Rus Thompson Gets the Attention He Ordered

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John “Rus” Thompson, who pled guilty in 2017 to a misdemeanor arising out of voter fraud and lying under oath, is ordering up a steaming heap of attention this week. He and a few other guys in Oakleys will be driving their pickups counterclockwise in downtown Buffalo to protest the state’s emergency orders related to Covid-19.

The novel coronavirus is a viral pandemic that so far has killed 41,000 Americans. By this time next week, it will have taken more American lives than the Vietnam War. 

The Public covered Thompson’s 2016 episode of lying under oath here, here, here, here, and here

The reality under which we are now living is frustrating at best, and millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their health insurance, and their overall economic security. It is precisely this sort of situation for which our welfare safety net was created and designed. To say that it is, for many, woefully inadequate is a dramatic understatement. This reality underscores how this country has done too much to accommodate the wealthy and well-to-do while ignoring the middle and working classes. In no other industrialized country do the newly unemployed face the loss of their health coverage, because in no other industrialized country is health cover connected to employment. That $1,200 “stimulus” check would barely cover one COBRA payment for a typical furloughed American worker. 

Because everyone is hunkered down and trying to stay safe and healthy, it feels like wartime. The uncertainty and indefinite quality of it all is making people upset and anxious. All of that is understandable. 

If, as Thompson and his cohorts suggest, the shelter-in-place should be lifted because western New York is “not NYCity” [sic], then why congregate in one place? If they need a job, there are loads of jobs going for people willing to work in an essential industry. Volunteer to pack lunches for people. Donate to – or volunteer at – the food bank. There are desperate ads on TV looking for people to fill jobs to work as carers for disabled WNYers. 

Instead of doing literally one single thing – symbolic or substantive- to help families in need or medical professionals or nursing homes in this pandemic, Rus Thompson and his pro-virus squad are going to honk their horns while driving counterclockwise for the right to get sick. It is a completely frivolous tantrum that flashes a middle finger at the people working under dangerous conditions to maintain some semblance of a quality of life for all WNYers – sick and otherwise. It laughs at and mocks the thousands of WNYers who have caught the coronavirus, and the hundreds of your friends and neighbors who have died from complications related to it. 

Almost literally overnight, Facebook groups and websites popped up to support and promote protests against governors who issues stay-at-home orders. The President this weekend tweeted exhortations to “liberate” some states – as direct an order as possible to people to congregate and sicken themselves and each other. Like the well-organized AstroTurf tea party movement of 2009, when thousands of people protested Barack Obama’s health insurance marketplace, stimulus package, and purported country of origin, this is a top-down fake grassroots stunt operated by movement conservative people and groups whose purpose is to disrupt things and get people killed in the name of – no one really knows. 

What have our local media been doing about all of this? Covering an event that hasn’t happened; inadvertently promoting it by interviewing its organizer and informing you as to when and where it will be held, and how to get involved yourself. It is a completely irresponsible act of promotion. Only Caitlin Dewey Rainwater at the Buffalo News did a deep dig into the misconceptions and lies that Thompson is spreading, and she deserves kudos for her effort. 

Stay home and keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe. Do not succumb to misinformation or disinformation. Local media should stop amplifying it. 

And hey, Rus: 

Month One of the Event

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British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb (you may know them as Mark and Jez from Peep Show), had a sketch show a decade or so ago, which in its later seasons included a sketch about a post-apocalypic game show, “The Quiz Broadcast,” held in a sort of bunker.

The apocalypse is referred to in this sketch simply as “the Event”, and the contestants on the show are each physically and mentally scarred by the Event. Peter was blinded, and Sheila needs to be taken to be “voltage-calmed”, while the third contestant is sometimes an “unknown male” or a bunch of candy.

The contestants are playing for food or fuel. At certain parts of the program, the words “Remain Indoors” flashes on the screen. It is a bit of dark humor that was always funny to me, but is now just a bit on the nose. The writers responsible for the “Quiz Broadcast” discussed it recently within the context of the Coronavirus pandemic a few weeks ago

Here is a compendium of the episodes for your amusement. 

So, our “event” is slow-moving rather than some big bang, but it has completely altered our society, our economy, and our politics in one short month. I may start writing here with some more frequency as this goes on – now through May 15th in New York, at least, but wanted to simply ask you to be safe, follow the advice of health professionals and scientists, and to be as patient, kind, and generous as your personal situation circumstances allow. 

A revamped Buffalo Rising has done a great series of videos catching up with people in quarantine, but I want to highlight the work that the Buffalo News’ Andrew Galarneau has been doing lately. The hospitality industry in general, and restaurants in particular, are especially hard-hit by this, and if your circumstances allow it, you should try and help save your favorite locally owned place

We try to do take-out twice per week now, and we have done Jay’s Artisan Pizza and Bar-Bill North. Today, we’re doing Mulberry. If you can, do it. If you can, tip with wild abandon. 

Stay safe. 

My Democratic Primary Endorsement

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The only thing that matters in 2020 is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

When I say overwhelming I mean such that no one can try and manufacture some sort of idiot conspiracy theory about it. When I say the only thing that matters it means just that.

I supported Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary race. I thought that she was a uniquely prepared, competent, smart, and qualified candidate who had correctly identified specific, major systemic and substantive problems and then offered up a detailed plan for how to correct them.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

Warren is not a demagogue or an extremist, but someone who thinks that the last 30 – 40 years of economic policy in the US had done disproportionate harm to the middle and working classes. Warren believes that government should exist in part to protect the little guy from the criminality, fraud, and excesses of the big shots in our country.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

Clearly Warren’s time isn’t now. Maybe in 2024, but not now. So the question becomes: which candidate is best positioned to overwhelmingly defeat the incumbent President? It’s down to Bernie and Joe. They both have their merits and demerits. Each person is free to weigh those pros and cons however they see fit. I have big problems with both of them, but I respect and honor them, as well. After all, no one is perfect and politics isn’t Doordash or Netflix, where you can serve up exactly the product you want, on-demand.

Senator Warren is taking some time to assess whom (if anyone) she will endorse. I could tell you how I’m leaning, but I am not going to tell Democrats what to do this year. There will be a primary in late April, and a convention in June. From that convention will emerge a Democratic candidate who will mount a campaign against the most corrupt and dysfunctional administration in American history.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

No matter what your big issue is – college debt, healthcare, foreign policy, the restoration of constitutional norms – none of it happens if Trump is there – more to the point, I suspect that none of it ever happens if Trump is there in January 2021. Not in our lifetimes.

The only thing that matters in 2020, however, is the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President.

This is it, guys. This is real fucking life. This country has sunk so low and overfed its worst impulses, yet people tolerate it because the economy hums along. For now. All of the big structural and substantive change you want to see – all of it is important to fight for. All of it is worth your time and effort. I encourage and welcome your struggle to make your life better and to better everyone’s lives.

But the house is on fire, and we desperately need something to put it out. Some say we need a hose. Some say we need an extinguisher. It doesn’t matter the exact way in which we put the fire out, and we don’t have to agree on it. We can work together to put that fire out through whatever method is available to do it.

We need to keep the House.

We need to take the Senate.

“Senate Majority Leader Elizabeth Warren” has a nice ring to it.

warned in 2015 that this guy was a danger. A fascist.The America you knew before 2017 is almost gone, and it may take generations to fix. 

Or we can start doing it right now. This year.

Fight for your preferred candidate – if you like Bernie, do your thing. If you prefer Biden, go do that. No hate from me, either way. Make calls, give money, canvass, lit drop, volunteer. And after the convention, use everything you have to ensure the overwhelming defeat of the incumbent President. That is the only thing that matters right now.

Do that, and the rest will follow. Fail, and we’ve failed a generation.

WBEN is not Impartial

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WBEN says it is “partnering” (whatever that means) with legitimate news outlets WIVB and WROC to host a debate in the race for the 27th Congressional District between Democrat Nate McMurray and Republican Chris Jacobs. 

WBEN is not a legitimate news outlet and hasn’t been for some time. It is a partisan Republican propaganda organ that deigns to run a nominally straight newscast during morning drive. The other 20 hours of every day are replete with right-wing talk radio that ranges from inane to insane. I don’t know what the nature of this “partnership” is, but if WBEN personnel are involved in the questioning then the Democrat on the stage will be debating two distinct opponents – the Republican candidate and the front for questions from Carl Calabrese or Michael Caputo. 

Consider this: there are no Democratic commentators on WBEN. During the morning “newscast”, when there is to be some sort of political analysis, Republican lobbyist Carl Calabrese is there dutifully refering to the “Democrat Party” and reciting whatever GOP talking points are on the agenda for that day. Who is the Democrat? Seldom anyone. This is partly due to the fact that few self-respecting Democrats would be caught dead on WBEN’s air because it is not a fair and impartial news outlet but a blatantly partisan organ of the Republican Party. 

But never mind literally any of that. Here are two solid reasons why WBEN belongs nowhere near any sort of putatively impartial debate newscast: 

1. The “Gun Rally Express”

Just weeks after a lunatic with easy access to a Bushmaster assault weapon gunned 20 first-graders and 6 staff members in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut – and in direct response to that avoidable massacre – the New York State legislature enacted the NY SAFE Act. As a reaction to that, in late February 2013 hundreds of Second Amendment absolutists trundled off to Albany to protest. WBEN did not merely send a reporter to Albany to cover the protest – it helped to organize it; WBEN “partnered” with various Carl Paladino-related sponsors to send busloads of WBEN listeners to the protest – complete with a banner and everything – and pretended to “cover” a protest it was actually helping to promote.

That’s the banner – it found itself a home in the WBEN newsroom after the rally. Poor Steve Cichon was there as a “reporter” reporting on, among other things, the busloads of WBEN listeners there. The key takeaways are that WBEN is not an impartial observer and reporter of news, but instead feels perfectly justified in becoming part of the story and creating news.

On bus number two, it was “a dismal day to ride aboard the Albany Gun Rally Express, but spirits [were] high on both buses!” People were asked to “Click LIKE to support them and leave your messages for the riders…”

WBEN’s ostensibly straight newscast has been misused for partisan ends before, and given the stakes in NY-27 it is perfectly reasonable to expect this to happen again. 

2. Tim Wenger

Wenger is the Operations Manager and Program Director for WBEN and basically runs the whole station. Rather than recount all the various and myriad ways Wenger renders WBEN unsuitable as an impartial partner for a debate such as this, I will again bring up one salient example from 2014.

Well, no, Mr. Wenger, I have never felt like assaulting Secretary Clinton, or President Trump for that matter. Take a look at the video to which he linked and tell me exactly what’s funny or good or positive there. 

This is straight-up right-wing bloodlust and Wenger is so free from consequences that the Tweet remains online. Here’s what I wrote about Wenger’s inappropriate sentiment at the time (well before Trump ever decided to run for office). 

No, actually, I’ve never felt like “throwing a shoe” at any American political figure. Mostly because I’m not a violent moron, but also because I feel secure enough in the political system and in debate and discussion that “throwing a shoe” or otherwise committing an assault and battery doesn’t enter into it.  Remember when an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush? Did Wenger think that was acceptable? Reasonable? Rational?

I didn’t think it was persuasive or appropriate. People enter politics, and they should expect to be vetted, scrutinized, and questioned. They should not expect to dodge physical assault. They do not deserve battery – no matter how much you disagree with them. For everyone who thinks Hillary Clinton deserves to be hit by a shoe because of Benghazi, I can probably find you two who think that Bush should be behind bars for war crimes. 

So, there’s nothing at all funny or appropriate about someone throwing a shoe at George Bush or at Hillary Clinton. Anyone who thinks differently is no different from a fascist blackshirt, trying to do with violence what they can’t do with words. It is beyond un-American. 

I even did a mock Newsreel depicting how Wenger’s sentiments would have played in the 1930s.

Here, Wenger cheered on a guy committing assault and battery on a protester with whom Wenger apparently disagreed. None of this is okay, and all of it acts as a foreshadowing of our current state of affairs

Tim Wenger is not an impartial observer or the head of an impartial news-gathering organization. Sure, it pretends to be one at various times of the day, but mostly it’s just Republican people spouting Republican talking points for an older Republican audience. It is the station of Tom Bauerle and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. 

I think Nate McMurray is a strong enough candidate that he can comport himself perfectly well even under questioning from a Republican front organization masquerading as a news entity, but I don’t think he needs to stand at a podium battling two opponents. WBEN can broadcast whatever it wants, but it has no business being treated as if it was just another impartial news outlet. It is no more or less partisan than I.

The State of the 27th

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On Friday January 17, former congressman Chris Collins was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison for his lying to the FBI and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. It is a fittingly ignominious end to a particularly nasty and petulant politician. 

In advance of his sentencing, Collins and his lawyers asked friends and supporters to send letters to District Court Judge Vernon Broderick to advocate for a lenient sentence. Those letters were posted to PACER, the federal online filing system, as were many letters advocating for a harsh punishment. Most of them came from family, a few former colleagues, party hacks, and business partners. There weren’t that many. He was not well liked, and he didn’t need anyone.

Until suddenly, he did. If I’m being generous, the turnout on his behalf was middling. 

Collins will be forever disgraced and a convicted felon. He has selfishly destroyed not only his own life, but that of his family and his son’s soon-to-be in-laws’. People who think that Collins’ greed and above-the-law attitude were a one-off are deluding themselves. This was a pattern for him, and got what he deserved. More significantly for our purposes, the Republican establishment in western New York supported him wholeheartedly in 2018 despite the overwhelming evidence against him, not to mention the federal indictment.

As a result of Collins’ lawlessness, there will be a special election held (probably) on Tuesday April 28th, the same day as the New York State Democratic primary. (Despite Republican hyperventilations, it makes sense to do this, because the various NY-27 Boards of Elections will already be mobilized to handle that race, so it is in the interests of the taxpayers to do this all at once.)

There will be a proper, regular election again held on Tuesday, November 3rd – so basically there will be a race all year. 

Democrat Nate McMurray has sewn up the Democratic nomination, despite a brief challenge from newcomer Melodie Baker, (who subsequently had an intemperate airing of grievances on Twitter about her withdrawal). Query whether she will run again if McMurray’s effort proves unsuccessful in April. 

The Republican race for NY-27, on the other hand, is crowded. Well, it was until the Republican chairs held a super-secret meeting in their rural lair to interview and choose their fighter. The major candidates are State Senator Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda, Fox commentator and lawyer Beth Parlato of Darien, State Senator Chris Jacobs of Buffalo Orchard Park, and County Comptroller/bathroom aficionado Stefan Mychajliw of Buffalo Hamburg. Ortt and Parlato are right-wing ideologues. Jacobs and Mychajliw have found it temporarily convenient to mimic Ortt’s and Parlato’s sharp-elbowed, omniphobic, ultra-right, alt-lite positioning.

As political philosopher Cyndi Lauper once wrote, “money changes everything,” and so it was that the party bosses selected perennial Buffalo News endorsee Chris Jacobs to run for the special election. Jacobs is that sort of effete cosmopolitan country-club Republican the Trumpsters love to hate, so it should come as no surprise that the bosses’ decision brought with it some butthurt. Mychajliw especially went out of his way to denounce the backroom deal, invoking Jeb Bush and incoherently alleging that no one would have heard of reality game show host Donald Trump but for the 2016 primary. 

I do not recall a time when the Republicans in western New York were so fractured and toxic. This is largely uncharted territory. Now that 2020 will be a year-long race, the Republican contest in NY-27 is going to be all about yelling loudly and punching down. All of them seem to think that they can ignore genuine problems and issues the voters in NY-27 feel and instead regorge Fox News/Breitbart talking points that are broad and shallow – they don’t really have any bearing on anyone’s real life, but they make people feel better about themselves whilst giving them someone weaker to blame or hate. 

Each of them has one thing in common: to sell voters that he is the true way – the only obedient vassal to the master, King Donaeld the Unready

Chris Jacobs – Ri¢hie Ri¢h

Jacobs – the Parkside scion of a prominent billionaire family – would have you think that he is all in for Trump. Among his first tweets – since conspicuously deleted – was this: 

I can guarantee you that refugees and undocumented immigration on the Southern US border isn’t a big issue for people in NY-27. Hell, we have an actual border ourselves that’s only a few miles away, as opposed to the one that’s 1,000 miles away. The goal here should be to make the Canadian border easier for regular people to cross, and not harder. People in the area making up NY-27 have had poor or non-existent representation for far too long. People here have concerns about things like predatory lenders, employment, farm labor, and healthcare, but here’s the Buffalo developer feeding anti-immigrant pablum to the masses

When Jacobs ran for Senate against Democrat Amber Small, he was continually asked about whether he supports Donald Trump, and he remained silent. Now? He pretends like he’s Trump’s biggest fan. This is sheer opportunism, but Jacobs has money, friends, and name recognition in the Buffalo media market, at least.

Beth Parlato – the Evangelist

What about Beth Parlato? When Jim Kelly and his wife aren’t stanning for their fellow Christian Central Academy parent and tagging Donald Trump in the tweet…

…she has things like this to say: 

“Our families are under attack. Christian values are mocked, drugs and dangerous illegal immigrants flow through our broken borders, late term abortion is protected, and our schools teach what’s politically correct instead of the truth. Will you help me fight back?”

People literally cannot afford the medication and healthcare that keeps them alive, but this person is going to solve these problems by launching a culture war. Chances are that Parlato, doing her best Betsy Devos impression, hasn’t set foot in a public school in decades, if ever. The only people “mocking Christian values” are the ultra-right holy rollers who think Christianity is about getting rich, and that Jesus was a gun totin’ pickup-drivin’ immigrant-hater. And that the rapture is around the corner. Parlato continues, 

As an attorney, as a judge, as an activist and most importantly, as a mother, I have seen up close the harm that the liberal extremist agenda has caused here in Western New York.

And when our families are hurting, so is our nation.

I’m running to fight back against the enemies of freedom who glorify socialism and show disdain for America’s entrepreneurs.

I’m running to create a better and safer world for all of our children.

I’m running because there are stronger voices for women than Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I’m an educated, conservative woman who can make a logical argument; which means the Left and the mainstream media is going to hate me. But, I won’t shy away from talking about the same values you talk about every night at the kitchen table.

What specifically has she seen in WNY that has fallen prey to some “liberal extremist agenda” – she doesn’t say because it is enough simply to say it. “Glorify socialism”. “Enemies of freedom.” “Liberal extremist agenda.” “Nancy Pelosi.” “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” Parlato’s campaign is all about division and scare-tactics, and this sort of Fox trash talk should be – and will be – rejected. But at least Parlato is sincere about her myriad fears and hatreds. Query how someone so concerned with “Christian values” can support a guy who adulterously fornicated with a porn star while his third wife was pregnant, and then paid her off, or the guy who said his status and wealth made it easy for him to “grab [women] by the pussy”. (See, e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:2, Colossians 3:5, Ephesians 5:3, Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Revelation 21:8, Proverbs 6:32, and Exodus 20:14).   

Rob Ortt – the Maziarz/Wojtaszek Machine

Likewise, North Tonawanda’s Maziarz guy Rob Ortt is a true believer. I heard his radio spot on WBEN and noted firstly that he is going out of his way to explain away his corruption, and this: 

Some people want to go to Washington and bring everybody to the table. I want to flip the table over.

That one line should be instantly disqualifying. Like his opponents, Ortt isn’t running to represent the people of the 27th district; he has a constituency of two: himself and Donald Trump. 

Politics is bloodsport, but government is supposed to be about doing things that are in the best interests of one’s constituents. One can have strong positions about things, but in the end the art of politics is about compromise and inclusion – not, as Ortt suggests, violent, over-emotional exclusion. If that is his ethos, it is no wonder he has been so feckless and useless in Albany. 

When you click on “issues” on Ortt’s website, the first line that greets you contains the word “Trump”. One of the bullet-pointed “issues” reads as follows: 

Fight Back Against the “Hate America” Voices of the Extreme Left

Honestly, I almost feel sorry for Ortt and the people like him. They are so consumed with hatred and fear that they go out of their way to agitate against people who advocate for things like libraries, schools, and healthcare. These weak-minded people aren’t running against opponents, or for any ideas – they are merely running against the things they reckon their voters reflexively hate. 

It is also important to be clear about something: what Ortt and his people did may not have been a crime, but it sure as hell was sleazy and corrupt.

Come to think of it, corrupt sleazery may exactly be why Ortt stans so hard for corrupt sleaze Trump. 

Stefan Mychajliw – the Phony

Finally, we have young master Stefan Mychajliw, who did not have supporters available to launch his campaign with a rally. Instead, he posted an awkward video, replete with the same sort of divisive, hate-filled rhetoric as his rivals. Also like his opponents, Mychajliw is running for two people – himself and Trump. It is as if Trump and these people are one. To call it a cult would be insulting to most cults. 

Like Ortt, Mychajliw’s first thought is of Trump: 

SEND TRUMP AN ALLY: As President Trump fights to drain the swamp in Washington, he cannot do it alone. We need uncompromising conservatives to stand with him to Keep America Great by fighting for a secure border, fair trade policies, and economic solutions that continue record-setting results. Simply put, we cannot rely on self-dealing Albany moderates who only support President Trump when it’s politically convenient. We deserve a proven conservative we can trust — no matter when the next election is.

Mychajliw was once a Buffalo mensch. Since entering political life and becoming a career politician, he has successfully alienated everyone who used to matter in his life. He trades on his status as a first-generation American, (only half-true), while in the next breath heaping scorn and derision on refugees. Mychajliw targets Jacobs especially (Albany moderate) and ignores the Rev. Parlato and winger Ortt; Mychajliw isn’t a proven conservative, but a purely performative one. He has never had a truly competitive race for Comptroller, so it will be interesting to see how he fares over the summer, and just how low he’s willing to go. He is wholly unqualified for – and uninterested in – the job he has, and it shows. He has spent the last year traipsing across the farms and meadows of NY-27 and having his picture taken, all the while vocally supporting a person under felony indictment who has since resigned in disgrace. 

Of Mychajliw, the Investigative Post’s Jim Heaney writes

The growing body count at the two county jails says all that needs to be said about Tim Howard.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says a lot of ugly things, takes campaign contributions from some very ugly people, and seems to be using his office more for political purposes than for protecting the interests of taxpayers.

Ditto for County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who seems intent on spending tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits aimed at demonizing undocumented immigrants.

I call the three of them the Bigot Brothers.

Kearns, Mychajliw, and Howard fit the mold of the Erie County Republican Party, which mimics the tone being set at the national level. Gone are the days when more moderate voices held sway. Now it’s the party of Carl Paladino, Michael Caputo, and the like. Which is to say: wingnuts.

The Bigot Brothers indeed. 

And now that Mychajliw has formally announced what everyone’s known for a year – that he’s running for Congress – he will need to address the fact that he apparently used campaign funds from his state office treasury to pay for federal office expenses.

Even money an undeclared candidate for federal office raises and spends “testing the waters” — that is, laying the groundwork for a campaign, lining up support, conducting polls, etc. — must eventually be reported to the FEC, Svoboda told Investigative Post.

“You can defer filing if your fundraising and expenditures are solely for the purpose of testing the waters,” Svoboda said. “But your expenditures must eventually be disclosed if you run. And they must be solely be about the decision to run or not. They can’t manifest actual candidacy.” 

“Testing the waters” means gauging support, not soliciting it. But Mychajliw appears to have spent money doing both — and well in excess of $5,000.

The fact that some of that money came from corporations – something not allowed in federal races – means that Mychajliw, the “swamp drainer” can’t even run this campaign in an uncorrupt fashion.

The people of NY-27 have been victimized by an unresponsive and predatory Republican for almost 10 years. Now four (maybe five if you count the late-coming Trump apparatchik no one’s heard of), candidates vie for approval from a President who is more the head of a crime syndicate than an administration. They each of them look to raise their profile in a region where the Republican Party has found itself with something of a weak bench. 

The efforts of Ortt, Parlato, Mychajliw, and Jacobs to trip over each other in their fear-mongering veneration and worship of Trump and Trumpism leaves an opening for the Democrat Nate McMurray to simply say to the district voters: I will go to Washington and work for you, the people. You will be my bosses and no one else.

That is, after all and at long last, what this should be about.

A Letter Regarding the Sentencing of Convict Chris Collins

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Hon. Vernon S. Broderick
United States District Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of New York
Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse
40 Foley Square
New York, NY 10007

Re:      U.S. v. Christopher C. Collins
            18 Cr. 567    
                         

Dear Judge Broderick:

I write to you as a former constituent of Christopher Collins, the Defendant in the above-referenced matter. I am an attorney duly licensed in the State of New York and am also admitted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

I have also been a political commentator in western New York area since 2003. During that time and in that role, I observed and chronicled this Defendant’s tenure in public office – first as Erie County Executive, and later as the Congressman for the 27th District of New York.

Recent media reports indicate that probation recommends a one year and one day prison sentence for the Defendant. I believe that this is woefully inadequate and wholly disproportionate to the crimes of which he stands convicted involving fraud and dishonesty.

There exists a certainty that the Defendant, who is also a successful businessman and investor, knew exactly what he was doing when he transmitted material, nonpublic information concerning Innate Immunotherapeutics’ MIS416 drug trial to his family, friends, and colleagues.  There exists a similar certainty that he knew or should have known that his behavior was wrong and illegal at that time.

Respectfully, this Defendant has always comported himself in his public affairs with hubris and arrogance. He quite simply saw himself as above the law, laced with condescension, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement.  

The Defendant took an oath of office pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §3331, which he disregarded through his fraud, theft, and deceit; but this Defendant regularly politicized his long-time affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America – an organization that also has both an oath and a foundational law to which this Defendant purported to adhere. The Scout oath is a promise:

On my honor, I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Defendant Collins has violated this most basic, boyhood promise to do his best to do his duty to his country. He has violated the law through lying, fraud, and deceit. He did so knowingly in order to unjustly enrich members of his inner circle at the expense of other, honest investors. Rather than “help other people at all times,” this Defendant has gone out of his way – throughout his political career – to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict the already afflicted, by advocating for policies and laws that would help to enrich wealthy people like him, and punish the poor and underprivileged.

His tenure in office hardly justifies any paeans to “public service”. He was there for a political career that could help him and people like him – the wealthy and well-connected. His fraud and deceit is hardly evidence of being mentally awake or morally straight. He cannot follow the law of the Boy Scouts, much less the United States.

The Scout Law demands that a person be Trustworthy; Loyal; Helpful; Friendly; Courteous; Kind; Obedient; Cheerful; Thrifty; Brave; Clean; and Reverent. This Defendant may be loyal to his party and the ultrawealthy like himself, but he was never trustworthy, courteous, or kind in his public affairs. His crimes show that he was not obedient. His demeanor was seldom cheerful. His only bravery took place in order to advance his political career.  

I have seen news reports that this Defendant is of “advanced age” and that he accepts responsibility for his crimes. He is 69 years old and of sound mind and body, not some feeble octogenarian. He has accepted responsibility pro forma, but shows no remorse for his crimes. Instead, he is sad for the effect they have had on his and his family’s reputations. He is sorry only that he was caught.

At the time he took his plea, he acknowledged that he knew that what he did was “illegal and improper,” yet he spent months claiming exactly the opposite. He claimed to be “sorry with regret,” but that had not stopped him from spending the period between August 2018 and 2019 predicting imminent and full exoneration. What sort of person knowingly exposes his own child to criminal jeopardy?

When confronted through this process with his criminality, this Defendant did not come clean or confess. He ran for re-election. He claimed total innocence. He spent months denying culpability and defaming anyone who suggested otherwise, including his political opponents. Not one act or omission of this Defendant’s was indicative of any acknowledgment of personal responsibility or contrition.

This Defendant’s attorneys are quoted in news reports as arguing that society will “gain no benefit” from incarcerating this “husband, father, and grandfather.” Then what of these crimes? In what way is home detention at a luxury Florida estate a deterrent to others who might engage in similar criminality?

The convicted Defendant did not serve me as Congressman with dignity or honor. His first instinct was not to obey the law, but to enrich his family, friends, and other “downstream tipees”, most of whom have somehow, miraculously, avoided legal responsibility for their own knowing criminality. This Defendant was never looking out for the people he was elected to serve. He was only looking out for his own wallet and to expand the reach and scope of his political influence.

Shame and humiliation should come naturally in a situation such as this. That is an emotional and mental process involving some degree of self-awareness and conscience. It is not enough that this Defendant feel merely shame and be confined to his mansion. This honorable Court must use this high-profile criminal as an example to others and uphold the law this Defendant so cavalierly ignored.

This Defendant’s fall is no surprise – it is what comes from such a conspicuous absence of morality and scruples. I spent years chronicling the ways in which he cheated and mistreated the most vulnerable people in western New York. I wrote of his petty arrogance – from misogynistic remarks he made to women, and illegally parking in a spot reserved for the disabled. He would attempt to disregard legislative vetoes as “null and void,” as if he was some sort of dictator. He would refuse to spend money that the legislature had duly allocated. He held private business meetings in his publicly funded office, and worked hard to ensure that people could not get the health insurance they need to survive. He played endless political games to grow his influence.

This Defendant knew he was guilty at the time of his indictment. He should have resigned immediately – that would have been the honorable and “morally straight” thing to do. Instead, he used his continued tenure in Congress as a bargaining chip – as leverage in this very case. He is – and will always be – a crook and a liar. He stole not only from the honest investors in Innate, but from the people in the 27th district who expect and are entitled to honest representation.

I urge this honorable Court to sentence this Defendant to the maximum possible sentence available under federal guidelines.

Oh Mickey, You So Lyin’

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Michael Kearns, the Erie County Clerk, is on a nativist anti-immigrant jihad that is as stupid as he. Check out this article at WGRZ. It begins, 

The Erie County clerk’s office wants a matter of possible voter fraud investigated.

You would think from that lede that notorious convicted liar-under-oath and vote fraudster Rus Thompson was again on the loose. But that’s not what happened at all. 

“This is the beginning of questioning of possible fraud,” said Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who wants the county Board of Elections to investigate what happened last week, when a Buffalo man, in the U.S. legally on a work visa, applied for and got a commercial driver’s license.

The “beginning of questionining of possible fraud” is ridiculous fascist word salad from this repulsive elected official. 

“By the time my staff alerted me of this, this gentleman has left the office the transaction was completed,” Kearns said, “I do not know whether it was a mistake or not.”

Mickey. I know this is difficult for you to comprehend, but you are a clerk. Your duties are ministerial. It is not your job to vet whether the applicant is qualified to register to vote – you take the information and you pass it along to the Board of Elections, which makes that determination. If the guy entered a fake social security number that does not match his other identifying data, then it will be rejected. 

This technically is not a situation related to the Green Light law, which allows people to apply for a standard driver’s license regardless of their citizenship or lawful status.  

“They’re asked the question, ‘Are you a citizen or not?’ If they answer yes, there is nothing right now that our staff can do,” Kearns said.

Because getting a license is dependent on paying a fee and passing a test. Registering to vote is dependent on the Board of Elections vetting the information. Mickey Kearns’ penchant for being a nativist, racist liar is not nearly as effective as Stefan Mychajliw’s, but at least he’s getting his name in the paper and really showing the Republican base that he genuinely hates immigrants, regardless of their visa status. Because, as the WGRZ report lays out, this has nothing to do with Kearns’ opposition to the Green Light Law, as this applicant could have applied for a license at literally any time prior to December 2019, and it is likely that people mistakenly complete the whole form, including the voter registration part, unwittingly and with no effect.

Mickey Kearns is using this to concern-troll and virtue-signal over the Green Light Law, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it. Maybe in the future if someone fills out a Motor Voter application in-house, your staff can check their ID. 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fascism

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Here is a portion of a speech that Donald Trump gave to the so-called “Value Voters Summit” in October 2019

We meet tonight at a crucial moment in our nation’s history.  Our shared values are under assault like never before.  Extreme left-wing radicals, both inside and outside government, are determined to shred our Constitution and eradicate the beliefs we all cherish.  Far-left socialists are trying to tear down the traditions and customs that made America the greatest nation on Earth.  They reject the principles of our Founding Fathers — principles enshrined into the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that our rights come from our creator.  

A Yale philosophy Professor juxtaposes that Trump speech with this, from 1935: 

Bolshevism is explicitly determined on bringing about a revolution among all the nations. In its own essence it has an aggressive and international tendency. But National Socialism confines itself to Germany and is not a product for export, either in its abstract or practical characteristics. Bolshevism denies religion as a principle, fundamentally and entirely. It recognises religion only as an “opium for the people.” For the help and support of religious belief, however, National Socialism absolutely places in the foreground of its programme a belief in God and that transcendental idealism which has been destined by Nature to bring to expression the racial soul of a nation. National Socialism would give the lead in a new concept and shaping of European civilisation. But the Bolshevics carry on a campaign, directed by the Jews, with the international underworld, against culture as such. Bolshevism is not merely anti-bourgeois; it is against human civilisation itself.

Contemporary Republicans embrace totalitarian, evangelical-flavored neo-fascism and falsely denounce Democrats as anti-American. This is blatant gaslighting, and every Democrat and Democratic candidate should be shouting about it as loudly as possible. Literally everything else – from medical coverage on down – matters little until this neo-fascist scourge is defeated; defeated it has always been, and defeated it shall always be. Not through arms, but at the ballot box.

This is why it’s OK, for instance, on WBEN’s air to threaten the life of a Democratic elected official with impunity. (Three weeks and WBEN remains silent). It is nihilist eliminationist right-wing nationalist neo-fascism. Tim Wenger and his crew are among its vanguard. This isn’t new. I made fun of this in 2014, when I still wrote for Artvoice, and Tim Wenger thought it funny that someone would threaten Hillary Clinton with violence. 

Protecting liberty, democracy, and the rule of law are fundamental American values. The Democratic Party is all about protecting them. Whatever the Republican Party is now, is not. 

Clarence Schools Catch Anti-Vax Fever

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Dr. Hicks –

Although I do not have children in the district anymore, I need to react to your letters to Assemblyman Norris and Senator Ranzenhofer I saw under the “legislative advocacy” section of the district website. I have a daughter who would fall under the mandate at another school, and this proposed legislation affects her.

I have seen some of what has been floating around on Facebook regarding this issue, and am aware that some parents came to the Board with issues concerning mandatory immunization as to the HPV vaccine.

Obviously, I understand that elected bodies and school administrators have a duty and responsibility to listen to community concerns. But because you are a school district and educators, I think it’s important that facts be substituted for emotion on issues such as this. I think that science trumps propaganda. Medicine beats feelings. There is no responsibility to placate people parroting pseudo-scientific quackery.

The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. There are no significant side-effects beyond what one might experience from any subcutaneous shot. There are allergy concerns which physicians and the manufacturer can address as needed. Beyond that, what we have is a safe and effective vaccine that is used to prevent transmission of a viral disease which has been proven to cause various types of cancers.

It is astounding to me that this would be something the district would be opposing under any theory. I am appalled that in 2019 this is remotely controversial. But my feelings don’t matter; facts do.

If the issue is one of parental choice, query whether those parents have also opted out of MMR or other mandated vaccines. If mumps, polio, or whooping cough are worth protecting against, why not HPV and ovarian or penile cancer?

If the issue is one of religious beliefs, what religious belief? With the possible exception of the Christian Scientists and perhaps Amish, I am unaware of any scripture that precludes the administration of the HPV vaccine to protect against infection, disease, or death.

If the issue is one of medical ethics, let the medical ethicists weigh in. Your letter cites an article from 2007, but there are myriad articles more recently published in that same AMA journal that argue in favor of HPV vaccination.

The only real difference cited is that HPV is transmitted through sexual intercourse, and viruses such as measles and other maladies against which children must be immunized, are not. So what? While I understand that it may shock the conscience of many parents to consider that an 11 year-old may someday grow up to have sexual intercourse, the purpose of vaccinations is not to protect parental sensibilities, but against preventable disease and death.

I have seen some of the online postings in support of the arguments against this mandate – most come from libertarian activist groups that oppose public schools themselves, not to mention anything that they do. Some come from blatant propaganda outlets that have no medical credentials. “Learn the Risk” is anti-vax propaganda. Brandy Vaughan isn’t a physician or pharmacist, she’s a former sales rep for Merck. The same website that Clarence parents are using as an impetus to keep their kids home from school today promotes, e.g., the pseudoscience that vaccines cause autism.

The CDC recommends that pubescent boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine. Same with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Same with the American Cancer Society. The HPV vaccine is not some sort of sinister attempt at, as some are arguing, “population control” under “the mark of the beast”. (Yes, those are direct quotes I found regarding this issue in 2019, amazingly enough.) It is proven medical science that this safe vaccine is effective in preventing the spread of HPV and the cancers it causes. I can only surmise that the biggest opposition to this proposed mandate has to do with puritanical issues surrounding sexual morality.

The HPV vaccine is not sex. It is medicine. I can only hope that these kids, when they reach the age of majority, have not involuntarily forfeited their ability to be protected against these maladies through vaccination.

The duty of a school district is to educate our children. Let the doctors deal with health and let the churches deal with scripture. The duty of our elected officials and governments is to weigh various competing issues and make decisions in the best interests of their constituents. It would be my hope that this balance and these decisions would be made based on objective, empirical fact rather than hysteria or emotion. It is my hope that these would be addressed by crediting science and medicine and discrediting propaganda, quackery, and charlatans.

I strongly support not only the inclusion of HPV in every child’s vaccine regimen, but that this vaccine be mandated by the state for all students.

A common thread I see regarding this is one of liberty and freedom. Being free from a preventable virus or cancer is more important in every way than having the freedom to assuage irrational, scientifically unsupported rumors or emotions.

Respectfully,

WBEN Caller Threatens Poloncarz

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If you took Sandy Beach, mated him with Tom Bauerle, and took away all of the experience, self-awareness, and wisdom that comes with age, you’d be left with Joe Beamer, one of the young broadcasters WBEN has brought in on the cheap to supplement its already thin-but-wide roster of right-wing outrage engineers. It is all part of a long-standing stationwide pattern that operates with the apparent support and assent of station management.

Want examples? In 2009, WBEN’s marquee yakker fantasized that there would be a civil war because librulz. WBEN has already used the publicly owned airwaves it licenses to tell its listeners in 2013 that Democrats are “worse than al-Qaeda“, so none of this is novel. (At the time, Assemblyman David DiPietro was on the phone with Bauerle and said nothing. He later forced himself to issue a milquetoast “didn’t hear it”

In 2014, at least one WBEN host openly wished for a genuine military coup against President Obama

WBEN has amplified eliminationist viewpoints for years. In February 2013 – just weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre of 1st graders, and in response to proposals for tighter gun control – WBEN used its putative straight news morning show to organize, promote, and broadcast a bus ride to an Albany pro-gun protest against Andrew Cuomo’s then-nascent NY SAFE Act. WBEN’s supposed straight news – co-hosted then and now by Wenger’s wife – established itself to be little more than a right-wing activist organization.

All it’s missing is tiki torches. There has been a pattern for years here. 

It is long past the time for Democrats to start treating WBEN as a right-wing extremist organization. 

So, what does Joe Beamer have to do with all this? Well, he was in for Sandy Beach on December 3rd and agitated against Mark Poloncarz’s announcement that Erie County would continue to welcome refugees. This being WBEN, the discussion had little to do with refugees and instead centered on “illegals”. “Dave from Lockport” called in and threatened to kill Mark Poloncarz over all of this. Mr. Beamer had absolutely nothing to offer in the way of pushback. Here’s the audio: 

After calling Poloncarz a moron, liar, and idiot for believing that Trump committed impeachable offenses, “Dave” said, addressing Poloncarz, that “if one of your illegals that you bring here to help ruin our country either hurts me or any of mine, I’m gonna come after you and yours. And you can take that to the bank, you moron.” 

OK, Boomer.

Beamer’s response to Lockport’s answer to Cesar Sayoc: that opens up a line. 

Why does WBEN continue to foment hatred and threats against Democratic politicians on the publicly owned airwaves?

Requests for comment I directed to Beamer and Tim Wenger via Twitter were not addressed.

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