2015: The Year in Verse

December in Buffalo: snowless and mild.

Politically, this year was especially wild.

We rang in the New Year somewhat aghast,

as we learned that Mario Cuomo had passed.

One loss that cut deeply is one you all know;

Entertainer Lance Diamond was the next one to go.

Our icon of funk had no imitation,

And Buffalo gave him a worthy ovation.

 

Dave DiPietro, needing something to do,

learned of a library book—maybe two,

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

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

and, pretending to be so concerned that he asked,

whether both of these books should be banished at last!

But these volumes explained that in Afghanistan,

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

 

In Albany, meanwhile, something awesome occurred.

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

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

courtesy of an attorney named Preet.

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

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

Nevertheless, these wins seem awfully pyrrhic,

and the Albany culture seems downright satiric.

 

Quickly thereafter, we heard—more than a smidgen,

That agents were sniffing ’round G. Stephen Pigeon.

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

caught Pigeon and Casey and one or two aides,

but the Preetsmas Day massacre tale is still pending;

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

 

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

For hipsters, a kingdom became manifest.

The listicle writers in Brooklyn and Queens,

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

For Wegmans and cheap housing rates, we get envied,

and economists say our job market’s quite frenzied.

 

In Lancaster, the school board humbly proposed,

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

by some who thought “Redskins” a suitable name,

for kids to play sports in, without any shame.

But Native Americans quickly caught on,

and argued that “Redskin” needs to be gone.

They turned to the kids, after much agitation,

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

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

and find people still angry over a racist team name.

 

Carl Paladino characteristically fought,

against logic and reason, and thickened the plot,

as he bullied a guy here to track civil rights,

Carl turned the board into a joke on most nights.

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

into receivership, Carl and his friends,

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

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

 

In the BMHA, a commissioner said,

some unspeakable words, and when caught, quickly pled

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

but the problem for him was the cell phone recording.

Joe Mascia was running for Franczyk’s position,

in an effort that honestly needed magicians.

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

if you casually pepper your speech with that word.

 

Now Donald Trump’s surging, unemployment is down,

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

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

Investigative Post tells us what it all meant.

 

When election time came, it was really a snooze,

Poloncarz re-elected, but there was some news,

Fudoli was gone, but legislature incumbents,

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

turnout was low and the races were boring,

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

 

In August, our town went a little insane,

after a woman alleged Patrick Kane,

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

and some blamed the victim within a few days.

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

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

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

and Kane skated—his problems have melted away.

 

Joseph Lorigo, as the year drew to a close,

Tweeted some questions he wanted to pose.

Expressing concerns about the criteria,

used to bring refugees over from Syria.

A big demonstration was held here downtown,

and refugee services wouldn’t back down.

The community welcomes the tired, the poor,

who help to make Buffalo better than before.

It wasn’t too long ago Brahmins and such,

hated Irish, Italians, and Poles just as much.

 

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

wishing all of you peace and a Happy New Year.

The Refugee Process: Bosnia Edition

I’ll have more to say later about this past week’s descent into anti-refugee, anti-immigrant hysteria – from what the Erie County Legislature did on Thursday to Donald Trump’s descent into registration of Muslims already in the country, echoing the Nazi precursor to the Shoah. That’s before we get to the banality of drive-time hate radio callers expressing a desire to send Muslims in the US to camps in “boxcars”.

In the meantime, here is a series of Tweets from a Bosnian refugee explaining the process her family endured when they registered with the UN as refugees.

When they tell you that we don’t know who these people are, or that they have insecure feelings about the vetting process, consider that this was the process 20 years ago for a family from a westernized, modern country. The process for the small handful of refugees from Syria is already much more stringent and, pardon the pun, byzantine.

 

The Safest Space is the First Amendment

This simply amazing video is making the rounds. You need to see it.

That video depicts students and faculty at the University of Missouri harassing and assaulting two journalists, including undergraduate MU photojournalism major Tim Tai, who was freelancing for ESPN. These protesters affirmatively prevented two photographers from doing their jobs. More ominously, towards the end of the video, Assistant Professor of Mass Media Melissa Click called for “muscle” to help physically assault and remove the videographer – MU junior Mark Schierbecker – from the area.

So, we had a faculty member – an employee of a public, government institution – calling out for people to help her assault a student in a public space at a public university for the vicious crime of documenting a news event. Adding to the irony, Click chairs the Student Publications Committee on campus. The blonde woman with the North Face yelling at Tai to, “back off” is Janna Basler, UM’s director of Greek life and leadership.

Click has since apologized and resigned one of her appointments. (Text here). As usual, internet cretins have called in loads of death threats and worse. The chairman of the communications department on campus wrote,

Faculty (and students) have a right to express their views, but they do NOT have the right to intimidate others. This has been an awful time for the university, but that in no way condones intimidation.

The underlying purpose of the protests themselves is laudable – to confront and end systemic racism at the university. The protest organizers, “Concerned Student 1950“, invoke the year that black students were first allowed to attend that school. They use the tactics of the 1950s and 1960s to battle against racist incidents that took place at the school for which its administration had no reaction whatsoever. It wasn’t until the football team threatened to boycott and forfeit a game to spur some sort of positive action from the administration.

But it was charges of persistent racism, particularly complaints of racial epithets hurled at the student body president, who is black, that sparked the strongest reactions, along with complaints that the administration did not take the problem seriously enough.

The video above was shot in the wake of the University president’s resignation. The protesters randomly – and virtually – cordoned off an area of the quad where they were encamped and physically blocked reporters from doing their jobs. If you hold a public protest on a public space at a public university, you don’t have the right to assault a reporter, to touch him in any way, to censor the reporting, or to otherwise use force to remove him from the premises.

In response to the imbroglio, Tai wrote,

As a photojournalist, my job is often intrusive and uncomfortable. I don’t take joy in that. …You take the scene as it presents itself, and you try to make impactful images that tell the story. … And sometimes you have to put down the camera. But national breaking news on a public lawn is not one of those times.

If you show up to a protest in a public place, you don’t get to withhold consent to be photographed or otherwise documented by reporters.

I don’t know why another student with a camera reporting for the NY Times or ESPN renders your “space” “unsafe”, but what those people did to those reporters has absolutely nothing to do with “political correctness”. The 1st Amendment trumps your desire to be left alone if you do it outside in public.

What you see in that video has to do with fascism – pure and simple. Those students and faculty were no different from blackshirts or militia intimidating and assaulting reporters in pre-1975 Spain, Pinochet’s Chile, or pre-war Italy. Harrassment and violence against members of the press, and aggressive hostility against press freedoms is a hallmark of anti-democratic totalitarianism.

The students – they get the benefit of the doubt. It’s neither novel nor surprising that students would be somewhat ignorant of the 1st Amendment and how it works. But the adult members of faculty and administration – their behavior is shocking and inexcusable.

Basler and Click tried to regulate First Amendment activity in a public forum (i.e., the media’s peaceable assembly and newsgathering).* That potentially exposes them and the University of Missouri to liability under 42 USC § 1983, a federal law that allows individuals to sue public agents and entities for deprivations of civil or constitutional rights. Because of the physical contact shown on the video, it’s even possible that they could be liable for assault in the third degree under Missouri law.

Ultimately, that behavior undermines whatever point the protesters are trying to make. The 1st Amendment not only protects the protesters’ right to demonstrate, speak, and assembly, but it also protects the rights of reporters to photograph, video, and report.