Obama Tackles Trumpinismo

President Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday really captured the zeitgeist. The media have been so consumed in Trumpgasm and measuring the Republican horserace while ignoring the battle for the Democrats’ soul, that a simple reminder was needed; and Obama delivered.

We don’t need to make America great again; America is great now.

The victory lap was muted. There was no grand legislative goal on which President Obama asked Congress to act. This was, to a certain degree, legacy building, but it was also a stinging rebuke of the pathetic, xenophobic fearmongering that has infected our politics thanks to the virus of Trumpism.

Remember “hope” and “change”? Obama sought to rekindle those flames. Hope – you don’t have to fear the future. The President reminded us that there’s no past glory for which we need to be nostaglic; on the contrary, every time we’ve undergone change in our society, we have overcome the fear that goes with it. We let our thoughts and actions mature, so that we as Americans made that change work for us. Our diversity, our optimism, our spirit of innovation, and the rule of law help to see us through tough times, and transformation. They are what we need to ensure our security and prosperity.

The President assailed Trumpism’s inherent cowardice by reminding us that it’s far better to face the future with confidence, rather than fear.

The speech focused on four questions:

1. How do we ensure that everyone gets a fair shot and opportunity in this new and changing economy?

2. How do we reignite our spirit of innovation, so that this economy works for us?

3. How can we best keep our people safe, and lead the world without becoming a global policeman?

4. How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us as Americans?

As to question one, Obama took his somewhat muted victory lap, touting his record of job creation and saving the American auto industry after the great recession. He proposed that benefits and retirement savings should be simplified and portable, and that “wage insurance” might be offered so that people can pay their bills if they lose their jobs or go back for training or school. We should, he said, make sure that the system works for average people and small businesses, and not just for megacorporations.

On innovation, Obama alluded to climate change, noting that we were stunned in the late 50s when the Soviets beat us to space. We didn’t “deny that Sputnik was up there”, but in 12 years we developed our own space program and put a man on the moon. The President then called for a “cancer moonshot”, asking Vice President Biden to head it up, adding, “let’s make America the country that cures cancer”.

On the issue of security, the President explained that his priorities were keeping the US safe, and going after terrorist networks. No matter how many innocent civilians Daesh or al Qaeda slaughter, none of these terrorist groups poses an existential threat to the US, so we should stop elevating them to that level through our rhetoric. Sort of like how we shouldn’t call the Occupy Malheur crowd “terrorists”. Daesh are killers and fanatics – nothing more, and the President again asked Congress to authorize military force against it.

Appealing to our better selves: this was Obama essentially campaigning against Trump and Trumpism. The President called on Americans to reject any politics that targets people on the basis of race or religion. Diversity, openness, and mutual respect make us strong as a nation – not discrimination and name-calling. When people like Trump insult Muslims, they’re not “telling it like it is”; they are instead diminishing us in the eyes of the world and betraying who we are as a country. It weakens America maliciously to act in such a way.

Hatred and division won’t fix anything, and they’re un-American.

The most extreme voices get all the attention, and when you pair that with a sense that the system is rigged against regular people, in favor of the rich and powerful, you stand on a dangerous precipice. The President called for an end to gerrymandering; so that politicians can’t “choose their own votes”. We need to reduce the influence of money in politics. We need to make it easier for people to vote – not harder.

America is great already. We don’t need to be nostalgic for the good old days either because they weren’t that good, or they weren’t good for everyone. The President concluded,

They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.

We have challenges. Change is scary, and if you pair it with economic inequity, it makes people angry. But America is great because, among other things, we can sit here and debate all of this. America isn’t any one thing: America is the sum of our daily acts of citizenship.

A Week in the Renaissance

Developer Gerry Buchheit’s: Social Media

Sometime during this past New Year’s weekend, I shared this story about a bill in New Hampshire that would ban women from baring their nipples or areolas in public. Congratulations, it seems, are in order for New Hampshire, as it seems to have solved every other conceivable problem facing that state, thus giving it the time to address the female breast.

Currently in New Hampshire, both men and women are free to go topless, reports Slate. A bill sponsored solely by Republican men would change that, if it becomes law. A woman could be charged with a misdemeanor if she “purposely exposes the areola or nipple of her breast or breasts in a public place and in the presence of another person with reckless disregard for whether a reasonable person would be offended or alarmed by such act.”

A female Democratic New Hampshire legislator, Amanda Bouldin, took to Facebook to criticize the Republican males who proposed this law,

Bouldin called for the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Josh Moore, to kill it or at least exempt new mothers who are breastfeeding. “The very least you could do,” Bouldin wrote, “is protect a mother’s right to FEED her child.”

The bill was, incidentally, amended to exempt breastfeeding from the law, but Bouldin didn’t know that at the time. The exemption wasn’t there in the bill’s original language. Here’s how Republican Josh Moore, the bill’s sponsor, responded to Ms. Bouldin:

Not sure that every man would have the “inclantion” to commit a sexual assault and battery against a woman baring her breasts in public, but that seems to be Mr. Moore’s own “inclantion”. Another Republican state representative added this:

One thing that definitely sticks out is that the state of New Hampshire is running a dangerous spelling and grammar deficit. I’m not sure how it’s not disrespectful for Representative Baldasaro to mock Representative Bouldin’s looks, or what being “liberty minded” has to do with a female body and “family values”, but New Hampshire has always been a puzzling place, politically. (Mr. Baldasaro made national headlines in 2011 when he explained that, “he thought it was “great” that a Republican debate audience booed an active-duty soldier because he is gay.”)

A local female lawyer shared the article to her own Facebook page adding, “I’m speechless #rapeculture”, and Buffalo developer Gerry Buchheit (Orchard Park’s Quaker Crossing, Freezer Queen on the Outer Harbor) chimed in.


That’s an interesting one, since the female attorney is self-employed, and not remotely “dumb”. It was also unclear what part of the article Mr. Buchheit considered to be “bullshit”, or what compelled him to chime in at all.

When called on it, he replied thusly:

So, to be clear, Gerry Buchheit of Buffalo, New York; the guy who heads up Orchard Park’s (a town apparently not in the boondocks) Accent Stripe, Inc. – a company convicted of anti-trust violations in 1991, and which was found to have violated myriad environmental regulations in 2008 – and the guy who is going to go fishing for state incentives to build something on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor thinks that legislation regarding a woman’s body and issues concerning breastfeeding are just “liberal” “bullshit” and although he can post stuff on Facebook, others who do so need a “job”.

Presumably, Mr. Buchheit needs buy-in from the state, as well as likely “incentives” to build whatever it is he thinks he’ll be building on the Outer Harbor. People should know his attitudes about Democrats, breastfeeding, etc.

Reviving Dead Malls

Speaking of development, now that Macy’s has announced that it will be closing its stores at the McKinley Mall and the Eastern Hills Mall, it’s a good time to revisit this post from July 2015, where I recommended that the best way for these old, struggling malls to survive is to become lifestyle centers. The Eastern Hills Mall in particular is surrounded by huge traffic numbers and a few of the most well-off zip codes in the region. There’s no reason for it to be a repository of off-brand knick-knacks. There’s so much potential there, just waiting to be exploited.

Make Melilla Great Again

Dangerous nativist populist Presidential candidate Donald Trump put out his first TV ad this week. One of the scenes purported to depict Mexicans rushing the US border, with this voice-over: “he’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our Southern border that Mexico will pay for.” However, the accompanying image in fact showed Moroccans rushing the border of a little-known Spanish exclave on the African coast called Melilla. When confronted with this, Trump’s spokesman replied, “no shit it’s not the Mexican border, but that’s what our country is going to look like if we don’t do anything.”

Interesting that, since the entire exclave of Melilla is completely surrounded by three levels of 18-foot high fencing topped with razor wire. Because it’s one of only two (Spanish Ceuta is the other) direct land boundaries between North Africa and the European Union’s customs and passport-free travel area, border security is extremely tight and high-tech for both. Nevertheless, they stand as evidence that no border is impregnable.

Melilla’s border is what our country is going to look like if we don’t do anything, yet it already has the sort of border fence Trump wants, and was used in his ad to stoke fears about illegal immigration. None of it matters, politically, however, because Donald Trump isn’t so much a campaign as it is a traveling parapolitical Vaudeville act.

Obama the “Fascist”

Oh, but the right wing had a proper conniption fit this week when President Obama actually cried whilst thinking about the twenty first-graders who were mowed down by an unstable lunatic who was armed to the teeth. Can you believe it?! One idiot from Fox News said he must have had a raw onion under his podium. Another cretin from Breitbart alleged that Obama’s “fascist tears” were caused by a careful dollop of Ben-Gay under the eyes, because it is unfathomable that anyone would feel sadness at the thought of 1st graders cowering in their classroom being slaughtered by a person who never should have had access to a firearm under any circumstance.

Meanwhile, the afternoon drive jock on WBEN ranted about the end of America, rolleyes emoji.

Having spent time in a totalitarian state, I can tell you this: if you’re free to broadcast your hatred for the President on the FCC-regulated airwaves, and you don’t find yourself disappeared into a secret network of prisons and labor camps, you’re not in a totalitarian state. If your anti-Obama rhetoric is sponsored by a privately owned vacuum store and Indian restaurant, you’re not in a totalitarian state. If gun registration or background checks are fascism, then our closest allies like the UK and Australia must be fascist.

In other words, that sort of childish, politically ignorant hyperbole makes you sound like a dick.

After waiting years for congress to do anything about it, Obama did what little he could with an executive order, mandating that any licensed gun dealer – whether in a shop or at a gun show – must run a background check on any prospective purchaser.

Is this all an evil plot to take away your guns? Obama’s in the last year of his presidency. He would have gotten to that much earlier if that was remotely one of his aims. This won’t have any positive effect, you say? Well, then you have nothing to complain about.  The people who consider themselves big 2nd Amendment activists talk about how the real culprit has to do with mental health. So, what legislation have Republican lawmakers proposed to address that situation?

The point here is that we have seen too many innocent people die in mass shootings in recent years, and we as a society have been perfectly ok with that. The problem was that the gun lobby had so paralyzed Congress that even common-sense measures that the NRA had once supported were now anathema to it. The Daily News did a nice job debunking the propaganda:


Reality Check: There’s nothing in the executive actions that will lead to gun confiscation, advocates say. The President’s actions will simply narrow the loophole that allows people to buy guns from an unlicensed dealer – at a gun show or through the Internet – without a background check.


Reality Check: The executive actions won’t affect any law-abiding person who is looking to buy a gun and can pass a background check, experts say. They also won’t qaffect the many law-abiding gun owners who trade and sell guns occasionally or as a hobby. Instead, the orders will crack down on sellers who are evading the background check requirement and selling guns regularly.


Reality Check: Advocates note that loopholes in federal law allow criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to go online or to gun shows to buy guns with no background check, no questions asked. The best way to keep guns out of dangerous hands, they say, is by closing this loophole. And while Obama’s executive actions do not close the loophole entirely – only congressional action can do that – they’re an important step in cracking down on traffickers who fill the black market with guns that flood our streets and endanger our communities.


Reality Check: There’s nothing in the executive actions that violate the Second Amendment at all, advocates say. Federal law already requires background checks at gun shops – these executive actions just seek to narrow the loophole that allows guns to be sold by those “in the business” of selling firearms, because if you’re making a living selling guns, you should be running background checks.

You have a right to bear arms, but my kids have a right to go to school and not be shot at by some well-armed lunatic. The hallmark of a free and civilized society is balancing and reconciling those two rights. Just like you don’t have unlimited and unrestricted right to free speech, you don’t have an unrestricted right to bear arms. Obama’s executive action on this is literally the least he could have done, but at least someone’s trying something.

The Oregon Snack-In

These seditious cretins occupying a wildlife sanctuary’s visitor’s center in Oregon are undeserving of any of our energy – positive or negative. This article is pretty spot-on.

On Credibility

Along with people like Kelly Sedinger and Jennifer Weber, I’m proud to have been among the pioneers of blogging in Buffalo. They’re still at it, and so are others, but among the smattering of politically-oriented blogs, mine was one of the first.  Although it’s changed a lot over the years, one of the challenges of blogging about politics was overcoming questions about credibility. Like respect, it has to be earned; you have to write coherently, keep it interesting, have a basic grasp of spelling and grammar, and get more things right than not.

Occasionally, I’ve seen local bloggers try to leapfrog over the time and work needed to establish that credibility.  My perspective is that bad blogging hurts everyone – not just the now-misinformed reader, but also other bloggers. It cheapens and diminishes the medium, so I occasionally feel the need to defend what’s left of it.

In early December a local political rumormonger wrote that U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, Preet Bharara, would be indicting Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 2nd. I fisked the article and explained, in detail, why that was not just unlikely – but legally inaccurate to the point of impossibility. The reason why I felt compelled to do that? It had been picked up by numerous people and online publications. Diane Ravitch linked to it. So did others. Someone posted it to Daily Kos. The nominally conservative blogger was proud of that:

Well, January 2nd came and went, and as I predicted, there was no indictment – not by Preet Bharara, and not by a grand jury. The entire story was completely made up – utter fiction.

Don’t let a good and attractive story destroy your common sense. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If the story is poorly written, if it misstates facts easily verifiable through Google, if it cites unnamed “sources” of dubious pedigree, stay skeptical.

RINO Paladino on Democrats

You might be thinking, “RINO?!” Carl Paladino, a Republican in name only? Sure, and that’s not me saying that, it’s the Investigative Post, which backed up that allegation with proof of Paladino’s continued campaign contributions to Democrats, when convenient for him; not unlike his vocal support of Democrat Sheila Meegan in the West Seneca Supervisor’s race this past November. (Notice he never mentions her political affiliation?)

So it comes as a hilarious end-of-year punctuation mark that Paladino – the new chairman of Trump for NY – this week emailed this to his adoring followers:

You see, there are few things that Paladino hates more than Democrats.

Well, some Democrats; the Democrats who aren’t in a position to help him personally or professionally, that is.

So, let’s make fun of this list of Paladino’s.

#10.  I vote Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I’ve decided to marry my German Shepherd.

Carl Paladino believes in traditional marriage of a man, a woman, and some chick on the side. A guy with a kid from an extramarital affair opining on the sanctity of marriage…sorry, the guy who thought it funny to send around a pornographic video featuring a horse having anal sex with a woman to compeletion is opining on the sanctity of marriage and joking about marrying an animal. This is self-parody.

#9.  I vote Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon at 15% isn’t.

Gas taxes go to pay for the roads and infrastructure on which this person’s personal and business interests rely. It’s also relevant to point out here that the federal government subsidizes oil and gas exploration and exploitation through tax breaks that cost us $21 billion over ten years. The Democrats tried to repeal that giveaway, only to be stymied by Republicans like Paladino. Through the past decade of sky-high crude oil and gas prices, oil companies have been making out like bandits. The big loser was the American consumer, who for some time paid well over $4.00/gallon. Gas prices now are closer to $2.00/gallon, but it takes a special mindset to defend the poor, beleagured oil companies. A sick mindset.

#8.  I vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

Oh, boo hoo. Local multimillionaire whining about paying taxes on his income so that he can, e.g., fund all those wars he wants. I wish I had the problem of paying taxes on my millions of dollars of income. #RichLivesMatter.

#7.  I vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

“Freedom of speech”, says the guy who threatened to “take out” a reporter.

#6.  I vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.  I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that gets police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.

I’m sure the Buffalo Police are super-pleased with that ringing endorsement. Suffice it to say that if that’s your mindset, being in a perpetual state of fear and siege is a lousy way to live.

#5.  I vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.

That conveniently underscores how “pro life” people aren’t exactly pro life. Paladino fashions himself a Catholic. I’m pretty sure the Pope has something to say about the death penalty. And adultery. And horse porn. And hypocrisy.

#4.  I vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away Social Security from those who paid into it.

That’s a laugh, considering Carl’s GOP has been at forefront of pushing schemes to privatize Social Security and voucherizing Medicare.

#3. I vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves.  They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrat Party sees it.

That’s just clownish nonsense. Is he claiming that Democrats cause Ellicott Development’s profits to be taxed at 100%? When does Jeremy Zellner decide how to spend all of that money?

#2.  I vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.

Not clear on which “fringe kooks” he’s talking about, but he must mean liberal judges like John Roberts. Seriously, someone should press him on “fringe kooks”. I’ll bet the answer is delicious.

… And, the #1 reason I vote Democrat is because I think it’s better to pay $billions$ for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, or fish here in America. We don’t care about the beetles, gophers, or fish in those other countries.

Remember how we waged an aggressive war of choice against Iraq under false and manufactured pretenses? Remember how we would be greeted as liberators, and how the war would pay for itself through oil revenues? All of it was lies, and that’s the sort of agenda Carl Paladino thinks makes great sense for the American people – spending trillions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary war and occupation rather than helping out people and businesses here at home. Oil, by the way, now trades at $38/barrel. Under Democratic President Obama, increased fuel efficiency measures paired with growing domestic oil production has brought us to a point where we are now poised to become a net exporter of oil products for the first time since the 1950s.

So, Paladino is satisfied with promoting discredited and outdated lies in order to inflame his base. He’s like a NSFW Fox News Channel.

How Not to Write About Evander Kane

So far, we know very little about allegations brought against the Sabres’ Evander Kane. All we know is that they were made, that there is an investigation underway, that he denies them, and that he’s still playing for the Sabres, for now.

As with the Patrick Kane case, it would be bad to jump to conclusions in either direction, and everyone involved in the case needs to keep quiet and let the process play out.

So far, there hasn’t been any Sunday Buffalo News story where a bar owner comments on the matter, so at least we’re ahead on that score. But there is one especially irresponsible local website that took everything several steps too far.

Here’s a primer on how not to write about a criminal investigation involving rape or sexual assault.

So, there’s that.

In 2015, it should go without saying that reducing a criminal investigation into a discussion of how “hot” Kane’s girlfriend is about as irrelevant and misogynistic as it gets. Men don’t commit sexual assault because they’re horny; it’s about control and domination rather than sexual desire. So, Kane’s attractiveness – and the attractiveness of his model girlfriend – neither proves nor disproves whether the accuser in this case is telling the truth.

*Sabres. Also, I didn’t see anywhere that he was accused specifically of rape, but of a “sex offense”. (A rape is a “sex offense”, but if that was the accusation, then that word would have been used in the reporting). Whose ears are “unbelieving”? Because law enforcements’ are the only ears that matter right now.

She is “jaw dropping”? (also, *it’s). I suppose that it’s easy to assume that law enforcement has questions about the credibility of the accuser and her allegations – I’d be willing to bet, however, that a woman would be disinclined to make a false accusation in the wake of the fiasco that was the Patrick Kane case. The Buffalo News reports that the witness is having, “memory issues”, which I suppose is everyone’s way of telegraphing that there are issues here. I’ll bet the folks over at rape crisis services are pleased as punch to see that the News’ reporting on this is already so one-sided and, at the sports desk, tsk-tsk concerned because we’re so “ultra-sensitive” to this sort of thing here, thanks to Patrick Kane.

We should be ultra-sensitive to any accusation of rape or sexual assault by anyone, anywhere.

You can’t “rape the willing” is false. Setting aside for a moment that we don’t even know whether the underlying allegations even involve “rape”, 74% of rapes involve force or the threat of force.

We know you can tell everything about a person and their character from what they post at Instagram. Basically here the author is explaining that Evander Kane is a very attractive man, and clearly women are such shallow creatures that it’s unthinkable that any one of them would reject the advances of a man as handsome as he. I’m not sure whom this author interviewed to learn that Kane is “straight laced” and has “strong personal character”, but media reports of his time in Winnipeg don’t exactly back up that thesis.

Truth is, though, Kane was never a good fit in Winnipeg, even in his first season there where he scored 30 goals… Every unpaid traffic ticket, every rumour about him skipping out on restaurant bills and having his girlfriend with him on the road, every time he posed for pictures with a wad of money attached to his ear, every time he shaved YMCMB into his scalp became a major cause célèbre in the league’s smallest market.

So, disciplined and straight-laced.

That’s some opening sentence. I suppose it’s almost de rigeur for someone irresponsible to bemoan the unfair treatment of such good-looking millionaire sports heroes with “hot” girlfriends. Suffice it to say that I have a hard time feeling sympathy for someone who can afford to pay Superlawyer Paul Cambria to defend him against allegations of sexual misconduct.

No one knows the first detail about what Evander Kane is accused of having done. No one knows who the accuser is or what happened. We don’t even know the extent of any alleged crime. But suffice it to say that there’s a right way and a wrong way to write about these types of cases. Focusing on the relative attractiveness of the accused and his significant other is the wrong way.

Rape is an act of violence. Treating it like tabloid fodder and posting a bunch of cheesecake Instagram pictures does a disservice to society in general.

Preetsmas: Pigeon’s New Liens

Are your stockings still hung by the chimney with care? Preetsmas isn’t over. Here’s a recap of what we did so far:

Today comes news that two new liens have been filed with the Erie County Clerk’s office against G. Stephen Pigeon, the political dirty trickster and former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

On December 8th, the IRS filed a federal tax lien of over $65,800.

Pigeon 12/2015 Federal Tax Lien

On December 22nd, the Admiral’s Walk condominium association filed a lien against Pigeon for $4,500 in unpaid condominium fees.

Pigeon Condo Lien 12/2015

One of the biggest Preetsmas mysteries has involved Pigeon’s ability to finance the massive cash outlays he supposedly made to and for candidates and committees. On the 5th day of Preetsmas (late June 2015), we revealed that Pigeon had over $200,000 in liens asserted against him at that time, (March 2012 federal tax lien for $26,500; March 2014 federal tax lien for $118,600; June 2, 2015 federal tax lien for $126,200), so we can add about $70,000 to that figure. You may also recall that Pigeon has previously been caught in apparent arrears on his condominium fees and/or assessments, as he and tanning mogul Dan Humiston seemed to swap ownership and/or possession of two separate units at Admiral’s Walk.

Dedicated readers will recall that in February 2015, Pigeon used the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy for propaganda purposes, asserting that he had more than enough liquid funds to play his typical games. He showed up with what he said were tax forms that purported to show that he had enough income to shell out six figures to obscure small-potatoes political committees.

Pigeon opened his tax returns from the past several years to inspection at The News’ request in an effort to quell speculation that his contributions to the Progressive Caucus stemmed from anywhere but his own bank account. His records over the past three years indicate a mid-six-figure income, which he says proves his ability to spare $100,000 even for a fund supporting relatively low-level candidates.

He can afford big donations to a political cause the same way others could contribute to a church, he said, especially because he has no wife or children to support, takes few vacations, has no real hobbies and lives a non-extravagant lifestyle.

“It sounds odd, but when you look at how I live and how much I make, it really isn’t,” he said.

He didn’t reveal his existing tax liens at the time, however.

These new liens are post-raid – the condo fees go back as far as June 2015 – and underscore the difficulty in which Mr. Pigeon finds himself. One may also extrapolate from the IRS lien that Mr. Pigeon’s 2014 gross income was high enough to result in a $65,000 tax liability.

Camps and Saboteurs

Sometime Tuesday, Chairwoman of the City of Tonawanda Democratic Committee and of the EC Town Chairs Association Gayle Syposs wrote this on her Facebook wall,

How the hell do I get dragged into a blog again. No one talked to me

Good question, I thought! So, at the risk of dragging her into yet another blog, let’s examine why she became the target of one especially irresponsible local website: no names, no links.

So, is she also the former City of Tonawanda Chairwoman, or is that just clumsily written? Chairwoman of what, the city? Is there even a “Hillary Clinton camp” from which she has defected?

So, there you have it. That comment has, incidentally, since been deleted.

A simple email or phone call likely would have sussed out the truth. I’m friends with Syposs on Facebook, and I did a quick scan of her posts going back several days, and the most recent mention of Sanders was critical of him and supportive of Clinton, so God knows where the author of that site got his information. As for Zellner’s reliance on Syposs, I have to imagine that he relies on the support of anyone who’ll give it, since it’s the committeepeople who vote for the chairman.

Oh, also:

So, there’s that, as well. That, too, has been deleted.

The post goes on to describe how a local lawyer and Democratic activist who usually sides with Clinton loyalist Steve Pigeon is instead feeling the Bern.

“Saboteur” is quite the accusation. Whom is Reese meant to have sabotaged, and how? “Compatriot” is a word that has a specific definition, and I don’t think the author used it the way he intended. Sure, Reese and Pigeon are “compatriots” because they’re both American. I think “ally” would have worked better, don’t you?

Who refers to Reese as “Pigeon’s brain”? That’s just someone taking the old trope about Karl Rove and repurposing it locally. While I don’t especially like Pigeon, his tactics, or his politics, his intelligence is undeniable.

Also, Camille Brandon isn’t a lobbyist with “Bolton St. James”, but with Bolton-St. Johns. What kind of thing is that to say – that someone is “thought to control” something? They either do or they don’t. One could conceivably look back to the last reorganization meeting of Erie County Democrats to see the results of the vote: 69 – 31. That’s a shellacking.

I distinctly recall the races in 2004 and 2008 when good Democrats were torn between Kerry, Edwards, Dean, and Clark and later between Obama and Clinton. Presidential primary politics are generally cordial affairs; no one challenges anyone else’s petitions, everyone gets along, and as long as the bigshots get their tickets to the convention, everyone’s happy. To suggest that the Clinton vs. Sanders effort now is any different, that it’s breaking a “circle” of “operatives”, or evidence of a party rift is to either ignore history or to be fundamentally stupid. My only question is whether the “former state legislator” we’re talking about is Al Coppola or Antoine Thompson, since those are the only two I can imagine bothering to talk to that author (if the quote isn’t completely made up).

Look at that caption. First, the author doesn’t properly credit the image as being from Facebook. Secondly, he assigns the monicker, “genius saboteur” – I’ve heard Reese called a lot of stuff, but that one’s news to me. Why is it in scarequotes? Is that a nickname? If so, why isn’t it capitalized?

As for the Eddie Egriu mention, that’s puzzling to me. I distinctly recall the Congressional race in 2014 when Reese supported and worked with Egriu, who was challenging Brian Higgins on the (D) line. If I remember correctly, Reese helped handle the ballot access effort. How did Reese supposedly “sabotage” that effort?

Whom else has he “sabotaged”? Again: I don’t agree with Reese, but accusing him of “duping” aspiring candidates with an “unwieldly” style (whatever that means) in order deliberately to “sabotage” a congressional race is a serious accusation that is in no way supported here; there is a complete lack of evidence or foundation for that charge.

In fact, Reese’s animus towards Higgins is so great that he conducted a gentle and touching puff-interview with the execrable Kathy “from Williamsville” Weppner, who was running as a Republican against Higgins after Egriu failed to earn a slot on the primary ballot.

Lots of allegations, few facts, and wild jumps to conclusion: this isn’t how any of this works.

Buffalo. It’s the People.

2015: The Year in Verse

December in Buffalo: snowless and mild.

Politically, this year was especially wild.

We rang in the New Year somewhat aghast,

as we learned that Mario Cuomo had passed.

One loss that cut deeply is one you all know;

Entertainer Lance Diamond was the next one to go.

Our icon of funk had no imitation,

And Buffalo gave him a worthy ovation.


Dave DiPietro, needing something to do,

learned of a library book—maybe two,

which told kids to read and to learn—that’s all right,

but these books involved Muslims, so he picked a fight,

and, pretending to be so concerned that he asked,

whether both of these books should be banished at last!

But these volumes explained that in Afghanistan,

kids can’t do what ours do, thanks to the Taliban.


In Albany, meanwhile, something awesome occurred.

An indictment! Shelly Silver was charged, so we heard.

The Skeloses, too, were found on the hot seat,

courtesy of an attorney named Preet.

They all were convicted, Shelly, Dean, and his kid.

They’re going to jail thanks to quos pro that quid.

Nevertheless, these wins seem awfully pyrrhic,

and the Albany culture seems downright satiric.


Quickly thereafter, we heard—more than a smidgen,

That agents were sniffing ’round G. Stephen Pigeon.

In late May, you’ll recall, a series of raids,

caught Pigeon and Casey and one or two aides,

but the Preetsmas Day massacre tale is still pending;

nothing new to report, and no news of its ending.


While here, we found that we’ve really been blessed.

For hipsters, a kingdom became manifest.

The listicle writers in Brooklyn and Queens,

know that five-borough living isn’t all that it seems.

For Wegmans and cheap housing rates, we get envied,

and economists say our job market’s quite frenzied.


In Lancaster, the school board humbly proposed,

to change the team’s name, but were harshly opposed,

by some who thought “Redskins” a suitable name,

for kids to play sports in, without any shame.

But Native Americans quickly caught on,

and argued that “Redskin” needs to be gone.

They turned to the kids, after much agitation,

who came up with “Legends,” after due contemplation.

But to this very day, you can go to a game,

and find people still angry over a racist team name.


Carl Paladino characteristically fought,

against logic and reason, and thickened the plot,

as he bullied a guy here to track civil rights,

Carl turned the board into a joke on most nights.

One thing’s for sure, as the district descends,

into receivership, Carl and his friends,

must work better with others, just as we’d expect,

a young student to do, and to have self-respect.


In the BMHA, a commissioner said,

some unspeakable words, and when caught, quickly pled

that he never would say the “n” word—not at night or in morning,

but the problem for him was the cell phone recording.

Joe Mascia was running for Franczyk’s position,

in an effort that honestly needed magicians.

You won’t win in Fillmore—it’d be quite absurd,

if you casually pepper your speech with that word.


Now Donald Trump’s surging, unemployment is down,

Musk’s Solar City’s the new game in town.

The Green Code is here, and the billion gets spent,

Investigative Post tells us what it all meant.


When election time came, it was really a snooze,

Poloncarz re-elected, but there was some news,

Fudoli was gone, but legislature incumbents,

all won, and it all seemed a bit too redundant,

turnout was low and the races were boring,

hell, Democrats didn’t even deign to be warring.


In August, our town went a little insane,

after a woman alleged Patrick Kane,

had raped her—she went to the cops right away,

and some blamed the victim within a few days.

In the end, Tom Eoannou had showed off a bag,

that purported to be the rape kit—a red flag.

But it wasn’t, and the case simply ended in days,

and Kane skated—his problems have melted away.


Joseph Lorigo, as the year drew to a close,

Tweeted some questions he wanted to pose.

Expressing concerns about the criteria,

used to bring refugees over from Syria.

A big demonstration was held here downtown,

and refugee services wouldn’t back down.

The community welcomes the tired, the poor,

who help to make Buffalo better than before.

It wasn’t too long ago Brahmins and such,

hated Irish, Italians, and Poles just as much.


It’s 2016, let’s all hoist a craft beer,

wishing all of you peace and a Happy New Year.

Beware the Nitwit

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

Carl and Marx

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

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

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

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

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

One should always remember two truths:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The KISS Dentist on Transgenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wozniak: Transgenders are Yucky and Such As

This week, State Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak took time out from her busy schedule as a do-nothing Republican Assembly backbencher and target of an ethics probe to attend a meeting of the Lancaster Board of Education. Among the topics on the agenda is one that is popping up not uncoincidentally throughout the state – the treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming students in the schools.

It bears mentioning that, since time immemorial, gay kids have gone to public schools and shared locker rooms with kids of the same gender, to whom they may have been attracted. Yet no one bats an eye. Transgender kids have a right to go to school and be free from bullying and discrimination, just like all kids. The measure of a government or society is how it treats its most vulnerable minorities. This is especially true when the issue of gender identity and sexual orientation comes to the fore during a child’s pubescence. Being naked in front of your peers isn’t going to be a comfortable thing for many kids, and certainly introducing transgender students into a locker room setting is going to raise issues that schools simply haven’t previously been equipped for.

By way of caveat, I am by no means an expert on any of this. All of this is new to me, and if my terminology is off, or my examples too simplistic, I apologize. I’m trying to convey an overall sense of, “read the thing before you accuse it of not doing something it does.”

The notion that has many parents and students concerned is that a person who is born a boy might end up using the girl’s locker room (or vice-versa). That’s true. However, in order to get to that point, a lot of things have to happen. The State Education Department has asked every school district in the state to bring up and discuss a policy to deal uniformly with these issues. It reads as follows:

It’s all pretty straightforward. A transgender kid will be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room that conforms to his or her, “consistently expressed gender identity”.  The problem we have here is one of understanding. This isn’t just some kid who wakes up one morning and decides to be a cross-dresser. “Consistently expressed” means the child regularly holds him or herself out as the gender with which he or she identifies. All of this is done in close consultation with the school’s administration, the child, and the child’s parents.

Bathrooms aren’t even an issue. If a child born male but identifying as female wants to use a girls’ room, it’s going to be stalls and no one will see anything. If it’s a child born female but identifying as male, he’s going to use the stall, as well, because parts.

Locker rooms: this one is more awkward, because it’s all awkward already. The policy, however, is clear – ANY student who wants more privacy will be accommodated. That means the transgender student or any of his cisgender peers. No student will be forced to be exposed to anything to which they don’t wish to be exposed. This could be done any one of a number of ways – a curtain in a specific area, staggering the times, etc. As for overnights, the policy gives the district flexibility and discretion to deal with this on a case-by-case basis.

All of this merely re-states current federal and state law. All of this is how a school district would be expected to handle such a situation. It makes sense to codify it as a school policy so there’s no issues or ambiguity.

The policy as drafted merely protects the rights of the transgender student while also protecting the rights of the cisgender student. Most of it has to do with respecting the child’s identity and referring to him using the pronouns he prefers. Frankly, if you read it and understand it, it’s completely non-controversial. Again – the bathroom issue doesn’t exist, and the locker room issue is easily dealt with to protect everyone and anyone who’s uncomfortable.

What this policy does is ensure that, e.g., a child who was born a boy but whose “consistently expressed gender identity” is female, she isn’t forced to use the boy’s locker room or bathroom. Wouldn’t that be more awkward for everyone, anyway? It also ensures that teachers can’t be wiseasses and continue to use the pronoun “he” for someone who attends school consistently as a girl.

The policy passed this week in Hamburg with nary a peep. In Clarence, it’s still up for debate. But in Lancaster, it seems as if you can’t say the sky is blue without inciting a riot. This brings us back to Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, who appeared in order to get her face in the paper for something unrelated to the ongoing ethics probe, and to grandstand a little. When confronted with a few questions about state and federal law, she was caught wholly unprepared.


That video is astounding. Not just because of the pandering. Not just because of the deer-in-the-headlights look when asked a simple question. Not just because she got the hell out of Dodge when she realized she was being made to look like a clown.

It’s amazing because she fundamentally misrepresents and doesn’t know the substance of the proposed policy. It does protect modesty. No, transgender kids in the locker rooms aren’t necessarily going to be attracted to the cisgender kids in the room with them. This is pandering at its ugliest and most idiotic. This is ignorance.

How is a child s’posed to feel safe and have dignity when they’re having to be forced into a situation where they’re having to be watched when they’re potentially naked in front of someone of the opposite sex who sexually prefers them. This is wrong, and this I think that’s why we have such a strong turnout of parents speaking out against it tonight.

It’s “wrong” because it’s made up.

In the next breath, Channel 2’s Danny Spewak asks Wozniak about the policy and its relationship to the law. She is dumbstruck, and cannot answer a simple question about the thing she came down to speak out against because she didn’t do her homework and has no idea what she’s doing. Coming out in public and facing the cameras is hard work for the unprepared – it’s not like the Assembly, where a Republican can just show up and warm up a seat to collect $80k, plus per diems.

If your school district is evaluating whether to adopt a policy on transgender and gender non-conforming kids, it’s natural for parents (and students) to be wary. All of this may seem like some sort of fad, but before you get around to Caitlyn Jenner, tell that to Renee Richards, nee Richard Raskind, who faced discrimination in 1977.

Title IX specifically deals with transgender and gender non-conforming students. So does New York’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).

The reality is that this policy is going to affect only a very small number of people, and we need to protect not just the interests of the majority, but also vulnerable minorities who are subject to discrimination and harassment.

At the Clarence meeting last month, a woman got up to basically allege that transgender isn’t really a thing; that it’s all made up. That’s the mindset underlying Wozniak’s ignorant scaremongering. Transgender may be what people are talking about now, but it’s not new. It’s just that, in the past, kids who were born this way had to suffer in pain and silence; in fear and perpetual discomfort. We’re working to change that, and to make sure all kids are treated with dignity and respect.

I don’t think that’s so controversial, and I hope the video above marks the end of Ms. Wozniak’s political career.

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