The BPS and its Shiny New Police State

The underlying goal isn’t unique to the Buffalo School District. Throughout New York State, tea party reactionaries have aligned themselves with the state government to bring about a simple equation.

1. De-fund the schools;

2. Cut electives and programs; fire teachers;

3. Break the teachers’ union;

4. Label schools as “low performing”;

5. Create “charter” schools;

6. Segregate better students into charters; exclude troubled, poor, and special education students;

7. Ensure that charters rent space from private landlords;

8. Profit.

That’s more or less what’s being attempted in Buffalo. It’s a district that has more than its share of socioeconomic crises, but instead of helping the most troubled and disadvantaged kids, powerful, monied interests now controlling the district seems to be writing them off. Instead, it’s moving forward with publicly funded private, exclusive charter schools, not all of which are all that high performing, either, thank you very much.

It’s not just Buffalo, by the way. In tony, conservative Clarence, a small but well-funded band of tea party activists have succeeded in de-funding the schools, which in turn led to cutting teachers, programs, electives, and every social worker in the district. Kids suffer so that some of western New York’s wealthiest residents can save pennies on their tax bill. No district, teacher, board, or student is safe from this new American movement to destroy public education.

But what apparently happened Thursday at a hastily organized public Buffalo Board of Education meeting is something new and chilling. Kevin Gibson is the Secretary of the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation, and has every right to be present at a Buffalo school board meeting, and to speak. He began his remarks with, “My name is Kevin Gibson, and I’m a teacher in Buffalo”. Just a few weeks ago, he gave this powerful presentation, blasting one local charter as being just as “low performing” as any other school.

But this Thursday, Gibson never got a chance to speak. It was a public meeting, and a public comment period. But when Gibson got up, this happened. Keep an eye on Larry Quinn, who seemingly has no patience for this job that he ran for and to which he was elected.

That is simply incredible. He wanted to make “one quick point” and ask “one question”, but was able to do neither. Watch Larry Quinn wave his arm majestically, motioning to the police to silence and remove Gibson from this public meeting in front of an elected board of public servants on public property. Watch tea party “liberty” activist Carl Paladino sit there like a lox, and do and say nothing. Carl Paladino, of all people, talks a big game about liberty and freedom and constitutional values, but when confronted with a genuine opportunity – as a publicly elected official – to carry out those values, he balks. Coward.

Carl Paladino, Larry Quinn, and the rest of the school board majority have created a fascist little banana republic for themselves. Rather than righting a dysfunctional ship, they have raised the dysfunction to hitherto-unheard of, comical and undemocratic levels.

Quinn interrupts Gibson and has him confirm that he’s a member of the BTF, and says that “this isn’t a BTF issue” before the police officer removes Gibson from the public meeting. What difference does that make? Gibson is a member of the public who has a stake in the Buffalo School District, and he had every right to speak at a public meeting within the rules. He wasn’t speaking out of turn, and never got a chance to begin his point. His membership in the BTF is irrelevant to his right to address the board during the public comment session of a public meeting.

When given any political power, Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn and their allies on the school board behave like every fascist in history. Shut down debate, use the police to stifle dissent.

This is an utter outrage.

Scenes from America

In Ferguson, Missouri, a police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager. The shots were not at close range, indicating no immediate struggle, and there were at least six shots fired. Setting aside the subsequent character assassination of the victim, the police response to popular outrage and demonstrations has been militaristic in nature, and overflowing with issues of race and class in contemporary America. 

No one condones looting or violence, but the ridiculously overwrought police response has quashed the people’s right to demonstrate. 

Hysterical right wing commentators have overwhelmingly sided with the police officer who shot Michael Brown, labeling the dead kid a “thug” who clearly deserved to die. Of course, we still don’t have a copy of the police report surrounding the shooting incident. The people in Ferguson are outraged by the latest homicide of an unarmed Black teenager under questionable circumstances, and their demonstrations have been met with this: 

Some months back, there was a standoff in Nevada over Cliven Bundy and his cows. Back in 1993, Bundy didn’t like a change in policy at the Bureau of Land Management, so he refused to renew his license to permit his cattle to graze on public land. In 1998, a federal court barred Bundy from letting his cattle graze on the “Bunkerville Allotment”. In July 2013, a federal judge further ordered Bundy off of additional lands

It should be noted that, in both court cases, Bundy had an opportunity to be heard, and exercised it.

In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management undertook action to forcibly remove Bundy’s cattle from federal lands pursuant to the court orders. Hundreds of armed, right-wing, so-called “militia” came to Bundy’s aid in the Nevada brush, and the rancher became a right-wing, anti-Obama cause celebre. 

American fascists justify the homicide of Michael Brown, whom they dismiss as nothing more than a thug who got what was coming to him. They deride the outpouring of grief and anger in Ferguson as being nothing more than a subhuman gallery of violent looters. They have nothing whatsoever to say about a military show of force against lawful protests in Ferguson, and ignore the obvious provocation of police snipers and tanks aiming at civilians in middle America. 

But when Cliven Bundy disregarded a lawful order of the court, and declared some sort of idiotic war against a federal government he claims has no legitimacy, hundreds of American fascists came to his aid. The bloodlust against federal agents was shocking, and we had images that contrast with those out of Ferguson in one very salient way: 

In Ferguson, protesters are mostly African-American, and the government’s guns are pointed at them. 

In Nevada, protesters were mostly white, and they pointed their guns at government agents. 

It’s like the anti-Burning Man

 

Cliven Bundy had people aiming guns at federal agents, but we’re supposed to get all upset because some angry demonstrators in Ferguson broke a McDonald’s store windows or stole some TVs? 

The people who support Cliven Bundy’s defiance of legitimate government authority think that the demonstrators in Ferguson have no business protesting questionable government actions. 

Go home, America. You’re drunk. 

WBEN: Fascism Advocacy

Over the next week, consider for a moment that the radio station that brings you the traffic and weather together in the morning, along with a roster of commentators whose extremism builds as the day rolls along. 

But in the last few months or so, the station’s operations director, Tim Wenger, has developed for himself something of a largely off-air personality. In some ways, it’s even more malignant than that of his top talkers. He conducts himself like the most deluded and hateful trolls on the WBEN Facebook page. 

Consider Wenger’s completely unprofessional and false attempt to shame WEDG’s Josh Potter, and this series of horrible, reactionary pronouncements from Wenger’s own Twitter account, as well as the control he obviously enjoys over the WBEN Twitter and Facebook accounts at various parts of the day.  

Whatever personality Wenger is trying to manufacture for himself, it’s horrible and repugnant. 

It culminated in these two Tweets from him, one of which was, of course, simultaneously posted to the WBEN Facebook page. 

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

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

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

 

The video Wenger loves shows a small handful of protesters minding their own damn business. They had in no way attacked, provoked, or otherwise antagonized the two servicemen who attacked them. You can see in the last few frames, one protester with his hands to his side – he’s asking to reason with them.

In response, they curse at him – this from Tim Wenger, who just can’t tolerate the profane blogs. It’s ok to say “fuck” if you’re a Marine intimidating, assaulting, battering, and robbing a couple of guys on a moped. 

That protest, by the way, took place in Albuquerque.  The people on the moped were protesting an epidemic of police brutality in that city, culminating in the homicide of an unarmed homeless man. The people on the moped were exercising their right to free speech, protesting police shootings. Their use of an upside-down flag wasn’t an act of disrespect – the upside-down flag is a distress signal, used in many protests as political speech indicating that the republic is in danger. Go look at the title card for “House of Cards”.  Should belligerent and ignorant young men throw shoes, perhaps, at TVs displaying it? 

There is nothing to love about what that Marine does to the protester, whether he’s an “ass” or not. (More profanity! Shock! Horror!). Engaging in street fights with political opponents is what the blackshirts and brownshirts did in the 20s and 30s. That is the only context within which this assault and robbery of a flag can be viewed. The only lens through which we can see this as acceptable or lovable behavior is the lens of fascism. 

 

So, understand that Buffalo: the guy who runs operations for the Entercom corporation locally is a proponent of violent, fascist behavior. He is an outspoken, unabashed fan of violence and intimidation for political ends. To say this is un-American is a dramatic understatement. But even more insidious is that – whether he holds these views sincerely or not – he is encouraging that sort of behavior from the malinformed people listening to WBEN who think Michael Savage is too liberal. 

Tim Wenger and WBEN are encouraging violence against people who hold different political views from them. I don’t know why this is not a big deal. 

If this was happening in the 1930s, this newsreel would be appropriate: 

Guns, Mental Health, and Fascism

1. If you went on the Facebook to try and politicize the stabbing of kids in Pennsylvania, using it as a springboard for a “debate” about gun control,  implicitly mocking and defaming the 20 1st grader victims of Sandy Hook – you’re doing everything wrong. 

One of the goals of gun control advocates is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; like kids who go on stabbing sprees or shooting sprees.  There’s a big difference between the two – in Pennsylvania, no one died. 

2. Many people are calling for better mental health services in this country in the wake of the Pennsylvania stabbing, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the Fort Hood shooting. That would be fantastic – oftentimes the first thing that state and municipal governments cut and shrink to balance their budgets are the very costly mental health services offered to people who desperately need – yet can’t afford – them. When services are cut and facilities closed, where do you think they go? How do you think they function in society? The mentally ill are, furthermore, often uniquely unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves, their medical needs, and their rights. 

I think it’s a great goal for society to better serve our most vulnerable. It’s sort of the point of programs like SNAP and WIC, and mental health services need to be taken more seriously.  Of course, this costs money. So, let’s agree to expand mental health services while simultaneously not complaining about the cost of doing so, or denigrating the mentally ill recipients of these services because we resent them receiving them. 

Furthermore, mental health services should be available to anyone who needs them, on demand and for life. The best way to accomplish this is to expand mental health coverage throughout the health insurance spectrum. 

3. At Fort Hood, a troubled soldier shot three people and injured 16 others. The right wing – locally led by the increasingly shrill and dangerous operations director at WBEN (see below) – has recommended that soldiers at the facility be allowed to carry sidearms at all times to protect themselves against a deranged shooter. Is that a good way to run a society – by encouraging shootouts? Have we not progressed at all since the post-civil war frontier times? These men and women have signed up to serve our country. We can’t trust our servicemen and women to not shoot at each other? Nowhere is 100% safe all of the time, and it’s ridiculous to live your life waiting to fend off an attack. Everybody’s Chuck Norris, all of a sudden. Just relax. You don’t need a gun all the time. 

4. Kathy Weppner changed her campaign website yesterday and touted it on Facebook and Twitter. It looks like a 12 year old was let loose on a Livejournal account. Weppner is going to run against Obamacare, which is interesting since it’s expanded health insurance so that the number of uninsured is at its lowest point in years. It’s also interesting since more people with health insurance means more patients for her husband to treat. 

The next report will be on the economy, jobs and Obamacare job loss. This landmark legislation has been changed 40 times. The chaos, uncertainty and cost of this massive piece of legislation and last minute changes has resulted in thousands of job cuts, reduction in fulltime employment, and employer fear of hiring.  The cumulative impact of Obamacare, on top of the highest corporate taxes in the world, and constant Washington interference is devastating to our small business job creators.  Obamacare, as it impacts the medical care you receive, will appear as a separate report.  

And you thought she was just a benign kook. She has no idea what she’s talking about, and is simply vomiting up Fox News/Rush Limbaugh talking points. 

5. Back to that Operations Manager at WBEN. Regard: 

That protester didn’t do a damn thing to those Marines. He didn’t attack them or disrespect them (an upside-down flag is a distress signal, (36 USC §176(a)), not a sign of disrespect to the flag or to those who fight under her). Furthermore, whatever that protester was doing is protected political speech. What that Marine did to the protester is simple assault & battery; also, larceny. Robbery, possibly. That sort of intimidation and assault of someone with whom you disagree is straight up fascism. 

I haven’t received a reply to this yet: 

Arpaio ’16 and the Death of a Bully

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a message for Barack Obama: Lemme see your papers, boy.

Thanks, Sheriff Joe for your efforts to revive a long-resolved non-issue! It will remind voters that the Republican Party is now owned and operated by fringe reactionary conspiracy theorists. (Layers! Layers! Layers!)

Meanwhile, our local talk-radio station hosts a morning guy who is right on top of the “Obama killed Breitbart” theory, and an afternoon guy who calls women with whom he disagrees a “slut” and a “prostitute”. WBEN should be ashamed of itself for broadcasting this despicable hate-speech on public airwaves, and don’t hold your breath waiting for any Republican, anywhere to dare criticize Limbaugh for anything.

As for Andrew Breitbart, while I feel sorry for his wife & kids, I’ll eschew any phony “RIP”, or gee-I-f*cking-hated-that-guy-but-he’s-dead-now-so-I’ll-write-something-respectful, because he was someone who did not exist to engage in political discourse or to persuade – he existed solely to destroy. Upon the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, Breitbart did not suddenly find a shred of humanity and respectfully observe that event. Instead, he wrote hateful and derogatory things, cheering the Senator’s death. Breitbart wrote,

Why do you grant a BULLY special status upon his death?

Why, indeed. So, I won’t grant Breitbart any special status upon his.

I’m tired of people quietly going along with what is really amounting to fascistic rhetoric out of the rudderless, ideology-free American right wing.

Arpaio '16 and the Death of a Bully

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a message for Barack Obama: Lemme see your papers, boy.

Thanks, Sheriff Joe for your efforts to revive a long-resolved non-issue! It will remind voters that the Republican Party is now owned and operated by fringe reactionary conspiracy theorists. (Layers! Layers! Layers!)

Meanwhile, our local talk-radio station hosts a morning guy who is right on top of the “Obama killed Breitbart” theory, and an afternoon guy who calls women with whom he disagrees a “slut” and a “prostitute”. WBEN should be ashamed of itself for broadcasting this despicable hate-speech on public airwaves, and don’t hold your breath waiting for any Republican, anywhere to dare criticize Limbaugh for anything.

As for Andrew Breitbart, while I feel sorry for his wife & kids, I’ll eschew any phony “RIP”, or gee-I-f*cking-hated-that-guy-but-he’s-dead-now-so-I’ll-write-something-respectful, because he was someone who did not exist to engage in political discourse or to persuade – he existed solely to destroy. Upon the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, Breitbart did not suddenly find a shred of humanity and respectfully observe that event. Instead, he wrote hateful and derogatory things, cheering the Senator’s death. Breitbart wrote,

Why do you grant a BULLY special status upon his death?

Why, indeed. So, I won’t grant Breitbart any special status upon his.

I’m tired of people quietly going along with what is really amounting to fascistic rhetoric out of the rudderless, ideology-free American right wing.