glenn Choolokian in the Democratic primary for Mayor. Only about 90 votes separate the two, with about 200 absentee ballots waiting to be tallied. Choolokian could win, but it’s mathematically unlikely.

It’s important to remind people that it’s important to get out and vote. You should aspire to be a superprime voter who gets all the calls and mailers, because it means that you – and the people who want to represent you – know and understand how important that franchise is. The alternative is no choice and no competitiveness or adversarial system, and I can tell you from experience that it’s not a good way to govern or be governed. If for some reason you’re unenrolled in any party, you may wish to re-think that, because you don’t get to participate in primaries, which can oftentimes be the deciding factor in many races.

If you’re enrolled in a major party, your vote can help direct how that organization selects candidates and the overall direction of the party and its platform. If you’re enrolled in one of the minor parties – fusion or Green – you hold disprorportionately great power, since there are so few of you out there. For instance, in Clarence, Justin Kloss secured a slot for himself in November, if he chooses, on the Working Families Party by virtue of the one vote cast in that primary.

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