Covid And Your Rights

(I posted this to Facebook but for various reasons will not make it public there. Instead, I share it here).

I start by saying that I utterly detest Facebook and think it is, overall, a force for ill in our society. I maintain this account, nevertheless, because I am apparently a masochist. I used to enjoy the occasional debate on here over things but my patience is exhausted; and while debates over trivialities may remain fun, debates over fundamental truths vs. utter disinformation and lies, are not; they are not fun.

When the Hunter Biden laptop disinformation hit the NY Post a couple of weeks ago, I watched to see who would share it uncritically. At first, I considered arguing about it; but I instead opted to mute a few people and simply unfriend others. You’re not my friend if you’re busy amplifying Russian disinformation. Honestly, I don’t wish to have an association with people who would uncritically share politically irrelevant, false information based on things hacked from the iCloud account belonging to an un-political person. Consider if you were related to a political figure and someone hacked your personal accounts and released them to the world. Fuck that.

Likewise, I am now on the lookout for people damning the tightening of Covid restrictions in New York State.

Simply put: if you have a big problem with Cuomo banning in-person, maskless, un-distanced get-togethers of more than 10 people inside private homes during cold weather then you are simply too irresponsible for me to bother with you. If you would put an unknown number of people exponentially at risk because you had to have a big Thanksgiving or football party, I don’t think you are a good or responsible person. Honestly. Don’t bitch to me about what his powers are or whether he will send cops to your house – I don’t care. He does have the authority because there is a global pandemic and a state of emergency, and if you’re worried about him sending cops to check on your house that means you *want* to host a gathering such as this and you can click on that good ol’ unfriend button right now because really whom are we kidding?You are not special and your experience is not unique. Every person I know has sacrificed in some way because of this virus. Some of you are business owners, restaurateurs, etc. Some of you have loved ones in nursing homes. You have been harmed immensely. I get it. We all have put our lives on pause for over half a year in some way, and it will be next Spring before we have some hope of a slow return to normalcy, when a vaccine is made available and true herd immunity can proceed safely and responsibly, without the concomitant threat of illness.

During WW2, we fought the Nazis and Japan and this country made shared sacrifices for 4 years. We don’t have ration books right now, but I’m sure if there was a nighttime air raid alarm in the early 40s, people didn’t say they wouldn’t turn their lights off because really who were these people to tell me what to do in my own house. We are in a war right now against an invisible enemy, and it’s been like 7 months and so many of you are ready to give up, and rationalizing your premature capitulation.

So we look at the recent spike in cases and all signs point to unmasked, undistanced in-person gatherings among groups of people who have not quarantined together. At work, school, and out in the shops you have to be masked. At your house, you don’t, but if you invite outsiders in, being close and unmasked is dumb and irresponsible. So every time I see the people down the street have 10 – 15 cars parked outside for the Bills game, I am appalled. Now multiply that by how many times you’ve seen that in your experience. These parties and gatherings are why this third wave is spiking, and it is far worse in terms of case numbers than back in March when everything shut down. The easiest thing to do is keep the case number down – if you can do that, you don’t need to worry so much about hospitalizations and deaths. Plus, it’s easy.

We have sent our child back to in-person school despite having very very strong concerns and reservations about it. Teenagers are not responsible people. Nevertheless, everything went swimmingly until 3 weeks ago. We got the call from NYSDOH that she had been exposed through close contact and was quarantined and prohibited from returning to school until 11/2. Literally the next day the high school determined that so many kids were under quarantine that the whole school went remote through 11/9. The apparent culprit? An off-campus high school hockey team party that evidently took place while in Massachusetts for a game. So all of our care and caution was for naught because our lives and schedules fell at the mercy of the least responsible people associated with that school. The kicker? Despite throwing the lives of some 400 families into sudden chaos, I have zero confidence that any discipline resulted from this shameful breach of protocol. I feel like I am owed something for having to quickly re-arrange my family’s life thanks to other people’s irresponsibility – even if it is just the satisfaction of knowing the culprits were punished.

So *we* can follow all the rules and guidelines yet still get motherfucked by people too selfish and short-sighted to follow those same rules. When that happens enough – as evidenced by the current spike – someone has to impose restrictions that people refuse voluntarily to undertake. So, because some irresponsible and lazy people think it’s perfectly fine to return back to normal life – so long as it’s at home – we all now suffer, either through increased government restrictions, or through a higher likelihood of exposure to a deadly and unpredictable virus that is now killing 1,500 Americans per day. Hope that party was worth it!(And don’t get me started on the federal government’s scandalous abdication of its duties and responsibility to get this under control in all 50 states until a vaccine is available. Also, please do not lecture me about death rates or hospitalizations or hydrochloroquine or Famotidine or Vitamin D or anything of the sort. Do not condescend to explain to me that “oh well a lot of those people had other causes of death listed on their death certificates and it’s all overblown and a scam.” This just proves to me that you don’t know how a death certificate works and that you believe nonsense peddled by malignant charlatans who want you to think that everything is – and should be – back to normal. If a person with cancer catches Covid and dies from resulting pneumonia or a PE, they died from Covid, not cancer. OK? Also, please spare me the “there is no evidence of community spread among schoolkids” because I am not advocating for schools to all go remote – on the contrary, I want them to have the ability to stay in-person. I am advocating against partying and other risky maskless get-togethers outside of school hours and property.)With all of that said, here is the hard reality: you don’t have to like Cuomo and you don’t have to like what he says and you don’t have to like what he did or what he’s doing. Also? I will for the purposes of this rant concede that he fucked up with nursing homes back in March, ok? But we are so so past nursing homes and March. We had just about everything re-opened. We consistently had a positivity rate under 5%, signaling minimal community spread. People are generally good about wearing masks. So, the culprit is in-person, private, undistanced and unmasked get-togethers. I am highly confident that the current spike in WNY has its genesis in Bills parties and Halloween parties. The timing is right.

And the upshot of this is that you can spit fire at Cuomo all you want until you’re red in the face, but if this shit doesn’t get under control soon and continues to worsen, you will be fucking *wishing* for the halcyon days of Cuomo leaving just about everything open but restricting opening times and him literally begging you not to hold big parties at your house (especially indoors now that it’s cold out).Instead, if this keeps up, we’ll be back to square one – back to how it was in late March, working from home, suiting up to go to Wegmans and nowhere else. Takeout only. Schools will be remote. (I am almost positive that schools will be remote-only shortly after Thanksgiving because people will continue brazenly to flout simple requests and to irresponsibly interact in close proximity indoors without masks with people with whom they do not live.)There is nothing here to dispute or debate. I am not interested in or persuaded by your “but muh Cuomo is a dictator” shit. I am trying to keep my family safe and free from this virus, and we are following the rules which honestly are not that complicated or onerous.

Finally, here: “The White House coronavirus task force has been urging states that are virus hot spots to curtail maskless get-togethers of family and friends, saying in reports that asymptomatic attendees “cause ongoing transmission, frequently infecting multiple people in a single gathering.”

The Fatigue Election of 2020

Joe Biden is the perfect general election candidate for our time. He is known. He is kind. He is experienced. He is empathetic. He is smart. He is moderate. He is the hard reset that this country so desperately needs.

It goes without saying that the Democratic Party could have nominated a quarter-pound of ham for President, and that thinly sliced cold cut would offer a more positive vision and plan for America over the next four years than the current occupant of the White House.

We have endured a relentless, constant, chronic geyser of bullshit spewing from Donald Trump over the past 5 years, but that’s not the only thing shaping and defining our zeitgeist. The potent, toxic mixture of grievance and cruelty that fuels the American right is as exhausting as it is ugly. We are all of us Joseph Welch, expressing publicly how fatigued we are by the endless stimulant-fueled shower of hatred, lies, and cruelty that falls from Trumpworld like volcanic ash. Whining about things hasn’t helped. Neither has blaming Black people, Jewish people, immigrants, feminists, LGBTQ+ people, Latinos, Hispanics, Asians, Mexicans, China – good God, it’s enough.

It’s enough.

The pandemic is the icing on the cake. It is Trumpworld’s downfall. It lays bare the fundamental lie.

We all know that the Obama Administration, which had its own experiences with infectious diseases, left behind a literal pandemic playbook and an office staffed to take charge when necessary – the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council. The Trump Administration got rid of it in 2018. Now, the United States ranks among the worst countries in terms of its response to the novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. We have almost unlimited community spread in many places, the federal government has failed, and plans only to continue its policies of failure for the foreseeable future. Over 220,000 Americans are dead and this is a massive public health catastrophe, not to mention the economic destruction that has taken place as a result of our feeble, third-world quality response.

This all started in mid-March. It is now the end of October, and you still can’t get a Coronavirus test on demand for any reason and have reliable results within the day. We’re instead still relying on travel bans and quarantines when testing and tracing is key.

The most glaring failure? The federal government’s response was so deliberately inept and poor that mask wearing is now a political statement in some places, and we are left with a situation where the lives of people in North Dakota are effectively less valuable than the lives of people in New York. That shouldn’t be. Everyone in America deserves the same protection from uncontrolled community spread of this virus, and history will forever condemn us for allowing some places needlessly to suffer while others benefited from competent government following science.

In late October 2020, our Trump fatigue intersects neatly with our Covid fatigue. Most Americans have simply had it with the bullshit geyser and the manufactured drama. We’re not interested in this season of the Apprentice anymore.

Everyone’s life is upended in some way, you can’t just not “let it dominate your life” because that is literally impossible. It dominates our lives. You can’t really go out and do stuff like you used to, you can’t travel literally anywhere, and everyone is still hunkered down, waiting for a truly effective treatment protocol or a vaccine. (On the bright side, flu cases will be hopefully down this season as more people are masked and distanced than ever before. Also get a flu shot).

The outcome of the Presidential race won’t fix everything, but if Biden wins (and I think he will), it will reset the federal government to being at least minimally competent again. We will implement a Covid strategy that values every American life equally. We will restore good relations with our allies and keep a closer eye on our enemies. We will reintroduce the rule of law and eliminate nepotism in the White House. Our government will listen more closely to experts and science, and the deniers will be relegated to their fringe websites and YouTube channels where they can freak out about – and consume themselves with – lizard people and Pizzagate 2.0. Hunter Biden won’t matter because Hunter Biden won’t be paid a public salary to be a Presidential aide.

In New York State, early voting starts today – October 24th and runs through November 1st. The polling hours and locations for Erie County are here, and you can vote at any of them. If you applied for and received an absentee ballot, send it in. If you changed your mind and want to vote in person, discard the absentee ballot you received.

I am hopeful that this will be a big year for America to turn a positive corner. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd. If you didn’t vote absentee or early, that’s your chance – in Erie County polls will be open from 6am – 9pm. Every vote counts, even in New York. Lots of downballot folks are relying on you. People like Monica Wallace, Karen McMahon, Jacqui Berger, Pat Burke, Sean Ryan, Bill Conrad, Brian Higgins, and Nate McMurray are depending on you to turn out and turn up.

the EXEGESIS of McCarthy on Collins


Chris Collins pleaded guilty in Federal Court to committing crimes. He was sentenced to prison.

Like starting up an old, garaged jalopy, Bob McCarthy took one more opportunity to just talk to Collins and then transcribe whatever he says. It was the stuff you’d expect to see in the lifestyles section of the paper. The Buffalo Spree is publishing more interesting political pieces than this nowadays, and it seems to me to be the yang to the yin that has been Jerry Zremski’s excellent reporting on the Innate Immunotherapeutics scandal that brought down the Collins crime syndicate.

For over a year – from the date of Collins’ August 2018 indictment, until he ultimately pleaded guilty in late 2019 – the people of the 27th Congressional district had no de facto representation – we had a liar purporting to represent us in Washington. We had a man in office who was distracted by his own illegalities and criminal defense strategies. When he resigned in disgrace, we then had no de jure representation until the special election in June and subsequent swearing-in of Chris Jacobs.

Chris Collins does not deserve anyone’s respect or sympathy. At least, not until he has satisfied his debt to society. Not until he has apologized to the constituents he conned and disrespected.

But when Chris Collins holds a pity party over the phone with Bob McCarthy, we get all of that in spades. Collins is still rich. He still lives in his Florida mansion. His wife and kids will be looked after. He will be serving his time at a Club Fed facility in Florida – 17 months if he’s a good boy, despite a sentence of 26. But he’s still got gripes.

And he is fearful. He does not want his 17-month incarceration – the time he expects to serve based on his imposed sentence of 26 months – to turn into a “death sentence.”

“I’m 70 years old with asthma and hypertension, and it’s senior citizens that we’re supposed to worry about,” he said while driving to Pensacola on Monday. “That’s me. 

“I’ve got to do it. But I do know I do not want to get this virus.”

There are thousands of convicted criminals in federal prisons who are trying not to catch Covid-19, and there is nothing in the eyes of the law that makes Chris Collins more special than them, or entitled to special treatment. And this is not going to be hard time.

Beginning at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Collins – a multimillionaire – reports to the prison camp in the Florida panhandle. He notes it has no hardened prisoners, no barbed wire and few guards.

“I’ll have some buddies to talk to in the morning, have a cup of coffee and read the paper – almost what you do in retirement,” he said. “You actually make good friends. Everyone there has made a mistake. They have regrets related to that mistake. But most everyone everyone has done good things in their lives, and I know I’ve done a lot of good things. 

“My family is with me. It’s not like I did something that made them destitute. My family is stronger now than it’s ever been.”

He should be counting his blessings. Any sympathy should be reserved for the victims who lost everything in the Innate Immunotherapeutics collapse and who did not have the benefit of inside information to try and minimize their losses. Any sympathy should be reserved for the people living in the 27th Congressional District, who were owed Collins’ bona fide representation and hard work but instead were lied to and cheated; cheated most importantly during that critical period from January through June of this year as the federal government learned about then lied about Covid-19 and then completely bungled the federal response.

This article was disgusting and tone-deaf, to put it mildly. Bob McCarthy always treats rich politicians with kid gloves. Maybe that’s bad.

This morning, I woke up in my house. I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee, free from direct government supervision. Then I went exactly where I damn well pleased. Chris Collins, who always had to be the smartest wiseass in any room, did not.

Jacobs Jettisons Trump

When Congressman Chris Jacobs first announced his candidacy for the House of Representatives, he posted a pretty racist video to his Twitter page that was just vicious towards Spanish-speaking economic migrants from Mexico and Central America. When Jacobs ran for the State Senate in 2016, he was publicly silent, never answering questions about whether he supported Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, he told union audiences that he did not support Trump. In 2019, however, the Erie County Republican Committee, which has various close ties to Trump, coordinated a Trump endorsement of Jacobs. That led to a congressional campaign where it almost seemed as if Jacobs was Trump’s running mate, or vice-versa.

Jacobs narrowly won a special election in June, and he is now running for his first full term in Congress. June, you’ll notice, was only four short months ago. Yet in that short span of time, Jacobs has gone from full MAGA TRUMP TRAIN to Trump who?

His latest TV ad makes no mention whatsoever about Donald Trump. Trump‘s name and image do not appear – not audibly or visibly. What a difference four months makes.

Look at him. He’s a “job creator” through his real estate investments. He gallivants about the district, maskless, pretending to “fight” to protect people from insurers discriminating against them due to pre-existing conditions. Donald Trump is nowhere. He is appealing to the people in the middle who are disgusted by Trump. It is amazing what the epic mishandling of a hundred-year pandemic can do.

Here’s an example of what Jacobs’ ads looked like before Trump caught the ‘vid and went crazy on Dexamethasone.

Big difference.

Chris Jacobs repeated the Trump Administration’s fraudulent lie that the New York Green Light Law justified the termination of Trusted Traveler status for New Yorkers. He deliberately backed Trump propaganda that was not only false, but represented an unprecedented punishment of a state’s residents by the federal government to which they pay taxes over a manufactured political issue.

Chris Jacobs is just another flaccid opportunist who has taken another step up the ladder of political power. He has no plan to better your life or the lives of the people hurting the most in this post-Covid reality.

Donald Trump has ruined this country. He has deepened class, racial, political, religious, and economic divisions that were already well-carved. Especially since his impeachment acquittal, which showed him he could engage in unprecedented conspiracies for political gain with impunity, he has carved out the closest thing this country has had to a strongman dictatorship in its history. Donald Trump is a disaster, and Chris Jacobs is part of that disaster.

He went so far as to vote “no” on a bill to strengthen the U.S. Postal Service, and I don’t think it was a mistake. When you surround yourself with brazen liars, why should we take you at your word?

What we can glean from Jacobs’ current propaganda is that Donald Trump is polling poorly enough in NY-27 that it’s best to not mention him, and that people like Obamacare insofar as it rendered illegal insurance company discrimination against people with pre-existing medical conditions. But Chris Jacobs would probably tell you he opposes Obamacare. The problem is he has no alternative plan available for review.

And that’s what really matters about the Republican Party – its only ideology now is belligerent lying and nihilism. It is only against things and people and groups. It has no plan except “whatever Trump says.”

The 27th has had enough of millionaires named Chris who are too timid to answer to – and serve – the people whom they purport to represent.

how it ends

Some have said that the United States is engaged in a cold civil war. I don’t think that’s true. The depth of Americans’ political divisions has ebbed and flowed since the founding of this country; there’s nothing new under the sun. Certainly social media and the manipulation of bad information has complicated matters, but I have faith in the numbers.

Let’s begin with this: Donald Trump is a fluke. He won in 2016 thanks to a lot of good luck and white grievance. But ever since January 2017, his approval has rarely approached 50%. Only about 40 percent of Americans can tolerate his antics, and really only about 1/3 of Americans are considered to be his base. That means 60-ish percent of Americans have had a negative view of Donald Trump throughout his Presidency, and it really hasn’t been all it was cracked up to be.

Fatigue has set in, sure. We are sick of worrying about the various ways in which the President and his entourage of malignant grifters, malcontents, fascists, and unqualified kin can embarrass themselves – and our country – seemingly minute by minute. On the night of October 1st, each successive news cycle lasted about 30 minutes as we learned in quick succession how Hope Hicks had Covid-19, Melania Trump had cursed out migrant children her husband had caged and also Christmas itself, and then that she and the Donald had also contracted Covid-19.

But good God, the fatigue – 2020 is the longest year and over 200,000 Americans have died from this virus. Many of those deaths were needless and preventable. The federal government’s response to Covid-19 has been weak and feckless, leaving states to fend for themselves. The problem with this strategy is that some states take it seriously and others don’t. If having a country means anything, it should mean that the health of someone in North Dakota is taken as seriously as the health of someone in Vermont. Covid-19 and its relentless path of destruction through America should, alone, disqualify the current administration from being re-elected. That’s before we get to literally everything else.

Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Are you more proud to be American today than you were four years ago? Do you think that the last four years have restored some long-lost greatness to America? Do you feel confident that the federal government is looking out for you?

Soon after Trump came down that escalator in Trump Tower to denounce Mexicans in 2015, I have referred to him and his movement as neo-fascist in nature. (Here, here, and here). He is not an ideologue or thinker – he is a huckster. He’s a snake oil salesman. Rather than offer a positive plan for a renewal of American greatness, he raised the black flag of aggressive nativism and used it as a sword to attack anyone not white and not Christian and not sufficiently loyal to him. If you want to know the genesis of the current state of unrest over black lives and police militarization and white supremacy, look no further than the White House. We like to think that government – even when it does things with which we do not agree – at least has our best interests at heart. Not anymore.

Does a Muslim in Trump’s America feel safer than she did in 2014, before he announced his candidacy? How about a black person? A non-Cuban Hispanic or Latino person? How about a gay kid or a Sikh physician? Rather than competently address real systemic economic and social problems, Trump and his coterie of bandits have plundered our treasure and pitted American against American in ways that are fundamentally sickening. He and his nativist, protectionist, racist, authoritarian brand of politics is weak and decent Americans reject it.

Trump isn’t unique to this country, however. There are mini-Trumps in power here and there. Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Brazil – they all have their own flavor of ultra-right anti-democratic nativism. But those are developing countries. Alas, so is the United States. Our economy is in shambles. Our health care system is broken and stupid. Our politics are disgraceful. Our discourse is poisoned by foreign interlopers and domestic trolls. Fake news gets international attention before the truth has gotten its socks on.

Trump cares about one thing: Trump. He is a wannabe dictator and a reflexive fascist. He is a last gasp, however, of boomer white grievance and history will look upon him unkindly.

In a way, the future of this country is really up to the sixty-ish percent of us who haven’t completely lost our minds. The future depends on those of us who know Q-Anon is utter garbage, and who cherish the notion that America isn’t a nationality so much as it is an idea, and that idea is subject to change from time to time. The America of 2020 is very different from the America of 1920, and one has to imagine, (or, at least, hope) that the chaos and turmoil of 2020 will lead to a reckoning of sorts.

We’re at a crossroads. If you want to simplify it all, you could say we can choose light or we can choose darkness. Right now, it’s dark out. Without getting deeply into it, many in 2016 saw our choice as one of differing shades of gray. But we know now. The differences are stark. We need to hit a hard reset; we need to unplug the country and plug it back in again. After that, we’ll need a truth and reconciliation commission of sorts to purge ourselves of our hateful and divisive binge.

We have a short attention span in this country, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s going to be easy to lift this country up from the place it is now. This is going to be difficult, but it is the only way. America has always been an aspirational place – a place that believed in equality and freedom and opportunity even when those things were denied to significant swaths of her population. That sixty-ish percent of us who really believe in that, (rather than the Greenwood Americans who pay it mere performative lip service), recognize our past faults and want to move the country in the direction of those aspirational goals.

What I’m trying to say here is that we won’t get to the promised land by smacking marionette effigies of Andrew Cuomo with the butt end of a fake rifle. We won’t rediscover our unity of purpose by electing craven opportunists to office. Law and order without justice is fascism, and we need to be honest about that. Police should walk a beat, not beat peaceful protesters. Police need to be part of the community, not fighting a war against it from behind their tanks and shields. We’re better than Donald Trump, or at least we should strive to be. We’re better than Trumpism and its hatred of science, history, facts, and immigrants.

I am voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris not because they are the perfect antidote to Trump and his malicious reign, but because they are the hard reset that this country needs.

But beyond that, I am going to make sure that my memory of Trump is long, and that the people whose reactions to him ranged from apologia to toadyism pay for it politically, in perpetuity.

This country used to be, if not perfect, at least a place that was looked up to in the world. That is no longer the case. We are, at best, pitied. As Trump emulates his favorite dictators, our reputation in the world is embarassingly diminished. We have spent four years antagonizing our allies and cozying up to murderers. I’ve had enough, and 60-ish percent of you have, too.

In New York, you can vote early starting on October 24. Do it. Take advantage of it. Since Trump is threatening to foment a coup over mail-in voting, don’t give him the satisfaction and vote in person if you can. If you are voting by mail or absentee, don’t trust the defunded USPS and get your ballots out as soon as possible.

Let us toast our fellow Americans whom we have lost to war and disease. Let us toast to an America that can do and be better than all of this.

Rus Thompson Gets the Attention He Ordered


John “Rus” Thompson, who pled guilty in 2017 to a misdemeanor arising out of voter fraud and lying under oath, is ordering up a steaming heap of attention this week. He and a few other guys in Oakleys will be driving their pickups counterclockwise in downtown Buffalo to protest the state’s emergency orders related to Covid-19.

The novel coronavirus is a viral pandemic that so far has killed 41,000 Americans. By this time next week, it will have taken more American lives than the Vietnam War. 

The Public covered Thompson’s 2016 episode of lying under oath here, here, here, here, and here

The reality under which we are now living is frustrating at best, and millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their health insurance, and their overall economic security. It is precisely this sort of situation for which our welfare safety net was created and designed. To say that it is, for many, woefully inadequate is a dramatic understatement. This reality underscores how this country has done too much to accommodate the wealthy and well-to-do while ignoring the middle and working classes. In no other industrialized country do the newly unemployed face the loss of their health coverage, because in no other industrialized country is health cover connected to employment. That $1,200 “stimulus” check would barely cover one COBRA payment for a typical furloughed American worker. 

Because everyone is hunkered down and trying to stay safe and healthy, it feels like wartime. The uncertainty and indefinite quality of it all is making people upset and anxious. All of that is understandable. 

If, as Thompson and his cohorts suggest, the shelter-in-place should be lifted because western New York is “not NYCity” [sic], then why congregate in one place? If they need a job, there are loads of jobs going for people willing to work in an essential industry. Volunteer to pack lunches for people. Donate to – or volunteer at – the food bank. There are desperate ads on TV looking for people to fill jobs to work as carers for disabled WNYers. 

Instead of doing literally one single thing – symbolic or substantive- to help families in need or medical professionals or nursing homes in this pandemic, Rus Thompson and his pro-virus squad are going to honk their horns while driving counterclockwise for the right to get sick. It is a completely frivolous tantrum that flashes a middle finger at the people working under dangerous conditions to maintain some semblance of a quality of life for all WNYers – sick and otherwise. It laughs at and mocks the thousands of WNYers who have caught the coronavirus, and the hundreds of your friends and neighbors who have died from complications related to it. 

Almost literally overnight, Facebook groups and websites popped up to support and promote protests against governors who issues stay-at-home orders. The President this weekend tweeted exhortations to “liberate” some states – as direct an order as possible to people to congregate and sicken themselves and each other. Like the well-organized AstroTurf tea party movement of 2009, when thousands of people protested Barack Obama’s health insurance marketplace, stimulus package, and purported country of origin, this is a top-down fake grassroots stunt operated by movement conservative people and groups whose purpose is to disrupt things and get people killed in the name of – no one really knows. 

What have our local media been doing about all of this? Covering an event that hasn’t happened; inadvertently promoting it by interviewing its organizer and informing you as to when and where it will be held, and how to get involved yourself. It is a completely irresponsible act of promotion. Only Caitlin Dewey Rainwater at the Buffalo News did a deep dig into the misconceptions and lies that Thompson is spreading, and she deserves kudos for her effort. 

Stay home and keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe. Do not succumb to misinformation or disinformation. Local media should stop amplifying it. 

And hey, Rus: 

Month One of the Event


British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb (you may know them as Mark and Jez from Peep Show), had a sketch show a decade or so ago, which in its later seasons included a sketch about a post-apocalypic game show, “The Quiz Broadcast,” held in a sort of bunker.

The apocalypse is referred to in this sketch simply as “the Event”, and the contestants on the show are each physically and mentally scarred by the Event. Peter was blinded, and Sheila needs to be taken to be “voltage-calmed”, while the third contestant is sometimes an “unknown male” or a bunch of candy.

The contestants are playing for food or fuel. At certain parts of the program, the words “Remain Indoors” flashes on the screen. It is a bit of dark humor that was always funny to me, but is now just a bit on the nose. The writers responsible for the “Quiz Broadcast” discussed it recently within the context of the Coronavirus pandemic a few weeks ago

Here is a compendium of the episodes for your amusement. 

So, our “event” is slow-moving rather than some big bang, but it has completely altered our society, our economy, and our politics in one short month. I may start writing here with some more frequency as this goes on – now through May 15th in New York, at least, but wanted to simply ask you to be safe, follow the advice of health professionals and scientists, and to be as patient, kind, and generous as your personal situation circumstances allow. 

A revamped Buffalo Rising has done a great series of videos catching up with people in quarantine, but I want to highlight the work that the Buffalo News’ Andrew Galarneau has been doing lately. The hospitality industry in general, and restaurants in particular, are especially hard-hit by this, and if your circumstances allow it, you should try and help save your favorite locally owned place

We try to do take-out twice per week now, and we have done Jay’s Artisan Pizza and Bar-Bill North. Today, we’re doing Mulberry. If you can, do it. If you can, tip with wild abandon. 

Stay safe. 

My Democratic Primary Endorsement


The only thing that matters in 2020 is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

When I say overwhelming I mean such that no one can try and manufacture some sort of idiot conspiracy theory about it. When I say the only thing that matters it means just that.

I supported Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary race. I thought that she was a uniquely prepared, competent, smart, and qualified candidate who had correctly identified specific, major systemic and substantive problems and then offered up a detailed plan for how to correct them.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

Warren is not a demagogue or an extremist, but someone who thinks that the last 30 – 40 years of economic policy in the US had done disproportionate harm to the middle and working classes. Warren believes that government should exist in part to protect the little guy from the criminality, fraud, and excesses of the big shots in our country.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

Clearly Warren’s time isn’t now. Maybe in 2024, but not now. So the question becomes: which candidate is best positioned to overwhelmingly defeat the incumbent President? It’s down to Bernie and Joe. They both have their merits and demerits. Each person is free to weigh those pros and cons however they see fit. I have big problems with both of them, but I respect and honor them, as well. After all, no one is perfect and politics isn’t Doordash or Netflix, where you can serve up exactly the product you want, on-demand.

Senator Warren is taking some time to assess whom (if anyone) she will endorse. I could tell you how I’m leaning, but I am not going to tell Democrats what to do this year. There will be a primary in late April, and a convention in June. From that convention will emerge a Democratic candidate who will mount a campaign against the most corrupt and dysfunctional administration in American history.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

No matter what your big issue is – college debt, healthcare, foreign policy, the restoration of constitutional norms – none of it happens if Trump is there – more to the point, I suspect that none of it ever happens if Trump is there in January 2021. Not in our lifetimes.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

This is it, guys. This is real fucking life. This country has sunk so low and overfed its worst impulses, yet people tolerate it because the economy hums along. For now. All of the big structural and substantive change you want to see – all of it is important to fight for. All of it is worth your time and effort. I encourage and welcome your struggle to make your life better and to better everyone’s lives.

But the house is on fire, and we desperately need something to put it out. Some say we need a hose. Some say we need an extinguisher. It doesn’t matter the exact way in which we put the fire out, and we don’t have to agree on it. We can work together to put that fire out through whatever method is available to do it.

We need to keep the House.

We need to take the Senate.

“Senate Majority Leader Elizabeth Warren” has a nice ring to it.

warned in 2015 that this guy was a danger. A fascist.The America you knew before 2017 is almost gone, and it may take generations to fix. 

Or we can start doing it right now. This year.

Fight for your preferred candidate – if you like Bernie, do your thing. If you prefer Biden, go do that. No hate from me, either way. Make calls, give money, canvass, lit drop, volunteer. And after the convention, use everything you have to ensure the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President. That is the only thing that matters right now.

Do that, and the rest will follow. Fail, and we’ve failed a generation.

WBEN is not Impartial


WBEN says it is “partnering” (whatever that means) with legitimate news outlets WIVB and WROC to host a debate in the race for the 27th Congressional District between Democrat Nate McMurray and Republican Chris Jacobs. 

WBEN is not a legitimate news outlet and hasn’t been for some time. It is a partisan Republican propaganda organ that deigns to run a nominally straight newscast during morning drive. The other 20 hours of every day are replete with right-wing talk radio that ranges from inane to insane. I don’t know what the nature of this “partnership” is, but if WBEN personnel are involved in the questioning then the Democrat on the stage will be debating two distinct opponents – the Republican candidate and the front for questions from Carl Calabrese or Michael Caputo. 

Consider this: there are no Democratic commentators on WBEN. During the morning “newscast”, when there is to be some sort of political analysis, Republican lobbyist Carl Calabrese is there dutifully refering to the “Democrat Party” and reciting whatever GOP talking points are on the agenda for that day. Who is the Democrat? Seldom anyone. This is partly due to the fact that few self-respecting Democrats would be caught dead on WBEN’s air because it is not a fair and impartial news outlet but a blatantly partisan organ of the Republican Party. 

But never mind literally any of that. Here are two solid reasons why WBEN belongs nowhere near any sort of putatively impartial debate newscast: 

1. The “Gun Rally Express”

Just weeks after a lunatic with easy access to a Bushmaster assault weapon gunned 20 first-graders and 6 staff members in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut – and in direct response to that avoidable massacre – the New York State legislature enacted the NY SAFE Act. As a reaction to that, in late February 2013 hundreds of Second Amendment absolutists trundled off to Albany to protest. WBEN did not merely send a reporter to Albany to cover the protest – it helped to organize it; WBEN “partnered” with various Carl Paladino-related sponsors to send busloads of WBEN listeners to the protest – complete with a banner and everything – and pretended to “cover” a protest it was actually helping to promote.

That’s the banner – it found itself a home in the WBEN newsroom after the rally. Poor Steve Cichon was there as a “reporter” reporting on, among other things, the busloads of WBEN listeners there. The key takeaways are that WBEN is not an impartial observer and reporter of news, but instead feels perfectly justified in becoming part of the story and creating news.

On bus number two, it was “a dismal day to ride aboard the Albany Gun Rally Express, but spirits [were] high on both buses!” People were asked to “Click LIKE to support them and leave your messages for the riders…”

WBEN’s ostensibly straight newscast has been misused for partisan ends before, and given the stakes in NY-27 it is perfectly reasonable to expect this to happen again. 

2. Tim Wenger

Wenger is the Operations Manager and Program Director for WBEN and basically runs the whole station. Rather than recount all the various and myriad ways Wenger renders WBEN unsuitable as an impartial partner for a debate such as this, I will again bring up one salient example from 2014.

Well, no, Mr. Wenger, I have never felt like assaulting Secretary Clinton, or President Trump for that matter. Take a look at the video to which he linked and tell me exactly what’s funny or good or positive there. 

This is straight-up right-wing bloodlust and Wenger is so free from consequences that the Tweet remains online. Here’s what I wrote about Wenger’s inappropriate sentiment at the time (well before Trump ever decided to run for office). 

No, actually, I’ve never felt like “throwing a shoe” at any American political figure. Mostly because I’m not a violent moron, but also because I feel secure enough in the political system and in debate and discussion that “throwing a shoe” or otherwise committing an assault and battery doesn’t enter into it.  Remember when an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush? Did Wenger think that was acceptable? Reasonable? Rational?

I didn’t think it was persuasive or appropriate. People enter politics, and they should expect to be vetted, scrutinized, and questioned. They should not expect to dodge physical assault. They do not deserve battery – no matter how much you disagree with them. For everyone who thinks Hillary Clinton deserves to be hit by a shoe because of Benghazi, I can probably find you two who think that Bush should be behind bars for war crimes. 

So, there’s nothing at all funny or appropriate about someone throwing a shoe at George Bush or at Hillary Clinton. Anyone who thinks differently is no different from a fascist blackshirt, trying to do with violence what they can’t do with words. It is beyond un-American. 

I even did a mock Newsreel depicting how Wenger’s sentiments would have played in the 1930s.

Here, Wenger cheered on a guy committing assault and battery on a protester with whom Wenger apparently disagreed. None of this is okay, and all of it acts as a foreshadowing of our current state of affairs

Tim Wenger is not an impartial observer or the head of an impartial news-gathering organization. Sure, it pretends to be one at various times of the day, but mostly it’s just Republican people spouting Republican talking points for an older Republican audience. It is the station of Tom Bauerle and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. 

I think Nate McMurray is a strong enough candidate that he can comport himself perfectly well even under questioning from a Republican front organization masquerading as a news entity, but I don’t think he needs to stand at a podium battling two opponents. WBEN can broadcast whatever it wants, but it has no business being treated as if it was just another impartial news outlet. It is no more or less partisan than I.

The State of the 27th


On Friday January 17, former congressman Chris Collins was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison for his lying to the FBI and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. It is a fittingly ignominious end to a particularly nasty and petulant politician. 

In advance of his sentencing, Collins and his lawyers asked friends and supporters to send letters to District Court Judge Vernon Broderick to advocate for a lenient sentence. Those letters were posted to PACER, the federal online filing system, as were many letters advocating for a harsh punishment. Most of them came from family, a few former colleagues, party hacks, and business partners. There weren’t that many. He was not well liked, and he didn’t need anyone.

Until suddenly, he did. If I’m being generous, the turnout on his behalf was middling. 

Collins will be forever disgraced and a convicted felon. He has selfishly destroyed not only his own life, but that of his family and his son’s soon-to-be in-laws’. People who think that Collins’ greed and above-the-law attitude were a one-off are deluding themselves. This was a pattern for him, and got what he deserved. More significantly for our purposes, the Republican establishment in western New York supported him wholeheartedly in 2018 despite the overwhelming evidence against him, not to mention the federal indictment.

As a result of Collins’ lawlessness, there will be a special election held (probably) on Tuesday April 28th, the same day as the New York State Democratic primary. (Despite Republican hyperventilations, it makes sense to do this, because the various NY-27 Boards of Elections will already be mobilized to handle that race, so it is in the interests of the taxpayers to do this all at once.)

There will be a proper, regular election again held on Tuesday, November 3rd – so basically there will be a race all year. 

Democrat Nate McMurray has sewn up the Democratic nomination, despite a brief challenge from newcomer Melodie Baker, (who subsequently had an intemperate airing of grievances on Twitter about her withdrawal). Query whether she will run again if McMurray’s effort proves unsuccessful in April. 

The Republican race for NY-27, on the other hand, is crowded. Well, it was until the Republican chairs held a super-secret meeting in their rural lair to interview and choose their fighter. The major candidates are State Senator Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda, Fox commentator and lawyer Beth Parlato of Darien, State Senator Chris Jacobs of Buffalo Orchard Park, and County Comptroller/bathroom aficionado Stefan Mychajliw of Buffalo Hamburg. Ortt and Parlato are right-wing ideologues. Jacobs and Mychajliw have found it temporarily convenient to mimic Ortt’s and Parlato’s sharp-elbowed, omniphobic, ultra-right, alt-lite positioning.

As political philosopher Cyndi Lauper once wrote, “money changes everything,” and so it was that the party bosses selected perennial Buffalo News endorsee Chris Jacobs to run for the special election. Jacobs is that sort of effete cosmopolitan country-club Republican the Trumpsters love to hate, so it should come as no surprise that the bosses’ decision brought with it some butthurt. Mychajliw especially went out of his way to denounce the backroom deal, invoking Jeb Bush and incoherently alleging that no one would have heard of reality game show host Donald Trump but for the 2016 primary. 

I do not recall a time when the Republicans in western New York were so fractured and toxic. This is largely uncharted territory. Now that 2020 will be a year-long race, the Republican contest in NY-27 is going to be all about yelling loudly and punching down. All of them seem to think that they can ignore genuine problems and issues the voters in NY-27 feel and instead regorge Fox News/Breitbart talking points that are broad and shallow – they don’t really have any bearing on anyone’s real life, but they make people feel better about themselves whilst giving them someone weaker to blame or hate. 

Each of them has one thing in common: to sell voters that he is the true way – the only obedient vassal to the master, King Donaeld the Unready

Chris Jacobs – Ri¢hie Ri¢h

Jacobs – the Parkside scion of a prominent billionaire family – would have you think that he is all in for Trump. Among his first tweets – since conspicuously deleted – was this: 

I can guarantee you that refugees and undocumented immigration on the Southern US border isn’t a big issue for people in NY-27. Hell, we have an actual border ourselves that’s only a few miles away, as opposed to the one that’s 1,000 miles away. The goal here should be to make the Canadian border easier for regular people to cross, and not harder. People in the area making up NY-27 have had poor or non-existent representation for far too long. People here have concerns about things like predatory lenders, employment, farm labor, and healthcare, but here’s the Buffalo developer feeding anti-immigrant pablum to the masses

When Jacobs ran for Senate against Democrat Amber Small, he was continually asked about whether he supports Donald Trump, and he remained silent. Now? He pretends like he’s Trump’s biggest fan. This is sheer opportunism, but Jacobs has money, friends, and name recognition in the Buffalo media market, at least.

Beth Parlato – the Evangelist

What about Beth Parlato? When Jim Kelly and his wife aren’t stanning for their fellow Christian Central Academy parent and tagging Donald Trump in the tweet…

…she has things like this to say: 

“Our families are under attack. Christian values are mocked, drugs and dangerous illegal immigrants flow through our broken borders, late term abortion is protected, and our schools teach what’s politically correct instead of the truth. Will you help me fight back?”

People literally cannot afford the medication and healthcare that keeps them alive, but this person is going to solve these problems by launching a culture war. Chances are that Parlato, doing her best Betsy Devos impression, hasn’t set foot in a public school in decades, if ever. The only people “mocking Christian values” are the ultra-right holy rollers who think Christianity is about getting rich, and that Jesus was a gun totin’ pickup-drivin’ immigrant-hater. And that the rapture is around the corner. Parlato continues, 

As an attorney, as a judge, as an activist and most importantly, as a mother, I have seen up close the harm that the liberal extremist agenda has caused here in Western New York.

And when our families are hurting, so is our nation.

I’m running to fight back against the enemies of freedom who glorify socialism and show disdain for America’s entrepreneurs.

I’m running to create a better and safer world for all of our children.

I’m running because there are stronger voices for women than Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I’m an educated, conservative woman who can make a logical argument; which means the Left and the mainstream media is going to hate me. But, I won’t shy away from talking about the same values you talk about every night at the kitchen table.

What specifically has she seen in WNY that has fallen prey to some “liberal extremist agenda” – she doesn’t say because it is enough simply to say it. “Glorify socialism”. “Enemies of freedom.” “Liberal extremist agenda.” “Nancy Pelosi.” “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” Parlato’s campaign is all about division and scare-tactics, and this sort of Fox trash talk should be – and will be – rejected. But at least Parlato is sincere about her myriad fears and hatreds. Query how someone so concerned with “Christian values” can support a guy who adulterously fornicated with a porn star while his third wife was pregnant, and then paid her off, or the guy who said his status and wealth made it easy for him to “grab [women] by the pussy”. (See, e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:2, Colossians 3:5, Ephesians 5:3, Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Revelation 21:8, Proverbs 6:32, and Exodus 20:14).   

Rob Ortt – the Maziarz/Wojtaszek Machine

Likewise, North Tonawanda’s Maziarz guy Rob Ortt is a true believer. I heard his radio spot on WBEN and noted firstly that he is going out of his way to explain away his corruption, and this: 

Some people want to go to Washington and bring everybody to the table. I want to flip the table over.

That one line should be instantly disqualifying. Like his opponents, Ortt isn’t running to represent the people of the 27th district; he has a constituency of two: himself and Donald Trump. 

Politics is bloodsport, but government is supposed to be about doing things that are in the best interests of one’s constituents. One can have strong positions about things, but in the end the art of politics is about compromise and inclusion – not, as Ortt suggests, violent, over-emotional exclusion. If that is his ethos, it is no wonder he has been so feckless and useless in Albany. 

When you click on “issues” on Ortt’s website, the first line that greets you contains the word “Trump”. One of the bullet-pointed “issues” reads as follows: 

Fight Back Against the “Hate America” Voices of the Extreme Left

Honestly, I almost feel sorry for Ortt and the people like him. They are so consumed with hatred and fear that they go out of their way to agitate against people who advocate for things like libraries, schools, and healthcare. These weak-minded people aren’t running against opponents, or for any ideas – they are merely running against the things they reckon their voters reflexively hate. 

It is also important to be clear about something: what Ortt and his people did may not have been a crime, but it sure as hell was sleazy and corrupt.

Come to think of it, corrupt sleazery may exactly be why Ortt stans so hard for corrupt sleaze Trump. 

Stefan Mychajliw – the Phony

Finally, we have young master Stefan Mychajliw, who did not have supporters available to launch his campaign with a rally. Instead, he posted an awkward video, replete with the same sort of divisive, hate-filled rhetoric as his rivals. Also like his opponents, Mychajliw is running for two people – himself and Trump. It is as if Trump and these people are one. To call it a cult would be insulting to most cults. 

Like Ortt, Mychajliw’s first thought is of Trump: 

SEND TRUMP AN ALLY: As President Trump fights to drain the swamp in Washington, he cannot do it alone. We need uncompromising conservatives to stand with him to Keep America Great by fighting for a secure border, fair trade policies, and economic solutions that continue record-setting results. Simply put, we cannot rely on self-dealing Albany moderates who only support President Trump when it’s politically convenient. We deserve a proven conservative we can trust — no matter when the next election is.

Mychajliw was once a Buffalo mensch. Since entering political life and becoming a career politician, he has successfully alienated everyone who used to matter in his life. He trades on his status as a first-generation American, (only half-true), while in the next breath heaping scorn and derision on refugees. Mychajliw targets Jacobs especially (Albany moderate) and ignores the Rev. Parlato and winger Ortt; Mychajliw isn’t a proven conservative, but a purely performative one. He has never had a truly competitive race for Comptroller, so it will be interesting to see how he fares over the summer, and just how low he’s willing to go. He is wholly unqualified for – and uninterested in – the job he has, and it shows. He has spent the last year traipsing across the farms and meadows of NY-27 and having his picture taken, all the while vocally supporting a person under felony indictment who has since resigned in disgrace. 

Of Mychajliw, the Investigative Post’s Jim Heaney writes

The growing body count at the two county jails says all that needs to be said about Tim Howard.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says a lot of ugly things, takes campaign contributions from some very ugly people, and seems to be using his office more for political purposes than for protecting the interests of taxpayers.

Ditto for County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who seems intent on spending tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits aimed at demonizing undocumented immigrants.

I call the three of them the Bigot Brothers.

Kearns, Mychajliw, and Howard fit the mold of the Erie County Republican Party, which mimics the tone being set at the national level. Gone are the days when more moderate voices held sway. Now it’s the party of Carl Paladino, Michael Caputo, and the like. Which is to say: wingnuts.

The Bigot Brothers indeed. 

And now that Mychajliw has formally announced what everyone’s known for a year – that he’s running for Congress – he will need to address the fact that he apparently used campaign funds from his state office treasury to pay for federal office expenses.

Even money an undeclared candidate for federal office raises and spends “testing the waters” — that is, laying the groundwork for a campaign, lining up support, conducting polls, etc. — must eventually be reported to the FEC, Svoboda told Investigative Post.

“You can defer filing if your fundraising and expenditures are solely for the purpose of testing the waters,” Svoboda said. “But your expenditures must eventually be disclosed if you run. And they must be solely be about the decision to run or not. They can’t manifest actual candidacy.” 

“Testing the waters” means gauging support, not soliciting it. But Mychajliw appears to have spent money doing both — and well in excess of $5,000.

The fact that some of that money came from corporations – something not allowed in federal races – means that Mychajliw, the “swamp drainer” can’t even run this campaign in an uncorrupt fashion.

The people of NY-27 have been victimized by an unresponsive and predatory Republican for almost 10 years. Now four (maybe five if you count the late-coming Trump apparatchik no one’s heard of), candidates vie for approval from a President who is more the head of a crime syndicate than an administration. They each of them look to raise their profile in a region where the Republican Party has found itself with something of a weak bench. 

The efforts of Ortt, Parlato, Mychajliw, and Jacobs to trip over each other in their fear-mongering veneration and worship of Trump and Trumpism leaves an opening for the Democrat Nate McMurray to simply say to the district voters: I will go to Washington and work for you, the people. You will be my bosses and no one else.

That is, after all and at long last, what this should be about.

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