Fight For Your Kids’ Education

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We’ve sprung ahead an hour, the daily temperature is routinely above freezing, which can mean only one thing: school tax plebiscite season is upon us. 

Schools are the only municipal entities that have to submit their budgets to public referendum. Kids’ educations are subject to annual taxpayer whim, unlike literally any other governmental body. Kids shouldn’t have to line streets to beg for votes. Parents shouldn’t have to worry every year whether their kids’ favorite sport, club, or desired elective will be funded or exist. 

In suburban school districts throughout New York State, school boards are engaging in a budget construction process. The administration presents financial and pedagogical realities and tries to marry the two, and solicits public input to determine how the scales should be set. This year is especially tricky for some districts because the statewide tax cap is under 1%. It is anticipated that a record number of districts throughout the state may seek a tax levy hike in excess of the cap, necessitating a supermajority of local voters’ support. 

Clarence made that attempt in 2013 and failed, while in the midst of a statewide pension funding crisis brought about by the 2008 stock market crash. It was a lesson the school board took seriously, and in the following two budget years saw levies well under the tax cap. Because Clarence has positive growth, that and other factors result in a tax cap in excess of 3%. The proposed tax levy increase for 2016 – 2017 will be 2.99% to raise the $1.3 million the district needs. 

In all, the Clarence district has been extremely careful and frugal since the 2013 crisis, when a failed above-cap budget saw dozens of teaching and staff layoffs. Hundreds of kids lost myriad opportunities as a result of abandoned electives and overcrowded classrooms. 

Monday night, the Clarence Board of Education meeting featured three distinct presentations: how to spend a $2 million state technology grant, recommendations from a music curriculum task force, and the third budget construction meeting. As always, there was a small contingent of people who belong to a local anti-tax group that seems only to concern itself with school taxes, not any others. 

At Monday’s meeting, one member of the anti-taxers queried why the district needed the $2 million to buy iPads and laptops for classrooms. Did this mean the district couldn’t afford its tech needs because the teachers were overpaid? Why did the district need a state grant for this spending? 

The answer, of course, is that a state grant to a district is on a “use it or lose it” basis. Also, this grant is a result of a statewide referendum. In order to qualify for the grant, the district needs to come up with a plan, present it to the community, and submit it to the state for approval. It is a single shot of cash to bring classrooms into the 21st century, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the district’s ability to pay for it out of its operating budget. Indeed, all technology spending is done in partnership with the state. The anti-tax folks were misinformed and wrong about what this spending represented, but they tried to make it seem sinister. 

The music task force noted that participation in choral, orchestral, and band is steady or up throughout the district. Our music program is excellent and attracts not only kids from within the district, but acts as a magnet for families who come to Clarence because of it. Here were two eye-opening slides: 

The lesson ratio for some instruments is closer to 16:1, rather than the ideal 4:1, and the task force recommended hiring one teacher each for the band, orchestral, and choral programs, as well as a teacher’s aide to help with the larger ensembles. 

This then segued into the third and final budget construction presentation, which noted the Albany budget process was underway. With the budget due by April 1st, and both the Assembly and Senate had put forth proposals more generous than Governor Cuomo’s, it was likely that districts would get more aid than anticipated. 

Since 2013, the district has bent over backwards to appease the anti-tax people who came out in droves to oppose the above-cap budget. This presentation represents the third consecutive below-cap budget, with a modest tax levy increase of under 3%. This enables the district to maintain current staffing levels and class sizes, and if the state grants more aid, the administration recommends applying the money back into the fund balance for a rainy day – and this is a rainy year for many districts. 

While past projections have called for a drop in enrollment, this year’s kindergarten class was larger than anticipated, and elementary enrollment is expected to level off sooner than expected. 

The median home price in Clarence is $250,000, and a house of that value would see a school tax increase of $70/year, which comes out to 19 cents per day, or $5.83/month. Last year, a massive town-wide re-assessment took place just days before the school budget plebiscite. Most homes saw their assessments go up, but this means that the tax rate has dropped dramatically, as set forth here: 

Spending for next year is up 3% because wages are up 3%. The anti-tax people hone in on this as unsustainable or excessive – that 75% of the school budget is dedicated to payroll. But schools don’t manufacture widgets; they educate kids. This must be done with teachers – without them, there’s no school. 

Nationwide, there is a teacher shortage. Low pay, public scapegoating and lack of support, and a reliance on testing has turned the teaching profession into an unattractive one throughout the country. Not so much, however, in New York, where teachers are paid reasonably well, compared to other places. If the anti-tax people had their way, teacher pay would simply stagnate or drop. That would lead to teacher abandonment of the district in favor of better pay and benefits. One person took to the microphone to ask why teachers didn’t voluntarily give up pay and benefits in order to help fund the additional personnel the music department needs. You don’t attract the best teachers by scapegoating them every year and demanding that they forfeit money that they’ve earned. 

The budget proposal underscored the financial stability and concern for tax fatigue that threatened the district 3 years ago. Only a small pack of die-hards can oppose with s atraight face a below-cap levy increase with a drop in the tax rate. 

Another issue that came up was a contract renewal with the school administrators’ union. During the 2013 crisis, the administrators voluntarily re-opened their contract and took two years’ worth of a pay freeze to help the district. The administrators got a pay raise of 2.95% over the next three years. One anti-school commentator queried how the district could justify that. 

Two members of the school board were elected in 2013 during the budget crisis, and both of them advocated a vote against the above-cap budget, pledging to work for sustainability of school taxes and budgets. Both of them voted in favor of the administrators’ contract, noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed wage growth of about 2.2%, and this was within a range they could support for the district’s hard-working personnel. The anti-tax demagogue alleged that this was not happening in the private sector, and that the majority of Erie County residents worked for government. 

That, however, isn’t true. By my calculation, about 10% of Erie County workers are employees of the federal, state, or county governments. If you factor in municipal hires, that number probably grows somewhat, but not to over 50%. If the facts don’t back your assertion up, you can’t make up data.

Nowhere nearly enough parents show up for board of education meetings in most places. There’s nothing more important to a parent than their kids’ education, and when a school board is in its fourth year of being under assault by people not embarrassed to lie and manipulate data in order to make a false point, parents need to stand up and fight. If you’re in Clarence, please join Keep Clarence Schools Great. If you live in another municipality, let’s talk about how we combat WBEN-type anti-school rhetoric to ensure that kids’ educations aren’t sacrificed at the altar of stasis. 

Chaos and Trump: A Perfect Pair

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A lie 

gets halfway around the world

before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

There is a woman shown in a picture from the Chicago anti-Trump action, decked out in Trump memorabilia giving a Hitlergruß. Someone took to the internet to say that it was a set-up; that she’s really a Sanders plant. While we have no idea if she is or isn’t a Sanders plant, it’s not Portia Boulger, whom Donald Trump, Jr. publicly identified her to be. Ms. Boulger was in Chillicothe, IL when the rioting in Chicago happened. It’s a lie. It’s also defamation. 

The Chicago rallies have been cheered/concern-trolled as good for Donald Trump

For some strange reason, despite the fact that their positions on issues differ only slightly (if at all) from Donald Trump’s, no violence has taken place at campaign rallies for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. The reason has to do with the fact that neither of those candidates have specifically appealed to people’s worst fears and prejudices like Trump has. Neither of them have incited or condoned violence by their supporters towards anyone else. 

Ted Cruz is 100% worse for America than Trump, yet his followers don’t routinely assault & batter people. Curious, that.

Holding up an anti-Trump sign at a campaign rally isn’t an invitation to assault. Or a sucker-punch. Or a lynching. 

In the 20s and 30s, the Nazis sent gangs of thugs to break up rallies. The Freikorps and, later, the SA, fought in the streets against Jews, immigrants, the SPD, and Communists. They also held rallies of their own to demand a restoration of German greatness in the face of its destruction at the hands of a foreign “other” that must be destroyed. Black Lives Matter is Trump‘s Versaillesdiktat – his convenient excuse to keep inciting more violence. Chicago was Trump’s Reichstag fire – blame BLM and other “leftists” for protesting a person who has targeted them as “thugs” who deserve to be beaten, deported, excluded, or killed. 

I have no doubt whatsoever that history will prove that the way in which Chicago was handled was carefully engineered stagecraft by the Trump people. They needed to flip the story on the violence at these rallies, and instead of asking the candidate to stop inciting it, they decided that nightly news footage of a rally shut down by protesters would serve Trump’s narrative of a valiant, all-American “us” vs. a foreign “them”. Trump appeals to a particular audience. 

Trump took his violent circus to an actual big, diverse city. It was in the downtown – not at an airport hangar, where access can be more carefully controlled. He has inflamed the passions of the people he has targeted as the “other”, at whom all of his – and his supporters’ – hatred is directed. For some reason, people seem not to take kindly to being scapegoated for all of the problems in America. It’s not the first time Trump‘s gone down this road. Back in 1989, he all but called for the lynching of the Central Park Five, all of whom were later found to have been innocent and wrongfully accused, tried, and convicted. Innocent

I’m going to go out on a limb and conclude that Donald Trump, Jr. doesn’t Tweet shit out about an innocent old lady as a Sanders plant in Trump regalia giving the Hitlergruss unless it’s part of the campaign narrative. The picture is an integral part of the message being pushed.

Donald Trump set all of these events in motion, and he is being advised by some of the dirtiest tricksters in American politics today. Do not for a moment think that today’s spin about Chicago hasn’t played right into the hands of the singular candidate who relies on racialist chaos to get ahead. 

American Fascism

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I caught myself engaged in a debate over Donald Trump and fascism one recent morning. It all started when a conservative friend of mine posted this: 

Technically, “Socialism” would be everyone pooling money together to get that guy his own sign. Someone responded to me, channeling Joe the Plumber, “not when the government is the one enforcing socialism. The government is the one that pools the money to hand it out to everyone.” I replied, “I don’t see a lot of people complaining about their socialized roads, socialized military, Social Security, Medicare, or other big, bad, evil socialist things. Social democracy, or democratic socialism, is the radical idea that people’s taxes should go to pay for things that people use.” 

When confronted with my lack of humor, I replied that, “it would be funny if it remotely reflected anything that Bernie Sanders advocates or stands for. This is just silly and banal.” My friend then retorted, “Like an out of context still frame of people raising their right hands at a Trump rally?”

Now, we get to the meat of this thing. 

I don’t know whether Donald Trump is, in reality, a fascist. If he’s not, he’s doing a spot-on impression of one; he plays one on TV. If Donald Trump isn’t a fascist, he is awakening an especially American form of fascism that is quite ugly, and he’s doing it by using the tools, propaganda, and drama of early 20th century fascist movements. Before you accuse me of violating Godwin’s Law, consider what this campaign has been all about. 

It has been about this: 

and this:

from a different angle:

Back on Facebook, I addressed the photo of people raising their right hands at a Trump rally. What was that, exactly? 

It was a loyalty oath; a pledge of allegiance to a person, rather than, e.g., a flag or a principle or the Constitution. This is what happened in Germany in 1934, after Hindenburg’s death and the unification of the Chancellery and the Presidency.

Since 1942, when you give the pledge of allegiance, you put you hand over your heart. Before 1942, you gave the “Bellamy salute”, named after the author of the pledge, it had you do this: 

Raising your right hand in a salute to a Leader who puts his hand up half-way in order to somewhat catch it hearkens back to something very sinister. Trump keeps doing it at his rallies, and when interviewed about it on the Today Show, pretended like he didn’t know anybody had a problem with it. Yet the day before, Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League specifically called Trump out on this.
 

“As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America,” Foxman said. “It is a fascist gesture.”

“He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him,”

On NBC, Trump explained away his salute by saying that people “love it”. Well, German people loved it in 1934, too. When you pair that with the things that he’s said about Mexicans, and Muslims, and women, the parallels are far too close for this to be treated as innocent. Trump knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s too interested in winning to care that he’s – among other things – scaring the shit out of Holocaust survivors. GOP pols are expert at blowing dog-whistles, but I’m afraid this one is calling a dog no one wants to see come running. 

The rebuttal was that people raise their hands all the time in non-sinister ways – to become citizens, or to be called on in class, or to vote on something. 

But there’s a difference. To become a citizen, you raise your right hand and swear this: 

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Nothing there about fealty to the President in general, or to Obama in particular – or to any person specifically. When you’re raising your hand to be called on, you’re not pledging a loyalty blood oath to any person, nor is it the same as a Leader at a podium, exhorting his followers to pledge a loyalty oath to him. In response, I was told that criticisms such as mine only feed the Trump monster, and bolster his support, but I’m not going to apologize for criticizing the fascist because it fuels his followers.

Again, this is a parallel to Germany in the 1930s; if you criticize the Nazis for their anti-Semitism, it only made the Nazis stronger (and you’d find yourself under an S.A. boot). The problem isn’t necessarily just with Trump’s exploitation of hatred and bigotry, it’s with the underlying hatred and bigotry itself. Trump isn’t the only problem, his followers are the real problem, and quite frankly now we see how popular fascism is when it comes to America, wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. It only happens to be about 90 years late.

Hannah Arendt, I suspect, would have much to say on the matter.

Locally, another para-fascist degenerate, Carl Paladino, decided to take to his favorite medium – email – to threaten New York’s Republican Congressional delegation into supporting Donald Trump. So far, only Chris Collins (NY-27) – who finds himself in hot water of his own for his “business acumen” – has swallowed the Trump pill. 

Paladino’s email reads like something your racist uncle forwards to you and 50 other people

Paladino said he sent an email blast to 50,000 supporters on Tuesday after a series of unsuccessful phone calls to convince New York’s eight other Republican House members to support Trump. So far, Collins has stood alone in his endorsement.

Trump has said that New York, and its large number of Republican delegates up for grabs in the April 19 primary, is a key to his strategy to win the GOP nomination for president. Trump boasted on CNN last month that in Upstate New York, “I’m like the most popular person that has ever lived, virtually.”

In his email, Paladino said of the eight GOP House members: “None of you is a profile in courage…You cannot stay neutral any longer; it conflicts with your job description.”

He added, “You are supposed to make decisions in the best interests of your constituents. They’re angry. It’s a festering anger, built up over the years by a smoke and mirrors government working to keep the political class comfortably feeding at the public trough.”

Says the guy whose business relies in part on rent from the state, and tax breaks and “incentives”. 

“This is the beginning,” Paladino said of Tuesday’s email. “This is the nice one. It’s going to get worse for those that continue to hold out. I’m being nice.”

Asked how he will increase pressure, Paladino said, “I’ll up the ante a little bit more in the next one I send. For those that continue to hold out, I will do everything I can to marginalize them. People like to read what their representatives are doing”…

…Others contacted by Paladino include Reps. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook; Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld; and Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island. Paladino said he also tried unsuccessfully to speak with Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, whose name he mispronounced.

“They’re treacherous,” Paladino said of the New York Republican House members. “They’re all a bunch of RINOs (Republican In Name Only). They are not doing the will of the people.”

Says the guy who contributes to Democrats. 

Accusing people of being disloyal? Calling on the mob to react as you “up the ante” in successive email blasts? I’m trying to remember what other major 20th century political ideology relied on hatred, insults, and intimidation to gain power. 

Godwin’s Law isn’t applicable here: fascism has arrived. My congressman supports it.

It’s doing great in the polls, winning Republican primaries, and going so far as to pimp Leader-branded water, wine, and steaks at political rallies. Mein Steaks. 

Make no mistake: if you endorse or support this fascist, you own it. You own every bit of this behavior, because you can’t say you weren’t warned, and you can’t weasel your way out of it by cherry-picking the stuff about Trump you like from what you pretend you don’t. You own all of it, Nick Langworthy. You own all of it, Carl Paladino. You own all of it, Chris Collins. 

Wozniak’s Attempt at Damage Control

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You wouldn’t let a PR professional represent you in court, so don’t have a lawyer do your PR for you. Especially when it comes out looking like a hostage video, grainy video, bad sound, frightened look and all. 

Everything about this is as ill-considered as Wozniak’s original brilliant decision to cheat on her husband with her legislative aide, or to then have her lawyer demolish her paramour in the press when he tried to break it off. 

It’s customary for the hostage in the video to be holding up today’s paper to establish proof of life.

Now What for the Wozniak Seat?

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The Assembly’s bipartisan Ethics and Guidance Commission censured Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak (C, 143) on Wednesday. Wozniak and her legislative aide Elias Farah had an inappropriate, adulterous affair, and when Farah tried to break it off, she harassed him, defamed him, and made it impossible for him to perform the functions of his job. 

Longtime listeners of the Howard Stern show know that “143” is a code for “I love you”, which Sal Governale’s wife texted to her “emotional friend”. That storyline fed the Stern show for months, and made it into Sarah Silverman’s lyrics for “Stop the Clock”, performed at Stern’s 60th birthday bash a few years ago. It would seem that New York’s Assembly district 143 seat, covering Cheektowaga and Lancaster, has somehow become a magnet for inappropriate, pervy behavior. 

Dennis Gabryszak resigned from the state Assembly in January 2014 when a parade of former female staffers accused – some sued – him of inappropriate and sexist conduct. Those accusations became public in late 2013, and Albany “ethics” boards recenty fined him $100,000 for his behavior. 

While there’s little question that Gabryszak’s own creepy behavior cost him that seat, cognoscenti theorize that the Steve Pigeon axis carefully coordinated that Gabryszak takedown to help Tim Kennedy in his September 2014 primary rematch against Betty Jean Grant. With Gabryszak out, there was an open (D) seat up for grabs. Since there exists overlap of A-143 and SD-63 – notably in Cheektowaga – the nasty (D) Assembly brawl between Mark Mazurek and Camille Brandon worked nicely to help Kennedy decisively defeat Grant after an embarrassingly close call two years earlier. 

Registered member of the Conservative fusion Party Angela Wozniak succeeded Gabryszak. Her tenure has been largely unremarkable and uneventful, except for that time she went to a Lancaster school board meeting to demagogue against LGBT rights while quite clearly having little idea what she was talking about. 

Wozniak’s win in a traditionally Democratic stronghold was pretty significant, seen as a huge get for ECGOP chair Nick Langworthy and Conservative fusion chair Ralph Lorigo. She was going to fight for the taxpayer. She was going to clean up Albany and “fight” the “status quo”. She was going to advocate for term limits, fight corruption, and institute “the nation’s toughest ethics plan”. 

Being the second consecutive A-143 Assemblyman to be sanctioned for ethical violations arising out of sexual misconduct is pretty much a facile maintenance of the status quo. 

Wozniak’s accuser, Elias Farah, is a Republican who recently ran for county legislature. There has been a flurry of hateful criticism thrown his way by Republican insiders, mostly because all of this must be embarrasing for a pol who ran on an anti-corruption platform. 

Reports indicate, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s letter confirms that Wozniak, “entered a consensual sexual relationship with her director of legislation in June 2015. The staffer objected to and tried to stop the sexual nature of the relationship, which ended after Wozniak told her husband. The report found Wozniak banned the staffer from working in the district office or attending community meetings she was at.” 

The report found Wozniak spoke negatively of the staffer to damage his job performance, and her counsel told reporters the name of the staffer and used the press to tarnish him further by saying she’d go after “anyone who maliciously defamed her.” The report says inconsistencies between both parties made it hard to determine if this was quid pro quo sexual harassment by Wozniak.

Certainly any report on “ethics” coming from a contemporary Assembly-run corruption watchdog should be taken with a grain of salt, as there is a long history of the Assembly coddling and protecting harassers. In 2007, Republican Assemblyman Mike Cole was similarly censured for getting drunk at a party and sleeping on a female intern’s apartment floor. While he insisted nothing happened, he lost the Republican nomination to Jane Corwin the following year. 

It’s hard to see a path forward to Wozniak here. She promised the people of Cheektowaga that she would be different; that she would end the corruption and ethical lapses that led to her predecessor’s downfall. Yet here she is, two years later, accused of sexual harassment. The sanctions against her include

That a letter of admonition be issued publicly to Assemblymember Wozniak by the Speaker on behalf of the Assembly, enumerating the findings of the Committee, and indicating that Assemblymember Wozniak’s conduct violated the Assembly’s Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation as it pertains to retaliation and is inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which members of the Assembly should be held;

That’s pretty toothless, but damning nonetheless. 

That Assemblymember Wozniak is hereby directed to cease publicizing details of the investigation and to cease making disparaging statements against her former Director of Legislation, unless reasonably necessary to defend herself in the event of any claims brought against her in an administrative agency or a court of law.

This one is significant. Her lawyer, HoganWillig’s Steve Cohen, went out of his way to try this thing in the media. As of right now, Farah has not filed a lawsuit against Wozniak or anyone else for what happened to him, so the viciousness with which he’s been attacked by has been puzzling. 

That the Assembly will make efforts to place Assemblymember Wozniak’s former Director of Legislation into a comparable job with comparable pay and benefits and until such placement has been made, he shall receive pay at the same rate at which he was earning during his employment, beginning February 9, 2016 through and including February 8, 2017, or the end of Assemblymember Wozniak’s term, whichever is sooner.  All such pay is to be allotted solely from Assemblymember Wozniak’s staff budget, and her staff budget shall not be increased from its current amount;

That is par for the course for any complaining victim of workplace sexual harassment, whose perpetrator has jeopardized his job. 

That Assemblymember Wozniak is precluded from having any interns working in her Assembly office or her district office; this prohibition applies to interns assigned by the Assembly as well as any interns that might be engaged through unofficial channels;

Angela Wozniak is not trusted to have free student labor in her office. 

That an independent investigator conduct climate surveys of all of Assemblymember Wozniak’s Assembly employees at least semi-annually to ensure that there is no repeat of the conduct; and

That Assemblymember Wozniak be required to attend immediate and comprehensive supplemental sexual harassment and retaliation prevention training.

One tidbit that most people missed came in October from Time Warner Cable News. It appears that Farah is represented by Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei, a favorite of Steve Pigeon’s. Bartolomei also represents several of the complainants against Dennis Gabryszak. If the theory set forth above is true, could it be that the Pigeon team is working to get one of theirs back into the Assembly? The plan would have been for Mark Mazurek to take the seat, and his sister has been quite famously aligned with Pigeon in recent years – just Google, “Preetsmas + Mazurek“. That didn’t go as planned, so now they have to fix the Wozniak mistake. 

So far, two Democrats have announced bids for A-143; Jim Rogowski and Monica Wallace. Wallace is a former law clerk for federal judge Richard Arcara, and is now a lecturer at UB School of Law. Rogowski is a Cheektowaga town councilman. It’s not hard to decipher which one might have the backing of the Pigeon squad: 

That Tweet is from January 2014 – right after Gabryszak’s resignation.

Rogowski didn’t run, and neither did Kristy Mazurek – but her brother did, and lost. So, try, try again.

Rogowski’s election disclosures show contributions from a PAC controlled by a Pigeon associate, and Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats. He donated $60 to Cheektowaga’s “Right Democratic Team”, which is still out of compliance (read: breaking the law) by not filing campaign disclosure of any sort since the 2015 11 day pre-primary report. By my last count, the “Right Democratic Team” has failed to account for over $2,000 that others say they donated to it. Max’s crew does the same thing

Now, that figure approaches $4,000 that other people say they contributed to the “Right Democratic Team“, which never disclosed more than $125. 

Click to enlarge

Suffice it to say that if you think corruption in Albany is remotely important, these aren’t the people with whom you want to associate. That failure to disclose isn’t some sloppy mistake – it’s deliberate and calculated. 

As for Wozniak’s transgressions, Democratic candidate Monica Wallace released the following: 

Angela Wozniak’s misconduct as determined by the Assembly Ethics Committee is inexcusable and a textbook reminder of what is wrong with Albany. It is especially shocking that a legislator who ran on a platform of family values and personal ethics should be sanctioned for precisely the behavior she once condemned. This wasn’t just bad judgment; it was unethical and illegal.

This kind of conduct has no place in Albany or anywhere else. The people of this District expect and deserve an elected official who is as hard-working, honest, and principled as they are. We are tired of the culture of scandal and corruption that has undermined the public’s faith in state government. It is time for leadership this community can be proud of. 

It would seem that the voters in A-143 have a clear choice this year when it comes to ethics.

Time-Out

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Coming soon: Time-Out Tuesday. 

Courtesy of Marquil at EmpireWire.com

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.

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