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What a difference three years make.

Oh, Mickey, What A Pity You Don’t Understand

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The “Green Light” statute, enacted earlier this year, will permit undocumented immigrants to obtain a New York State driver’s license. It goes into effect in mid-December. It is not – and should not – be a DMV apparatchik’s job to determine who is or is not eligible to be present in the United States. Undocumented immigrants would be able to obtain standard licenses that are not compliant with Real ID, and would be marked “Not for Federal Purposes.” 

Republican Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns declared that he would not issue licenses under the duly enacted state statute. Earlier this year, he brought a lawsuit in his individual and official capacities challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “Green Light” law. On Friday, United States District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford dismissed Kearns’ lawsuit in its entirety, ruling that he does not have standing to bring the lawsuit, and that the Court therefore does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. 

Wolford Decision by Alan Bedenko on Scribd

That afternoon, Kearns held a press conference. There, he did his best Donald Trump impression. His behavior was unbecoming of an elected official. His declarations and  his clumsy, ignorant analysis of Judge Wolford’s decision would have made a 1L blush. Kearns’ reaction was absolutely astonishing. 

Here is the first page of Kearns’ prepared remarks: 

Before I get to the substance of what is written on that page, it bears mentioning that the law bifurcates two overall types of government officials: your job is either ministerial or discretionary; that is to say you either implement policy, or you get to have a say in its creation. When Mickey Kearns was an Assemblyman, his role was discretionary, and he had a say in the legislative process. A county clerk does not set policy; he does not have a discretionary governmental role. He has a set of duties he is charged by law to fulfill, and he is to do so as accurately and efficiently as he cares to do. A county clerk is not a diner at some sort of legislative cafeteria, where he can pick and choose the laws, (subject to his jurisdiction) that he feels like carrying out. 

Kearns has staked out a position as the Kim Davis of driver’s licenses. Just as that Kentucky clerk had a legal responsibility and duty to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kearns has a duty to follow New York’s Green Light. This is not dissimilar from when Sheriff Tim Howard declared that he would not follow the New York SAFE Act, but individual police offers do generally retain some degree of discretion. Kearns does not. Imagine if Kearns claimed some sort of opposition to, say, charging recording fees for deeds. He has no more right to ignore the Green Light law than he has to ignore any other law that has applicability in his office. 

In his prepared remarks, Kearns said 

Well, if Kearns had bothered to read the entire 32 pages, Judge Wolford made it perfectly clear when “the hell” they are open, and why they are not now. 

Kearns is wrong – the Judge did not tell him he has to issue driver’s licenses to anyone, but a New York State statute does. When he complains that “County Clerks” have to either be “prosecuted or removed from office,” Kearns omits a key option: the clerks could also choose to follow the law. I guarantee you that Judge Wolford is in a better position to determine whether and when Kearns can bring this lawsuit than he. Likewise, she is better positioned to opine as to the constitutionality of the state statute than he. 

Judge Wolford decided that Kearns has no standing because there’s no injury to him in his individual or official capacity. As a result, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Kearns’ claims that he could go to jail, having run afoul of immigration law, or removed from office by Governor Cuomo for not following the state statute, were ridiculous, speculative, or both. Judge Wolford noted that there have been no federal prosecutions of DMV commissioners in states where undocumented immigrants already have access to licenses. The Judge also held that a person such as Kearns would have to be under a threat of prosecution under and pursuant to the state law being challenged. By contrast, Kearns was claiming he could be prosecuted under a different, federal law.

Judge Wolford also held that Kearns’ alleged potential removal from office would also be pursuant to a different statute, and wholly speculative. The Court noted that removal of a County Clerk is always within the Governor’s powers: 

Article 13, §13(a) of the New York State Constitution grants the Governor of New York the ability to remove from office “any elective sheriff, county clerk, district attorney or register,” so long as the official in question is provided “a copy of the charges against him or her and an opportunity of being heard in his or her defense.” 

What constitutes the basis for removal is wholly within the Governor’s discretion. The Court then set forth the ridiculousness of Kearns’ argument: 

According to Plaintiff’s logic, if the mere theoretical possibility of removal under Article 13, §13(a) was sufficient to confer standing, any elected official covered by Article 13, §13(a) would be able to automatically create Article III standing simply by declaring his or her intention not to comply with a law with which he or she personally disagreed. Such a conclusion is wholly inconsistent with the fundamental standing requirement of, at a minimum, an imminent injury-in-fact. 

No such injury was shown to exist. 

During the question-and-answer portion of Kearns’ Friday press conference, he claimed that implentation of the Green Light Law would cost taxpayers $700,000. There exists no basis for that, and it defies common sense and logic. If, suddenly, a new classification of resident is permitted to pay for a license, revenues will go up. Even the right-wing Comptroller’s June report, which clumsily attempted to denigrate the Green Light Law, did not assert a particular dollar figure with respect to any supposed cost of implementation. There is not so much as a dollar sign contained therein. It is a political document, not a financial one. 

It remains risible to see Kearns, whose Irish roots are obvious, and Mychajliw, who touts his immigrant background every time he breathes, take such a Bannonite anti-immigrant position. 

Kearns went on to assert that Judge Wolford “punted” on ruling on the merits of the case; Mickey Kearns, who has no background in psychology or psychoanalysis, undertook a garbageman’s psychoanalysis of the Judge, indicating she didn’t want to rule on the merits – that she was, “so afraid to rule on the merits of this case.” 

That’s not how this works. The Judge didn’t have to consider the merits of a lawsuit you did not have the right to bring. Indeed, she did rule on the merits, in a way – she decided that you lack standing, and them’s the merits. This wasn’t some sort of hypertechnical procedural ruling on an improperly filed form, a blown deadline, or a word out of place – this was as “on the merits” as this Judge could get on this case.

She did not have to rule on the constitutionality of the Green Light statute because there existed no one before the Court with the capacity to challenge it. 

If, as he claimed, Kearns wanted a “showdown” on the constitutionality of the Green Light Law, then he should have found a way to be aggrieved by it.

Mickey Kearns is an embarrassment. He seems wholly unqualified and unwilling to act as Erie County Clerk. We could have elected Steve Cichon or Angela Marinucci, and instead we have this barely sentient individual running around trying to stick it to immigrants. That he is still at least nominally a Democrat is an outrage. While it may be technically not possible formally to expel someone from the Erie County Democratic Committee, it should be done – even if just for show. Let the Republicans have this person, as he clearly more closely hews to their anti-immigrant positions. 

The Clerk serves for four years. Kearns was elected in 2018. Let’s make his first full term his last in this office and send him to the dreaded private sector he has so vigorously avoided. 

Lloyd Should Not Be Canceled

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There’s an election coming up next week. Obviously, this means that Buffalonians are expressing their political preferences through tortillas.

As we already know, Lloyd served food at the ICE detention facility in Batavia last week. This resulted in a left-wing reaction and threats of boycotts. As we also know, Lloyd reacted positively to that reaction, issuing an apology and donating the proceeds from that outing to a local refugee organization. 

Immediately, Lloyd was branded by bad-faith right wingers as anti-law enforcement generally, and a massive, viral online boycott campaign ensued. One Facebook group has accumulated almost 4,000 members in a few short days. Anecdotal reports reveal that Lloyd was not treated well at the Bills Game. On Monday, Lloyd’s owners held a press conference to apologize yet again, trying desperately to halt a quickening downward spiral. Although it was an odd, belated effort at crisis management, they declared

We serve all communities, we go to all neighborhoods, we are not political. Why would we be? How can any business choose sides in our politically divided country and ever hope to succeed? We make tacos — not war.

As I wrote last weekI think it’s ok if Lloyd serves food at the Batavia facility. After all, it’s not just ICE prison guards who work there, but custodial staff, administrative staff, attorneys for the detainees, and the detainees’ families that would all be able to buy food. I also think that it’s ok if Lloyd decides never to do that again. I think it’s ok for people to not think it’s ok for Lloyd to serve prison guards, and for Lloyd to respond to them as it did — by apologizing. 

The difference between selling a taco to the general public outside of the ICE detention center and giving away thousands in free food for a Tim Howard fundraiser speaks for itself.

Once a business picks a side in politics or the culture war, that business will face an inevitable backlash. Look at Chik-fil-A. Look at the wedding facilities and vendors that refuse service to same-sex couples. Look at Deep South Taco. But that backlash should, in theory, be less acute now that the people who agree will flock there. Conservative evangelicals, for instance, love to own the libs with Chik-fil-A, and to defend the “religious freedom” of places that discriminate against LGBTQ people. So, if a business responds to pressure from a group on the left, can it expect the same level of support? 

As stupid as you may think this whole nacho-flavored proxy war is – and it is stupid – there are several issues that have been neatly distilled in Buffalo in the last few days that merit at least a cursory examination: 

1. If you bring pressure to bear on a person or entity to encourage it to undertake some ethical or political act or omission, this may result in unintended harm. It may rise to the level of existential threat for that business. Be mindful of this unless your goal is to destroy the business itself.

2. If the business upon whom that pressure (e.g., threats of boycotts, pickets, etc.) reacts positively, and bad things start happening to it, a concomitant show of support for that business’ positive reaction would be fair. If not from a non-profit organization, then at least from the most visible and vocal community leaders who pushed for the ethical change in the first place. If you threatened a viral negative consequence against the business and it reacted positively, then why not offer some positive viral reinforcement

3. If you refuse or fail to offer positive reinforcement for good decisions, then that business is up a trapeze with no safety net. This communicates to others that your threats are empty. You can’t boycott a place you don’t patronize. If you threaten the stick and then withhold the carrot, you’re just stirring controversy without regard for the people who depend on that business for their livelihoods; in this case that includes immigrants and refugees. 

If, as the tired trope goes, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” then never mind the Guevara wannabes, for they are few. If your critics reject, ab initio, your very existence, then it’s probably best to ignore and quietly continue to do your thing. When they insist to all and sundry that “brands are not your friends,” then don’t try to be. 

The Battle of Rocket Sauce Ridge made the New York Times, and I highlight this passage, 

“There is no aspect of immigration detention that can survive without for-profit businesses,” said Jennifer Connor, executive director of Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York, an advocacy organization in Buffalo. “I think businesses have to decide what their values are and what kinds of stands they are going to take. There is no not-political stance.”

Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York is the organization to which Lloyd pledged to donate the proceeds of its objectionable Batavia stop. But do all businesses have to “decide what their values are” and “what kinds of stands they are going to take?” Is there a “not-political stance?” Does your plumber or electrician or spin class leader need to pass an ideological purity test? Your taco joint? There exists also a difference between a personal decision to avoid an objectionable business and an organized boycott. 

The first sentence above notes that “immigration detention” cannot “survive without for-profit businesses.” Few things can. A facile slippery-slope argument could be made whereby we wonder where that ends – do restaurants run background checks on patrons to make sure they’re not serving someone who works for ICE? There exist myriad businesses that do not take political stands, others do overtly, and still others do so quietly. Dick’s Sporting Goods loudly decided to stop selling guns. The foundation run by the founders of Chik-fil-A quietly donates to homophobes. Lloyd is a small local business, wholly unlike Dick’s or Chik-fil-A. Deep South Taco donates free food to fundraise for Sheriff Tim Howard. When people criticized Deep South, its conservative owner doubled down and was unapologetic. The critics boycotted. As the Supreme Court ruled, how you spend your money is political speech.

I try to direct how I spend my money by patronizing good actors in the marketplace and not rewarding bad actors. I prefer small local businesses over megachains. I eat Lloyd, but not Deep South. But that’s not the same as a threat of boycott.

What if the owner of Deep South had relented- apologized and made a donation to a non-profit that promotes some social justice? Would its critics have uttered a word of encouragement about spending money there? The power of a boycott is only as strong as the willingness to spend the money. As a personal example, Carl Paladino could be revealed tomorrow to be the messiah and I’d still never park in an Ellicott Lot or buy things at one of his “Trading Company” locations. This leaves me with a sense of satisfaction, but ultimately powerless to influence Paladino’s or Ellicott Development’s behavior because I won’t willingly or knowingly spend money there, no matter what. 

On Facebook and Twitter, I shared someone else’s thoughts about what happened with Lloyd between the time of its original apology for the Batavia / ICE outing and Monday’s re-apology presser. While the pro-ICE brigades mounted a viral anti-Lloyd holy war – unfairly branding Lloyd to be anti-law enforcement writ large, the people and groups who were originally critical of its Batavia outing said and did nothing to support it; to cushion the blow. Lloyd did the right thing and no one had its back.

That’s not to say Lloyd will suddenly do business with no conscience or moral outlook – just that it’s going to be more careful about what it does and to whom it reacts – once bitten, twice shy.

This being Buffalo, the counter-arguments ranged from bare insults to inanity to wild mischaracterizations. The inane likened Lloyd – a locally owned small business – to Target or Wal-Mart. The bad-faith commentators – the erstwhile pals who lobbed ad hominem attacks about my physical appearance and those too insecure in their own argument to @ reply me, were, as always, a treat. For instance:

The “Lloyds ICE fiasco…” isn’t the “fault of the ‘progressive community'” and no one said it was. Lloyd made its own decision and has to live with it; it chose to react positively to pressure from people and groups that didn’t have its back when the chips were down. This is apparently a lesson Lloyd had fully absorbed and digested by Monday. Lloyd has debts to pay, rents to pay, hundreds of employees – many of them immigrants and refugees themselves – to pay. Lloyd serves food. Does that have to be a political act? Not really. Lloyd’s owners could, of course, donate time, goods, and services to groups and causes they believe in. Indeed, I’m sure they do. Whether they choose to make a big deal about it is their business.

So was all of this really about redirecting Lloyd’s behavior, or about something else? Conceding that Lloyd has a reputation generally as a good corporate citizen, critics of the ICE stop could have reached out privately to Lloyd’s easily accessible owners with a “not cool” and redirected Lloyd in a way that would have not resulted in a firestorm. The whole thing could have been handled in a way that achieved the stated goal of advocating for companies to avoid ICE while minimizing harm to Lloyd and its employees. No business is going to risk public humiliation and widespread boycott for an entity that doesn’t have its back.

Once you demand that businesses take a visible and public political stand, you expose that business to blowback from reactionaries. If you’re quick to punish bad behavior, yet withhold support for good behavior, the business is going to learn from that example and not support you or heed your advice again.

You don’t have to believe in capitalism, by the way, to understand the simple point here. Any parent can tell you the value of positive reinforcement for good behavior. 

We can all agree that Lloyd is better at making food than handling crisis communications. I don’t know who has won from all of this. Certainly refugees, immigrants, and inmates in Batavia have gained nothing. Lloyd has gained nothing. Last week’s critics have gained nothing, except a pledge of a donation and perhaps some moral satisfaction. So, cui bono?

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Tacogate II: Censure Mychajliw

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Republicans love to complain about what they term “political correctness,” often going so far as to assert that being empathetic or mindful of others’ feelings is destroying western civilization as we know it. 

Except, of course, when there’s some virtue signaling (another favorite right-wing trope) of their own to do. 

This week, Lloyd sent a taco truck to the Batavia Detention Center, which is a Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility, housing various non-citizens awaiting trial and/or deportation. Many people are outraged over ICE’s conduct under the Trump Administration, most notably the separation of child refugees from their parents or guardians, unlawful indefinite detention of refugees, and lax oversight leading to physical and sexual abuse of detainees, including children. It is indicative of poor management and a complete abdication of the duty the government has to protect the people in its custody.

For a country that once took pride in being a melting pot of immigrants – of being perceived as a beacon of light, justice, and freedom in a dark and unfree world, it’s been quite the harsh, self-inflicted comedown.

It is also indicative of a wildly toxic anti-immigrant, anti-refugee furor that has overtaken the American government and a wide swath of its citizenry in recent years. It is a new fascism wrapped in the flag and holding the Bible, as prophesied. 

Personally, I think it’s ok if Lloyd serves food at the Batavia facility. After all, it’s not just ICE prison guards who work there, but custodial staff, administrative staff, attorneys for the detainees, and the detainees’ families that would all be able to buy food. I also think that it’s ok if Lloyd decides never to do that again. I think it’s ok for people to not think it’s ok for Lloyd to serve prison guards, and for Lloyd to respond to them as it did – by apologizing. 

If you don’t like it, start your own taco truck empire.

Because that’s ultimately what free enterprise is about. “ICE agent” isn’t a protected class under the Civil Rights Act and its progeny, so Lloyd is wholly within its rights to choose not to ever go there again. Not long ago, I criticized a competing taco business for its ties to Sheriff Tim Howard and other Republicans. At that time, of its owner I wrote, 

Richard Hamilton, the owner of Deep South Taco, supports Sheriff Tim Howard. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

In fact, he has hosted fundraisers for Howard in the past, and intends to host another one in the near future. He even cuts Howard a deal, with a $1,600 in-kind contribution for food showing up in Howard’s campaign coffers. 

There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

Hamilton is tight enough with the Howard that he became a “Reserve Deputy Sheriff”. I have no idea what that is, but there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

I went on to explain my personal decision never to patronize his businesses, and I respect the decisions of people to make the same choice, or not. The same goes for Lloyd. When a company decides to make a political statement, it has to brace for a backlash from the people who disagree. That’s life. For his part, Hamilton is trying to capitalize on the anti-Lloyd brou-ha-ha by offering a 35% discount to law enforcement. I suggested some additional discounts he might consider.

Free speech is fun. 

Never one to shut up when he’s not needed; never one to not insert himself into a controversy that has nothing to do with him, Erie County’s Comptroller and perpetual candidate Stefan Mychajliw piped up. The mission statement for his office reads as follows:The Comptroller’s Office serves as the county and taxpayer’s independent fiscal watchdog, providing fiscal leadership, ensuring fiscal integrity, timely and accurate reporting, and maintaining public trust and accountability through audits, reviews, reports and investigations.

Whilst running for like four different other offices simultaneously, Mychajliw writes: 

This needs to be unpacked not only because of its factual inaccuracies and poor logic, but because it is dangerous. I have to believe – and consistency dictates – that the people who complain most loudly about the insidious nature of political correctness and cancel culture will not succumb to the things they hate most. Right?

LOL.

First of all, here is the Comptroller – a petty elected bureaucrat; a bean-counter – whose duties are mostly ministerial, directing MAGA cretins to hate on two local businesses. Obviously, the tweet’s original theme had to do with Lloyd, which decided that its five food trucks and two restaurants have a relationship with local refugee and immigrant communities that it would be a betrayal for them to feed ICE guards. Just like Richard Hamilton and his toy badge, Lloyd has the right to not go back to Batavia.

Mychajliw is preening for his MAGA / Bannon followers. He’s running for Congress/Assembly/State Senate/Senate/County Executive by tearing down a beloved local restaurant that employs lots of local people and pays loads of county taxes. But in so doing, he has to invoke the name of Chik-fil-a, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The secret is that there was never a plan for Chik-fil-A to come to the airport. Never. It was never booked. It was never even a thing – Delaware North simply included that franchise on a list to the NFTA of potential brands that could conceivably be brought in. Stef knew this, probably, but isn’t above trying to score a virtue-signaling point for the Rus Thompson set.  

I distinctly remember people threatening to sue the NFTA, and the FAA investigating the NFTA, over its supposed refusal to consider leasing to a Chik-fil-A over religious freedom. Chik-fil-A is a fast food joint, not a church. If it wants to be treated like a church, it should become one. There is no statute requiring a public entity to cut a deal with a private business on the basis of religion, and if the NFTA rented to, e.g., Joe’s Halal Chicken Shack the MAGA red hat cadre would be apoplectic – pitchforks and all.

The reason why Mychajliw brings up Chik-fil-A to attack Delaware North and the NFTA is that it is emblematic of the “pwn the libs” ideology that is the centerpiece of Trumpism and modern conservatism. They hate that snowflake soy-latte-drinking libs won’t eat at Chik-fil-A, and to really underscore their outrage over beta lib ideological boycotts, they’ll never eat at Lloyd. I mean, the cognitive dissonance is huge.

To reiterate – Stefan Mychajliw is not a candidate for anything right now. He is a bean-counter with an almost exclusively ministerial job which he executes by calling bingo and visiting senior centers. His instagram is loaded with images of him delivering county checks to local businesses and, thusly, promoting them.Which is fine. 

But against that backdrop of looking out for the taxpayer and promoting small businesses in Erie County, why on Earth would a petty county bureaucrat knowingly take to social media to do harm to a locally-owned, job-creating, taxpaying business? It is beyond irresponsible for Mychajliw to do this to any Erie County company. It is a knowing effort to hurt the business over politics (i.e., his own version of “political correctness”), and this could hurt it and, in turn, county tax revenues. 

There should be a consequence here. There should be a palpable consequence to a bureaucrat using his bully pulpit to effectively harm a locally owned business over a political disagreement. It is political correctness run amok. Furthermore, the notion that it is some evidence of creeping totalitarianism – a taco truck’s non-discriminatory decision about with whom to do business – is so incredibly ignorant and stupid, and something Mychajliw should know better than to suggest. But alas, here we are. Totalitarianism comes from dictatorial government fiat, not from public opinion or private company decision-making.

The radical Bannonite neo-fascist Erie County Comptroller used his bully pulpit to attack an Erie County taxpaying, job-creating business for his own political gain. He put the jobs of hundreds of Erie County residents at risk, as well as the income, property, and sales taxes they pay. All over a political disagreement. It is unconscionable for an elected head of an Erie County bureaucracy to single out a taxpaying Erie County employer like this for economic harm. If he’ll do it to Lloyd, he’ll do it to any small local business to advance his own craven self-interest.

Someone on the Erie County Legislature should immediately introduce a resolution condemning the Comptroller’s wildly reckless attack on an Erie County business, and formally censuring him for knowingly doing harm to an Erie County-based company which employs Erie County residents, all of whom pay to Erie County property and sales taxes – directly or not.

“Free The Press Canada” Could Have Called

Sweet mother of God, it’s not every day I get accused of being a defender of that certain website, or that I’m somehow in league with Roger Stone, but there’s a first time for everything.

If you have a solid hour to spare, go read this blog post that purports to link – in excruciating detail – a local purveyor of fake news with Roger Stone, and name-checks me as somehow nefariously involved. Amy MacPherson of “Free the Press Canada” did quite a thorough job, except for the part where she didn’t reach out to me to ask me about certain details about which she writes.

In the absence of Ms. MacPherson’s message, I’ll address her “reporting” and conclusions here.

Although Alan Bedenko plays a bit part in this saga, it is an important role because he appeared on CBC News to represent Matthew Ricchiazzi and the Buffalo Chronicle.

I did not appear on the CBC to “represent” them; I appeared to indict them – to offer a WNY perspective into a matter of apparent Canadian media urgency.

Bendenko portrayed himself as an enemy of Ricchiazzi, backed by a blog entry he posted about Parlato’s apprentice. In it he embedded the full segment by Adrienne Arsenault, even though it’s not readily available for Canadians to find on the CBC website (original with video / archive without video).

(All is [sic], by the way). I’m not an “enemy” of his, per se – I am an enemy of lies and harassment and fake scandal.

In the short interview he did not disclose that he had been a lawyer for Erie County and known Ricchiazzi for several years in the course of municipal and state politics. He didn’t disclose that he engaged with Ricchiazzi at Parlato’s sister website ArtVoice, where the latter two regularly published along with Roger Stone (original / archive). He didn’t allude to knowing anything about Matthew Ricchiazzi’s agenda, or that his attack on the Canadian election was a concerted effort as opposed to a one-off fake news specimen.

The interview took almost an hour, but a very small portion of it was aired. To say I was a “lawyer for Erie County” is somewhat misleading – until June 2018, I worked for a firm that represented the county, defending it in lawsuits; I was not a county employee.

Here’s where this goes off the rails, though.

I left Artvoice on November 10, 2014. At that time, it was still owned by Jamie Moses. At no time during my tenure at Artvoice did I “engage with Ricchiazzi”, nor did I ever write for Artvoice after Parlato bought it. I never published – not once, nor “regularly” with Roger Stone at Artvoice or anywhere else.

As for that website’s motive for inserting itself into – or creating – controversies in Canadian politics, I have absolutely no knowledge of that. Anything I suggest would be speculative.

Alan Bedenko has been involved with Matthew Ricchiazzi since at least 2012, when he participated in the uproar about the Seneca casino for a Buzzfeed article and the subsequent banter about it on Twitter (original / archive). Bedenko’s handle is @BuffaloPundit and he curiously tagged two bystanders into the conversation. One of those accounts belongs to a Russian who doesn’t follow or interact with anyone. It’s a suspicious account to say the least (original / archive). As Bedenko didn’t provide his full disclosure for the CBC News broadcast, it leaves much to the imagination why a strange Russian account was deemed important to the exchange about Ricchiazzi.

Actually, I have been “involved” with him since I first became aware of him during his failed mayoral run in 2009. As for that 2012 set of Tweets relating to that person’s use of a still from a gay porn movie, I “tagged two bystanders” because it was Paul Dub who originally asked about it on Twitter.

At that time, in 2012, @ChrisSmithAV (which is now a Russian account) was run by Chris Smith. At the time, Chris was a colleague at Artvoice, and before 2011 at WNYMedia.net.

I’m not sure why a Twitter exchange with Chris Smith in 2012, together with the fact that Chris’ then-account is now hijacked by some Russian, should have been disclosed in the 2019 CBC report.

Furthermore, Alan Bedenko, as a qualified lawyer, suggested that Ricchiazzi may have a relationship with the Maggadinos, Todaros, and “Butchie Bifocals”. Free The Press Canada is aware the first two are part of the Buffalo Italian Mafia and that includes the Musitano crime bosses who were murdered in Hamilton, Ontario due to the ongoing turf wars. They are all part of the same organized crime family network.

I didn’t suggest it; the other guy did. He specifically set forth in his “contract” of demands to the CBC that questions about the mob would be off-limits. I found this curious and worthy of mention.

The suggestion of mafia is especially unsettling, given that Frank Parlato defended a biker gang accused of making pipe bombs and in the process he cited Angelo Musitano, who was the top boss until he was murdered in Waterdown, Ontario. These hotspots are all around the area where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was required to wear a bulletproof vest to be able to give campaign speeches. This disturbing reference was made by Parlato on Ricchiazzi’s Buffalo Chronicle (original / archive).

Again: I never worked with or published alongside Parlato or Ricchiazzi. Indeed, a quick Google search would reveal that I have been massively critical of Parlato in the past. A similar Google search (or a phone call, email, or Tweet) would reveal years’ worth of Tweets and posts critical of that other guy.

As a side note, I will add that the article in question borrows heavily from matters written about this topic that are found at the “BuffaloRecord” WordPress site. What the author doesn’t realize – because she didn’t ask – is that “BuffaloRecord” is the archive of Chris Smith’s and my articles from WNYMedia.net and Artvoice from about 2007 until November 2014, when we left Artvoice. So in one instance, Ms. MacPherson cites my work, and in the next she accuses me of being in cahoots with Ricchiazzi, Parlato, and Roger Stone.

Chris Collins’ Coda

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This is the second – and hopefully the last – epitaph I need to write on the political career of Christopher Collins. The first is here. His governmental record is, on balance, replete with abject failure. He was a disastrous County Executive who spent wildly to implement dubious corporate hocus-pocus, with little effect. He raised taxes and cut critical services on which citizens relied. He was openly hostile to Erie County’s cultural institutions and used his public office for private gain. 

Yet after a humiliating defeat in 2010, he re-emerged in 2012 to narrowly win a seat representing the most conservative district in New York. 

It is fitting that the resignation of former Representative Chris Collins (R-Club Fed) should come within a week after the House of Representatives formally commenced its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s various, sundry, and myriad misdeeds. After all, Collins was the first Congressman to formally and publicly support Trump’s candidacy, and remained one of Trump’s most steadfast Congressional supporters right up until last week. 

Birds of a felonious feather flock together. 

It was last summer that Collins was first indicted for securities fraud and insider trading. I wrote then: [b]efore we go on, I have this to say directly to my Congressman: Resign. Now. We deserved better than you; we deserve better than you. You are in it only for yourself and your cronies, and that has palpably been true since day one of your benighted tenures in public “service”. 

Despite efforts to challenge the government’s evidence based on the Speech or Debate Clause‘s immunity shield, the government simply put forth a superseding indictment that avoided that pitfall. After a year of constantly gaslighting his beleaguered constituents by falsely proclaiming his innocence, Collins is at long last about to come clean, and receive the reckoning he deserves. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Collins gave an interview to Channel 4 where he confidently predicted his exoneration on these insider trading charges. As recently as July 30th, Collins held a press conference and declared, 

“I am innocent of the charges,” Collins said. “Why would I ever even enter a plea deal? I’m innocent.”

He called it a “circumstantial case” that prosecutors through “some tunnel vision decided to take.”

“I’m quite comfortable where I’ll be at the end of all this, which is not guilty,” Collins said.

It looks more likely that Collins clung to his Congressional office as leverage in his corruption prosecution. 

Rather than recount the misdeeds of Chris Collins, the Congressman (try this and this), or rejoice in his self-immolation, let us take a moment to seethe. 

After all, Chris Collins is a crook and a liar. 

He used his public office for personal gain. He leveraged his influence in Congress to advance the interests of at least one business in which he owned a massive stake. He wasn’t looking out for his constituents – he was looking out for himself and his friends and family. Assuming a guilty plea, I hope he gets some time in prison and then moves to Florida and never darkens WNY again. 

Guys like Collins (and there are many around here) think this is all a big joke – “public service”. They should be using their office to protect and lift up the weakest and most vulnerable in our community, but repeatedly and chronically use power to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict harm on the already afflicted. It would come as no surprise that the first and loudest Trump supporter goes down a convicted felon. The criminality and egotism was perverse and pervasive. 

If he’s pleading guilty, then he’s known of his guilt all this time. He strung us all along – his supporters and detractors alike – proclaiming a non-existent innocence, predicting an exoneration that will never come. He stole from us our right to be represented in Congress by someone who had our back, who was looking out for our best interests. He stole that from us just as surely as he stole from the investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics to whom he did not provide that juicy inside scoop. He is a crook. He is a thief. He is a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel and a criminal. 

A dozen years ago, he promised to lift Erie County out of the ashes of another, dramatic Republican financial disaster with promises of “running government like a business.” Did his Six Sigma black belt inform his decision to cut a plea now? Was it for the sake of efficiency? Did he finally confront his likelihood of success at trial and decide to streamline the inevitable process? 

Last November, we could have elected a representative who actually cared about representing this constituency. We could have elected a representative who would look out for the little guy, rather than his millionaire buddies and his own wallet. And we came so close. But Collins convinced his Trump-supporting base that it was all lies, all a big smear, and that they would be better off with an indicted Congressman stripped of all committee posts rather than a Democrat. More lies. There was nothing so consistent as Chris Collins’ cynicism, and his reliance that his voters would always pick a party label over a candidate’s merits. 

When his journey through the criminal justice system is over, Christopher Collins will always be a convict and a disgrace. He is now just another corrupt Republican politician representing the reddest district in the state to leave office in ignominy. The third in a row, actually. 

The parade of Republican millionaires and clowns salivating over this vacancy will keep us entertained for weeks – especially given the massive cloud of corruption that is the Trump Administration. Every one of these power-hungry clones will trip over each other to pledge undying fealty to the Maximum Leader. As that party keeps sinking, looking for that elusive bottom, those of us who knew what Collins was this whole time will drink a toast to being right. We will also lament all of the lost opportunities we had to be properly represented. 

We didn’t have to agree all the time, Mr. Collins. We didn’t have to have a perfect Congressman. But I think we deserved a Congressman who cared about more than scoring cheap political points.

You’re resigning? However will we know the difference?

Good riddance. 

(Updated 10/4 to replace deleted Tweet with screen capture)

Local GOP Silence Reveals Loud Support for Nativism

ellis

The concentration camps and the White House’s daily parade of insults and embarrassments are quite difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It is unimaginable that this is what our government has become, and it is amazing how far and how fast we fell. Things that were once whispers are now amplified with bullhorns. But whereas guys like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater had taught Republicans how to use racism to their advantage without being, well, so blatant about it, the President now is cool with all of it – the perception and the reality. 

The Tweets shown above are official statements of the President of the United States. Think on that for a moment. 

There is no bottom with Donald Trump and his followers – it sinks deeper and deeper with each passing day.

The thing about authoritarian wannabe dictators is that they energize and re-energize the base of their support by casting themselves as victims. Accusing some “other” of being the cause of some great societal misfortune, the demagogue rhetorically shifts the conversation from one about national priorities into something accusatory and sinister. It’s not 50 years’ worth of slow, systemic changes and obsolescence that shrunk the number and quality of once-abundant manufacturing jobs – it’s immigrants. It’s not de-unionization over the last 40 years that left the middle class weaker, poorer, and less secure, it’s the “open” border. Misdirection. 

In August 2015, a couple of Trump supporters picked a random Hispanic person, beat him up, and pissed on him. They did it because Trump has gone out of his way since the beginning of his campaign to single out and demonize Spanish-speaking immigrants. Around that same time, Republican Presidential front-runners were tripping over themselves to demand an end of jus soli birthright citizenship.

It’s not just about undocumented or documented immigrants – the anti-immigrant Republicans go so far as to hurl epithets at Americans whose only crime was to have been born American on American soil – anchor baby

If you want to understand this anti-immigrant logic, take a listen to “Why Do We Build The Wall” from Tony-Award winning musical Hadestown. I saw it last weekend. This song destroyed me. Anais Mitchell wrote it in 2006; it’s not about Trump. 

Destroyed me.

The Republicans, who have been world champion nihilists ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, now say that if you don’t like it, you can leave.

Weird, because I don’t remember them all pissing off back to wherever they came from when they hated Obama and his policies. 

The whole notion of “go back where you came from” is dictatorial. It is hateful white Nationalism. The people against whom Trump first directed it are all women of color, two of them of the Muslim faith. All but one of them was born in the United States. Do you remember Obama telling Jim Jordan or Tom Cotton or Darrell Issa to go back where he came from if they didn’t like what he was doing? Of course not. He also knew how to spell “al Qaeda“.  

2017 – year zero of the Cultural Revolution – saw the ascendance of a remarkably ignorant and basically ideology-free type of neo-fascism in America. Fascism for dummies, but literally. The cruelty is the point. The cruelty – to opponents, to immigrants, to asylum seekers, to our allies, to minorities – is the unifying and foundational ethos and dogma of Trumpist fascism. The people who vocally and tacitly support Trump also support this fundamental cruelty; the hatred, the epithets, the dismissiveness, turning our backs on the Western world; the demonization and dehumanization of immigrants

During his rallies in 2016, Trump used to ask the crowd to raise their arms and pledge allegiance to him. People called it fascist. Trump said people “love it.” 

Trump tells people who don’t like him to “go back” where they came from. People say to him that this is racist. Trump says, “many people agree with me.” 

The translation is that he doesn’t mind being a white Nationalist neo-fascist cult leader because people like him and the cruelty for which he stands. 

Donald Trump’s racism and wish for a pure, white America is no secret – especially not anymore. Just ask Kellyanne Conway’s husband

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. They’re silent not because they agree with Trump. Surely they know better. They’re silent because, knowing that he’s incorrigible, they have inured themselves to his wild statements; because, knowing that he’s a fool, they don’t really take his words seriously and pretend that others shouldn’t, either; because, knowing how damaging Trump’s words are, the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.

So far, among western New York’s elected and prominent Republicans, there has been nary a peep about any of this. The only one with the courage to denounce Trump’s Tweets? Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo (C-West Seneca). 

What about you, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state committee? New York is one of the most wonderfully diverse states in the nation, and you say nothing. 

What about you, Stefan Mychajliw? You use your status as a first-generation American with each exhale, but here the President – whom you embrace – tells people who disagree with him to leave the country and go back where they came. Should you have gone back to where you came when you disagreed with Barack Obama? Where is your supposed moral and ethical leadership on an issue that hits home for you, more than it does for most people. 

What about you, Lynne Dixon? For weeks you jumped on the Green Light Bill and demanded that Mark Poloncarz say what he thinks of it. OK., he took that bait. You support this President. There’s a picture of him with you from that fundraiser at Salvatore’s floating around. Where do you stand on this notion that people with political disagreements should re-emigrate to where they came from?

And where are the media stenographers and useful idiots for the local Republicans? Why aren’t they hounding Dixon over this particular issue like they hounded Poloncarz over driver’s licenses? 

What about you, Ed Rath? Mickey Kearns (you’re a Republican now, don’t let’s pretend otherwise)? Puppetmasters Chris Grant and Michael Caputo? Chris Collins? Chris Jacobs? David DiPietro? Tim Howard? Pat Gallivan? Mike Ranzenhofer? Mike Norris? Angelo Morinello? John Mills

A lot of you come up and shake my hand at parades and stuff. You know how I think. You know I disagree. You know I think the President is a complete and utter disaster, and that his policies are making America weaker and poorer. This is your time to take a stand and to show some courage. 

After all, I’m one of those “anchor babies.” My parents came here on a tourist visa in 1966. They quickly transformed it into a Green Card and sold back their return ticket; foreign-born physicians were in demand. They settled in Queens. In 1969, my dad was drafted into the US Army. He was sworn in as a citizen within days as a Major. We were sent to live in Columbia, South Carolina for two years. 

When my dad came to the US, he spoke almost perfect, accent-free English. My mom, not so much. She had a strong accent. She couldn’t pronounce a “w” and everything was a “v”. She learned English with me – watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. When she drove around South Carolina, she was frequently called a “Commie”. They had New York plates on their car, so they were “Yankees,” to boot. My mom – until her dying day – hated South Carolina and her experience there because of how cruel people had been to her especially. She was admonished by strangers on more than one occasion to go back where she came from. I don’t think she ever set foot in that state again after 1971. I guess it’s no surprise that Trump approvingly quotes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the Tweets reproduced above. 

And my parents were white. Had they been recent immigrants who also looked differently, the abuse would likely have been exponentially worse. 

When Trump tells anyone to “go back where they came from” this is a direct attack on every immigrant, regardless of visa status. 

Our local Republicans have sold out their souls and their morals and their ethics for Donald Trump. They’ll smile and shake my hand when they see me, but they don’t have the courage to stand up for people like my mom against nativist hatred from the likes of a failed casino owner and TV huckster.

Seriously, don’t bother next time. 

Don’t come looking for me at the next parade. Or if you see me at County Hall. Or at the store. Don’t greet me. Don’t come up and tell me that you don’t think like this, or that you’re disappointed in Trump’s rhetoric. Your private tsk-tsk is meaningless; your public silence is assent. Your refusal to do what you (might) know to be right is disgusting. 

You know who loves America? People who leave behind every thing they own and every person they know to come to this country for a new start; for opportunity in a new world created by immigrants from all over the world. My mom loved this country and what it offered her, and she didn’t deserve to be harassed and bullied by South Carolina rednecks just for talking differently or being from an Eastern European country. She came here with nothing – they came here with nothing except an education. She went to work at Ciba Geigy, the American Health Foundation, and Pepsico as a chemist. My dad helped people as a physician at various hospitals and clinics, including the V.A. They are my heroes and I viscerally miss them each day. They loved this country as much if not more than some spoiled rich kid who is American by accident of birth. They chose this place.

You know who hates America? People who tolerate the separation of asylum seeking families at the border. People who tolerate inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. 

You know who hates America? People who think that someone who disagrees with them should leave the country if they “don’t like it.”  

And their enablers. 

No Answers to Stupid Questions

drver

“No Answers to Stupid Questions” is basically the gist – the “tl;dr” of this Buffalo News article by Sandra Tan. It does little except to parrot Republican concern-trolling over what, if anything, Mark Poloncarz thinks about the “Green Light” statute the legislature in Albany passed, and which Governor Cuomo signed into law. Who has been asking? Nick Langworthy. Chris Grant. Lynne Dixon. All three of them tall pillars, it seems, of non-partisan concern. 

In honor of Mad Magazine and Al Jaffee, here are some, shall we say, snappier answers to stupid questions. 

1. Before 2001, undocumented aliens were free to qualify for and obtain a New York State Driver’s license. 

2. What authority does a County Executive (or a party boss or a political shit-stirrer) have over federal immigration law? 

3. What authority does a County Executive have over driver’s licenses? 

4. In what race is Poloncarz running that renders his opinion on the Green Light bill relevant to the duties of his job? 

5. Why is the County Comptroller – whose portfolio is strictly limited to finances and cash flow – opposed to an influx of money to the County coffers? 

6. What authority does a County Executive have over the border? 

When Nick Langworthy tells you that “‘people are not just against this; they’re violently against this…[o]ur phones have been ringing off the hook,'” have him prove it. If people are “violently” against something, why would he accommodate or encourage violence? If the Republicans are already strongly against brown people with uncertain visa status getting licenses, why would they be receiving calls about it?

The only literally legitimate “concern” about undocumented immigrants receiving licenses has to do with the motor voter law. Obviously, properly documented immigrants fill out the same driver’s license application form as citizens, and they have to simply skip the “register to vote” part. Are the Republicans demanding that the motor voter law be repealed? (Probably. Of course. Having lots of eligible people voting is anathema to them.) Yet somehow the Mychajliws and Kearnses of the world have determined that while documented immigrants would skip the voting registration part of the application, undocumented immigrants would all fill it out because, according to them, they’re already criminals

This plays well with the neo-Confederate crowd, the people who need to blame an “other” for their own failures, and, naturally, garden-variety racists. You know, the people who leave angry comments over the casting of a mermaid. In an economically depressed region such as ours, having a county clerk, a county comptroller, and a county executive candidate sit there and preen to the media about who hates immigrants more is definitely going to win some votes from guys who hang around diners playing with their Trump Barbie dolls. Regular people? It depends. 

I guess the larger question is, why are Republican propagandists allowed to spout absolute bullshit to the Buffalo News and have it regurgitated, verbatim, without someone bothering to check? 

1. Dixon and Grant told Bob McCarthy that the Dixon campaign raised over $200,000 since March. McCarthy published it, apparently without verifying the accuracy of what he was told. It was, alas, inaccurate. McCarthy had (wittingly? unwittingly?) allowed himself and the News to become propagandists for the Dixon campaign. 

2. Dixon and Grant tell McCarthy about some bullshit poll from some bullshit pollster no one ever heard of. McCarthy publishes it all. But the poll had to be filed with the state Board of Elections, and savvy observers who were polled noted that all of the “push poll” language – the anti-Poloncarz propaganda parts of the poll – were not there. I called bullshit. So did Geoff Kelly at the Investigative Post. 

3. Now, McCarthy says Kelly is wrong and he is vindicated! The “Politics Column Had it Right” the headline exclaims. Dude, that’s your job – to get it right. If true, do you want a medal or a monument? The surgeon who doesn’t kill a patient doesn’t get a self-congratulatory news story about it. You’re supposed to get it right. But all of this is like political insider trading – McCarthy is given a tip, and he makes a couple of calls to get reaction, and then runs it. Did the “Politics Column [have] it right”? Let’s examine what Kelly wrote

Whatever the mood of the electorate, that poll wasn’t designed to measure it. It was, rather, a “push poll,” which is a marketing technique intended to disseminate information, negative or positive, to a target audience.

In this case, the poll was meant to spread some unflattering— and not entirely accurate — talking points about Poloncarz and his administration to prospective voters in November’s general election.

Here’s what happened:

Earlier this month, Dixon’s campaign commissioned a poll by a Kansas City, Mo., firm called Co/Efficient. The company’s website does not list previous clients, nor did the company respond immediately to an inquiry from Investigative Post.

The Dixon campaign then shared the poll with The Buffalo News. The paper’s political reporter, Bob McCarthy, made the poll the subject of an article published in the Sunday, June 16 paper.

Under state election law, when a political campaign makes public reference to a poll it has conducted or commissioned, it is obligated to make public the details of the poll within 48 hours of that reference. (Otherwise, campaigns could use specious or even nonexistent polls to promote their candidates or attack their opponents. Think of Donald Trump prefacing a claim with “Lots of people say…”) Among the information that must be filed: What questions were asked — their precise wording — and in what order? Was the poll conducted by phone or by other means? Who conducted it? Who paid for it?

The Dixon campaign filed the poll with the New York State Board of Elections in a letter dated Monday, June 17. The campaign also sent a summary of the poll to Investigative Post, at our request, on Tuesday afternoon. 

But what the Dixon campaign filed with the state and shared with Investigative Post does not comport with what some who took the poll describe.

What does McCarthy print in the newspaper of record to vindicate that he “got it right?” 

Dixon campaign consultant Chris Grant confirmed that some potential voters were asked a question about rapists. But it and other leading questions stemmed from a second poll for internal use, not the one the campaign released publicly and filed with the Board of Elections.

Oh, really? Prove it. May I see that poll? May I see its results? Its crosstabs? That it exists? Or was it really just all one push poll and you – a dirty trickster and your never-heard-of-him bullshit midwest pollster – just excised the propaganda questions to sanitize the poll before publishing it? Why should anyone be believed about anything? ‘It was two polls, actually’ is utter garbage without proof of the existence of a second poll – without an audio recording of two distinct and separate polls purporting to gauge voter sentiment. 

“We did one poll to release publicly and then did a separate survey for internal campaign use that we did not release,” he said.

Or maybe you did one poll and selected what you wanted to release publicly and just kept the push poll questions out of what you filed. Again – I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m saying there’s literally no proof that it didn’t, and no one – not Bob McCarthy, not anyone – should just take these people at their word. 

Indeed, The News reported its story on the straight questions it reviewed, and not on the leading questions upon which Investigative Post claimed the story was based.

“When the region’s leading daily newspaper presents the poll without closely analyzing its legitimacy and calling it what it is,” Investigative Post wrote, and then depicted a Dixon campaign tweet touting The News story about the poll.

The News “reported” what Chris Grant gave it to publish. The News did not inquire further. It did not question the accuracy or completeness of what it was being told by a paid advocate for a political candidate. 

Kelly said that he stands by his story.

“I look forward to reading this second poll when it’s filed with the state board of elections, within 48 hours of its reference in your column,” Kelly responded, referring to his interpretation of requirements for filing of polls released to the public.

Translation: Chris Grant and Lynne Dixon are using the News for propaganda, and the News is just engaging in lazy, facile “he said, she said” “reporting” rather than actually drilling down and finding out through long-cultivated sources whether it is being told the truth. 

Chris Grant says, Bob McCarthy writes. Chris Grant says, Sandra Tan writes. It doesn’t matter if the information is false, or that Mark Poloncarz’s opinion about a state law is irrelevant.

Free media for Republican candidates is a phone call away. 

Chronicling Harassment

RIcchiazzi

A local purveyor of fake news has taken to Twitter, Facebook, and probably your email inbox—and the email inboxes of my current and former colleagues—to label me a “serial harasser” and to solicit people’s stories about my supposed penchant for “harassment” for his risible publication. 

Obviously, I am not a serial harasser or anything of the sort, and it is heartening the outpouring of support and condolences from people regarding this person. So, I want to talk a little bit here about harassment. Harassment is a crime in the state of New York, with various definitions depending on the severity of the charge. I have not harassed anyone; I do not threaten people with violence or repeatedly communicate with them without any legitimate purpose. I do not harass anyone—sexually or otherwise—and any suggestion to the contrary is a damnable lie. This individual has now had his temper tantrum online, and sent myriad emails to insult me and my reputation. What has transpired over the past several days is this: 

1. A few weeks ago, the local publication produced by this individual posted an article that was replete with inaccuracies and typos, attacking me for legal work I had done on behalf of Erie County at my former job, and drawing a conclusion that this “patronage” was the explanation for why I support Mark Poloncarz. I dealt with that in this article, away from The Public, because seriously, how idiotic. He stole the picture of me from my law firm’s website to accompany his piece, without permission, payment, or attribution. 

2. Last week, I was informed that he had published actual paper copies of his rag, and that the article about me—typos and inaccuracies still present—was included therein. He used this time a different picture—a selfie I took several years ago in the rain in Cooperstown, which doubles as my YouTube profile image—to accompany his article, again violating my copyright without payment, attribution, or permission. 

I commented about it on Twitter. 

3. Coincidentally, on Monday the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a story about fake news sites proliferating throughout Canada, and their stories being shared widely through social media. The CBC singled out that local Buffalo publication as the source of a lot of fake news, and frankly wasn’t the first to do so. I drew attention to this article on Twitter, and received some I guess not at all harassing replies. 

So that was all fun for a Monday. 

4. On Monday night, the CBC’s The National aired its story about how fake news from that Buffalo site and others gets spread online. I linked to it on Twitter without tagging either the publication or its author. 

The interesting part to me has to do with the “contract” that this person attempted to get the CBC to execute as a prerequisite to him appearing on what amounts to Canada’s 60 Minutes. If I ran a website that was continually and chronically accused of spreading false and malicious lies about Buffalo and Canadian politics, you’d be damn sure I’d want to defend myself and clear the air about that. Because ultimately what do you have if not your honesty or integrity? For instance, when we published Paladino’s emails, we at WNYMedia made ourselves available to anyone who wanted to interview us. No strings attached. When I did my Preetsmas series, only once was there someone who challenged something, and it was a detail about how—i.e., the route—through which money got siphoned from Nick Sinatra to the AwfulPAC.

So, you’d expect that if this local publication were on the level, its author would be willing to go anywhere at any time, if for no other reason than to defend his honesty, accuracy, and integrity. But that’s not what happened. Snippets from that contract were aired, and it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Firstly, he demands that this interview, to take place in Toronto, be subject to New York State venue and choice of law. 

Then, he demands that the interview be broadcast “live and unedited.” 

Here, the Buffalo-based publisher demands a makeup artist, supplies, and that lighting be set 20% softer to suit him. The CBC can only use his name for “seven days” because that’s a thing that news organizations agree to.

But this is the best part. He tried to impose a ban on words and topics like whoa. He demands that he be identified as a “political consultant and publisher” but not as a “journalist, writer, blogger, or content producer.” I’m bummed because I want to learn more about his putative relationship to the Maggadinos and Todaros and “Butchie Bifocals”.

Naturally, the whole thing has a $250,000 liquidated damages clause

The moral of the story is that if you want to be a political commentator of sorts, or to run a publishing concern, it helps to proofread, it helps to not make things up, it helps to be thorough, and it helps to do some basic research. Furthermore, when accused of malfeasance, and you’re innocent, then proudly declare it with no preconditions or lighting and make-up requirements. It is only through tactics like phony addresses, make-believe “contributors”, theft of copyrighted material, and convoluted avoidance of accountability for your alleged malfeasance that it becomes evident that every charge and every accusation is true and unable to be defended.

Here are some of the perfectly reasonably responses I received from this person:

Nothing says “serious journalist” like fat jokes. (After this person claimed he was employed, I looked into that. He lists “Enkindle Strategies, LLC” out of San Francisco on LinkedIn as his employer. There is no such entity—nothing online for that company in the US, and no LLC registered under that name in California, Nevada, New York, or Delaware. Make of that what you will.)  

UPDATE: He appears to have deleted several of his Tweets. Here is a screencap. Click it to enlarge.

All of this resulted in him posting to Twitter and Facebook that I am a “serial harasser” and soliciting stories about my harassment from anonyms.

He posted it numerous times to Twitter. To Facebook. To his email list. To the lawyers in my office. I received dozens of email forwards from concerned and amused friends in town. I mean, this isn’t at all a creepy escalation, right? 

If the author of this website tells you it’s sunny, be sure to look out the window first. He whines about harassment while harassing me. I didn’t email his putative colleagues. I didn’t blast an email about him to all and sundry. I didn’t spam Twitter and Facebook with an image of me from my personal account. I didn’t even use his name in this post (except in embeds, where it is unavoidable).

This is all ominous lunacy, and everyone in Buffalo, Canada, and beyond, should be forewarned about him, his publication, and his practices. 

McCarthy Promotes Dixon Push Poll

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The task for the Lynne Dixon for County Executive team is a Herculean one – take a little-known, unremarkable county legislator and make her seem competitive against a perfectly reasonable two-term County Executive. After the utter fiasco of the Giambra financial meltdown, and the subsequent chaos and malice from the imperial Collins squad, Poloncarz’s calm competence is a welcome change for Erie County residents. A great deal of the dysfunction that plagued County Government during the preceding decade has been remedied and turned around.

We still have a control board. If it thought something wasn’t right, it would let us know.

So, Dixon – a person a few people may remember from TV, and who has been a quiet presence on the legislature – has a tough race. But she has retained a lot of the Collins overflow crew to help her create an aura of competitiveness that doesn’t exist in real life.

How? Easy. Use the Buffalo News’ sleepiest political columnist, Bob McCarthy, to manufacture an artificial competitive race.

The opening salvo was evident in this article McCarthy wrote, and the Buffalo News published, which turned out to be packed with lies. Based completely on hearsay – with no evidence that any proof was requested or produced – McCarthy transcribed the Dixon team’s utter BS and puffery to create a media narrative that Dixon’s “message” of ‘Mark bad’ is “resonating” with “West Seneca moms” because she raised over $200,000 since March. It was all garbage. She had raised less than $200,000 since January, and a lot of her money was from mega-donors or other campaign committees. The Buffalo News has not issued any sort of correction regarding McCarthy’s glaringly wrong reporting. The public deserves one. 

McCarthy cares about one type of political reporting: horserace.  McCarthy wrote it, the News published it, and Dixon got it out there in the press that she’s a player this cycle. You’d think that McCarthy would be pissed about Dixon’s team using him to push blatant falsehoods. 

You’d be wrong. 

This week’s Republican manipulation of McCarthy’s byline has to do with a poll that allegedly shows Dixon in a “statistical dead heat” with Poloncarz. The News did not publish the actual poll, or its raw data. The poll was based on a relatively small sample, and because it was a robocall could only be sent to landlines. The headline tells the whole tale – “Dixon does her own poll, and says it shows a tight race”. Hearsay. Dixon says. 

Incidentally, in 2018 I received almost weekly robocall polls using an ominous-sounding recorded voice to push-poll how Nate McMurray was the Irish-American equivalent of ISIS and Fidel Castro, combined. Never was the source of those calls revealed, and never were the results published. Based on the word on the street, the poll on which Dixon is relying seems extremely similar. Multiple people with whom I’ve spoken who received the call describe an ominous-sounding male recorded voice asking the series of questions, and the person answering the call is supposed to press a button on the phone to answer. It goes like this: ‘Nate McMurray is a philanderer who shoots puppies and eats kittens. Knowing that information, would you be more or less likely to vote for Nate McMurray or Chris Collins or don’t know. Press 1 for Nate McMurray…’ Here’s what it sounds like: 

When McCarthy’s story about this internal polling hit, he quoted the pollster and named the outfit that supposedly did the work. I Googled them both. There was no hit for a polling firm called “Co/Efficient” out of Kansas City. Then I Googled “Ryan Munce”, the putative owner of “Co/Efficient”. Apparently there’s a hockey player who goes by that name, so I added, “poll”, and only a few hits came up, none of them referencing “Co/Efficient.”  Munce worked for an outfit called “My College Options” until September 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was quoted in 2016 after having supposedly run a poll finding that 17 year olds preferred Trump over Clinton. 

This is a garbage poll by a garbage pollster that was designed solely for purposes of propaganda. 

As with McCarthy’s unvetted, single-source hearsay story about fundraising, the absence of the poll from the News’ report is glaring. The law requires that the Dixon campaign file the complete poll data with the Board of Elections, but by the time anyone sees it, it will be too late. The “Dixon in a dead heat with Poloncarz” and “momentum” memes have been artificially set through the manipulation of Bob McCarthy and the Buffalo News. Dixon told McCarthy that the poll somehow magically validates “what [she’s] hearing on the campaign trail” – the one where she skips the Pride Parade and the Juneteenth Parade and anywhere else not popular with the hundreds of thousands of WNYers who don’t tune in to hear what Sandy Beach thinks about a thing. “My anecdotes jibe with my propaganda” is hardly persuasive. 

As for the poll itself, it under-samples likely voters under 44 years of age at only 8%. The actual number is expected to be closer than 25%. The over-65 vote will be about 38% of the electorate, and the poll over-samples them at 55%. This poll under-samples Democratic voters at 46% when they are expected to be 51% of the electorate. The Buffalo News barely reported this by quoting a Poloncarz campaign spokesman, rather than doing its own vetting of the data. 

I found Co/Efficient, by the way. It has one employee – Ryan Munce. It’s not listed at FiveThirtyEight. It’s not listed at RealClearPolitics. I saw the alleged questions the poll asked. One was “do you support or oppose Mark Poloncarz’s plan to charge 5 cents for the use of plastic bags?” This is not an accurate reflection of what is being proposed. 

Omitted from the poll’s report is the question about whether a person would vote for a County Executive who hired a commissioner who raped an employee. Omitted from the poll’s report is the question alluding to Poloncarz not investing in roads. Why would Co/Efficient ask those questions and then not report the results in its report? Why would Co/Efficient ask those questions and not disclose that it had done so? 

One word: fraud.

This is a fraud being perpetrated on the electorate by a desperate and dishonest campaign. Meanwhile, Dixon feigns concern from a hastily-organized Twitter video of her wondering from Chris Grant’s office why oh why won’t Poloncarz weigh in on the Green Light Bill. Well, one reason is that he has nothing to do with its passage or implementation. While Mickey Kearns is busy being the Antoine Thompson of Kim Davises, I get why Dixon needs to play to her base but it all comes across as pathetic. 

Dirty tricks in politics is nothing new and unsurprising. What is troubling and surprising is that the Buffalo News lets its career political reporter transcribe what partisans tell him, and then the result becomes this: 

Is the Buffalo News really going to allow itself to be used like this? Is it really satisfied being a propaganda outlet for whatever Chris Grant calls Bob McCarthy about? 

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