New GOP Congress to Destroy Canadian Border

Google Maps 2015-01-28 06-30-07Need to make an IKEA run? How about a show on King Street, an exhibit at the A.G.O., or maybe just a really good pizza here, here, or here? You might want to knock things off your Ontario to-do list if Congressional Republicans get their way.

Although temporarily pulled for being too weak, the “Secure Our Borders First Act” (HR 399) would impose unprecedented restrictions on leaving the United States via our border with Canada.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, controls at the Canadian border were strengthened, and travelers were required to produce proof of citizenship in order to enter the US. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted to try and balance security and freedom to travel. A tattered birth certificate or simple driver’s license was no longer enough – now you need a Passport, NEXUS, or enhanced driver’s license. While arguably improving security, it added cost and time to crossing the border.

Congress’ latest idea is to require biometric testing – e.g., fingerprinting or iris scans – for people departing the United States via the northern border. Every person in every vehicle would be required to exit the vehicle and provide biometric information. As you might imagine, the impact that this would have on routine cross-border visits for business, tourism, or just shopping, would be catastrophic. It would quite literally shut the border down, and it would deal a devastating blow to the western New York economy, which relies heavily on Canadian shoppers and cross-border traffic for jobs and tax revenue.

The “Secure Our Borders First Act” is billed in national media as being a Republican bitch-slap at President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration. But the affect on the Canadian border isn’t some inadvertent accident – it was a deliberate amendment brought forward by freshman Republican congressman from Syracuse John Katko. As the Finger Lakes Times reports,

Newly seated Rep. John Katko wants the nation’s northern border to get the same attention as the one down south. Katko, R-24 of Syracuse, introduced legislation last week to require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a northern border threat analysis. The bill is Katko’s first since he took office earlier this month.

“As a former federal prosecutor on both the northern border in New York and the southern border in El Paso, Texas, I’ve seen first-hand the issues our nation faces countering drug trafficking and potential terrorist acts,” Katko said in a press release. “While great attention is justifiably given to the challenges of securing our southern border, ensuring the safety of our vast northern border is critical to our nation’s security.”

Katko’s district includes the Lake Ontario shoreline in Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego counties, which is part of the international border with Canada…Katko said he also added an amendment…to the Secure Our Borders First Act authoriz[ing] the deployment of the same type of technology and resources on the northern border as it does for the southern border.

The Secure Our Borders First Act also includes the language from Katko’s stand-alone bill. “I’m committed to enacting tough border security to ensure the safety of upstate New York and the sovereignty of our nation,” Katko said. “Requiring timely assessment of the threats posed by illegal entry on both the northern and southern border, and adequately responding to those threats, is crucial to making that happen.”

The Secure our Borders First Act would allocate $10 billion for border security. It has come under fire from both sides of the aisle, with some Democrats arguing that it does not offer real solutions and some Republicans arguing that it represents a prelude to amnesty.

Add to that criticism the fact that this is a fundamentally idiotic, pointless, and harmful piece of legislation. You picked a doozy, Syracuse. Requiring biometric testing upon departure from the US would require the construction of inspection booths on the outbound lanes.  Requiring every occupant of every vehicle to exit and provide biometric information would be time-consuming and accomplish absolutely nothing.  Every effort to better integrate the WNY economy into that of Southern Ontario would simply vanish. Erie County sales tax revenue from Canadian shoppers would plummet and put more pressure on WNY taxpayers.

The Peace Bridge’s Ron Reinas told the Buffalo News that this proposal would kill border crossings. Congressman Higgins reacted similarly:

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, predicted that people would simply stop crossing the border because of the biometric testing provision, which would require the government to take fingerprints from or do iris scans of everyone in every vehicle leaving the country. “This job-killing bill would effectively close the northern border and cripple key components of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing,” Higgins predicted.

When Rep. Higgins offered an amendment delaying biometric implementation until Homeland Security could determine whether it would impede border traffic, Republicans shot it down.

Republicans on the committee defended the measure, saying biometric tests at the border would go a long way toward securing it by giving the federal government a way of checking which foreign visitors had overstayed their visas. Currently, foreigners who travel to the U.S. from many countries must have a visa, but there is no system in place to discover when they have overstayed those visas. The biometric inspection system would create that system by giving the government a way of cross-referencing biometric exit data against the list of visas the government issued. Some 49 percent of the undocumented immigrants in America simply overstayed their visas, rather than entering the country illegally, said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. “This would give us a way to eliminate almost half the illegals that are in this country by knowing when they left and when they did not,” said Duncan, who noted that four of the hijackers who perpetrated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had overstayed their visas.

There’s no exception made for citizens of Canada or the US, who don’t need visas to visit each other’s countries. Because a small percentage of visitors to the US on tourist visas stay longer than they’re allowed, we will effectively shut down the Canadian border. This is bad government, and it introduces exit controls rivalling what the Warsaw Pact countries concocted pre-1989.

It’s also a breach of contract with the Canadians, and completely unnecessary. The US and Canada share information on who is crossing the border. When you enter Canada and the agent takes your passport, that information is transmitted to the US, and vice-versa. We don’t need to construct a new infrastructure and biometric testing to secure the Canadian border. When did we abandon that careful balance between security and liberty?

…the provision appears to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the “Beyond the Border” agreement between the U.S. and Canada, which aims to make crossing the border easier, not harder. What’s more, the Beyond the Border agreement appears to offer the U.S. a way of knowing who is leaving the country without installing a new biometric inspection system. “The Beyond the Border Action Plan committed Canada and the U.S. governments to put in place entry-exit information systems at the common land border to exchange biographical information on the entry of travellers, including citizens, permanent residents and third-country nationals,” said Christine Constantin, spokesperson for the Canadian embassy in Washington. “The system would allow a record of entry into one country as a record of an exit from the other.” Currently the system exists for exchanging data on third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada and lawful residents in the United States at all automated points of entry, Constantin said.

Our local Republican Congressman, Chris Collins has absolutely nothing definitive to say about any of this.

…while he thinks the nation needs tough legislation to crack down on illegal immigration, at the southern border, he has concerns about the biometric inspection requirement. “If implemented wrong, this could potentially create problems for the Western New York economy,” Collins said. “So, I will be working with my colleagues to protect Western New York from any negative economic impact.”

Potentially? This is a WNY killer. How could this be implemented “right“?

When the bill was pulled, the Buffalo News noted that Collins proposed an amendment not dissimilar from Higgins’ own.

Under Collins’ proposed amendment, the requirement for biometric tests would not move forward until after completion of a demonstration project aimed at testing whether the mandate would create traffic chaos. Collins’ measure would mean that the biometric requirement would move forward only if it “has not resulted in increased wait times at any border crossing that was participating in such pilot program.”

Calling himself a “doubting Thomas” on the proposal, Collins said: “What we want is just to make sure that anything we do, number one, works, and number two, doesn’t cause undue delays at our northern borders and for folks coming to Bills and Sabres games and going to the Galleria mall. We can’t have backups at the Peace Bridge or Rainbow Bridge or any of the others that would dissuade Canadians from coming into this country and also inconvenience Americans.”

It was never introduced because the GOP pulled the bill, but while Collins gives himself credit, the real reason might have to do with ultra right-wing Congressmen from the deep South believing the whole thing is too milquetoast. If you tend to believe in conspiracies, it might be reasonable to suppose that this whole thing is designed deliberately by Republicans to do harm to blue border states like New York.

Asked about Collins’ alternative, Higgins said he was concerned that the results from any biometric demonstration project might not tell the story of what would happen at every border crossing. “This doesn’t take into account the fact that every single border crossing is different,” Higgins said. A spokesman for Collins said, though, that the legislation calls for three demonstration project sites rather than just one, meaning that problems could well surface somewhere during the testing. Higgins also noted that the biometric requirement appears to be redundant at the Canadian border, as the U.S. and Canadian governments have agreed to exchange exit and entry information about travelers as part of their “Beyond the Border” initiative to make border crossings easier. “Why isn’t that being taken into account?” Higgins asked. “Is it ignorance? Is it arrogance?”

Higgins hits the nail on the head. This proposal is completely pointless. It adds an unduly restrictive anti-immigrant act to our grand security theater.

As I argued in this article, we should be making our border with Canada work smarter and better. Restricting the market for labor, goods, and services is silly, and there are ways to free up cross-border traffic while addressing security issues.

Requiring every occupant of every IKEA-bound and Galleria-bound vehicle to provide fingerprints or an iris scan upon exit from the United States is pointless, redundant, theater, expensive, and would reverse and devastate WNY’s fragile and tentative economic recovery. I can understand how some throwback fascist southern xenophobe might decide that exit visas or fingerprinting might be a great idea for the Canadian border, but we’re talking here about New York congressmen who should know better than to destroy their own districts.

The text of the bill where Congressional Republicans seek to ruin the western New York economy is here. To call it a disgrace is a collossal understatement, and the only one who gets it is Congressman Brian Higgins. Your liberty and wallet are under Republican attack.

(Side note: the voters in NY-26 dodged a huge bullet last year).

Reactionarying the State of the Union

boehner

I confess – it was the first State of the Union I’d missed in years. Jet-lagged from a quick transatlantic trip to mourn the loss of a dear relative, I didn’t make it past 9:15.

Like the vast majority of Americans, I learned about the SOTU that which American major media think was important. Obama got in a zinger. Free community college. A focus on strengthening the middle class.

I also learned this about the SOTU, from my congressman, Chris “ObamaPelosi” Collins:

“Once again, President Obama used his annual national address to double down on divisive political rhetoric and unrealistic ideas. Rather than focus on policies that brighten the future of the middle class in a sustainable manner, the President has instead, sabotaged success and pitted Americans against one another. The President continues to advocate class warfare, and divide our country. He has repeatedly demonstrated that his idea of a bipartisan solution is his way or the highway.

Know thyself, Collins.

“What the President failed to address was that this past election, the country spoke loud and clear about the direction we need to take. The result was the strongest Republican House majority since the 1920s, a Republican Senate majority, and Republican control of 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers. Americans recognize that Republicans are focused on creating an environment friendly to job creation through comprehensive tax reform, energy independence, entitlement reform and a patient centered health care system. The President needs to accept this new reality, and find a way to unify the country as we move forward.”

Collins’ staff likely crafted that carefully and well in advance of its delivery or release. Let’s examine it, alongside what was discussed in the President’s speech.

Once again, President Obama used his annual national address to double down on divisive political rhetoric and unrealistic ideas.

I’m a big fan of “ideas”, whether they be realistic or not. For instance, it was pretty unrealistic for President Kennedy to declare that by 1969, the US would land a man on the moon and safely bring him home. Indeed, the very notion of “America” as it was founded and constituted was pretty unrealistic for its time. “Unrealistic” is seldom the opposite of “good”, when modifying the word “ideas”. “Divisive political rhetoric” isn’t really something a politician “doubles down” on – it’s what they do. Mr. Collins’ statement is no different. Pot calling the kettle black, one might say.

Rather than focus on policies that brighten the future of the middle class in a sustainable manner, the President has instead, sabotaged success and pitted Americans against one another.

The big announcements from the 2015 SOTU were things like free community college for any American kid who needs it (with certain pre-requisities);  Congress should lift the failed Cuban trade embargo;  Congress should properly authorize and fund the fight against Daesh; Obama will veto Republican moves to restrict abortion rights, repeal Obamacare, hinder immigration reforms, or authorize the Keystone Pipeline; Congress should help the President overhaul business taxes, conclude trade deals, and fix crumbling infrastructure; we should combat climate change, reform our immigration system, and enhance competition for cable and internet service. Congress should raise the capital gains tax from 23.8 to 28% and eliminate a tax dodge that the wealthy exploit. pass paid leave for workers, as well as more generously fund education, child care and retirement savings for the middle class. These would be financed by tax increases on millionaires and fees paid by large banks and investment firms.

In other words, President Obama wants to incrementally raise taxes paid by the well-to-do to help the poor and not-so-well-to-do get educated, insured, and employed.

I didn’t see it, but a correspondent advises that Collins went on WGRZ and claimed that Americans pay the highest taxes in the world. If that’s really what he thinks, he’s ignorant. If it isn’t, he’s just lying. Our tax burden doesn’t remotely come close to being the highest in the world. Aruba is the highest, followed closely by the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Denmark. Just lies.

The President continues to advocate class warfare, and divide our country. He has repeatedly demonstrated that his idea of a bipartisan solution is his way or the highway.

This is one of those things that Collins’ base likes to hear – that socialist Kenyan Indonesian racist n0bummer is waging class warfare, because he expects the rich to contribute more to help fund America’s international wars and its domestic attempts to help the middle class. They loved the wars – they just don’t want to pay for it, so they throw around “class warfare” while advocating for policies that disproportionately help people with millions – like Chris Collins – and do palpable and real harm to the middle class. The real war has been the war waged by the rich against the poor and middle class, and if we’re going to demand an end to that war, we should at least be consistent.

Make no mistake – Chris Collins is accusing President Obama of waging “class warfare” because he wants to repeal things like the trust fund loophole, which helps the rich and does nothing for anyone else. He wants to block tax credits for average working families because employees don’t matter – only “job creators” do, and then we can continue to follow the false and discredited dream of supply side / “trickle down” economics.

What the President failed to address was that this past election, the country spoke loud and clear about the direction we need to take. The result was the strongest Republican House majority since the 1920s, a Republican Senate majority, and Republican control of 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers.

And the country spoke loud and clear when it re-elected President Obama and rejected Collins clone Mitt Romney. Since the tea partiers to whom Collins panders love to think themselves constitutionalists, let’s talk about divided government and the power of the veto.

But even worse, those sentences look like something Buffalo News political columnist Bob McCarthy would have written – all horse race, all the time. For instance, the people in the 27th district had no legitimate choice in November, but in NY-26, they resoundingly rejected the craven hatemonger in favor of the thoughtful, intellectual incumbent. So, the “country” didn’t speak loud and clear about anything because Congress is divided into separate districts, and the people in those districts each voted a certain way.  But if Collins is suggesting a switch a party-dominated parliamentary system, let’s roll with that.

Americans recognize that Republicans are focused on creating an environment friendly to job creation through comprehensive tax reform, energy independence, entitlement reform and a patient centered health care system. The President needs to accept this new reality, and find a way to unify the country as we move forward.”

There were tax reform initiatives in the President’s address. The unemployment rate in late 2014 outperforms what Mitt Romney promised would happen under him in 2016, and if we hadn’t cut the hell out of public payrolls, the rate would be lower still. In fact, private employment growth has been record-breaking. Seriously, the news in December was great – 2014 was the best year for creating jobs since 1999 – the drop in the unemployment rate from 2013 to 2014 was the most dramatic since 1984. Wages were up, and the construction and health care sector were outperforming others.

Wait – health care?! I was told that Obamacare was going to ruin our health care system. I do, however, applaud Representative Collins’ apparent change of heart and support for a Medicare for all – the only type that could truly be “patient centered”, as it would take private insurance out of the health care delivery equation.

I understand that Chris Collins’ job is to throw shade at President Obama and librulz, and that his base in an overwhelmingly Republican district is hungry for this sort of jejune red meat. He’s just doing what he was elected to do.

Lie, and protect the millionaires.

Buffalopundit Endorsements 2014

Caveat: Artvoice does not do political endorsements. Nothing written in this post should be interpreted, construed, or cited as an endorsement by the owners or editors of Artvoice itself. This endorsement is mine alone. No person or campaign has directly or indirectly paid for or otherwise sponsored any post or endorsement.  I do not know whether any candidate or party has ever paid for an advertisement in Artvoice, nor would I be in a position to know. I am an independent contractor and have no involvement or employment with Artvoice or its advertising or editorial staff. Any questions or issues can be directed to me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com. I recommend you click the links – especially in NY-27. Now, on with the countdown. 

United States Congress (NY-26): Brian Higgins

I did this already, I’m sure you all know.

I posted it here just a short week ago

Kathy Weppner talks nonsense, her utterings, laughable; 

Congressman Higgins belongs in the Capitol

United States Congress (NY-27): No Endorsement

I admit that this pick came to me as a shock, 

but I got information I can’t simply mock.  

It shows that the Democrat, not long ago, 

worked for the campaign of Paladino

He helped with debate prep – and this made me cross –

he helped Carl defame a planned downtown mosque

Chris Collins is there, and he’s one of the worst. 

But principle matters; it ought to come first. 

Chris Collins? You kidding? At least he’s consistent. 

Not “Democrat now!”, but once Carl’s assistant

The incumbent, he voted for Cruz’s shutdown, 

harmed our economy and then, like a clown, 

claimed to be against it, despite his own vote

And (of course) blamed Obama, repeat, edit, rote. 

But Collins was for it, before he was not; 

he blamed the “extremists”, rejected the plot

Although Collins’ tenure has been ineffective

I won’t back a Carl guy, he must be rejected. 

Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York State: Cuomo/Hochul

Listen, Cuomo’s got flaws, and of that I’m aware. 

But Rob Astorino I just cannot bear.

His running mate –  Hochul – I respect a great deal,

and the great things he’s done for our region are real.

The Buffalo Billion and Startup New York,

should not be dismissed as cheap welfare and pork.

Never before has an Albany pol,

done this much for Buffalo, as I can recall.  

I do want to see much more effort to end

corrupt fusion and graft – those Albany trends. 

Transparency now is the name of the game, 

and Cuomo’s too secretive, to his own shame. 

After all that he’s done, though, I can’t just reject, 

Cuomo and Hochul, whom I hope you’ll elect. 

Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman

Did you see the debate? Whoa, that Cahill’s a twit. 

He screamed, interrupted, behaved like a shit. 

And kudos to Bob – wow! A substantive question!

I’m voting for Schneiderman this coming election. 

His office protects every one of us from, 

fraud and abuse, and the criminal scum. 

For those who take pills for pain they can’t stop, 

he set up I-STOP, so they can’t doctor shop

Schneiderman’s strong on consumer protection,

And Cahill deserves this year’s voters’ rejection.

State Senate District 63: Tim Kennedy

Given the choice between sellout or dummy, 

the outlook for voters just isn’t too sunny. 

Tim Kennedy isn’t my favorite guy

his opponent, however, should make you ask, “why…

“…would local Republicans beclown themselves so…

“…by running a guy who’d make Weppner say, ‘whoa’“.

Kennedy may have some bridges to fix, 

but Donovan? Please, voters, no, nada, nix

State Senate District 62: Rob Ortt

Oh, great. For fuck’s sake. What a choice – I’m aghast. 

Two Republicans, one Paladino backed last.

Ortt is the Mayor of North Tonawanda,

Destino’s a Dem whom I’m not wholly fond of. 

Paladino endorsed him the last time around

and that’s generally something I can’t just write down. 

Destino was backed by the goons who had tried

–  in a spurious way that I cannot abide – 

to smear Maziarz as a closeted gay

and failed, like the cretins they are, by the way. 

Ortt is a vet with conservative views. 

But defeated that Gia – so, he’s reasonable, too

When assholes supporting you campaign on hate, 

it behooves you to answer with outrage, and state

something where you reject their assistance and views,

and you do it quite loudly, and make it big news.

I’m sorry you didn’t, and I hope that you’ll scorn

that loudmouthed old hater who forwards horse porn. 

State Senate District 61: Elaine Altman

Hah! Mike Ranzenhofer? Career politician. 

Dear reader, what was his agenda or vision? 

Say “no” and do nothing, for 20-odd years? 

It’s time for a change, and it’s time to switch gears. 

Altman’s a teacher, she knows Common Core, 

and she’ll fight to fund schools, and absolutely do more

to help out a district that’s been represented 

by someone who’s done not a lot, I’ve lamented. 

Send a teacher to Albany!”, that’s where she belongs. 

Ranz’s tenure in government’s two decades too long.

State Senate District 60: Not Stocker

I mean no disrespect to Dem Marc Panepinto, 

I don’t mean to leave him out hanging in limbo. 

Think Again, Turn Away

A vote for the Dem would be great and just swell,

but Grisanti deserves to go back for a spell

As senator, he’s been unfazed and courageous. 

“Profile in Courage” would not seem outrageous. 

He helped us to pass same-sex marriage, and took

a risk to pass SAFE Act after Sandy Hook.

It showed us that people don’t need a damn armory,

and schools should be havens of peace and of harmony. 

So, whatever you do, and don’t think it’s a shocker

vote for anyone, just not the tea party’s Stocker

NYS Assembly 146: Ray Walter

Did you know that Ray Walter is in a real race? 

Against a young Dem with a fresh, stubbled face? 

I’m sure that Steve Meyer’s an earnest young chap, 

with ideas and energy. Aside from all that, 

I have to agree that he’s lacking know-how, 

and has yet to consider what furrows our brow. 

He’s just out of school, and has loads of more time, 

to get a career, pay some taxes and climb

up to a level where he really can get, 

the problems that we New York families fret. 

Ray and I see eye to eye on the tolls, 

that the Thruway Authority always controls, 

with antiquity formed in the shape of a booth, 

within it a person, who I doubt, in his youth, 

Imagined his life would be handing out slips.  

Yet throughout the world, the traffic just zips, 

through camera tolls without stopping to pay.

This dreary old system, it pisses off Ray, 

So, send my friend back to fight Albany pols, 

besides, the Assembly’s in firm Dem control. 

OTHER

For a number of races, there is no opponent. 

For a real democracy, that’s a missing component. 

For all of these races, you have a blank check,

vote whomever you please, except for Mazurek

I’ll note, on the side, that Ray Walter’s a friend, 

and he’s running against a young Dem 

 

But no matter what, do not let the time pass. 

Just remember to vote, and Donn Esmonde’s an ass. 

Weppner Campaign Seeking “Not So Nice”, Incidental Blight Photos

Blight. It’s a problem throughout Buffalo, WNY, and much of upstate and the rust belt. You can literally go anywhere in North America and encounter some abandoned buildings, ugly graffiti, vacant properties, and blight. 

But now a woman running for Congress against Brian Higgins wants to turn blight into a campaign issue. 

On Wednesday, Laura Yingling, the tea party “activist” and Glenn Beck “9-12” acolyte running Kathy Weppner’s campaign sent out a mass email to her entire list, entitled “Brian Higgins the Waterfront Czar”: 

That’s literally only about half of the “to” list. 

Here is the body of the email: 

Interesting, right? It’s a great way for Weppner to stoke class and racial fear and hatred. Also, it ignores and exploits the fact that Higgins now happens to represent the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls – places that have more than their fair share of blight. Hell, even Grand Island has that dilapidated and creepy old Dunlop office building near the north bridge. 

The current NY-27 couldn’t be more different from what it looked like before 2013, when it had a much larger suburban and rural component. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that the picture that Yingling sent around was not part of NY-27 before 2013. 

The current boundaries are also +13 Democrat, so you know, good luck. 

This is dumb politics and dumb campaigning. Showing off blight resulting from decades of regional economic failure isn’t relevant to Higgins’ time in office.  But dumb campaigns play to dumb people and know only the lowest common denominator. 

You get the idea. This parody account on Twitter captures the dumb beautifully. 

I’ll issue a challenge to all outlets in WNY: Every single time Weppner tries to get you out to an event for free media, ask her why she scrubbed her entire web and radio history from the internet, and when we can expect to see it back online

Chris Collins in NRO: Jim O’Donnell Reacts

Jim O’Donnell is the Democrat running against Chris Collins in NY-27. He is a police officer and a lawyer, and you can learn more about him here. Yesterday, he released the statement below. 

I reached out to Collins’ people on Thursday morning to get their side of the story, and to find out more about the NRO writer’s unusually short tenure on his Congressional staff, but no one got back to me. 

Here is O’Donnell’s statement: 

Unfortunately, there are people across the country that do not know that Chris Collins only represents Chris Collins. Because he holds the position of representative, people assume that he represents the people of our district. Since folks across the country don’t know what the boundaries of our district are, they just assume he represents a good portion of New York. So when he questions whether the “Blacks” in Congress are allowed to be on committees, as the National Review alleges he has done, people think those sentiments are held not just by him, but the all the people of Western New York all the way over to the Finger Lakes.

I’m not one to call anyone a racist. I don’t think it adds anything of value to the debate, if anything it detracts from the important issues that should be discussed. In this case it detracts from the fact that Chris Collins has been pointed out by one of the country’s most conservative publications as a crony capitalist who is using his power in Congress to promote his own self-interest. His lobbying for a wasteful government program that he benefits from is just one example from a long list of times Chris Collins refused to represent the best interests of his district, but instead used his time in government to help out another of his many businesses.

I don’t know if these most recent allegations of racism are true, but I do know it is imperative that Chris Collins answers them immediately. I do know that the ability of congress men and women to serve their country has nothing to do with their color. I do know that Chris Collins does not represent me, my district, any part of New York, or any significant part of this country. He may question why “Blacks” are allowed to serve on committees, but we are all questioning why we ever allowed him to serve at all.

 

National Review: Collins Has A Problem with Blacks

I almost feel badly for Chris Collins. Almost. 

My Congressman did a good thing this week, slamming proposed FDA rules against aging cheese on wood boards. It wasn’t the regulatory overreach that Collins made it out to be, but it was a horribly stupid interpretation of existing regulations. 

The FDA opined that wood planks weren’t especially cleanable, but wood has natural antibacterial properties and has been used in cheesemaking for thousands of years without a problem. The FDA backed down from any ban on wood

But sheesh, talk about burying the lede. 

Collins has done a lot to become attractive to the tea party set since his time in Washington, but everything about him reeks of corporate country club elite Republican, and that’s now finding him under fire from the right, for the first time. 

No one criticizes him in western New York because of his deep pockets. Washington’s National Review Online bloggers have no such issue. What has he done? He pissed off
an ultra right-wing SuperPAC. 

Heritage Action blasted Congressman Chris Collins, who represents New York’s 27th District, for apparently engaging in textbook cronyism. Collins, a millionaire many times over, is circulating a letter in Congress in support of re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank, from which one of his businesses, Audubon Machinery Corporation, has benefited in the past. Collins is a co-founder of and serves on the board of directors for Audubon.

A Heritage Action spokesman told The Hill, “Here’s Rep. Collins leading the charge of an entity that he’s personallybenefited from. That’s the definition of Washington working for itself.”

Collins responded, “This shows how out of touch Heritage is with how jobs are created in this country. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re a think tank. They’re not out in the real world.”

That’s rich. Collins accusing someone else of being out of touch with the “real world”. Which “real world?” To Collins, it’s the “real world” of well-connected multimillionaires getting sweet deals through federally subsidized banks. Corporate welfare. There is nothing stopping Collins or his companies from financing international deals through private banks. 

Whatever. It’s a Washington thing that has very little impact on you or me. This, however, is a blockbuster

I was briefly employed by Collins in 2013 but was terminated after three months and did not leave on good terms with the congressman. My impression was that Collins had a steep congressional learning curve. His staff had to coach him to talk less about himself to constituents, and at one point he asked about “a black” being on a Congressional committee after being told that the committee included several minority leaders.

If true, this is a remarkable insight into Collins’ complete and utter lack of character. No amount of Boy Scout talk (an organization that didn’t eliminate racial discrimination until 1974) can make up for a racial animus or discriminatory character. What difference, in 2014, does it make whether there are Black people on Congressional committees? 

Remember – this isn’t some moonbat liberal making this accusation, this is an ultra-right wing former staffer. She was terminated rather quickly, so maybe there are some hard feelings/sour grapes, but it’s an explosive charge to make so casually. 

Collins also made a conscious effort not to ruffle any conservative feathers, and he does not have a seat on  the House Financial Services Committee. 

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has called the Export-Import Bank “the face of cronyism.”

Most conservative Republicans do not support re-authorizing the bank. Collins, who almost always votes straight down the Republican line, is one of the few exceptions. A spokesman for the Congressman told The Hill that Audubon has not recently received a direct loan from the bank. Collins regularly touts smaller government, which makes it hard to understand why he would choose to make theEx-Im Bank his one major battle.

I actually support reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank. Not only does it disproportionately help smaller businesses enter the international market in cases where they’re unable to get decent international credit rates, but also because the tea party is out to kill it, which must mean it serves some public good. The tea party exists for one purpose: to destroy America and all she stands for; to create some sort of bizarre hybrid libertarian Christian jihadist confederation where everyone is armed and dangerous. So, yay Ex-Im Bank. 

But Collins’ alleged problem with Black Congressmen being members of committees is something that needs to be addressed and explained. 

Congressional Races of 2014

It’s shaping up to be an interesting Congressional election season. 

Republican incumbent Chris Collins will likely cruise to re-election in the sprawling 27th. He has name recognition, bases his every word and deed on Obama-hatred, and a bottomless pit of money with which to purchase perpetual re-election. 

Democrats endorsed a young police officer and attorney, Jim O’Donnell (no relation), to run against Collins. In addition to his J.D., O’Donnell has a Master’s in Economics, which would certainly come in handy against the throwback voodoo economics that Collins espouses. O’Donnell is running because of Congressional dysfunction

My dream is the same dream that people across the district share for their children. The problem is that Congress lately has been doing a better job of getting in the way of that dream than helping it come true. As a Congressman, I would work every single day to make sure that those very simple dreams, those simple ideals, become a reality.

Hopefully, Collins’ childishly nonsensical  “I was against the federal shutdown that I voted fornihilism will take center stage.  O’Donnell’s Facebook page is here

In the 26th, incumbent Democrat Brian Higgins is likely to coast to re-election, as well. This is especially true thanks to the fact that his opponent is not only going to be a tea partier, but is – quite literally – a low-information WBEN caller. “Kathy from Williamsville” is going to take her fact-free jingoism on the campaign trail. She is a walking, talking anti-Obama chain email, and anyone reporting on her should be sure to have Snopes queued up on their mobile browsers. Seriously – there will be no point covering her campaign if you’re not able immediately to vet her pronouncements and cross-examine her on the inevitable fabrications and fantasies she’ll discuss. After all, she has a list of known communists, doesn’t seem to be ready or willing to represent Muslim residents of the 26th (hint: it’s the primitive blood lust), has declared “white guilt” to be “dead”, warned against a hyperinflation that never came, and – like Ronald Reagan – opposes Medicare

That one will be fun. 

Chris Collins Propaganda Call on Line 1

Maybe he just hates everything “common”

My Congressman was desperately interested in hearing my input about education and the Common Core standards that are slowly being transformed from an initiative to improve and enhance education and student expectations for the 21st century into a communard bete noir. Because Common Core was implemented during the Obama Presidency, Collins is automatically against it. Because many people are concerned about its testing protocols, Collins is interjecting himself into an issue about which he has never spoken before, and about which his ignorance is palpable.

Why was Common Core implemented? Because employers were concerned that High School students were unprepared for the job market – a pretty basic and fundamental issue

The initial motivation for the development of the Common Core State Standards was part of the American Diploma Project (ADP).

A report titled, “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” from 2004 found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past. According to Achieve, Inc., “current high-school exit expectations fall well short of [employer and college] demands.” The report explains that the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in college and careers. “While students and their parents may still believe that the diploma reflects adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life, in reality it falls far short of this common-sense goal.” The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards.

Why implement it nationwide? So that a kid in Alabama meets the same standards as a kid in Vermont, and so that no kid is shortchanged. But to Chris Collins, this is communistic hogwash. Here’s the press release that followed the call: 

Jan 27, 2014 Press Release Thousands of district constituents participate in discussion about new educational standards

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) talked to parents about Common Core today as part of a district-wide telephone town hall meeting.  The new educational standards are currently being implemented in New York State.  Common Core is widely criticized for forcing students to learn skills necessary to perform well on tests as opposed to actually learning critical material. 

Thousands of NY-27 constituents participated in the town hall to learn more about Common Core and voice their concerns about how the new standards are impacting their children. 

“There are few issues as important to the future of our country as the education of our children,” said Congressman Collins.  “Unfortunately, in today’s world, too many of the decisions surrounding our children’s education are being made by government bureaucrats far removed from the classroom.  I believe strongly that parents, teachers and local school leaders know what is best for our children.  Common Core is a typical one-size-fits-all approach generated by big government bureaucrats.”

New York State adopted Common Core standards in 2010.  Across the country, 45 states have begun Common Core implementation, but recently ten states, including Massachusetts, have started to rethink or delay their participation over growing concerns from parents, educators and students themselves.  States were incentivized to participate in Common Core by the federal government through grant money available as part of the American Recovery and Restoration Act (federal stimulus). 

During the telephone town hall, parents voiced concerns about the student testing standards, mandated curriculum, and teacher/school evaluations tied to test results as dictated by Common Core.   Joining Collins for the town hall was Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom

“We should all want our children to be college or career ready following high school graduation and we should be willing to raise our standards to achieve that goal,” continued Collins.  “But Common Core is about churning out students as test takers, not inquisitive students excited about learning.

By forcing students to spend their K-12 years arduously focused on test talking, we will never develop our next generation of leaders, educators and entrepreneurs.  That is sad for our children and our country.”

Collins continued to urge parents and educators to raise awareness of Common Core and push for changes to its implementation, if not full repeal.  Parents with questions about Common Core are encouraged to contact Congressman Collins’ office.

Well there it is. It wasn’t so much to let parents vent concerns as much as it was an opportunity for some guy from a libertarian think tank to propagandize to a conservative constituency. Was there a principal from a school in the district on the call? Was there anyone there who wasn’t there to promote an agenda, but had actual practical experience to offer? Was there anyone there with an advanced teaching degree? This less than a year after the school district that covers Collins’ own home underwent a brutal and painful budget process last year – one that saw tons of young, dedicated educators unceremoniously fired and myriad programs cut. Chutzpah is the word. 

Who got to participate in the call? I’m not on Collins’ mailing list, despite having subscribed at least twice. So, yesterday, while my wife and I were at work, we got this call: 

http://blogs.artvoice.com/avdaily/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/collinscall.mp3

Well, I wasn’t at home. I was at work working. Even though I knew about the call ahead of time, thanks to some local media reporting, I couldn’t participate because I was at work working on work so that I can bring home an income and, among other things, donate money to the school foundation set up to help fund programs that were cut last year. 

Common Core may be susceptible to demagoguery because it sounds ominous, is new, and because the state of New York’s implementation of its standards was as abrupt as it was inept. Tons of kids came home last year having been tested against standards that weren’t taught during the school year, and they got bad scores. But when I talked to my youngest’s school principal and teachers about the new standards, they were universally enthusiastic about it. The new standards will not only ensure that the right things are being taught, but they will have an ability to track how kids are doing in real time, and divert extra help where it’s needed. 

This isn’t about rolling back Common Core. This is about outlawing public education in this country. This is about codifying a fundamentally unfair, tiered education system whereby the poor and middle class receive vouchers enabling their kids to attend de-funded, decontented, tertiary quality schools; the upper middle class might be able to kick in extra for parochial or second-quality private schools; and the millionaire class can afford whatever they damn well please, and have their precious snowflakes’ private educations subsidized by the poor and middle class. It is the very definition of class warfare – by the wealthy against the not-wealthy. This is about the slow dismantling of every progressive goal this country has ever achieved – public K-12 education, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Medicare – anything designed to help average people and the elderly enjoy life. This is a war being waged by millionaires and billionaires against you and me. 

It is a war against the American Dream itself. 

So, if people were hosting a genuine conversation about Common Core and its standards and implementation, that would be great. But that’s not what Collins was doing. He timed the “discussion” so that working parents could not participate. He did not advertise it nearly well enough. He did not have a balanced discussion, but instead propagandized with the help of libertarian school choice advocates (read: public school opponents). 

Collins Demagogues Social Security

This letter to the Buffalo News bears special attention. Thanks to Bruce Kennedy of Orchard Park for taking the time to write it. It highlights the rhetorical nonsense and outright lies that Chris Collins utters without apology, accountability, or irony. 

If I am looking for misinformation or half-truths, there are radio personalities and television networks I can tune into. I expect more from my elected congressman.

Rep. Chris Collins, on a radio program recently, was making the case that we have to cut Social Security benefits in order to lower the federal deficit. This is a talking point that is repeated over and over again as a political scare tactic. The only problem is that it is untrue.

Pause here to remember that all politicians love usually to pander uncontrollably and shamelessly to seniors. During the two Hochul races against Corwin and later against Collins, the Republicans had their support for the Paul Ryan budget hung around their necks to shame them, like the kids whose parents make them stand on the corner with a cardboard sign reading, “I lied”. The issue at the time was Medicare, the wildly popular and efficient single-payer plan for senior citizens.

The Republicans were pushing a plan whereby people under the age of, say, 55, would receive fewer and weaker Medicare benefits when they reach the appropriate age, while current seniors’ plans would be unchanged. This two-tier proposal was especially egregious when you remember that Medicare isn’t some government handout, but a plan that you pay into your entire working life. You’re not some welfare bum, but a customer, in “run things like a business” parlance. 

The Social Security Program is totally financed by a designated tax (FICA). The program does not add a penny to the federal debt and it never has. Social Security in fact is prohibited by law from spending any more money than it has in its trust fund.

Also, it is a social insurance program, not an entitlement, as he referred to it. I assume Collins has subscribed to the theory that if you shade the truth about an issue enough times, people begin to think it has to be the truth. It is a representative’s job to inform the public, not to misinform. When you misinform on important issues, it is a disservice to your constituents.

Collins, of course, is a hyper-partisan borderline tea party public sector millionaire, as he called it. Collins is the least bipartisan rep from New York. He is the 2nd least productive rep from New York. He was for the disastrous shutdown before he was against it. He’s here denigrating Social Security as just another welfare handout that the government just can’t afford anymore, and that he and his nihilist Republican colleagues need desperately to “reform” through abolition and privatization. 

Problem is, there’s no one to credibly run against this congressional trainwreck. However, the new district boundaries help to expand the list of potential candidates. Collins will be largely self-funded, and supported by corporate interests and big right-wing PACs. His opponent would need name recognition, an ability to self-fund, a positive public image, and an way to challenge the myriad Collins lies and anti-regular-person positions and policies.

Know anyone? Tick tock.

Captain Collins

Is the Collins Congressional office apparatus set up like the USS Enterprise? Maybe more like the Sea Org? Either way, Collins has a penchant for golf shirts – he famously sold them to county workers when he was County Executive, and encouraged teambuilding and other managementspeak by emblazoning them with the county seal and a Six Sigma logo.

America doesn’t do peerages, so Collins bought himself the next best thing – a Congressional seat, and dammit he’s the captain of that ship. He’s got the stripes to prove it.

Is it just an Adidas ad, or does it designate rank?

I can only assume that Grant and Loomis have similar white and red golf shirts with two stripes. Interns and lower-level staffers get one. It’s good to know your place.

HT DWICollins and Tom Dolina for the “FailBoat” image.

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