Debate Night in America


Monday night, the world watched an adult female, who had spent time and effort preparing for an important meeting with her opponent, debate a petulant, unprepared child who eschewed preparation, relying instead on interruptions, one-liners, and lies. 

As the American right hastens its march to the depths of anti-intellectualism, it now denigrates hard work and preparation, likening it to “cheating”. Donald Trump’s embarrassingly cringe-worthy debate performance probably didn’t move the needle for him. With his rudeness, condescension, and incomprehensible word salad, he behaved like any similarly situated D student with disciplinary issues might. On the C-Span split screen – which was devoid of vapid anchors and hot takes – Secretary Clinton appeared calm, poised, professional – Presidential. She took the hits and interruptions with a smile. Understanding Trump’s brand of domination politics, she wouldn’t refer to him the way all of his sycophants are likely instructed to on their non-disclosure forms, “Mr. Trump”. She called him Donald, and the more she got into his head, he dropped the faux-respectful “Secretary Clinton” in favor of dismissive pronouns. The candidates didn’t need to play to their respective bases – they’re chasing after undecided voters in swing states, and Clinton was the better salesperson. Here’s a chart recording his interruptions: 

He sounded okay when discussing trade deals, if ranting repetitiveness is your jam. But when the topic turned to race relations and temperament, Clinton was as cogent as Trump was weak. Clinton went after Trump for what she termed the “racist birther” issue, and it hit him hard, knocking him far off-balance. There were no raucous audiences to cheer him on, there was no array of right-wing demagogues for Trump to insult and demean – just one smart, prepared woman who was ready, willing, and able to hit back. President Obama released his long-form birth certificate in 2011, and Trump didn’t stop until August 2016 – for that he offered African-Americans, “nothing“. Trump never denied Clinton’s charge that he paid “no taxes”, ranting instead about how the government spends them in a way he dislikes, and claiming he’s “smart”. 

When asked what he meant when he said Secretary Clinton lacks a “presidential look”, Trump said he meant she doesn’t have stamina, all the while audibly sniffing, pounding back glasses of water, and losing his cool at the slightest provocation. When confronted on his refusal to release his tax returns, he got a cheer from his audience partisans when he said he’d do it, even against his “lawyer’s advice”, when Secretary Clinton releases the 33,000 emails she deleted. Maybe Clinton should demand that Trump then produce proof that he’s actually under audit – he keeps saying it, but doesn’t uphold for himself the standard he sets for everyone else. 

Meanwhile, the Clintons have released 30+ years’ worth of tax releases, and Trump is the first candidate in modern times to refuse to release any. I wonder why a lawyer is advising him not to show them? 

The most effective part of Clinton’s presentation, however, was after a particularly ugly and ill-informed swipe Donald Trump took at our friends and allies in various military alliances – Germany and Japan, in particular. He insulted them as deadbeats whom America shouldn’t protect if they won’t pay for the protection. Clinton didn’t respond to Trump, looking instead at the camera and reassuring our friends and allies around the world that she knows the election has caused them a lot of consternation, but that they can be sure that America will uphold its commitments under our various military alliances, then reminded Trump that the only time NATO invoked its mutual self-defense clause under Article 5 of the treaty was after September 11th, and our NATO allies continue to fight terrorism around the world. 

Trump? “I haven’t given a lot of thought to NATO”, he said before launching into his spiel about how the other members need to pay up. 

Clinton also came prepared with the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe from Venezuela, whom Trump had derided as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. 

If “telling it like it is” means being unable to handle 90 minutes’ worth of predictable questioning from a network anchor, and coming across as a ranting, lying lunatic, then I guess Trump’s base came away satisfied with his performance. But if you think being President is an important job that demands thought, good temperament, information, and preparedness, then there’s only one candidate who showed up Monday night to meet that standard. Amazingly enough, being President is more complex than calling in to “Fox and Friends”.

Who Fears the Mighty PTO?

debateniteAre you now, or have you ever been, a member of a PTO?

Most parents even of schoolkids pay scant attention to their local Parent-Teacher Organizations. They are oftentimes 501c3 non-profits that fundraise to pay for library books, school supplies, and extras that the regular school budget won’t – or can’t – accommodate. They do this through tax-deductible donations earned through dances, activity nights, collection of boxtops and store receipts, and through the sale of books, wreaths, coupon books, gift cards, and other small items. One random local PTO’s mission: “Our organization is committed to improve, enhance, and assist the educational and social processes in our school.”

We’re not talking revolutionary communism here. We’re not talking about Spartacists. These are moms and dads enhancing school life. 

PTOs are run by small groups of selfless and involved parents. As a 501c3, PTOs can engage in issue advocacy, but cannot endorse, support, or fund any individual political or school candidacies. A PTO can ask people to vote yes for a school budget, but cannot recommend votes for particular board candidates. Likewise, a PTO (or any 501c3) can host a candidate forum, so long as all candidates are invited and the process is objectively fair; questions or time are not biased against any one candidate. There is no requirement that the individual PTO members be impartial – merely that the process is fair and that the PTO hasn’t made an express endorsement. We’re not picking a jury here.

A few weeks ago, the Clarence High School PTO copied & pasted – shared – to Facebook something from a local pro-school advocacy group that contained an express endorsement of two candidates. It was a mistake, and it was deleted when brought to their attention. That PTO wasn’t necessarily endorsing the Keep Clarence Schools Great statement – merely sharing it. You know – the whole “RT ≠ Endorsement” thing on Twitter. Nevertheless, it raised the appearance of impartiality in the board races and should likely not have been done.

Next Tuesday, there will be a candidate forum hosted and moderated by members of two different, elementary school PTOs. The High School PTO is not at all involved. The entire program is organized and hosted by the school district, and the program was going to go out of its way to be fair to all four board candidates – two pro-school, two anti-school running for two seats. It bears repeating that neither of the elementary school PTOs posted anything anywhere that could be construed as endorsing any candidate for school board.

One candidate for the board, Joe Lombardo, Jr., pounced. He filed this grievance to the district office:

The PTO has shown that it is a biased group unable to equitably moderate this forum. They have publicly endorsed and opposed candidates on their Facebook page as seen in the attached photo. This creates and unfair and an unreasonable situation for myself and Jacob, especially when the PTO is creating its own questions. In addition, their endorsements and opposition of candidates violates 501c(3) law. I have advised the Erie County District Attorney’s Office of this matter. Based on the above points, I herby file a grievance in order to seek another moderator who can prove to be unbiased. Perhaps we can get a moderating panel from the Erie County Chapter of the League of Woman Voters or a chapter from a surrounding town. I feel their performance in the past has been excellent.


Joe Lombardo

We need to examine this point by point.

The PTO has shown that it is a biased group unable to equitably moderate this forum.

There exist six PTOs in the town district – one for each school. None of them are affiliated with any of the others, except insofar as each is a “PTO”. Two of the elementary PTOs were to moderate the forum. The High School PTO, which Lombardo believes to be “a biased group” was not slated to be involved with the forum in any way. So, although arguably the HS PTO may have shown “bias”, the elementary PTOs hosting the forum did no such thing.

They have publicly endorsed and opposed candidates on their Facebook page as seen in the attached photo.

“They”? Which “They? One PTO re-posted the text from another group, and clearly labeled it as such. It was a mistake, but ultimately harmless. Note Lombardo’s use of the singular number in his first sentence, and switch to plural in the second. Are all local PTOs to be held accountable for the actions of one? Or does he think there’s only one PTO? Questions, questions.

This creates and unfair and an unreasonable situation for myself and [fellow anti-school candidate] Jacob [Kerksiek], especially when the PTO is creating its own questions.

All <sic> by the way. The offending High School PTO was not “creating” any questions. It wasn’t even involved. Again, two different, elementary school PTOs were involved in drafting questions in consultation with the district office. There were safeguards put in place to ensure that the questions were uncontroversial and generic; questions that any board candidate could expect and should be able to answer. But if the High School PTO’s mistake ruined it for the two elementary school PTOs, why not explain how? Note the singular number for “the PTO”, and watch how the next sentence takes a simple matter and turns it up to eleven:

In addition, their endorsements and opposition of candidates violates 501c(3) law. I have advised the Erie County District Attorney’s Office of this matter.

Holy mackerel.

Yes, if a PTO endorsed or opposed a candidate, it would be violative of 501c3. But this instance was, at worst, an accidental re-printing of another group’s endorsement. The offending Facebook post was clearly marked as that of another group. It’s not the end of the world, and it won’t threaten the High School PTO’s 501c3 status.

It especially won’t be threatened because the Erie County DA prosecutes state crimes, not de minimis violations of federal tax statutes. But note the switch back to the plural number – are all PTOs to blame? Just one? Guilt by association by virtue of their shared use of the initials PTO?

And what is to be gained here? The DA isn’t going to arrest or prosecute the PTO. I suppose the IRS could investigate, but what’s it going to do? Revoke the high school’s non-profit status? That might happen if the PTO had raised money for candidates, but it didn’t, so cui bono? If the HS PTO can’t fundraise as easily because donations aren’t tax-deductible, that hurts the students at the high school – no more, no less. We have here the jaw-dropping, extraordinary spectacle of a putative school board member seeking to indirectly do harm to schoolkids.

Based on the above points, I herby file a grievance in order to seek another moderator who can prove to be unbiased.

Who will conduct the voir dire? Seriously, though, as a practical matter the elementary school PTOs did nothing wrong, so the claims of “bias” are ridiculous.

Perhaps we can get a moderating panel from the Erie County Chapter of the League of Woman Voters or a chapter from a surrounding town. I feel their performance in the past has been excellent.

The League of Women Voters (note the spelling) doesn’t have a Clarence chapter anymore, and has stopped moderating candidate forums for school or town elections. Indeed, the last candidate forum was hosted by the same elementary school PTOs as this year, and no one had a peep of a complaint about it. One would expect someone so interested in the schools that he would run to be its trustee to have attended it, and been aware of that. One would also expect a putative trustee to know that there exist more than one PTO, and that the misdeeds of one do not taint the others.

You know what the PTO moderators are there to do? To stop this sort of childish behavior: 

They sat in the front row on candidates night… They had either the Bee ad with our pictures and write ups, or the district budget paper… I think it was the Bee though… They had Joe [DiPasquale] and me crossed out (our pictures that were in the paper with big red x’s)…when we talked especially when I talked Danica would stick out her tongue, Joe made faces… all rolled their eyes and shook their heads whenever we spoke and held up the paper with our pictures crossed out. I should have ignored it but even when I wasn’t speaking they just stared at me and instead of me looking away I stared back and got into a staring contest. Mind you I just had been diagnosed with whooping cough and had a 103 fever. So it was an all out perfect night. The administrators were sitting about 7 rows back and never saw this going on.

The behavior being described is that of Joe Lombardo, Jr., his girlfriend, and his father. That’s right; the guy complaining about the propriety of two PTOs handling a candidate forum because of the behavior of a third PTO, in 2013 himself engaged in fundamentally infantile taunting behavior during a school board candidate forum, cruelly targeting two people whom he didn’t like. The level of hypocritical butthurt is almost as high as the level of obnoxiousness.

You would think that the district would inform this candidate that he has his facts wrong, and invite him to show up or not – whatever. Instead, they are bending to his demands and the questions that the elementary school PTOs had compiled will be thrown out. In their stead, audience members will be submitting their own questions via index card, and will be randomly selected by the same moderators who were originally scheduled to oversee the proceedings.

Here is what Lombardo told the Clarence Bee:

“The PTO has no business putting their hands in it,” he said. “I am still trying to get a commitment from the league to do it, but time is an issue.  For future forums they need to find an unbiased moderator.”

The PTO has no business putting their hands in “it”; “it” being the candidate forum that the PTO hosts and sponsors. If Lombardo can’t take the heat and perceives PTOs to be his adversary, perhaps he shouldn’t be running for school board.

UPDATE: He still doesn’t get it. Two PTOs are sponsoring and running this PTO candidate forum. 

Perhaps if the UN brought in peacekeepers, that would placate this candidate.

Guns, Ebola, Torture, and a Sour Weppner

Image Credit:

At long last, Kathy Weppner got her debate against Brian Higgins yesterday. The candidates vying to represent NY-26 in Congress faced off in front of an audience of about 1,000 students and faculty at St. Joe’s. The debate was moderated by the AP Government teacher, and students selected and asked the questions. 

Here’s what Brian Higgins tweeted after the debate: 

And here is what Kathy Weppner tweeted about it:


So, the shorter version is Brian Higgins thanking St. Joe’s and its AP Government class, teacher, and students for a lively and fun debate, versus Kathy Weppner denigrating the kids and their questions, just one step away from accusing them of perhaps conspiring with Higgins’ campaign because she had to face tough questions. 

Also, Higgins accused Weppner of missing two recent candidate fora – not three. She skipped the Good Government Club and the Association of Retired Federal Employees events in the last few weeks. She was invited to them both. For someone who’s spent the last few weeks whining about how the League of Women Voters has conspired with Brian Higgins to support only Demoncrats, you’d expect her to attend everything offered to her. 

The Weppner campaign has been one of the best campaigns ever to be run in western New York, but not for the reasons you think. I don’t objectively mean it was “good” or the “best”; instead, it’s the best insofar as it has enabled regular people to hear and consider things that are usually kept in the deepest basements of AM hate radio. It’s rare that malicious and false right-wing misinformation sees the sunlight, and when it’s taken even a millimeter outside of its typical venues, it’s revealed to be so false and dumb that regular people simply dismiss it as “crazy”.  For instance, 

Yesterday, Brad Riter and I recorded an hourlong podcast where we set out to dissect yesterday’s debate. There’s so much there, we only made it through about 15 minutes’ worth.  You can listen to the podcast here

You can listen to the entire debate here, at WBFO’s site. Did you catch how Weppner whined about how Higgins conspired with WBEN to let the entire debate audio to be shared online? Weppner evidently didn’t read the rules, because the prohibition on recording and re-use of the debate was only as to the campaigns themselves – there were myriad cameras and microphones present, and the rules were quite clear that media could share their recordings. Indeed, after spending so many weeks whining about the lack of debates, you’d reckon that Weppner would scream bloody murder if the debate wasn’t shared with voters, right? 

In terms of substance, the student-led, teacher-moderated debate touched on several issues, none of which are trivial. More importantly, they were things that the students themselves deemed interesting. The first question dealt with the apparent epidemic of school shootings – a uniquely American problem. Weppner’s response to this question was typical right-wing pablum; more guns will lead to a more polite society. Weppner said things about how only “good” people with guns – like she – can protect society from bad people with guns, as if there were no other alternatives. Higgins affirmed people’s 2nd Amendment rights, but added, 

Good people should be able to carry guns but the framers of the Constitution could not have imagined this kind of hell,” Higgins said. “If you are a good guy with a gun then what’s wrong with reasonable background checks? What’s wrong with reasonable gun control?

The Weppner plan can be summarized thusly: 

Weppner came out in support of a travel ban from West African countries, while Higgins said we should follow the lead of medical professionals, and not politicians, on these sorts of issues. Weppner said, 

The CDC has spent 6% of its $3 billion over the last few years on silly studies instead of on infectious diseases. We’ve been squandering the money that we do have. So I believe, yes, there should be a quarantine. They’re quarantining our soldiers in Germany for 21 days. 

According to Weppner, if the CDC spent 6% of $3 billion on “silly studies”, then that still leaves 94% to study and prevent infectious diseases. However, typically, she’s got her facts wrong. She seems to be parroting a Politico article penned by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who claims

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent—$180 million—of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity.

By contrast, the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement Funding, which helps municipalities deal with outbreaks of disease, has decreased dramatically in the last decade. The CDC’s overall 2015 budget is not, incidentally, $3 billion, but almost $7 billion. That also represents a decrease of 3.5% over FY 2014, and you can see specifically what the administration sought, and what the tea party Congress granted

Weppner got two applause lines – the first when she said that marijuana “kills ambition” and leads kids to sit on the couch, watching TV, and eat Doritos. Not shockingly, teenage kids love the idea of sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating Doritos, and cheered. Weppner also rejected medical marijuana, claiming,

If there are medicinal purposes that medical marijuana can be used for then we need to study it. We wouldn’t put a medicine on the market without studying it. If there are properties that help seizure disorders then we need to study what properties those are and put it into a little inhaler.  We can’t open pot stores. We need clear thinking young people to attack the problems we have. Not people that are going to sit back with a bag of Doritos and watch television.

Even Channel 2’s Michael Wooten pointed out on last night’s news that Weppner is lying about medical marijuana not having been studied. It’s been studied plenty, and shown to be effective in treating nausea in chemotherapy patients, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures, and other maladies. UC San Diego has an entire department devoted to the study of medicinal uses for marijuana, a plant that grows in nature

The mic drop moment, though, came when the candidates were asked about the use of torture in interrogation of enemy combatants and terrorists. Weppner claimed, 

I don’t think sleep deprivation or waterboarding is something, if we are going to get valuable information that can save lives, is a horrible thing. I really don’t.

The notion that torture generates valuable information is categorically, scientifically false. While Weppner shocked the Catholic schoolboys with her pro-torture position, Higgins’ one-sentence response resulted in huge applause, prompting Weppner to whine about it later on Twitter (seen above). 

Torture should not be tolerated in any context in any part of the world.

The candidates’ reactions on Twitter aren’t an accident – Higgins’ performance was competent, relevant, and rational. Weppner’s was defensive, offensive, and bizarre. This is the shorthand to describe both candidates and their campaigns, overall. 

You think I hate Weppner or her right-wing followers? I don’t. I feel sorry for them, frankly, because it must really suck walking through life being angry and afraid of everything, always. I hate people who commit crimes and hurt others, I don’t hate people who think differently from me, however misguided I think they are. Part of what I do through this blog is highlight thoughts, ideas, words, and deeds that I believe to be ugly or nice – dangerous or helpful – reactionary or progressive. I pay attention to what my ideological opponents have to say because I refuse to formulate my opinions in a left-wing echo chamber. I read and listen to lots of points of view from lots of sources – so if I see, for instance, that the local AM talk radio station leaves a comment up for over an hour, which calls for the extermination of all Muslims on Earth, I feel it’s my duty as a normal human being to call that to the station’s attention.  It’s not only Nazi thinking, it’s violative of that station’s Facebook terms of service, “… will not tolerate racist, homophobic, sexist or abusive comments”. 

The real hatred comes from those who shut down dissent, and get called out in other venues. The real hatred comes from those who are utterly allergic to scrutiny or criticism of any kind. The real hatred comes from people who cower in their echo chambers, treating as unpatriotic or insane anyone who dares to disagree. The real hatred comes when the local news radio station blocks you on Twitter, because you pointed out that maybe “all Muslims need to be exterminated” doesn’t belong on their Facebook page. 

Election Day is next Tuesday. The tea party point of view is out in the sunlight for all to see. Reject it. 

The Borscht Belt Debate

Courtesy WNED and CBS2 New York

Despite Brian Meyer’s desperate efforts to keep the format tight and moving, it was unwieldy. With four gubernatorial candidates being provided with equal time, it seemed at times that Cuomo and Astorino were afterthoughts. After all, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Party candidate Michael McDermott threw some good ideas at people last night at WNED’s studio.

McDermott liked to cut through the BS and had one of the best answers about fracking; that his philosophy was that it was important to wait and see what it does to the environment, because you’re allowed to do on your property whatever you want unless it harms someone else. For his part, Hawkins gave super-liberals the red meat they crave – single-payer, a hard no on fracking, social justice, funding for mass transit. 

Alas, Hawkins and McDermott don’t have a credible chance. 

The format gave candidates one minute to answer questions that often seemed to run on for twice that time, and then occasionally a 30 second rebuttal. One of the problems with contemporary political speech is that we’re too reliant on dopey ads and sound bites, and this sort of debate-by-one-liner exacerbates the situation. No one watched that and learned anything. It treated us like dumb assholes, and yet again we’ll get the Albany government we’ll deserve. 

Take my wife, please. 

Republican Rob Astorino came out swinging at Andrew Cuomo, and didn’t get an opportunity to tell us very much about what he’d do. Cuomo gave as good as he got. It was a good time, but not at all a substantive one. 

Where did you get your haircut, the pet shop?

Here’s how it went, as it went along. 

Horses and Bayonets on the Morrow

In debate the first, Alpha Romney showed up and stylistically, if not factually, defeated a sleepy Obama. In debate two, electric boogaloo, Romney and Obama both came to the knife fight with guns a-blazing. 

Last night, in debate number three, Alpha Obama went on offense against a stammering, sweaty Romney who, at times, seemed as if Sarah Palin had helped with debate prep. When Obama criticized Romney’s incoherence on various foreign policy matters, Romney whined, “attacking me is not a plan”. It was repeated at least twice, and sounded weak, sorrowful, and pathetic. Obama’s cross-examination of Romney on his prior inconsistent statements was effective and decidedly well-hinged.

For instance, at the first debate, Romney had complained that the 2014 deadline to leave Afghanistan was something he agreed with, except insofar as it telegraphs to our enemy that all bets are off after that. It’s a disingenuous weasel answer, and one that Romney completely abandoned last night, instead claiming to back the 2014 date. From TPM, Obama

You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends. Which means not only were you wrong, but you were confused and sending mixed messages to our troops and allies.

In 2008, Romney said we shouldn’t move “heaven and earth” to get Osama bin Laden, and that we should first ask Pakistan for permission.  Obama recounted meeting the daughter of a 9/11 victim, which reaffirmed to him that moving heaven and earth was exactly the right thing to do; “worth it”, 

“[Y]ou said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” Obama said. “If we would have asked Pakistan for permission, we wouldn’t have got him.”

On Russia: 

“I’m glad that you recognize al Qaeda is a threat. Because a few months ago when you were asked the biggest threat facing America, you said Russia,” Obama said. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

Later Obama said directly to Romney, “You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it.”

Romney repeatedly claimed to be the candidate of peace – he rebutted the elimination of Osama bin Laden with “we can’t kill our way out of this mess“. Romney tried to attack Obama from the left on this, and everything about it reeked of phoniness. The guy who has John Bolton on his foreign policy team isn’t the McGovernesque peace candidate.  On Iran, Romney actually suggested that some unnamed “world court” indict Ahmadinejad for genocide. That’s nice, but the United States has nothing whatsoever to do with the International Criminal Tribunal. And how does that jibe with the Republican anti-world-government, anti-UN, US must do everything mantras? It’s a desperate ploy by a desperate candidate. 

If, at the foreign policy debate, Romney can get no traction on his Libya attacks, he’s lost. 

Throughout the night, Alpha Obama was the calm, rational, factual counterpoint to Romney’s rushed stream of consciousness. He also gave Romney nary an inch to repeat falsehoods or reinvent history. Obama pre-empted Romney’s predictable attacks about Israel with yet another “Libya moment”. One of Romney’s clumsiest attacks was to accuse Obama of weakening our military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer “ships” now than it did in 1916(!). Obama snarkily obliterated that argument, and it was a highlight of the night – a “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment. 

Funny aside – someone on Facebook mentioned that Fox News “fact-checked” the assertion that the military doesn’t use bayonets anymore by pointing out that Marines have them. Except for the fact that the President said “fewer”, not “none”. Now we’re fact-checking deliberately false fact-checking. 

But except when they veered to domestic policy issues that are swing-state friendly, it was astonishing just how much Romney agreed with every foreign policy thing Obama’s doing, or has done. He liked everything! Romney was reduced to using long strings of words to say he’d do exactly the same thing, only perhaps louder or faster. 

In their closing arguments, Obama pivoted back to hope and staying on a path to move forward, rather than back. Romney did his best Reagan impression, but ended up sounding and looking more like a more WASPy Billy Fucillo, who really wants to see you in this purple Hyundai with low miles and EZ-terms. 

Some highlights: 

In response to Romney’s accusation about an “apology tour” where Obama purportedly ignored Israel. This was quite the Libya moment. Please proceed, Governor:

Closing with hope :

Enter: Chicken

Michael R. Caputo is an advisor to David Bellavia and his campaign for Congress from NY-27. Many months ago, they proposed a series of debates with primary opponent Chris Collins, and as of this writing Collins has agreed only to two – one with YNN, and one with some Republican women voter organization in Clarence that supports Collins  UPDATE: Collins has agreed to exactly zero debates. Firstly, Collins has not agreed to participate in a YNN televised debate on June 18th.  Collins’ people suggested one, singular debate to take place in Clarence and be hosted by something called the “Erie County Republican Women’s Federation.”  However, the League of Women Voters advised that ECRWF would not have hosted a debate, but instead an ambush – a supposed “debate” on Collins’ home turf, a curated crowd packed with Collins loyalists, and recruiting former “Reform Coalution” Collins loyalist Lynne Dixon to “moderate” it. Collins’ people refused to negotiate changes to make the ECRWF “debate” a fair event. Indeed, the ECRWF is a wholly new creation. It has no online presence, it has no transparency regarding its membership, funding, officers, or directors.  The woman who is sending out press releases on its behalf is an Erie County GOP loyalist and has given thousands to the county committee, local committees, as well as to Dixon and Collins

During Paladino’s primary campaign against Rick Lazio, when the Long Island Republican refused to debate Carl, Caputo sent out a guy in a chicken suit to graphically tease the candidate about his reluctance to debate. If I’m not mistaken, there was also a duck suit utilized against Cuomo regarding “ducking” issues. 

And so it is that a volunteer in a chicken suit set up a roost at the Main Street entrance to the tony, exclusive Spaulding Lake development in Clarence that’s home to doctors, sports figures, and the Collins and Corwin families, to name a few. The chicken taunted Collins for his unwillingness to debate Bellavia – an unwillingness that’s reminiscent of every recent race Collins had run; negotiating debate terms with his campaigns appears sometimes less difficult and circuitous than negotiating a cessation of nuclear activity for food aid with North Korea. 

I don’t get why that is. Collins doesn’t do poorly in debates. After all, he merely has to parrot his campaign themes and generic, crony capitalist, nouveau riche noblesse oblige talking points and denigrate his opponent. Easy peasy. But given Collins’ reluctance to debate, meet, or glad-hand, it could come down to one thing: Collins doesn’t feel comfortable asking for votes to which he thinks he is already entitled. 

Why shouldn’t you vote for – or pay attention to – Collins’ campaign to attain the only type of nobility America offers

Collins is nothing more than an old-fashioned tax & spend liberal. Although Collins likes to say he’s looking out for the taxpayers, he’s raised taxes on us, and gone to court to prevent the legislature from keeping those hikes lower. Although he says he’s careful with our money, he’s spent millions on hisfriends and cronies, without regard to results or merit. Although Collins likes to seem as if he’s a good government type, he’s in ongoing violation of the county charter in terms of providing monthly budget monitoring reports. Although Collins says he’s trying to create a brighter future, he maintains the tired, failed status-quo when it comes to attracting and keeping businesses in western New York; he eschews the notion of IDA consolidation, and hasn’t set up a one-stop-shop for businesses to use when considering a move to our region.

For someone who promised to run the county like a business, why has he behaved like that?

The chicken? Naturally, it has its own Twitter account, and last night it taunted Collins with this (click on the link to see the picture): 

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

 Bellavia’s campaign released this Tuesday morning: 

Two leading Republican County Chairmen in New York’s 27th Congressional District today called upon GOP candidates David Bellavia and Chris Collins to accept a debate invitation from Time Warner Cable’s news affiliate, YNN, for June 18.

Bellavia accepted the YNN debate on June 5 – the same day it was offered. Since he was invited, Collins has ignored e-mails, letters, and telephone calls from YNN executives.

“I think it’s important for both candidates to give Republicans across the entire district an opportunity to hear where they stand on the issues – face to face, in a fair debate, on television,” Orleans County Republican Committee Chairman Ed Morgan said. “David Bellavia and Chris Collins must expose Primary voters to their views under those circumstances or the election will see record low turnout and the 27th District will be poorly served. The only opportunity to accomplish this is the YNN debate on June 18.”

“The Republican voters of the 27th District deserve a televised debate to see the candidates and understand their positions on important issues,” Wyoming County Republican Chairman Gordon Brown said. “I personally call on David and Chris to commit to a televised debate in which the entire district can be reached – including the more than 60 percent of voters living outside Erie County. Mailers and signs are not enough. I have had the opportunity to speak with both candidates on several occasions – let’s afford all Republican voters a similar opportunity to hear from them.”

On May 24, the Erie County Republican Women’s Federation (ECRWF) invited both Mr. Collins and Bellavia to debate in Clarence on June 19. Subsequently, the Bellavia campaign was advised by the League of Women Voters of Buffalo-Niagara that the ECRWF debate was by no mans fair and no candidate should agree to the wholly one-sided terms. Since then, the Bellavia campaign reached out to the Collins campaign to negotiate fair changes in the ECRWF event. The Collins campaign refused this opportunity, choosing instead to insist upon the rules they dictated.

“Seventy seven days ago, I called for a series of eight debates in the eight counties of the 27th District. But Mr. Collins has run out the clock,” Bellavia said.

“The televised YNN debate would allow both of us the opportunity to show Republicans across the entire district what we stand for and what we believe in just one debate. I don’t control it; Mr. Collins doesn’t control it. It’s 100 percent neutral and that’s what the voters deserve,” Bellavia said.