A Candidate Scoffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations, Secretary Collins

History will remember that until early 2016, Chris Collins was a largely irrelevant GOP congressional backbencher. Safely ensconced in an almost loss-proof suburban/rural Republican district, all he had to do was continue to be white, rich, and Republican in order to cruise to re-election. Having been a failed one-term county executive, he bought himself one last plaything – a seat in Congress. An American peerage.

But on a rainy Wednesday in late February 2016, Chris Collins became something more sinister and dangerous than just a casual Obama-hating millionaire seat-warmer. He joined the Trump bandwagon.

His protestations notwithstanding, Mr. Collins has bought himself Mr. Trump’s views about Mexican immigrants, Muslim visitors, Trump’s cut & spend tax plan, and building walls.

Until a few days ago, First Class Chris Collins had supported Jeb Bush, who found himself utterly unwanted by the Republican primary electorate in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada; Trump had swept all but one. Given that the Erie County Republicans had recently chosen Trump in their straw poll, and with our Palinist bizarro-intelligentsia, led by Carl Paladino, firmly in Trump’s barnyard, Collins decided to go with the hometown favorite. After all, Trump came to Depew to raise money for the ECGOP quite recently.

Collins, however, was out on his own on this one. The relatively shoestring Trump campaign isn’t equipped, really, to deal with a bunch of elected officials’ endorsements. The Republican establishment is likely to coalesce behind Marco Rubio, who has emerged to take Jeb’s place as the safe alternative. But some people who value loyalty don’t like that Rubio ran when it was Jeb’s year; Jeb was Rubio’s mentor.  Chris Collins, for all his faults, is a guy who values loyalty.

Collins’ move as the first GOP congressman to openly back Trump took some balls. He hasn’t been a memorable or effective congressman – he’s just a solid vote for whatever the Speaker wants. There was an almost Frank Underwoodian tactical brilliance behind this move to make Collins’ 2016 more exciting. By making this announcement, Collins has suddenly, single-handedly, forced the hand of every Republican in the House and Senate to pick a side.

Vote your district, vote your conscience: just don’t surprise me. Well, Collins surprised them. He surprised the entire Washington GOP establishment. He surprised the Trump campaign – Donald Trump called Collins personally Wednesday to thank him.

Collins took a leap of faith here – he might crash on the cliffs below, or sail gracefully into the best move he ever made. Time will tell, as we move towards an almost MMA-style brawl between two of the most ruthless campaign apparati in contemporary American politics. This will be a showdown so epic that both sides had better prepare for an inevitable recount process.  It’ll be 2000 all over again, and Roger Stone’s Brooks Brothers rioters will be suited up for Trump.

But this is Chris Collins we’re talking about – anti-net Neutrality, anti-consumer protection, anti-birth control, SNAP abolitionist, and condescending prat, so let’s examine his campaign statement.

CLARENCE, N.Y. – Calling for an “end to business as usual” in Washington, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced that he is endorsing Donald Trump to become America’s next President.

As if anyone really cared whom Collins would be “endorsing”, or whether Trump needed or wanted this “endorsement”.

The end of “business as usual” in Washington is code for two things:

1. that Chris Collins is up for re-election in 2016, and he wants to ingratiate himself with the suburban and rural upstate Republican voters who will almost certainly overwhelmingly back Trump in the coming election; and

2. if Trump wins, Collins wants a cabinet position. Secretary of Commerce? That’d look good on the Wikipedia entry.

The reactionary, nativist, populist, authoritarian right is ascendant, after all. Collins knows which way the wind is blowing, and he wants to make sure his voters – and the Trump campaign – know he’s with them on this.

“Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and most importantly, reestablish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream,” said Congressman Chris Collins.  “That is why I am proud to endorse him as the next President of the United States.”

Trump has made this demonstration by, e.g., firing Omarosa on S01E09 of the Apprentice, manufacturing the tchotchkes and schmattes bearing his name in China, and cowering at the intimidating might of Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

The line about the American Dream is typical Collins. If you navigate to his official Congressional page, his idiotic “vision” statement is still up there, that “the United States of America will reclaim its past glory as the Land of Opportunity, restoring the promise of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.” Imagine the gall of this apparently self-made millionaire suggesting that the American Dream is a thing of the past – he lives it. I live it. The entire region is awash in new economic activity through our startup culture and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. We are still the land of opportunity, and the American Dream remains a real, present thing. To suggest otherwise is ignorant, insulting rubbish.

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

“The results of Barack Obama’s failed presidency have been devastating.  America is no longer seen as the world’s leader.  Our jobs are gone.  Our middle class is struggling.  And, the federal government has grown too large and wastes too much of our hard earned money,” added Collins.  “The last thing we need is a third Obama term which we would get with either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

Private sector jobs are up and government jobs are down. Government has grown large bipartisanly – under Republicans who fight trillion-dollar wars of choice, as well as under Democrats who dramatically reduced the ranks of the uninsured. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton would be a “third Obama term”, but that doesn’t matter. Collins’ people and the Trump campaign believe it to be so, and faith trumps evidence or knowledge. This is Collins’ cover letter for that job in the Herbert Hoover Building. Don’t think Trump and his team haven’t taken especial notice of this.

“We need a president willing to make the tough decisions necessary to restore our country to greatness.  I believe Donald Trump is the man for the job, and I am proud to provide him with my support.”

Both Trump and Collins share a strong private sector background.  Before entering public service, Congressman Collins was in the private sector for over 35 years where he built a successful career as a businessman and entrepreneur.

Both as an Erie Country Executive (New York) and a Member of Congress, Collins has advocated running government like a business. “If we want to get our nation’s economy growing again and deal with the daunting fiscal issues threatening America’s future, it’s time to say no to professional politicians and yes to someone who has created jobs and grown a business,” added Collins.

“America has the potential to once again become the land of opportunity.  Donald Trump understands the importance of American exceptionalism, and has the unique qualifications to make America great again,” concluded Collins.

Cover letter. Dear Mr. Trump, I’m just like you. I also think Obama is yucky, and I know you’ll make America more friendly for us one-percenters. Enclosed please find my very pro-business CV, and I look forward to a Six-Sigma-efficient confirmation hearing. Yours, etc., Chris Collins.

The question then becomes, if (God forbid) Trump wins in November, who will run in the special election for NY-27?

Gia Arnold and Triggering the Ammosexuals

There’s nothing in the world worse than an ultra right-winger who adopts the language of civil rights because he feels the system has wronged him. But Friday’s arrest of Gia Arnold, one time right-wing challenger for what was then Republican George Maziarz’s Senate seat, is emblematic of the hilarity of the dominant Palinist wing of western New York’s tea party scene.

That’s the same brain trust that pushed centrist Republican Mark Grisanti out of office in favor of Kevin Stocker, only to find themselves in a 3-way race, handing the race to current Democratic State Senator Marc Panepinto. Their tactics are bad and their strategy worse.

In 2014, the Palinists’ bête noire was State Senator George Maziarz. The reasons why they hated him were vague and poorly defined, but their feelings were so strong they even accused him of the worst thing their minds could concoct: being gay. Ever the adolescents, they eschewed establishment candidate Rob Ortt in favor of Gia Arnold, who played them like a fiddle.

Gia Arnold is very young – she’s 26 now – and attractive. She was married and co-owned a business with her husband, and they had three kids. She loved the 2nd Amendment, hated the NY SAFE Act, but was otherwise bereft of serious thought or policy. Her personal story was the centerpiece of her appeal. That, and her pandering to the SCOPE and Oathkeepers crowd. She announced in February 2014, and by March she had wrapped up this endorsement:

That’s right-wing darling Carl Paladino and his driver/perennial candidate Rus Thompson clasping hands with Mrs. Arnold.

Western New York’s ammosexual community embraced her, and she them. The image that accompanies this piece depicts how she showed up to campaign at an event in the summer of 2014. But in mid-August 2014, she abruptly dropped out of the Senate race because her marriage had failed, she had been having an affair for the preceding few months, and arglebargle. She went on WBEN, whose afternoon host begged her to reconsider.

So, she did.

Displaying the sort of level-headed judgment she would presumably bring to the Senate, on that Friday, she un-dropped out of the race. Not surprisingly, WNY’s youngest political vacillator lost the (R) primary to Ortt by an epic margin, and didn’t have enough valid signatures to access the Libertarian Party line in November. She was taken to court over the validity of petition signatures that evidently came from outside the district. She was rather un-gracious in defeat, telling her mostly middle-aged male acolytes,

If you happen to have a Rob Ortt for State Senate sign in your yard this election cycle, you are a fool to support the elite establishment that counts on your ignorance and apathy in order to continue to control our elections, state and national governments. VOTE ANTI – ESTABLISHMENT this year. Do your research.

She ended up endorsing the Democrat. The whole thing was a typically tea party Rus Thompson three-ring circus.

Fast-forward to February 2016, and Gia Arnold is now under arrest, and this microaggression has triggered the tea party fanboys. The Buffalo News reports,

She was arrested earlier this week with an 18-year-old Niagara Falls resident on felony charges of criminal possession of a loaded rifle and handgun along with a combat knife that were found in the front section of her vehicle, according to Niagara Falls Police Capt. Michael Trane.

Arnold and Halim Johnson were arrested Wednesday night and offered no explanation for why they had the weapons. A black ski mask was also found in the Pontiac Vibe, police said.

The vehicle was stopped at 10:30 p.m. by Officers Tommie Caldwell and Marsha Gee, members of the department’s Roving Anti-Crime Unit, after they noticed Johnson failed to use a turn signal at the intersection of Haeberle Avenue and 15th Street, Trane said.

As those officers were conducting a records check, a second anti-crime unit arrived and Arnold was asked to step out of the vehicle by Officer Michael Tarnowski, who spotted a loaded magazine clip on her passenger seat.

“Before she got out, she had pushed her coat over the rifle, which was wedged between her seat and the door jam, trying to hide the rifle,” Trane said. “Tarnowski immediately placed her in handcuffs. Caldwell then had Johnson step out of the vehicle and Caldwell spotted a handgun with a red bandana around its grip in the driver’s side door cup holder.”

It’s not every day you have a former tea party politician caught in a car in the Falls with an 18 year-old driving her car, an AR-15, a ski mask, a handgun, and a KA-BAR combat knife. As you’d expect, the anti-SAFE Act tea party crowd perceives this all to be a massive civil rights violation. They’ve even set up a page on a site begging for donations.

On Feb 10th Gia Arnold and her boyfriend became victims of the NYS (UN)Safe Act and racial profiling. We are asking all patriots to Rally behind her and help her get out of this horrid mess. Think about this, you get pulled over for not using a turn signal and it turns into a felony charge because you invoked your constitutional right to remain silent.

Halim Johnson is Gia Arnold’s boyfriend, according to this post. A 26 year-old mother of three is dating an 18 year old from the Falls?

When Gia said they would no longer answer questions (a right protected by the Constitution) she was arrested for “Obstructing the duty of a Government Official” (sound like Oregon anyone?). Following her arrest her vehicle was searched for these drugs they were so sure they had. No drugs were found. But a Non-Compliant rifle under the NY (UN)Safe Act was found….

…On the way to the jail the officers told her that they were pulled over for “not using the turn signal in time.” This is obviously a load of crap they racially profiled her boyfriend and made up the charge after the fact. “He’s black he must have drugs.”

We are asking all patriots to Rally behind her and help her get out of this horrid mess. Think about this, you get pulled over for not using a turn signal and it turns into a felony charge because you invoked your constitutional right to remain silent.

Racial profiling! Like I said, the worst lefty is a wronged tea partier. All of a sudden the cops are monsters and racial profiling is a thing, because their darling is under arrest. What I recall is this same crowd of so-called “patriots” sharing pictures of Trayvon Martin blowing smoke out of his mouth and posing provocatively on his Facebook page, to prove he was a thug and deserved to die.

Well, the gentleman dating Gia Arnold also has a Facebook page. Here’s the happy couple:

But why would the cops “racially profile” him, and assume he’s a drug dealer?

Drugs? Perish the thought.

I don’t think this is Kale:

Interesting pose and use of emojis:

To be clear, recreational marijuana should be legal in New York State, but dealing drugs, and pretending to aim a handgun when posing for the camera under emojis spelling out the word, “gang” isn’t a good luck for the barely legal boyfriend of a tea party darling. The fundraiser must be working, because while Ms. Arnold has bonded out, Mr. Johnson remains incarcerated. This raises the question of how his Facebook profile picture and relationship status were changed while he remains behind bars. Indeed, Mr. Johnson’s high school-age friends seem upset and ready to fight Ms. Arnold. The spectacle, however, of the tea party coming to the aid and defense of Ms. Arnold and her paramour is interesting, but not as interesting as this:

But some of Arnold’s supporters during her failed senate campaign were not as quick to back her up on Friday. Tea Party activist Rus Thompson said he was concerned for Arnold but didn’t want to make any comment about the situation until he had all the details about what happened.

Meanwhile, former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who attended Arnold’s announcement when she entered the senate race in 2014, had even less to say. When called for comment, he asked who Arnold was.

Rus Thompson taking what might be his first “wait and see” position in history, and Carl Paladino denying knowledge of the candidate with whom he clasped hands and posed just two short years ago. This is a perfect coda to the Gia Arnold for Senate clown car.

The County Legislature Reminds us of its Pointlessness

A fundamental, structural pointlessness. The County Legislature isn’t a necessity. County government as an entity generally exists to carry out state laws and policies. Of its $1.1 billion budget, the legislature has discretion over how about 1/10th of it gets spent. We are lucky enough to have a reasonably competent county government that carries out the policies, programs, and standard of living that Albany and residents demand. We’re not cutting funding for things like libraries, culturals, and rat control anymore. We never should have, in the first place.

This week, the County Legislature spent many hours and taxpayer money to debate when bars should close. This is not something for which the community is clamoring; a 2:00 AM call time isn’t an issue. This was a manufactured nontroversy pulled out of the clear, blue sky by big-time developers of downtown housing. The people pushing this want to sanitize gritty city living for prospective buyers and tenants. All that talk about safety and families and domestic violence are just fronts; smokescreens. More troubling is that county government wasted time holding a lengthy public hearing about this pointless nonsense, and then took it up at its Thursday session, only to see it fail 7 – 3, with one abstention.

Powerful developer-donors hijacked the legislative agenda to push a pet project at the expense of Buffalo’s vibrant, growing hospitality industry.

It’s hard enough out here for business, the last thing we need is developers making it worse for others.

The legislature’s only mandate is to approve, reject, or make changes to the executive’s proposed budget.  Everything else is surplusage. During the dark Collins years, the legislature admirably added back Collins’ cuts to funding for programs and culturals that contribute to everyone’s quality of life. It’s a necessary check on reckless executive leadership. But is there another way to accomplish this? A cheaper, less political way? How about an appointed part-time budget commission? What about the control board, which still exists, and will exist for a longer period of time than it needed to, due to borrowing that it carried out at Collins’ insistence?

The spectacle of 11 elected, paid officials (plus staff and counsel) spending hours considering something as idiotic as restricting bar times is an insult to Erie County residents. There’s got to be a better way.

New York is overweight with governments and taxing districts. We’ve known this for a while, yet we don’t do anything about it. Efforts to abolish village governments routinely fail, underscoring that people enjoy the rhetoric of less government, but don’t really want it in practice. Right now, there is an effort underway to merge Onondaga County and city of Syracuse operations. We’ve had this debate, too. It always fails for a variety of reasons, not the least of which include prejudice and the self-interest of elected officials and their personnel.

If we want business and industry to thrive in this region, we need to make it easier for them to open and operate. Taxes, fees, red tape, and regulations are all too high and too much. We should become a national model for 21st century streamlining of government, and providing a predictable, easy-to-follow process for businesses to start up and stay open. No one’s doing that. No one’s even talking about it. Can’t we recruit some of these new hospitality companies and start-ups to head up a commission to recommend changes and modernization of our laws and regulations?

Instead, our elected county legislature is busy spending time on killing hospitality and jobs on behalf of short-sighted developers of high-end apartments.

Get with it, people. It’s not 1960 anymore.

Nothing Good Ever Happens after 5:30 PM

Tuesday night the Erie County Legislature held a public hearing on the pressing issue of rolling back bar closing times from 4 AM to 2 AM.  It was a packed meeting, and people passionate about the issue spoke both for and against the proposal, which appears to have little support in the legislature. Majority leader Joseph Lorigo (C – W. Seneca) live-tweeted the whole thing, (I consolidated the whole timeline here), and added in some commentary that underscored his opposition to the move.

The popular themes among the speakers included, “quality of life”, “nothing good ever happens after 2am”, “layoffs”, and “interference with private business”. I tried to boil it down to emojis, as a “shorter” post, as I’m wont to do.

Developer and restaurateur Mark Croce’s energetic appearance on WBEN’s morning news the following day sounded belligerent and odd, but his nemesis  – elected public official and member of the Buffalo Board of Education Carl Paladino – made some absolutely ludicrous arguments. Paladino is also on the board of downtown’s Buffalo Place improvement district and was, until 2014, a director on the board of the developer-run Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps. I love to hear these old, rich men hate each other.

Paladino’s remarks echoed what he wrote a few weeks ago, arguing in favor of a 2AM closing time, stating,

In Toronto bars close at 1:00  AM. We know it as a clean and wonderful place to visit with a vibrant and thriving bar and restaurant scene.  People spend the same number of hours recreating but just go out and come home earlier and get up earlier the next day.  They have learned how to make everyday count in their lives. Do we think of New York City, New Orleans and Las Vegas the same way?

No. Toronto bars close at 2 AM. Toronto also has a thriving after-hours club scene. Toronto’s tourism agency promotes this fact on its website. In fact, there is a movement to extend Toronto’s closing time to 4 AM. The argument goes, “To be a world-class city, Toronto needs world-class nightlife.

I don’t understand the juxtaposition of Toronto versus New York, New Orleans, and Las Vegas. Toronto is, I guess, “cleaner” than its American counterparts? All three of the American cities Paladino cites enjoy “vibrant and thriving bar and restaurant” scenes, and are among the most popular tourist destinations in the country, meaning someone finds them “wonderful” if not “clean”. Is he saying that New Yorkers and New Orleanians don’t “make everyday count in their lives”? Paladino’s argument here is invalid and false.

However, if a tea party guy perceives our social democratic neighbor’s largest city as better than America’s own party cities, then perhaps Paladino is “feeling the Bern”. 

Does the greed driven parasite preying on our community, Mark Croce, want the hours moved back?  No.

Do the mayor, the Common Council or County Executive want the hours moved back?  We don’t know.

How does the community feel?  One professional poll shows 69% of the community wants the rollback.

Note the Croce name-check. How is Croce a “greed driven parasite preying on our community” any more or less than any other downtown developer? The argument in Toronto to extend closing time to 4AM goes like this, “The petition leans on the idea of Toronto’s (and Ontario’s and Canada’s) perceived nanny state tactics. “Adults should be treated like adults,” reads the website. “Torontonians of or above legal drinking age should be free to enjoy their libation later into the night.”

Nanny state. Treating adults like adults. I thought conservatives and Republicans hated nanny state New York?

In the County Legislature, 4 of the 11, namely Lorigo, Rath, Dixon and Burke say absolutely not.  Morton and Mills said they are a firm yes and the others are willing to listen to the citizens and professionals at a public hearing before committing.  Do our legislators have the political courage to implement a rollback?

In what way is this a political issue? Morton and Mills are just as Republican as Rath. Dixon is a registered Independent, and Lorigo is a registered Conservative, and both caucus with the Republicans. South Buffalo’s Pat Burke is the only Democrat whose name Paladino deigns to check. He must like Burke, and apart from giving a number, can’t even be bothered to acknowledge the existence of the remaining Democrats – people who conservatives might otherwise expect to support expansion of New York’s own “nanny state”. They include women who represent Erie County’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. This includes the people who represent the area’s largest concentrations of minority residents; African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and refugees.

What does Paladino’s omission of Barbara Miller-Williams, Betty Jean Grant, Peter Savage – not to mention Kevin Hardwick – tell us? What conclusions do you draw?

Carl “temperance” Paladino is a “repeal the SAFE Act” guy. He believes, among other things, that restrictions on gun ownership won’t address the problem of gun violence. Sort of like how drinking restrictions won’t address the problem of alcohol consumption and related societal ills?

The representative business leadership group, Buffalo Place, Inc., passed a resolution favoring the rollback as a necessary intrusion on the few bar business owners who disagree because it so obviously a major part of the cultural problem that has ripped at the family fabric, caused unimaginable societal pain and virtually destroyed the normal maturing process of so many young people.

Whoa, there. Is it a “political” issue, or is it a societal/morality issue? Is this about party politics or the “maturing process” of 21 year-olds? Remember: the nanny state dictates that you’re not even allowed to drink legally until you’re 21 years of age.  No other western Democracy in the world has such a high drinking age, and we still treat alcohol and sex like we did when people walked around dirt roads with buckles on their hats.

The other countries that limit alcohol to people 21 and over include, Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Solomon Islands, and India.

In fact, binge drinking has become a much larger problem domestically since the mid-1980s change from 18 to 21. Prohibiting something doesn’t make it go away. It only criminalizes otherwise normal behavior:  “When it is legal for an 18-year-old to drive, marry or serve in the military but illegal for him or her to drink a beer, the illogic of the situation is patent. As a result, the overwhelming response of young people has been, not compliance, but contempt for the law. By outlawing moderate use of alcohol in appropriate social contexts and with adult oversight, we have driven more drinking underground, where it has taken the very dangerous form of ‘pre-gaming.’ The ‘under-age’ drinker, no longer permitted the occasional beer during a dance party, is now more likely to chug high-octane alcohol in dangerous quantities before heading off to that party. As a result, alcohol use has become more, not less, dangerous.

Law enforcement says that nothing good happens after 2:00AM. Parents, educators and anyone with common sense recognize this as truth or learned it from experience.  Except for Mark Croce and a few other quick buck, in and out of business, bar owners, responsible bar and restaurant owners will say that after 2:00AM they deal with loser drunks and drug addicts preying on good young people who have told their parents that all of their friends are out so they must be out.  Is it good for a young person to be conditioned to getting out of bed at 3:00 in the afternoon on weekends?  Does it help the maturing process, the desire to achieve.

Is it a cause of domestic distress or violence.  Is it a breeding ground for the incessant drug culture?

What an intellectually lazy slippery slope argument. Going out drinking with your friends as a gateway to “drug culture” is so facile. You’re more likely to drunkenly stumble into Jim’s Steakout for a fix of fried meat and carbohydrates than to stick a needle in your arm. Rolling back closing times isn’t going to address any of this. It’s not going to end “domestic distress or violence”, nor will it affect the “drug culture”.

Again – you can’t drink legally until you’re 21 years old. You become an adult at the age of 18 for almost everything else, including signing contracts and going into the military  – dying for your country. If you’re 21 and you go out drinking until 3AM, under what circumstances are you discussing that fact with your parents, exactly? Who are these 21 year-olds in Buffalo still living at home with mom and dad, discussing their comings and goings and worrying about the “maturing process”?

I detect that there is a personal angle to all this for Mr. Paladino – an issue he won’t confront head-on.

We have all witnessed or suffered the horrible pain inflicted on so many families in our community by the current opiate drug epidemic not only in Buffalo, but throughout America.  In 2015 in Erie County, over 200 people died as a result of heroin overdose. Over 600 more were saved by police with Narcan. Others, unable to kick the habit or to deal with the guilt created by the pain they brought their families, committed suicide.  Others have stolen all the family valuables to support their habit or cost their parents their savings spent on rehab.  The scourge has ruined the lives and potential of so many people.

Are you aware of a single piece of evidence to link a 4AM bar closing time (versus a 2AM bar closing time) to the current heroin epidemic? I’m not.

Connect the dots.  Isn’t it better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  Rolling back the bar closing time will not solve the drug problem but it will bring awareness and jump start an effort to address the culture that is so destructive to our community.

Non-sequiturs everywhere. Here you have a tea party conservative advocating for stricter nanny state regulations on the hospitality industry in Buffalo. I don’t care either way what they do because it doesn’t affect me, but to see this creep spread lies and silly, hypocritical moral arguments about heroin and family values is simply ridiculous.

Carl Paladino has no standing whatsoever to lecture the community on morality. Something about glass houses and rocks comes to mind.

If you really want to discuss people’s behavior, the quality of life, community standards, and how late-night drinking is a gateway to drugs and immorality, then consider Paladino’s own behavior:

Presumably, an earlier call time might also protect Buffalo females from elderly male bar patrons demanding to see their “pussy”, or calling them a “fucking dyke”.

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.

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.

#WNYVotes 2015

Mark_Poloncarz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buffalopundit Endorsements 2015

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Greetings, Goodenoughistan!

Usually around this time of year, I do a list of endorsements. I try to have fun with them; last year, whilst writing for a competing publication, I did my endorsement in verse.

Despite a high-profile County Executive race, this has been a very sleepy election season. Turnout will likely be pretty low – 20% is optimistic. That means that fully 80% of the eligible and registered electorate can’t be bothered to take literally a few minutes out of their day to exercise their franchise. People have fought and died for your right to vote. You pay lip service to supporting the troops for protecting our freedoms, but here you’re handed the right and ability to control the future direction of your town, city, and county, and chances are you can’t find five minutes between 6am – 9pm to fill in a few scantron boxes and feed your ballot into a scanning machine.

As far as being a responsible citizen of a representative democracy, voting is quite literally the least you can do. Yet 80% of you won’t do it.

You people who are registered to vote, but don’t bother – you’re useless. You should be ashamed. You’re a disgrace. Go to elections.erie.gov and find out where you’re supposed to vote, and go. Plenty of campaigns and party committees will give you a ride if you need one – just ask them.

Here are my endorsements. They are mine alone, and do not in any way represent the opinion or decision of the Public, its authors, editors, or publishers, nor of the place I work, nor of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, where I am a member of the board of trustees.

County Executive

Mark Poloncarz is a personal friend of mine. I met him in 2003 when I was working to elect Wesley Clark and he was working to elect John Kerry. We then served together on the WNY Coalition for Progress. I have lit dropped for him, campaigned for him, and my firm represents the County in a small handful of cases. I also know and like Ray Walter. I don’t know him as well as Mark, but he’s a good guy – a mensch, I once called him – and he went to the Thruway with specific questions I once asked on Twitter.

Both of these candidates want the county to do well. Mark, however, is my pick.

Big surprise, right?

Substantively, do you remember when Republicans wanted a county manager as part of the charter revision process a decade ago? The elected County Executive would be sort of a charismatic leader, promoting the county, while a non-partisan professional manager would run the day-to-day operations. Mark Poloncarz is a policy wonk and a guy who is a strong and effective manager. He is as close as you’re likely to get to a day-to-day manager looking for ways to improve the delivery of county services, and also a tireless promoter of our region. He’s incorruptible, and he loves what he does, not afraid to get into the weeds of county government.

Ray’s hilariously named “fair share” tax proposal is an effort to rob from the poor to give to the rich and not-so-poor. Population alone isn’t how the 3% permanent sales tax revenue was meant to be shared among the various municipalties, and Ray’s effort to pit city vs. suburb when that’s pretty much the last thing we need to do is shameful. His shoot-first-ask-questions-later effort to scandalize a non-scandal also called his seriousness and judgment into question.

Judicial Races

A lot of people have complained about how the party bosses pick the judicial candidates, thus depriving the electorate of a choice.

My response: the electorate shouldn’t be choosing judges in the first place.

You don’t get to elect federal judges. Many other states also have governors appoint judges as vacancies come about. In Massachusetts, a nominating commission submits a name to the governor, who then passes it along to an elected “governor’s council“, which vets the candidate for qualifications and likelihood of impartiality, and then approves the lifetime appointment. The judge chosen never has to pander to voters, concoct silly commercials with their kids, or make any sorts of promises of any kind.

The judicial branch should be free from campaigns and elections, and you shouldn’t have to vote for a judge because of a cute video with their kids in it.

County Legislature

There are only two competitive races: Morton v. Liegl and Loughran v. Marlette. If Loughran holds on to his seat and Liegl defeats Morton, the legislature swings to a one-vote Democratic majority. Ted Morton has already been vetted based on his questionably ethical and un-declared loans from financial planning clients, and the electorate shrugged. For his part, Morton tried to smear Liegl with the taint of “fraud”, but it backfired because it was completely untrue. Yelling “fraud” is a lot easier than explaining the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, but the Republicans played too fast and too loose with the facts, as they did when accusing Poloncarz of being under some phantom investigation.

The attack pieces against Liegl are far more misleading. Those pieces accuse her of “bankruptcy fraud,” “cheating the system” and “concocting a scam.” A Buffalo News review of the claims found none of that to be true.

…David Jaworski, an attorney for Liegl and her family, called the Republican allegations “untrue and libelous” based on his personal knowledge and investigation into the records. Republicans have been unable to produce any other supporting evidence of their claims, beyond the initial bankruptcy trustee claim.

Morton’s ethics are questionable, his required disclosures were incomplete, and he essentially lied about his opponent. I don’t know what more you need.

As for Loughran, that’s easy: Loughran is sufficiently independent (he’s pissed the Democrats off here and there), and is a knowledgable and likeable business owner who definitely deserves re-election.

Town of Lancaster

If you live in the town of Lancaster and you vote for Dino Fudoli, I don’t  know what’s wrong with you. Mr. Fudoli is a petty and vindictive glibertarian who considers government to be the “enemy” and public employees to be moocher/taker garbage. In December 2014, Fudoli blamed the people who got stuck in the Snowvember storm for their own predicaments. Fudoli whined about a lack of county plows, but he never requested any using the decade-old computerized system towns use to do so – a system he ostensibly oversaw whilst in the County Legislature.

Fudoli is now fighting with the police union in his town because why not.

And Dino Fudoli doesn’t think it’s important for him to pay his property taxes on time, or possibly at all.

If you live in Lancaster, this is the best 8 minutes you’ll spend today:

If Fudoli thinks it’s unfair for the Department of Environmental Conservation to declare his property a wetlands, then he has the right and ability to bring suit for whatever redress to which he’s entitled. Nothing gives him the right unilaterally to stop paying his property taxes, nor does it explain his refusal to pay the property taxes on his former residence.

Who is thug “Richard Heaney”?

When a taxpayer fails to pay property and school taxes on time, the county must make the town and district whole, and then has to chase the delinquent taxpayer down. This sort of behavior is unconscionable from a public official and disqualifies this person from public office. Fudoli also took a very important stand in favor of maintaining a blatantly racist team name for the high school. He also doesn’t know how the internet works.

Polls are open from 6am – 9pm on Tuesday the 3rd of November.

Find your polling place and candidate choices here.

Please go vote like your democracy depends on it.

Political Shorts

1. SAFE ACT: Not Dead

Earlier this week, the Federal Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit upheld most of New York’s and Connecticut’s firearms statutes passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Anti-gun control groups brought suit challenging them, and they now plan to appeal this partial defeat to the Supreme Court.

One might ask, what part of “shall not be infringed” does the 2nd Circuit not understand?

The court found that banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines comports with the “important — indeed, compelling — state interest in controlling crime.” It continued,

“When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings,” according to the ruling written by Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes. “They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.”

The three-judge panel noted that the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting in December 2012 occurred when 154 rounds were fired in less than five minutes, killing 20 first-graders and six educators and renewing a nationwide discussion on the role of guns in America and how to diminish the threat of large-scale shootings.

The court upheld a lower court’s ruling striking down the 7-round limit in 10-round magazines. The SAFE Act contains a severability clause, so if any portion of it is stricken down by a court, the remainder survives and remains in effect. The list of SAFE Act provisions is broken down here. Its purpose is to avoid and prevent mass shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook elementary where a lone terrorist shot and killed twenty little kids within seconds. It does this by limiting the types of weapons that can be bought and possessed, requires registration of some, mandates that mental health professionals report to authorities if they believe a patient might be planning to commit a violent crime, and requires background checks for all firearms and ammunition purchases. From the Buffalo News,

The court rejected the arguments by the plaintiffs – which included the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the Sportsmen’s Association for Firearms Education and other groups, businesses and individual gun owners – that the law “will primarily disarm law-abiding citizens and will thus impair the very public safety objectives they were designed to achieve.’’ The court said there is a “dearth of evidence that law-abiding citizens typically use these weapons for self-defense” and that the state tailored the two key components of the law “to address these particular hazard weapons” that it said has a higher chance when used to inflict more numerous and serious wounds to more people than other weapons.

The court said there are still “numerous alternatives” for people to purchase weapons with magazines capable of holding up to 10 rounds and to use them for self-defense. “The burden imposed by the challenged legislation is real, but it is not severe,” the court ruled.

While the Supreme Court in DC v. Heller affirmed an individual right to bear arms, (thus jettisoning the “well-regulated militia” language in the 2nd Amendment), the decision clarified that, like other rights, the right to bear arms is by no means absolute.

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms

The right to bear arms is further limited to weapons, “in common use at the time”. Heller stands for the principle that people can own weapons for personal protection in the home, and since handguns are in “common use”, they cannot be banned altogether. On the other hand, military grade weaponry such as machine guns, tanks, RPGs, etc., can be, should be, and are banned from personal possession and use. The 2nd Amendment isn’t an absolute and unlimited right, just like the right to free speech doesn’t protect libel and the right to free exercise of religion doesn’t protect Rastafarian pot use.

2. All Quiet on the Preetsmas Front?

The investigation into campaign finance illegality that led to the May 28th raids of three prominent political operatives is still very much alive, despite the expiration of the statute of limitations for any misdemeanors. Rumor has it that state and federal investigators are excitedly trying to wrest a Pigeon associate from being represented by a private lawyer, and to convince him instead to take on a public defender and turn state’s evidence against his (former?) associates. This person knows where a lot – if not all – of the figurative bodies are buried, so if this succeeds, it would be huge. Law enforcement has to prove that these guys didn’t simply accidentally forget to make necessary election disclosures in the proper way, but that they knew exactly what they were doing, and that it was part of a continuing, chronic scheme to trick and defraud opponents and the public at large. It’s not over yet.

3. Vice President Biden

The Vice President announced that he would not be running for President in 2016, and gave a heartfelt barn-burner of a speech that left a lot of Democrats wishing that he actually was. Biden is a centrist Democrat who has fought for the beleagured middle class his entire career. Hillary Clinton and the Freedom Caucus and the entire GOP Presidential slate take note:

I believe that we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart. And I think we can. It’s mean spirited, it’s petty, and it’s gone on for much too long. I don’t believe, like some do, that it’s naive to talk to Republicans. I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition. They’re not our enemies. And for the sake of the country, we have to work together.

Hillary Clinton is breathing easy, not only because Biden is out, but the Benghazi witch hunt is unraveling hour by hour in advance of her second round of testimony about a tragedy – not a scandal.

4. Canada goes Trudeau

Stephen Harper’s 9 year-long government is over, he will stay as an MP but resign as head of the Conservative Party he helped to re-formulate. As so often happens in left/right North American politics, the grueling 11-week Canadian general election pitted Harper’s fear against the hopeful vision of Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. With a clear majority, Trudeau can form a majority government and actually implement the policies for which he advocated. The parliamentary system may not be perfect, but it’s certainly fairer and more efficient in many ways than ours.

5. Wikileaks

Let’s say you believe it’s wrong for the NSA to have the ability to snoop on people’s emails and phone calls and text messages, etc. We can agree that warrantless government searches of the substance of people’s private communications is illegal. So, in what way is it newsworthy or reasonable or fair for Wikileaks to publish the private emails from CIA Director John Brennan’s personal AOL account? No one has found or identified any classified or secret information there – it’s all private stuff, including his application for a security clearance that contains intimate details of his personal life. Wikileaks obtained the information from hackers – criminals – and is simply publishing it all for everyone to see. Wikileaks defenders, defend this. You can’t. It’s a stunt designed to keep these people relevant.

If you want to understand what Wikileaks is, consider this, from John Schindler: Wikileaks is a front for Russian Intelligence. There exists no other reasonable explanation at this point. One need only compare Wikileaks’ published secrets of the Russian Federation vs. the secrets of the United States it has revealed.

An important gap has been filled this week by Julian Assange, who admitted that Snowden going to Moscow was his idea. Ed wanted to head to Latin America, Julian asserted, especially Ecuador, whose London embassy Assange has been hiding out in for years on the lam from rape changes in Sweden. As Assange explained, “He preferred Latin America, but my advice was that he should take asylum in Russia despite the negative PR consequences, because my assessment is that he had a significant risk he could be kidnapped from Latin America on CIA orders. Kidnapped or possibly killed.”

Only in Russia would Ed be safe, Julian counseled, because there he would be protected by Vladimir Putin and his secret services, notably the FSB. One might think that seeking the shelter of the FSB — one of the world’s nastiest secret police forces that spies on millions without warrant and murders opponents freely — might be an odd choice for a “privacy organization.” But Wikileaks is no ordinary NGO.

Now, the private phone numbers and social security numbers of innocent private civilians are being revealed by this phony, hostile “privacy” organization. Its justification for publishing the substance of all of Brennan’s AOL emails is weak, if it exists at all.

Just because you enter public life doesn’t mean that it’s ok for a hostile government’s PR arm to publicize your personal emails. Wikileaks has proven Schindler’s thesis beyond reasonable doubt.

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