Free Speech Confounds Tim Wenger

A recent Tweet from WBEN’s operations manager / program director / director of digital content:

Good question. What does protesting and shouting slogans “do for anyone”? In February 2013 WBEN featured wall-to-wall “news” coverage of a pro-gun rally that took place in Albany to protest Governor Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act. Albany sees protests on a daily basis, but in this case WBEN sent reporters, commentators, and organized a bus charter to Albany and back for its listeners. (Here’s the photo album!) Tim Wenger was on the bus, too. But while Wenger doesn’t understand what all these people think they’ll accomplish by protesting the fact that Eric Garner’s killer won’t be brought up on criminal charges, he had a completely different opinion when it came to busing a bunch of listeners to Albany and back for a gun law that’s still on the books over a year later.

It really doesn’t matter to me or WBEN where you stand on this issue of the NY SAFE ACT.  What matters to us is that people have the passion for their beliefs and that they’ll fight within their Constitutional rights for what they think is right. .These people aboard both our buses, more than eighty strong, are working Western New Yorkers who are taking a day of their life to rally for what they believe in.  That’s what it’s all about. I’ve met every single person on the buses and all are friendly and excited, despite being a tad tired.  There is a sense of excitement aboard the buses as a group of mainly strangers who came together on the radio make a day-long trip to have their voices heard. What will happen when the rally is over and the people and buses leave?  No one knows for sure.  The hopes of those aboard the buses is that a repeal will be in the works. But when all is said and done and the last person leaves the rally and the buses arrive back home, one thing is for sure. Democracy worked and allowed a group of people passionate about an issue and their rights to be heard. Tim

But when it’s people passionate about an issue he doesn’t agree with, then WTF LOL, right?

I love the banner here.

The answer, of course, is that there’s nothing to “figure out”. Tim Wenger “can’t figure out what good protesters screaming “hands up don’t shoot” at BPD officers is doing for anyone” because he’s a Republican partisan who operates a Republican news outlet. Yelling “hands up don’t shoot” or “I can’t breathe” during a protest is as meaningful – or pointless – as a radio station sponsored bus trip to yell “Skelos is a traitor” and “Down with il Duce Cuomo” in Albany.

Oh, and this was hanging in the WBEN Newsroom:

gun rally

 

Maybe Wenger just couldn’t find sponsors to list along the bottom of a banner? Incidentally, the businesses shown there – Country Inn & Suites, Wingate by Wyndham, Thrifty Car Rental, Hampton Inn, Dollar Rent-a-Car – those are all Paladino-owned franchises of national firms. (Remember when Paladino had his people smack “Vote for the American” bumper stickers on cars rented from his franchises at the Buffalo Airport?) Do you think that the corporate bosses for the national brands know, or are supportive, of their trademarks being used so blatantly for a partisan political purpose?

Anyhow, everybody gets to shout slogans pointlessly in the cold and dark – gun huggers as well as people protesting the homicide by cop of a guy standing on a sidewalk selling loose cigarettes.

 

 

What Is and Isn’t a Troll

Right Wing Talk Radio (artist’s impression)

The idea of talk radio call-in shows should be, theoretically, about an intellectual back-and-forth where people share opinions and knowledge, and perhaps reach common ground, or at least listen to a different perspective and perhaps think a bit.

But that’s not what happens. Most talk radio is right-wing hosts taking calls from right-wing callers, and if politics is on the table, dissenting opinions are strictly forbidden. Instead, the callers each try to out-do the host; if the host says Obama is a communist, the callers will insist that he’s … well, they’ll just agree and maybe add “fascist” into the mix because hey, why not?

So here’s a few minutes’ worth of audio that shows what happens when one local talk radio host faces a dissenting opinion on his Facebook page. (Screeners make sure dissent seldom makes it to air).

Labeled as “trolls”, the people who disagree are banned and blocked, sent to a sort of cyber-gulag, leaving the host and his followers safe from any opinions or views that do not mirror their own.

That’s pretty amazing, right? Right down to the “little gook in me” quip near the beginning, referring to President Obama as a “boy”, and the painfully inappropriate minstrelsy.

I can understand a person being upset about being called a racist if they don’t believe they are, but that’s not even what the offending commenter said. This is a childish over-reaction to a fair comment about a relevant topic – not at all trolling under any definition. If you disagree, engage and debate. If you shut them down, you’re just confirming for everyone that your opinion is factually and intellectually bankrupt.

This is why I have Sirius, WBFO, and WEDG on heavy rotation in my car. I want to be informed or entertained. I don’t want to be angry, and I don’t want my commutes to be hate and sedition all the time.

Sandy Beach & Audience on Race in America

Presented without comment.

Erie County’s D-LAN and Right-Wing Stormtrolls

Logo_ErieCo_tpDuring the Snowvember / Knife storm, some municipalities made complaints about county or state aid, and there was a concerted push on local Squadrismo Radio (traffic, weather, and sedition on the tens – these guys, who think it’s cute to assault & batter former First Ladies), to criticize elected officials (all of them Democrats) for, e.g., not getting small town side streets plowed as soon as people would have liked. There was some legitimate debate over the speed with which the Thruway was closed, and how quickly people were freed from their cars, but as we discovered later on, when Cuomo allegedly criticized the National Weather Service’s forecast, there was ample warning of a historic snow event on Monday night into Tuesday.

All of a sudden, personal responsibility goes out the window when there’s a Democrat available to criticize. The WBEN Snowtrolling was amazing and unprecedented.

County Executive Poloncarz sent a warning about the storm to his disaster response team on Sunday night, and by all reasonable and impartial accounts, they performed admirably; “real leadership”, the Buffalo News called it.

But some towns have been complaining about the lack of county plows, despite the fact that they apparently had not bothered to use the decade-old computerized system to request them. In 2004, the County implemented the “DisasterLAN” or “DLAN” system for municipalities to use to request – and the county to coordinate – disaster response, including county plows.

The DLAN system is specialized for disasters and is heavily used around New York State, he said, but ignored by many Western New York highway officials.

“The problem was that only one or two people even knew about the system,” he said, despite county insistence upon its use.

Even conference calls proved inconsistent, he said, with Boston never participating in the daily planning and Orchard Park “hit and miss.”

The county executive pointed to Lake Avenue in Hamburg, a hard-hit road visited by Cuomo on Thursday. It was inserted into the DLAN system because of the volume and underlying ice pack, and therefore became a priority.

“The county knows how to use it, and 95 percent of the towns know how to use it, but not all did,” Poloncarz said. “If those people don’t utilize it, we can’t help it.”

And Lancaster Village Mayor (because we totally need a village overlaying a town government) Paul Maute “never heard of” DLAN, which is apparently everybody’s fault but his own, despite the fact that it’s been used for 10 years.

According to both Fudoli and Hoffman, halfway through the storm they became aware that in order to receive resources such as additional plows and other machinery, they had to use a Web-based system called DLan, but they had little success in doing so.

“The entire storm we were told we had equipment coming,” said Hoffman.

“We never heard of DLan until a couple of days into it,” added Maute.

According to Fudoli, requests submitted by Lancaster employees were not fulfilled, but the system repeatedly labeled them as “completed.”

So, there’s a computerized system that’s a decade old that works perfectly well, but a few highway superintendents don’t understand or use it, so it’s everybody else’s fault that, e.g., the Town of Boston didn’t get a call from the County, or the Mayor of Lancaster never heard of the county’s disaster system. How about using the DLAN or picking up your own phone? All you need to use DLAN is a connected browser. Personal responsibility gone, waiting for big government to bail them out.

Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli learned that he was supposed to use DLAN “halfway through the storm”, but he was a legislator for the entity that set up and runs DLAN – Erie County?! 

That’s before we get to the concept of there being 7 feet of snow on the ground as another 2 feet dumped down just a couple of days later. You can’t just snap your fingers and get every side street in WNY plowed out overnight under those conditions.

Another meme that’s popped up has to do with how Governor Cuomo was preening for the cameras when he showed up with his entourage (read: cabinet) to stay in WNY for several days to help coordinate storm clean-up and response.

Right. Photo-op. Except that Governor Cuomo did exactly what any rational person would expect a governor to do – show up and offer state aid, money, and manpower to get the Southtowns up and running again. Had he not showed up, these same people would be whining about how Cuomo abandoned WNY again.

Cuomo is an arrogant downstater who doesn’t brook much dissent and is rude to the press and critics, plus he took some guns off the market and limited how many bullets can go in there, so he’s been likened to Hitler.

If you want to criticize the speed with which the Thruway closed, or how he came across poorly when talking about the weather service, that’s fine. But hammering the governor for showing up at a disaster area and ordering that help be given? Don’t be a dick.

The Public: Now Open

Congratulations to the staff, administration, and writers at the Public, which hits local newsstands today.  It features bylines like Niman, Kelly, Lowinger, Fisher, Perla, and other names you’ll recognize. Check out their website at www.dailypublic.com

 

Limbaugh To Defend Horrible Reputation

Rush Limbaugh is offended that the DCCC quoted him in some fundraising promotions. He’s threatening to sue for defamation.

The problem with that is that misogynist drug addict Rush Limbaugh would need to prove that his reputation has been harmed.

 

#Obamacough?

(Starting around 0.38s)

“If you’re loving your Obamacough…if you’re loving that respiratory infection, it’s not a mystery – it comes from Obama’s children. If you’re enjoying that, why don’t you call Brian Higgins’ office and thank him for it, and ask if he’ll help pay your medical bills for whatever your doctor may have given you to counteract said cough.”

What is he talking about? What does this mean? What “Obamacough” did “Obama’s children” cause people in WNY to contract? Why should Brian Higgins pay for anyone’s medical bills, given that everyone in New York is mandated to have health insurance coverage nowadays either through their employer, through the exchange, or through Medicaid? 

In what way is this responsible? What sort of radio station is this, exactly, this WBEN? I mean, I get Bauerle saying any old oddity – that’s his job – but when it crosses the line from commentary into crackpot tin-foil hattery, doesn’t someone step in and do something about it?  

I mean, I know Obama is a public figure, and so are his kids, to a degree – I don’t put it past any right winger to leave Obama’s kids alone – but what evidence is there to back this up?  Isn’t this sort of the very definition of “actual malice” set forth in Sullivan v. New York Times

 

The Curse of the Donn Esmonde Column

What better way to explain away systemic failure than to do what they did in the Middle Ages and just blame it on some supernatural curse? 

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy first articulated the concept of the Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” in a book released in 1990.  It soon became lore – during fall Sox games, the “Reverse Curve” sign on an overpass on the outbound Storrow Drive became “Reverse Curse”. 

So Donn Esmonde, a semi-retired Buffalo News columnist/asshole, came up with a “curse” for Buffalo. This is, naturally, not at all original. Some believe that Buffalo is cursed because President McKinley was assassinated here. It’s much easier than, say, absorbing the details and lessons from Diana Dillaway’s “Power Failure and addressing longstanding ways in which Buffalo continues to stand in the way of its own progress. 

Esmonde’s way of cheering the Pegula family’s purchase of the Buffalo Bills reads more like the rantings of an obsessed geek fanboy writing erotic fanfiction featuring Karen Gillan and Kari from “Mythbusters“. 

If the stars and fates were – for reasons unknown – lined up for decades against the city, those fortunes indisputably have changed. The U-turn has been so dramatic – and the reversal so long overdue – that the dark cloud may have lifted for generations to come.

Note to Fate: It’s about time.

It’s not fate. There is not a single thing about Buffalo and WNY that has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years, except perhaps locals’ attitudes about the city. When the governor throws a billion dollars at your city for economic development, good things would happen anywhere. The funding of ECHDC with money from the power authority helped bring about Canalside, and that was thanks to smart politicians exercising their clout. But do we really need NYPA? Shouldn’t WNY have been benefiting from cheap hydropower for the last century? Couldn’t Albany do something about making it easier to start and do business in New York State instead of just making it rain cash? Our recent election results show just how same old same old our area is.  Lucking into finding a sports-fan billionaire is just that – luck. His purchase of the Bills changes none of the fundamental, underlying problems that we face. 

Any “curse” is of our own creation, and we maintain it lovingly every time we “participate” in our electoral system. 

If indeed there was a dark cloud hanging for decades over our sporting teams and civic fortunes, it’s safe to conclude it has been mugged, mauled, pummeled and smothered into submission.

The way things are going, there will be a shiny Stanley Cup in our trophy case and a Super Bowl parade down Main Street sometime in the next decade. Crazy talk, I know. But who could have imagined that a Pegula would suddenly appear, as if brought to life by our collective wishful thinking?

We suffered the misfortunes of Wide Right, four straight Super Bowl losses, No Goal and various other sporting calamities. The supposed prior salvation of the Sabres – and a downtown-reviving Adelphia empire – offered by the Rigas family vaporized in false promises and prison sentences.

The sports calamities pale in comparison to our social, economic, and political calamities, all of which continue apace. Another article in the News details the process whereby amateur, unqualified “planners” dictate the future of the Outer Harbor by passive-aggressive sticky note.  Don’t tell me that any curse is lifted when we have people whining about people living in gorgeous new housing near the Lake. I mean, just look at what waterfront development did to those unlivable hellholes like Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Singapore, and Chicago! We’d never want to be like those places! By God, that Outer Harbor has been a contaminated wasteland for the last 80 years, and by God a contaminated wasteland it should stay!

Apart from Silicon Valley, newly minted billionaires don’t generally fall from the sky – particularly around here. Pegula, in essence, emerged from the earth – or, at least, the source of his billions did. Advancements in the technology of natural gas extraction, called fracking, in recent years turned natural gas deposits mile-deep in shale into 21st-century treasure. Though environmentally controversial, fracking transformed Pegula seemingly overnight into a multibillionaire. With decades in the industry, Pegula – a native Pennsylvanian whose Western New York roots are nearly 40 years deep – saw the coming technology early on and acquired massive stretches of shale-rich land. He has, over the last five years, sold pieces of his stake for billions of dollars.

Luckily for us.

This one is fantastic. Esmonde is glossing over the environmental disaster that is natural gas extraction through hydrofracking. The modern fracking they do in Pennsylvania and other places is not yet allowed in New York, and while some think it would be a boon for economically depressed parts of central New York – mostly around Utica and Binghamton – it comes with huge environmental risks. 

You need look no further than this Donn Esmonde column from 2011, wherein he recounts how fracking rigs in Springville made a young family sick, and turned their well water suddenly flammable. Heartbreaking:

“I couldn’t understand why my kids were getting sick,” said Brant. “Are they going to have health problems for the rest of their lives? I have six girls, will they be able to have children?”

One could argue that fracking may have “cursed” that family, because looking at it all scientifically, empirically, and objectively is far too complicated and difficult. But what’s a little poisoned water, poisoned kids, and geological trauma when a billionaire can buy our sports team? 

I understand that we’re willing to hold our collective civic nose and ignore how Pegula made his billions, but to gloss over it and cheer the lifting of a “curse” is going a bit too far, even for Tea Party Donn

With Pegula’s emergence, Buffalo really stepped in it – but this time, instead of stomping into something odoriferous, we walked into a bed of roses. Mesh the reversal of our sporting fortunes with the ongoing repopulation of downtown, the development of the waterfront, the revival of the West Side, the emergence of Canalside and the rise of the Medical Campus, and there is just one rational rhetorical question begging to be asked: Curse? What Curse?

Buffalo’s population continues to decline. Our politics remain hopelessly dysfunctional and corrupt, and all of these things are happening in spite of that. Buffalonians and WNYers may have more optimism and hope, but it’s not because one billionaire bought the Bills – it’s because in the last 20 years, we’ve been forced at last to get past our post-industrial malaise and figure out a path to the future. We may not always agree, and we may fight and argue about the details of how to move forward, but it’s because of the work of visionary businesspeople, tax credits and incentives, activists, volunteers, and organizations that our region seems to be moving forward. For every billionaire sports team owner, the real hard work is being done by people who live paycheck to paycheck, or freelance check to freelance check. It’s being done by entrepreneurs who put their talent and passion into various projects. It’s not the grand shopping sprees that make Buffalo better, it’s all the little things that people do with minimal fanfare and very hard work. 

As for me, I’m convinced that Buffalo’s “curse” won’t be lifted until Donn Esmonde stops writing trite, humorless nonsense in the local paper and retires to his suburban tract home in Florida

Bucky Gleason tl;dr

Kim Pegula, as described by the Buffalo News

Buffalo is so thankful that naïve, pussy-whipped Terry Pegula and ice-bitch-queen Kim Pegula will be buying the Bills. 

I could go on, but this article nicely sums up the culture war that’s being waged by and against women, and how women are winning. 

(For the uninitiated (remember BobbyCat?), tl;dr stands for “too long; didn’t read”) 

WBEN, Riding the Nativist Derp Train to Fraudville

It used to be that references to undocumented immigrants as “invaders” were reserved for the outermost fringes of the body politic. 

Stormfront. Short wave. Nazi/Racist/Neo-Confederate bulletin boards. Infowars.

Now, because of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the right-wing freakout over “illegal” “invaders” has become commonplace. Neo-Nazi hate-speech is now mainstreamed. 

Add to that the spectacle of underemployed, underinformed, angry white folk, (whose immigrant ancestors came from somewhere), who have nothing better to do all day than to turn parts of the American desert into little clones of Afghanistan – complete with weapons and extralegal checkpoints

Not to put too fine a point on it all, but what’s going on along the US-Mexican border is unprecedented – youngsters are crossing into the US en masse and rather than running from Border Patrol in order to get further into the US, they are surrendering immediately upon arrival, just like the Cubans do under our unusually generous “dry foot” policy

(Hint: Just tell the wingnuts that these kids are from Cuba, and maybe they’ll treat them as human beings.)

Unsophisticated, poor families in places like Guatemala and Honduras – economically awful, socially violent, and politically dysfunctional places – are being tricked by human trafficking cartels to pay to send their kids to the US, where, they’re told, the kids will be able to claim asylum and stay forever.  Of course, there’s no federal “DREAM” Act, but a 2008 law requires the government to grant any kid from a non-border country an asylum hearing

These children and their families are being taken advantage of by con artists. They are the tired, the poor – the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Tempest-tost wretched refuse, these children and their families are naive victims. Yet when they come here, our nativist right wing freaks out. Peak temper tantrum, hurling hateful invective not only at these Central American tweens, but at Obama, the liberals, and everyone else who doesn’t slap a Gadsen flag on their bumper and an eagle on their timeline. 

It is a humanitarian crisis because these children come with nothing – have nothing – and because ours is a country of laws, we are not empowered simply to shove them back on a bus across the Mexico border. We have due process.  We have laws. We have to detain them – humanely – while we process them all. That is how a 1st world country works, and that is what the law requires. 

It’s gotten to the point where any school bus filled with brown people is suspect. An Arizona state legislator running for Congress stoked the confrontation, and hatefully declared that food and shelter for a bus-full of brown-skinned children isn’t compassionate, but an “abrogation of the rule of law“. 

As it turns out, it wasn’t a bus-full of undocumented migrants, but a bus-full of Arizonan kids on their way to YMCA camp. Seriously

While the wingnuts with all that extra time on their hands accost kids on their way to the Y, other kids are dying. The border patrol is a law enforcement agency – not a refugee non-profit. The government is unprepared to deal with something like this, because of its massive scale and the unprecedented nature of what’s going on. Washington alternates between grandstanding and dithering

By treating these kids as “invaders” and an “army”, you dehumanize them as well as any World War II-era cartoon of a bespectacled, slanty-eyed Tojo. By focusing on blaming Obama rather than trying to solve a legal and humanitarian crisis, the right wing contributes not only to the further erosion of whatever was left of its Latino support, but exposes itself for the craven practitioner of racialist, nativist politics that it’s become in recent years. 

At the local forefront of this racial animus is hate radio WBEN, led by right-wing kook and operations director Tim Wenger. 

Sometime on Tuesday, this appeared at WBEN’s scat-strewn Facebook page: 

First of all, it links to “Gateway Pundit”, who is widely regarded by anyone with a brain to be one of the stupidest people in the right-wing blogosphere. Not just wrong – stupid.  Here, he links to something called “Mad World News”, which I’ve never heard of, and which certainly doesn’t seem like a completely credible source. 

Because it’s not.

I won’t link to either one, but if you go to “Mad World News”, it seems that some nosy hausfrau encountered a busload of brown-skinned people getting off a school bus at a Wal-Mart in rural North Carolina. She tried to communicate with them, but these durn Messikinz didn’t speak any English. So, she simply leaped to the conclusion that, because one of them had managed to communicate with her that they were recent arrivals to America, they must be “illegals”. Not only that, but our brave Mexican-whisperers concluded that this busload of “invaders” was paying for its Wal-Mart goodies with “EBT cards”; welfare handouts. 

Except not a word of it was true, and the tea party says so

OK, OK – yes, a busload of foreign migrant farm laborers did show up at a Wal-Mart in North Carolina, but they weren’t “illegals”, but legal guest-worker migrant farmworkers; people who had valid visas to enter the US and perform all the horrible manual farm labor that you consider to be beneath you

They weren’t paying with welfare cards. Their wages are paid to rechargeable debit cards, which they used to buy items for themselves at Wal-Mart in rural North Carolina. 

They weren’t on a government bus, but were instead being transported by their employer to the Wal-Mart for a shopping trip. 

But, you know, brown people on a bus using plastic at a Wal-Mart. Because right wingers instinctively think the worst of everyone and everything, these had to be (what else?) “illegal” “invaders” spending welfare EBT cards thanks to Obama inviting them to the US. 

So long as the tea party remains “diligent” when they really mean “vigilant”, we’ll all be a little safer and don’t forget your gun. 

Now, despite that this is completely untrue, having been factually debunked by WBEN’s own partisan allies, this radio station continues to perpetrate this fraud on Buffalo and its listenership by refusing to delete or update the post to point out that it’s a lie. Rather than be “accurate” as a putative “news” entity, WBEN sides instead with the people who would “go to war” against these kids

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that story about n0bummer giving some of these kids a resort experience in Weslaco Texas is also completely false

In the meantime, the administration and Democrats will try to find a humane and legal solution to this problem while the Republicans continue to antagonize Latino voters and Millenials.  In the meantime, sane and rational people will call out wildly horrible local hate radio for the embarrassment it is. 

Not every problem is one that needs to be solved with hatred and guns. 

(Crossposted to Little Green Footballs)

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