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. 

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.

Oh, Mickey, What A Pity You Don’t Understand

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The “Green Light” statute, enacted earlier this year, will permit undocumented immigrants to obtain a New York State driver’s license. It goes into effect in mid-December. It is not – and should not – be a DMV apparatchik’s job to determine who is or is not eligible to be present in the United States. Undocumented immigrants would be able to obtain standard licenses that are not compliant with Real ID, and would be marked “Not for Federal Purposes.” 

Republican Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns declared that he would not issue licenses under the duly enacted state statute. Earlier this year, he brought a lawsuit in his individual and official capacities challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “Green Light” law. On Friday, United States District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford dismissed Kearns’ lawsuit in its entirety, ruling that he does not have standing to bring the lawsuit, and that the Court therefore does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. 

Wolford Decision by Alan Bedenko on Scribd

That afternoon, Kearns held a press conference. There, he did his best Donald Trump impression. His behavior was unbecoming of an elected official. His declarations and  his clumsy, ignorant analysis of Judge Wolford’s decision would have made a 1L blush. Kearns’ reaction was absolutely astonishing. 

Here is the first page of Kearns’ prepared remarks: 

Before I get to the substance of what is written on that page, it bears mentioning that the law bifurcates two overall types of government officials: your job is either ministerial or discretionary; that is to say you either implement policy, or you get to have a say in its creation. When Mickey Kearns was an Assemblyman, his role was discretionary, and he had a say in the legislative process. A county clerk does not set policy; he does not have a discretionary governmental role. He has a set of duties he is charged by law to fulfill, and he is to do so as accurately and efficiently as he cares to do. A county clerk is not a diner at some sort of legislative cafeteria, where he can pick and choose the laws, (subject to his jurisdiction) that he feels like carrying out. 

Kearns has staked out a position as the Kim Davis of driver’s licenses. Just as that Kentucky clerk had a legal responsibility and duty to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kearns has a duty to follow New York’s Green Light. This is not dissimilar from when Sheriff Tim Howard declared that he would not follow the New York SAFE Act, but individual police offers do generally retain some degree of discretion. Kearns does not. Imagine if Kearns claimed some sort of opposition to, say, charging recording fees for deeds. He has no more right to ignore the Green Light law than he has to ignore any other law that has applicability in his office. 

In his prepared remarks, Kearns said 

Well, if Kearns had bothered to read the entire 32 pages, Judge Wolford made it perfectly clear when “the hell” they are open, and why they are not now. 

Kearns is wrong – the Judge did not tell him he has to issue driver’s licenses to anyone, but a New York State statute does. When he complains that “County Clerks” have to either be “prosecuted or removed from office,” Kearns omits a key option: the clerks could also choose to follow the law. I guarantee you that Judge Wolford is in a better position to determine whether and when Kearns can bring this lawsuit than he. Likewise, she is better positioned to opine as to the constitutionality of the state statute than he. 

Judge Wolford decided that Kearns has no standing because there’s no injury to him in his individual or official capacity. As a result, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Kearns’ claims that he could go to jail, having run afoul of immigration law, or removed from office by Governor Cuomo for not following the state statute, were ridiculous, speculative, or both. Judge Wolford noted that there have been no federal prosecutions of DMV commissioners in states where undocumented immigrants already have access to licenses. The Judge also held that a person such as Kearns would have to be under a threat of prosecution under and pursuant to the state law being challenged. By contrast, Kearns was claiming he could be prosecuted under a different, federal law.

Judge Wolford also held that Kearns’ alleged potential removal from office would also be pursuant to a different statute, and wholly speculative. The Court noted that removal of a County Clerk is always within the Governor’s powers: 

Article 13, §13(a) of the New York State Constitution grants the Governor of New York the ability to remove from office “any elective sheriff, county clerk, district attorney or register,” so long as the official in question is provided “a copy of the charges against him or her and an opportunity of being heard in his or her defense.” 

What constitutes the basis for removal is wholly within the Governor’s discretion. The Court then set forth the ridiculousness of Kearns’ argument: 

According to Plaintiff’s logic, if the mere theoretical possibility of removal under Article 13, §13(a) was sufficient to confer standing, any elected official covered by Article 13, §13(a) would be able to automatically create Article III standing simply by declaring his or her intention not to comply with a law with which he or she personally disagreed. Such a conclusion is wholly inconsistent with the fundamental standing requirement of, at a minimum, an imminent injury-in-fact. 

No such injury was shown to exist. 

During the question-and-answer portion of Kearns’ Friday press conference, he claimed that implentation of the Green Light Law would cost taxpayers $700,000. There exists no basis for that, and it defies common sense and logic. If, suddenly, a new classification of resident is permitted to pay for a license, revenues will go up. Even the right-wing Comptroller’s June report, which clumsily attempted to denigrate the Green Light Law, did not assert a particular dollar figure with respect to any supposed cost of implementation. There is not so much as a dollar sign contained therein. It is a political document, not a financial one. 

It remains risible to see Kearns, whose Irish roots are obvious, and Mychajliw, who touts his immigrant background every time he breathes, take such a Bannonite anti-immigrant position. 

Kearns went on to assert that Judge Wolford “punted” on ruling on the merits of the case; Mickey Kearns, who has no background in psychology or psychoanalysis, undertook a garbageman’s psychoanalysis of the Judge, indicating she didn’t want to rule on the merits – that she was, “so afraid to rule on the merits of this case.” 

That’s not how this works. The Judge didn’t have to consider the merits of a lawsuit you did not have the right to bring. Indeed, she did rule on the merits, in a way – she decided that you lack standing, and them’s the merits. This wasn’t some sort of hypertechnical procedural ruling on an improperly filed form, a blown deadline, or a word out of place – this was as “on the merits” as this Judge could get on this case.

She did not have to rule on the constitutionality of the Green Light statute because there existed no one before the Court with the capacity to challenge it. 

If, as he claimed, Kearns wanted a “showdown” on the constitutionality of the Green Light Law, then he should have found a way to be aggrieved by it.

Mickey Kearns is an embarrassment. He seems wholly unqualified and unwilling to act as Erie County Clerk. We could have elected Steve Cichon or Angela Marinucci, and instead we have this barely sentient individual running around trying to stick it to immigrants. That he is still at least nominally a Democrat is an outrage. While it may be technically not possible formally to expel someone from the Erie County Democratic Committee, it should be done – even if just for show. Let the Republicans have this person, as he clearly more closely hews to their anti-immigrant positions. 

The Clerk serves for four years. Kearns was elected in 2018. Let’s make his first full term his last in this office and send him to the dreaded private sector he has so vigorously avoided. 

Lloyd Should Not Be Canceled

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There’s an election coming up next week. Obviously, this means that Buffalonians are expressing their political preferences through tortillas.

As we already know, Lloyd served food at the ICE detention facility in Batavia last week. This resulted in a left-wing reaction and threats of boycotts. As we also know, Lloyd reacted positively to that reaction, issuing an apology and donating the proceeds from that outing to a local refugee organization. 

Immediately, Lloyd was branded by bad-faith right wingers as anti-law enforcement generally, and a massive, viral online boycott campaign ensued. One Facebook group has accumulated almost 4,000 members in a few short days. Anecdotal reports reveal that Lloyd was not treated well at the Bills Game. On Monday, Lloyd’s owners held a press conference to apologize yet again, trying desperately to halt a quickening downward spiral. Although it was an odd, belated effort at crisis management, they declared

We serve all communities, we go to all neighborhoods, we are not political. Why would we be? How can any business choose sides in our politically divided country and ever hope to succeed? We make tacos — not war.

As I wrote last weekI think it’s ok if Lloyd serves food at the Batavia facility. After all, it’s not just ICE prison guards who work there, but custodial staff, administrative staff, attorneys for the detainees, and the detainees’ families that would all be able to buy food. I also think that it’s ok if Lloyd decides never to do that again. I think it’s ok for people to not think it’s ok for Lloyd to serve prison guards, and for Lloyd to respond to them as it did — by apologizing. 

The difference between selling a taco to the general public outside of the ICE detention center and giving away thousands in free food for a Tim Howard fundraiser speaks for itself.

Once a business picks a side in politics or the culture war, that business will face an inevitable backlash. Look at Chik-fil-A. Look at the wedding facilities and vendors that refuse service to same-sex couples. Look at Deep South Taco. But that backlash should, in theory, be less acute now that the people who agree will flock there. Conservative evangelicals, for instance, love to own the libs with Chik-fil-A, and to defend the “religious freedom” of places that discriminate against LGBTQ people. So, if a business responds to pressure from a group on the left, can it expect the same level of support? 

As stupid as you may think this whole nacho-flavored proxy war is – and it is stupid – there are several issues that have been neatly distilled in Buffalo in the last few days that merit at least a cursory examination: 

1. If you bring pressure to bear on a person or entity to encourage it to undertake some ethical or political act or omission, this may result in unintended harm. It may rise to the level of existential threat for that business. Be mindful of this unless your goal is to destroy the business itself.

2. If the business upon whom that pressure (e.g., threats of boycotts, pickets, etc.) reacts positively, and bad things start happening to it, a concomitant show of support for that business’ positive reaction would be fair. If not from a non-profit organization, then at least from the most visible and vocal community leaders who pushed for the ethical change in the first place. If you threatened a viral negative consequence against the business and it reacted positively, then why not offer some positive viral reinforcement

3. If you refuse or fail to offer positive reinforcement for good decisions, then that business is up a trapeze with no safety net. This communicates to others that your threats are empty. You can’t boycott a place you don’t patronize. If you threaten the stick and then withhold the carrot, you’re just stirring controversy without regard for the people who depend on that business for their livelihoods; in this case that includes immigrants and refugees. 

If, as the tired trope goes, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” then never mind the Guevara wannabes, for they are few. If your critics reject, ab initio, your very existence, then it’s probably best to ignore and quietly continue to do your thing. When they insist to all and sundry that “brands are not your friends,” then don’t try to be. 

The Battle of Rocket Sauce Ridge made the New York Times, and I highlight this passage, 

“There is no aspect of immigration detention that can survive without for-profit businesses,” said Jennifer Connor, executive director of Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York, an advocacy organization in Buffalo. “I think businesses have to decide what their values are and what kinds of stands they are going to take. There is no not-political stance.”

Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York is the organization to which Lloyd pledged to donate the proceeds of its objectionable Batavia stop. But do all businesses have to “decide what their values are” and “what kinds of stands they are going to take?” Is there a “not-political stance?” Does your plumber or electrician or spin class leader need to pass an ideological purity test? Your taco joint? There exists also a difference between a personal decision to avoid an objectionable business and an organized boycott. 

The first sentence above notes that “immigration detention” cannot “survive without for-profit businesses.” Few things can. A facile slippery-slope argument could be made whereby we wonder where that ends – do restaurants run background checks on patrons to make sure they’re not serving someone who works for ICE? There exist myriad businesses that do not take political stands, others do overtly, and still others do so quietly. Dick’s Sporting Goods loudly decided to stop selling guns. The foundation run by the founders of Chik-fil-A quietly donates to homophobes. Lloyd is a small local business, wholly unlike Dick’s or Chik-fil-A. Deep South Taco donates free food to fundraise for Sheriff Tim Howard. When people criticized Deep South, its conservative owner doubled down and was unapologetic. The critics boycotted. As the Supreme Court ruled, how you spend your money is political speech.

I try to direct how I spend my money by patronizing good actors in the marketplace and not rewarding bad actors. I prefer small local businesses over megachains. I eat Lloyd, but not Deep South. But that’s not the same as a threat of boycott.

What if the owner of Deep South had relented- apologized and made a donation to a non-profit that promotes some social justice? Would its critics have uttered a word of encouragement about spending money there? The power of a boycott is only as strong as the willingness to spend the money. As a personal example, Carl Paladino could be revealed tomorrow to be the messiah and I’d still never park in an Ellicott Lot or buy things at one of his “Trading Company” locations. This leaves me with a sense of satisfaction, but ultimately powerless to influence Paladino’s or Ellicott Development’s behavior because I won’t willingly or knowingly spend money there, no matter what. 

On Facebook and Twitter, I shared someone else’s thoughts about what happened with Lloyd between the time of its original apology for the Batavia / ICE outing and Monday’s re-apology presser. While the pro-ICE brigades mounted a viral anti-Lloyd holy war – unfairly branding Lloyd to be anti-law enforcement writ large, the people and groups who were originally critical of its Batavia outing said and did nothing to support it; to cushion the blow. Lloyd did the right thing and no one had its back.

That’s not to say Lloyd will suddenly do business with no conscience or moral outlook – just that it’s going to be more careful about what it does and to whom it reacts – once bitten, twice shy.

This being Buffalo, the counter-arguments ranged from bare insults to inanity to wild mischaracterizations. The inane likened Lloyd – a locally owned small business – to Target or Wal-Mart. The bad-faith commentators – the erstwhile pals who lobbed ad hominem attacks about my physical appearance and those too insecure in their own argument to @ reply me, were, as always, a treat. For instance:

The “Lloyds ICE fiasco…” isn’t the “fault of the ‘progressive community'” and no one said it was. Lloyd made its own decision and has to live with it; it chose to react positively to pressure from people and groups that didn’t have its back when the chips were down. This is apparently a lesson Lloyd had fully absorbed and digested by Monday. Lloyd has debts to pay, rents to pay, hundreds of employees – many of them immigrants and refugees themselves – to pay. Lloyd serves food. Does that have to be a political act? Not really. Lloyd’s owners could, of course, donate time, goods, and services to groups and causes they believe in. Indeed, I’m sure they do. Whether they choose to make a big deal about it is their business.

So was all of this really about redirecting Lloyd’s behavior, or about something else? Conceding that Lloyd has a reputation generally as a good corporate citizen, critics of the ICE stop could have reached out privately to Lloyd’s easily accessible owners with a “not cool” and redirected Lloyd in a way that would have not resulted in a firestorm. The whole thing could have been handled in a way that achieved the stated goal of advocating for companies to avoid ICE while minimizing harm to Lloyd and its employees. No business is going to risk public humiliation and widespread boycott for an entity that doesn’t have its back.

Once you demand that businesses take a visible and public political stand, you expose that business to blowback from reactionaries. If you’re quick to punish bad behavior, yet withhold support for good behavior, the business is going to learn from that example and not support you or heed your advice again.

You don’t have to believe in capitalism, by the way, to understand the simple point here. Any parent can tell you the value of positive reinforcement for good behavior. 

We can all agree that Lloyd is better at making food than handling crisis communications. I don’t know who has won from all of this. Certainly refugees, immigrants, and inmates in Batavia have gained nothing. Lloyd has gained nothing. Last week’s critics have gained nothing, except a pledge of a donation and perhaps some moral satisfaction. So, cui bono?

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Tacogate II: Censure Mychajliw

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Republicans love to complain about what they term “political correctness,” often going so far as to assert that being empathetic or mindful of others’ feelings is destroying western civilization as we know it. 

Except, of course, when there’s some virtue signaling (another favorite right-wing trope) of their own to do. 

This week, Lloyd sent a taco truck to the Batavia Detention Center, which is a Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility, housing various non-citizens awaiting trial and/or deportation. Many people are outraged over ICE’s conduct under the Trump Administration, most notably the separation of child refugees from their parents or guardians, unlawful indefinite detention of refugees, and lax oversight leading to physical and sexual abuse of detainees, including children. It is indicative of poor management and a complete abdication of the duty the government has to protect the people in its custody.

For a country that once took pride in being a melting pot of immigrants – of being perceived as a beacon of light, justice, and freedom in a dark and unfree world, it’s been quite the harsh, self-inflicted comedown.

It is also indicative of a wildly toxic anti-immigrant, anti-refugee furor that has overtaken the American government and a wide swath of its citizenry in recent years. It is a new fascism wrapped in the flag and holding the Bible, as prophesied. 

Personally, I think it’s ok if Lloyd serves food at the Batavia facility. After all, it’s not just ICE prison guards who work there, but custodial staff, administrative staff, attorneys for the detainees, and the detainees’ families that would all be able to buy food. I also think that it’s ok if Lloyd decides never to do that again. I think it’s ok for people to not think it’s ok for Lloyd to serve prison guards, and for Lloyd to respond to them as it did – by apologizing. 

If you don’t like it, start your own taco truck empire.

Because that’s ultimately what free enterprise is about. “ICE agent” isn’t a protected class under the Civil Rights Act and its progeny, so Lloyd is wholly within its rights to choose not to ever go there again. Not long ago, I criticized a competing taco business for its ties to Sheriff Tim Howard and other Republicans. At that time, of its owner I wrote, 

Richard Hamilton, the owner of Deep South Taco, supports Sheriff Tim Howard. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

In fact, he has hosted fundraisers for Howard in the past, and intends to host another one in the near future. He even cuts Howard a deal, with a $1,600 in-kind contribution for food showing up in Howard’s campaign coffers. 

There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

Hamilton is tight enough with the Howard that he became a “Reserve Deputy Sheriff”. I have no idea what that is, but there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that — he is free to support whomever he wants. 

I went on to explain my personal decision never to patronize his businesses, and I respect the decisions of people to make the same choice, or not. The same goes for Lloyd. When a company decides to make a political statement, it has to brace for a backlash from the people who disagree. That’s life. For his part, Hamilton is trying to capitalize on the anti-Lloyd brou-ha-ha by offering a 35% discount to law enforcement. I suggested some additional discounts he might consider.

Free speech is fun. 

Never one to shut up when he’s not needed; never one to not insert himself into a controversy that has nothing to do with him, Erie County’s Comptroller and perpetual candidate Stefan Mychajliw piped up. The mission statement for his office reads as follows:The Comptroller’s Office serves as the county and taxpayer’s independent fiscal watchdog, providing fiscal leadership, ensuring fiscal integrity, timely and accurate reporting, and maintaining public trust and accountability through audits, reviews, reports and investigations.

Whilst running for like four different other offices simultaneously, Mychajliw writes: 

This needs to be unpacked not only because of its factual inaccuracies and poor logic, but because it is dangerous. I have to believe – and consistency dictates – that the people who complain most loudly about the insidious nature of political correctness and cancel culture will not succumb to the things they hate most. Right?

LOL.

First of all, here is the Comptroller – a petty elected bureaucrat; a bean-counter – whose duties are mostly ministerial, directing MAGA cretins to hate on two local businesses. Obviously, the tweet’s original theme had to do with Lloyd, which decided that its five food trucks and two restaurants have a relationship with local refugee and immigrant communities that it would be a betrayal for them to feed ICE guards. Just like Richard Hamilton and his toy badge, Lloyd has the right to not go back to Batavia.

Mychajliw is preening for his MAGA / Bannon followers. He’s running for Congress/Assembly/State Senate/Senate/County Executive by tearing down a beloved local restaurant that employs lots of local people and pays loads of county taxes. But in so doing, he has to invoke the name of Chik-fil-a, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The secret is that there was never a plan for Chik-fil-A to come to the airport. Never. It was never booked. It was never even a thing – Delaware North simply included that franchise on a list to the NFTA of potential brands that could conceivably be brought in. Stef knew this, probably, but isn’t above trying to score a virtue-signaling point for the Rus Thompson set.  

I distinctly remember people threatening to sue the NFTA, and the FAA investigating the NFTA, over its supposed refusal to consider leasing to a Chik-fil-A over religious freedom. Chik-fil-A is a fast food joint, not a church. If it wants to be treated like a church, it should become one. There is no statute requiring a public entity to cut a deal with a private business on the basis of religion, and if the NFTA rented to, e.g., Joe’s Halal Chicken Shack the MAGA red hat cadre would be apoplectic – pitchforks and all.

The reason why Mychajliw brings up Chik-fil-A to attack Delaware North and the NFTA is that it is emblematic of the “pwn the libs” ideology that is the centerpiece of Trumpism and modern conservatism. They hate that snowflake soy-latte-drinking libs won’t eat at Chik-fil-A, and to really underscore their outrage over beta lib ideological boycotts, they’ll never eat at Lloyd. I mean, the cognitive dissonance is huge.

To reiterate – Stefan Mychajliw is not a candidate for anything right now. He is a bean-counter with an almost exclusively ministerial job which he executes by calling bingo and visiting senior centers. His instagram is loaded with images of him delivering county checks to local businesses and, thusly, promoting them.Which is fine. 

But against that backdrop of looking out for the taxpayer and promoting small businesses in Erie County, why on Earth would a petty county bureaucrat knowingly take to social media to do harm to a locally-owned, job-creating, taxpaying business? It is beyond irresponsible for Mychajliw to do this to any Erie County company. It is a knowing effort to hurt the business over politics (i.e., his own version of “political correctness”), and this could hurt it and, in turn, county tax revenues. 

There should be a consequence here. There should be a palpable consequence to a bureaucrat using his bully pulpit to effectively harm a locally owned business over a political disagreement. It is political correctness run amok. Furthermore, the notion that it is some evidence of creeping totalitarianism – a taco truck’s non-discriminatory decision about with whom to do business – is so incredibly ignorant and stupid, and something Mychajliw should know better than to suggest. But alas, here we are. Totalitarianism comes from dictatorial government fiat, not from public opinion or private company decision-making.

The radical Bannonite neo-fascist Erie County Comptroller used his bully pulpit to attack an Erie County taxpaying, job-creating business for his own political gain. He put the jobs of hundreds of Erie County residents at risk, as well as the income, property, and sales taxes they pay. All over a political disagreement. It is unconscionable for an elected head of an Erie County bureaucracy to single out a taxpaying Erie County employer like this for economic harm. If he’ll do it to Lloyd, he’ll do it to any small local business to advance his own craven self-interest.

Someone on the Erie County Legislature should immediately introduce a resolution condemning the Comptroller’s wildly reckless attack on an Erie County business, and formally censuring him for knowingly doing harm to an Erie County-based company which employs Erie County residents, all of whom pay to Erie County property and sales taxes – directly or not.

“Free The Press Canada” Could Have Called

Sweet mother of God, it’s not every day I get accused of being a defender of that certain website, or that I’m somehow in league with Roger Stone, but there’s a first time for everything.

If you have a solid hour to spare, go read this blog post that purports to link – in excruciating detail – a local purveyor of fake news with Roger Stone, and name-checks me as somehow nefariously involved. Amy MacPherson of “Free the Press Canada” did quite a thorough job, except for the part where she didn’t reach out to me to ask me about certain details about which she writes.

In the absence of Ms. MacPherson’s message, I’ll address her “reporting” and conclusions here.

Although Alan Bedenko plays a bit part in this saga, it is an important role because he appeared on CBC News to represent Matthew Ricchiazzi and the Buffalo Chronicle.

I did not appear on the CBC to “represent” them; I appeared to indict them – to offer a WNY perspective into a matter of apparent Canadian media urgency.

Bendenko portrayed himself as an enemy of Ricchiazzi, backed by a blog entry he posted about Parlato’s apprentice. In it he embedded the full segment by Adrienne Arsenault, even though it’s not readily available for Canadians to find on the CBC website (original with video / archive without video).

(All is [sic], by the way). I’m not an “enemy” of his, per se – I am an enemy of lies and harassment and fake scandal.

In the short interview he did not disclose that he had been a lawyer for Erie County and known Ricchiazzi for several years in the course of municipal and state politics. He didn’t disclose that he engaged with Ricchiazzi at Parlato’s sister website ArtVoice, where the latter two regularly published along with Roger Stone (original / archive). He didn’t allude to knowing anything about Matthew Ricchiazzi’s agenda, or that his attack on the Canadian election was a concerted effort as opposed to a one-off fake news specimen.

The interview took almost an hour, but a very small portion of it was aired. To say I was a “lawyer for Erie County” is somewhat misleading – until June 2018, I worked for a firm that represented the county, defending it in lawsuits; I was not a county employee.

Here’s where this goes off the rails, though.

I left Artvoice on November 10, 2014. At that time, it was still owned by Jamie Moses. At no time during my tenure at Artvoice did I “engage with Ricchiazzi”, nor did I ever write for Artvoice after Parlato bought it. I never published – not once, nor “regularly” with Roger Stone at Artvoice or anywhere else.

As for that website’s motive for inserting itself into – or creating – controversies in Canadian politics, I have absolutely no knowledge of that. Anything I suggest would be speculative.

Alan Bedenko has been involved with Matthew Ricchiazzi since at least 2012, when he participated in the uproar about the Seneca casino for a Buzzfeed article and the subsequent banter about it on Twitter (original / archive). Bedenko’s handle is @BuffaloPundit and he curiously tagged two bystanders into the conversation. One of those accounts belongs to a Russian who doesn’t follow or interact with anyone. It’s a suspicious account to say the least (original / archive). As Bedenko didn’t provide his full disclosure for the CBC News broadcast, it leaves much to the imagination why a strange Russian account was deemed important to the exchange about Ricchiazzi.

Actually, I have been “involved” with him since I first became aware of him during his failed mayoral run in 2009. As for that 2012 set of Tweets relating to that person’s use of a still from a gay porn movie, I “tagged two bystanders” because it was Paul Dub who originally asked about it on Twitter.

At that time, in 2012, @ChrisSmithAV (which is now a Russian account) was run by Chris Smith. At the time, Chris was a colleague at Artvoice, and before 2011 at WNYMedia.net.

I’m not sure why a Twitter exchange with Chris Smith in 2012, together with the fact that Chris’ then-account is now hijacked by some Russian, should have been disclosed in the 2019 CBC report.

Furthermore, Alan Bedenko, as a qualified lawyer, suggested that Ricchiazzi may have a relationship with the Maggadinos, Todaros, and “Butchie Bifocals”. Free The Press Canada is aware the first two are part of the Buffalo Italian Mafia and that includes the Musitano crime bosses who were murdered in Hamilton, Ontario due to the ongoing turf wars. They are all part of the same organized crime family network.

I didn’t suggest it; the other guy did. He specifically set forth in his “contract” of demands to the CBC that questions about the mob would be off-limits. I found this curious and worthy of mention.

The suggestion of mafia is especially unsettling, given that Frank Parlato defended a biker gang accused of making pipe bombs and in the process he cited Angelo Musitano, who was the top boss until he was murdered in Waterdown, Ontario. These hotspots are all around the area where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was required to wear a bulletproof vest to be able to give campaign speeches. This disturbing reference was made by Parlato on Ricchiazzi’s Buffalo Chronicle (original / archive).

Again: I never worked with or published alongside Parlato or Ricchiazzi. Indeed, a quick Google search would reveal that I have been massively critical of Parlato in the past. A similar Google search (or a phone call, email, or Tweet) would reveal years’ worth of Tweets and posts critical of that other guy.

As a side note, I will add that the article in question borrows heavily from matters written about this topic that are found at the “BuffaloRecord” WordPress site. What the author doesn’t realize – because she didn’t ask – is that “BuffaloRecord” is the archive of Chris Smith’s and my articles from WNYMedia.net and Artvoice from about 2007 until November 2014, when we left Artvoice. So in one instance, Ms. MacPherson cites my work, and in the next she accuses me of being in cahoots with Ricchiazzi, Parlato, and Roger Stone.

Chris Collins’ Coda

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This is the second – and hopefully the last – epitaph I need to write on the political career of Christopher Collins. The first is here. His governmental record is, on balance, replete with abject failure. He was a disastrous County Executive who spent wildly to implement dubious corporate hocus-pocus, with little effect. He raised taxes and cut critical services on which citizens relied. He was openly hostile to Erie County’s cultural institutions and used his public office for private gain. 

Yet after a humiliating defeat in 2010, he re-emerged in 2012 to narrowly win a seat representing the most conservative district in New York. 

It is fitting that the resignation of former Representative Chris Collins (R-Club Fed) should come within a week after the House of Representatives formally commenced its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s various, sundry, and myriad misdeeds. After all, Collins was the first Congressman to formally and publicly support Trump’s candidacy, and remained one of Trump’s most steadfast Congressional supporters right up until last week. 

Birds of a felonious feather flock together. 

It was last summer that Collins was first indicted for securities fraud and insider trading. I wrote then: [b]efore we go on, I have this to say directly to my Congressman: Resign. Now. We deserved better than you; we deserve better than you. You are in it only for yourself and your cronies, and that has palpably been true since day one of your benighted tenures in public “service”. 

Despite efforts to challenge the government’s evidence based on the Speech or Debate Clause‘s immunity shield, the government simply put forth a superseding indictment that avoided that pitfall. After a year of constantly gaslighting his beleaguered constituents by falsely proclaiming his innocence, Collins is at long last about to come clean, and receive the reckoning he deserves. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Collins gave an interview to Channel 4 where he confidently predicted his exoneration on these insider trading charges. As recently as July 30th, Collins held a press conference and declared, 

“I am innocent of the charges,” Collins said. “Why would I ever even enter a plea deal? I’m innocent.”

He called it a “circumstantial case” that prosecutors through “some tunnel vision decided to take.”

“I’m quite comfortable where I’ll be at the end of all this, which is not guilty,” Collins said.

It looks more likely that Collins clung to his Congressional office as leverage in his corruption prosecution. 

Rather than recount the misdeeds of Chris Collins, the Congressman (try this and this), or rejoice in his self-immolation, let us take a moment to seethe. 

After all, Chris Collins is a crook and a liar. 

He used his public office for personal gain. He leveraged his influence in Congress to advance the interests of at least one business in which he owned a massive stake. He wasn’t looking out for his constituents – he was looking out for himself and his friends and family. Assuming a guilty plea, I hope he gets some time in prison and then moves to Florida and never darkens WNY again. 

Guys like Collins (and there are many around here) think this is all a big joke – “public service”. They should be using their office to protect and lift up the weakest and most vulnerable in our community, but repeatedly and chronically use power to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict harm on the already afflicted. It would come as no surprise that the first and loudest Trump supporter goes down a convicted felon. The criminality and egotism was perverse and pervasive. 

If he’s pleading guilty, then he’s known of his guilt all this time. He strung us all along – his supporters and detractors alike – proclaiming a non-existent innocence, predicting an exoneration that will never come. He stole from us our right to be represented in Congress by someone who had our back, who was looking out for our best interests. He stole that from us just as surely as he stole from the investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics to whom he did not provide that juicy inside scoop. He is a crook. He is a thief. He is a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel and a criminal. 

A dozen years ago, he promised to lift Erie County out of the ashes of another, dramatic Republican financial disaster with promises of “running government like a business.” Did his Six Sigma black belt inform his decision to cut a plea now? Was it for the sake of efficiency? Did he finally confront his likelihood of success at trial and decide to streamline the inevitable process? 

Last November, we could have elected a representative who actually cared about representing this constituency. We could have elected a representative who would look out for the little guy, rather than his millionaire buddies and his own wallet. And we came so close. But Collins convinced his Trump-supporting base that it was all lies, all a big smear, and that they would be better off with an indicted Congressman stripped of all committee posts rather than a Democrat. More lies. There was nothing so consistent as Chris Collins’ cynicism, and his reliance that his voters would always pick a party label over a candidate’s merits. 

When his journey through the criminal justice system is over, Christopher Collins will always be a convict and a disgrace. He is now just another corrupt Republican politician representing the reddest district in the state to leave office in ignominy. The third in a row, actually. 

The parade of Republican millionaires and clowns salivating over this vacancy will keep us entertained for weeks – especially given the massive cloud of corruption that is the Trump Administration. Every one of these power-hungry clones will trip over each other to pledge undying fealty to the Maximum Leader. As that party keeps sinking, looking for that elusive bottom, those of us who knew what Collins was this whole time will drink a toast to being right. We will also lament all of the lost opportunities we had to be properly represented. 

We didn’t have to agree all the time, Mr. Collins. We didn’t have to have a perfect Congressman. But I think we deserved a Congressman who cared about more than scoring cheap political points.

You’re resigning? However will we know the difference?

Good riddance. 

(Updated 10/4 to replace deleted Tweet with screen capture)

Local GOP Silence Reveals Loud Support for Nativism

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The concentration camps and the White House’s daily parade of insults and embarrassments are quite difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It is unimaginable that this is what our government has become, and it is amazing how far and how fast we fell. Things that were once whispers are now amplified with bullhorns. But whereas guys like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater had taught Republicans how to use racism to their advantage without being, well, so blatant about it, the President now is cool with all of it – the perception and the reality. 

The Tweets shown above are official statements of the President of the United States. Think on that for a moment. 

There is no bottom with Donald Trump and his followers – it sinks deeper and deeper with each passing day.

The thing about authoritarian wannabe dictators is that they energize and re-energize the base of their support by casting themselves as victims. Accusing some “other” of being the cause of some great societal misfortune, the demagogue rhetorically shifts the conversation from one about national priorities into something accusatory and sinister. It’s not 50 years’ worth of slow, systemic changes and obsolescence that shrunk the number and quality of once-abundant manufacturing jobs – it’s immigrants. It’s not de-unionization over the last 40 years that left the middle class weaker, poorer, and less secure, it’s the “open” border. Misdirection. 

In August 2015, a couple of Trump supporters picked a random Hispanic person, beat him up, and pissed on him. They did it because Trump has gone out of his way since the beginning of his campaign to single out and demonize Spanish-speaking immigrants. Around that same time, Republican Presidential front-runners were tripping over themselves to demand an end of jus soli birthright citizenship.

It’s not just about undocumented or documented immigrants – the anti-immigrant Republicans go so far as to hurl epithets at Americans whose only crime was to have been born American on American soil – anchor baby

If you want to understand this anti-immigrant logic, take a listen to “Why Do We Build The Wall” from Tony-Award winning musical Hadestown. I saw it last weekend. This song destroyed me. Anais Mitchell wrote it in 2006; it’s not about Trump. 

Destroyed me.

The Republicans, who have been world champion nihilists ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, now say that if you don’t like it, you can leave.

Weird, because I don’t remember them all pissing off back to wherever they came from when they hated Obama and his policies. 

The whole notion of “go back where you came from” is dictatorial. It is hateful white Nationalism. The people against whom Trump first directed it are all women of color, two of them of the Muslim faith. All but one of them was born in the United States. Do you remember Obama telling Jim Jordan or Tom Cotton or Darrell Issa to go back where he came from if they didn’t like what he was doing? Of course not. He also knew how to spell “al Qaeda“.  

2017 – year zero of the Cultural Revolution – saw the ascendance of a remarkably ignorant and basically ideology-free type of neo-fascism in America. Fascism for dummies, but literally. The cruelty is the point. The cruelty – to opponents, to immigrants, to asylum seekers, to our allies, to minorities – is the unifying and foundational ethos and dogma of Trumpist fascism. The people who vocally and tacitly support Trump also support this fundamental cruelty; the hatred, the epithets, the dismissiveness, turning our backs on the Western world; the demonization and dehumanization of immigrants

During his rallies in 2016, Trump used to ask the crowd to raise their arms and pledge allegiance to him. People called it fascist. Trump said people “love it.” 

Trump tells people who don’t like him to “go back” where they came from. People say to him that this is racist. Trump says, “many people agree with me.” 

The translation is that he doesn’t mind being a white Nationalist neo-fascist cult leader because people like him and the cruelty for which he stands. 

Donald Trump’s racism and wish for a pure, white America is no secret – especially not anymore. Just ask Kellyanne Conway’s husband

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. They’re silent not because they agree with Trump. Surely they know better. They’re silent because, knowing that he’s incorrigible, they have inured themselves to his wild statements; because, knowing that he’s a fool, they don’t really take his words seriously and pretend that others shouldn’t, either; because, knowing how damaging Trump’s words are, the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.

So far, among western New York’s elected and prominent Republicans, there has been nary a peep about any of this. The only one with the courage to denounce Trump’s Tweets? Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo (C-West Seneca). 

What about you, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state committee? New York is one of the most wonderfully diverse states in the nation, and you say nothing. 

What about you, Stefan Mychajliw? You use your status as a first-generation American with each exhale, but here the President – whom you embrace – tells people who disagree with him to leave the country and go back where they came. Should you have gone back to where you came when you disagreed with Barack Obama? Where is your supposed moral and ethical leadership on an issue that hits home for you, more than it does for most people. 

What about you, Lynne Dixon? For weeks you jumped on the Green Light Bill and demanded that Mark Poloncarz say what he thinks of it. OK., he took that bait. You support this President. There’s a picture of him with you from that fundraiser at Salvatore’s floating around. Where do you stand on this notion that people with political disagreements should re-emigrate to where they came from?

And where are the media stenographers and useful idiots for the local Republicans? Why aren’t they hounding Dixon over this particular issue like they hounded Poloncarz over driver’s licenses? 

What about you, Ed Rath? Mickey Kearns (you’re a Republican now, don’t let’s pretend otherwise)? Puppetmasters Chris Grant and Michael Caputo? Chris Collins? Chris Jacobs? David DiPietro? Tim Howard? Pat Gallivan? Mike Ranzenhofer? Mike Norris? Angelo Morinello? John Mills

A lot of you come up and shake my hand at parades and stuff. You know how I think. You know I disagree. You know I think the President is a complete and utter disaster, and that his policies are making America weaker and poorer. This is your time to take a stand and to show some courage. 

After all, I’m one of those “anchor babies.” My parents came here on a tourist visa in 1966. They quickly transformed it into a Green Card and sold back their return ticket; foreign-born physicians were in demand. They settled in Queens. In 1969, my dad was drafted into the US Army. He was sworn in as a citizen within days as a Major. We were sent to live in Columbia, South Carolina for two years. 

When my dad came to the US, he spoke almost perfect, accent-free English. My mom, not so much. She had a strong accent. She couldn’t pronounce a “w” and everything was a “v”. She learned English with me – watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. When she drove around South Carolina, she was frequently called a “Commie”. They had New York plates on their car, so they were “Yankees,” to boot. My mom – until her dying day – hated South Carolina and her experience there because of how cruel people had been to her especially. She was admonished by strangers on more than one occasion to go back where she came from. I don’t think she ever set foot in that state again after 1971. I guess it’s no surprise that Trump approvingly quotes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the Tweets reproduced above. 

And my parents were white. Had they been recent immigrants who also looked differently, the abuse would likely have been exponentially worse. 

When Trump tells anyone to “go back where they came from” this is a direct attack on every immigrant, regardless of visa status. 

Our local Republicans have sold out their souls and their morals and their ethics for Donald Trump. They’ll smile and shake my hand when they see me, but they don’t have the courage to stand up for people like my mom against nativist hatred from the likes of a failed casino owner and TV huckster.

Seriously, don’t bother next time. 

Don’t come looking for me at the next parade. Or if you see me at County Hall. Or at the store. Don’t greet me. Don’t come up and tell me that you don’t think like this, or that you’re disappointed in Trump’s rhetoric. Your private tsk-tsk is meaningless; your public silence is assent. Your refusal to do what you (might) know to be right is disgusting. 

You know who loves America? People who leave behind every thing they own and every person they know to come to this country for a new start; for opportunity in a new world created by immigrants from all over the world. My mom loved this country and what it offered her, and she didn’t deserve to be harassed and bullied by South Carolina rednecks just for talking differently or being from an Eastern European country. She came here with nothing – they came here with nothing except an education. She went to work at Ciba Geigy, the American Health Foundation, and Pepsico as a chemist. My dad helped people as a physician at various hospitals and clinics, including the V.A. They are my heroes and I viscerally miss them each day. They loved this country as much if not more than some spoiled rich kid who is American by accident of birth. They chose this place.

You know who hates America? People who tolerate the separation of asylum seeking families at the border. People who tolerate inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. 

You know who hates America? People who think that someone who disagrees with them should leave the country if they “don’t like it.”  

And their enablers. 

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