The Weppner Files

I know some of you think that it might have been a little much with the Weppner posts over the past week or so.  You have my sincere sympathies.  My most fervent wish is to never again have to dive into the fever swamps of ultra-right wing fascistic chatter in order to find tidbits of information that render local tea party candidates, to my mind, unelectable. 

The scary thing is that, in terms of politics, opinions, and pronouncements, there’s hardly much difference between Weppner’s lunatic ravings and Chris Collins’ constant drumbeat of anti-middle class millionaire resentment; it’s a very fine line between WBEN caller and representative from NY-27. 

A few weekends ago, the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski picked over some of the more malodorous parts of the Weppner mindswamp, and asked her for an interview. She declined, and agreed instead to answer via email. The result was a glorious, factual recitation of some of the things she’s promoted and said, and her weak explanations for them. (Weppner Vetted 3/24/14) Much of it surrounded her very outspoken involvement in the “birther” nonsense, questioning whether Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, or part of some half-century-long conspiracy to overthrow America. 

The candidate’s response to Zremski’s article was jaw-droppingly horrible. (Kathy Weppner Tries to Explain; Fails 3/25/14) I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. The passive-aggressive whining about being on vacation, the declaration of war on the librul meediya. 

Among Weppner’s defenses was that she was just asking questions, like everyone else, about the birther issue, and other halfhearted denials about being part of some wider birther movement. A quick listen to an online radio show on which Weppner appeared reveals not only that she was more than just “asking questions”, she was an active believer in the lunatic rantings of the fringe dead-ender birther movement. (How Not To Be A Birther, By Kathy Weppner 3/26/14). 

Now, much of the information that the Buffalo News and I had been using to vet Weppner came from recordings of her own WBEN radio show, as well as materials that she published on her blog “str8talk.wordpress.com”. Up until Zremski’s article, that site was still intact. After Zremski’s piece, she began selectively deleting certain passages, such as the racist “White Guilt” article she reprinted, verbatim, without comment. Soon, she took the entire site down altogether, and redirected the url to her campaign website; it remained, however, still visible via the waybackmachine. Finally, by 3/31, her campaign had successfully petitioned Archive.org to remove her entire internet archive from its site, and we are now left with not a single piece of evidence that she ever published a blog or had a radio show. Despite the fact that she proudly touts her WBEN radio show on her campaign bio, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any lasting evidence of its existence. (Kathy Weppner: So Proud of Her Radio Program She Deleted All Evidence of It 3/31/14). 

All we’re left with now is transcripts of her several calls to the Rush Limbaugh radio program.  Everyone knows who Rush Limbaugh is – he’s the fascist, racist, drug-addled, misogynist radio troll who spits hatred on a daily basis over the publicly owned airwaves. 

In 2008, Weppner called in with a particularly dumb theory about how Hillary Clinton was going to get the Democratic nomination because Obama was such a racist who “bathed his children” in hatred of white people.  Also, “October Surprise” and other such half-baked nonsense. (Kathy From Williamsville Calls Rush Limbaugh in 2008 3/31/14). That same day, I found a campaign image on her Facebook page that used the House seal, in direct violation of federal law. (Kathy Weppner Violates Federal Law 3/31/14)

In 2011, Weppner called Limbaugh to vent about how people need to start attending tea party rallies, or else we’d have “nothing left”. Also, her kids are serving in the military to protect things like Chris Lee and sovereign debt. It was a quick recitation of a couple of dopey talking points generating no discussion whatsoever. (Kathy Weppner: Why Are American Troops Fighting for Shirtless Chris Lee? 4/2/14). 

This one is one of my favorites – Kathy Weppner complaining about how no one from Congress held any town hall meetings in WNY so she and her cohorts could go and disrupt them. Yet she is so deathly afraid of the opinions and pronouncements that she spat when no one was looking, she deleted all evidence of them. I can only hope that Weppner takes her own advice and hosts some town halls.  I have some questions for her. (Kathy Weppner on Town Halls 4/3/14

Weppner called Limbaugh in July 2008 to ramble off a litany of groups whom she resents.

You know, we have ended up with a society where all the people that work in government, all the politicians, the teachers, the firemen, the policemen, all of our state governments, municipalities, and we are in a very heavily governed area here in western New York, all of them are living inside the castle walls, and all of us, everybody else is living outside of the castle walls. And all of the rules they make protect them, where our people, the public employee, they can retire at 55 here and they live to 85.

Yeah! To hell with our first responders and educators! Good talk, Kathy! (Kathy Weppner on Whom She Resents 4/4/14). 

Finally, there was the call to Limbaugh in 2009 – just a month after Obummer overthrew ‘Murrka, and Weppner threatened to go Galt because Barry and his cadres were going to just take everything anyway and give it to the lazy takers, (ostensibly the aforementioned teachers, firemen, policemen, and lazy blacks). Meanwhile, I learned that even physicians who receive Mexican medical degrees can earn a tremendous amount of money here in the United States. Weppner. What a card! (Kathy Weppner on Going Galt 4/4/14)

The best part? This campaign has barely started. 

Kathy Weppner on Going Galt

On February 26, 2009 – just about a month after President Obama’s inauguration – Kathy from Williamsville called into the Rush Limbaugh program to complain about how hard it is to earn over $250,000 in Obama’s America. 

RUSH: To the phones we go, Kathy, Williamsville, New York. Glad you waited. Welcome to the program.

CALLER: Hi, Rush. How you doing?

RUSH: Fine. Thanks much.

CALLER: My husband was having a bowl of cereal this morning, and he commented to me that, you know, we had to start socking away more for our retirement. And I said, “No, we’re not going to do that,” and he stopped eating, and he looked up and he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “If we do that, by the time we are ready to retire, they will take it because we will be people that have ‘enough,’ and they will confiscate that retirement.” I said, “We’re going to enjoy it today, because I am not hopeful.” And he said, “Well, then maybe it’s time I cut back a little bit and earn less,” because, Rush, he has worked so many hours a day providing for his family that he’s missed 95% of all the kids’ basketball games, and soccer games, everything. I’m there alone; he’s working. I said, “You know, maybe it is time. Maybe it’s time that you stop working so hard and spend more time with your family.” So that’s what we’ve decided to do because we’re in New York State. Governor Paterson is coming after his income and now the feds are coming after his income. He is not going to work so hard, because it’s a lot of sacrifice. Within an hour of that conversation, the Republican National Committee called me looking for a donation.

You see? New York has its hand out and so does the federal government. They actually expect people to pay taxes to, e.g., fund the most spendthrift military on the planet. 

CALLER: I said, “When we had power, you all acted like Democrats. The only time we act like Republicans is when we have no power! So don’t ever call me again.” So we are going to earn less. I am not contributing any more because they say one thing and they do another, and I really feel it’s too late for our country.

RUSH: May I ask a personal question?

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: No?

CALLER: Yes. Go ahead.

RUSH: Oh. Does your husband, your family income, exceed right now $250,000?

CALLER: Yes, it does. It’s not going to. We’re going to fix that. We are going to fix it.

They are going to earn less, by gum. It must be an absolutely wonderful place to be – well-off enough that you can consciously choose to work less in order to earn less. I know people who work several jobs just to make ends meet.  This is elitism run amok. 

RUSH: Well, I hate to tell you. (sigh) Your day is already bad enough. You’re in a state of shock. I mean, you live in the United States of America — and you had this conversation with your husband this morning?

CALLER: Yes, this morning.

RUSH: Over cereal.

CALLER: Over cereal.

RUSH: Look, I know how you feel. You live in the United States of America, and you have decided that in order to be secure you gotta work less and earn less, so that you can hide from the revenuers, right?

CALLER: Well, there’s so… I mean, he works 12- and 14- and 15-hour days and it’s because he wants to provide nice things for his family.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: And if working all of those hours and missing all of that stuff —

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: — is not going to allow him —

RUSH: I hear you.

CALLER: — to do that, there’s no reason to do that.

RUSH: I understand it. I know exactly how you feel. I know what you’re saying. You are engaging in Atlas Shrugged kind of activity. But let me just tell you that it is a misnomer if you think your taxes are not going to go up if he earns less than 250.

CALLER: I know. I know. I know. And we’re the people that pay for everything. We get no breaks. We don’t get tuition assistance.

RUSH: You ought to be thanked.

CALLER: We don’t get anything.

RUSH: The people who are paying, they ought to be thanked. They ought to be wined and dined. Instead people like you are impugned. You are attacked; you are targeted. It makes me livid. I understand exactly how you feel. Let me just tell you a little story.

CALLER: Yeah.

Limbaugh here is likening Weppner’s husband’s decision to work fewer hours to “going Galt”. But, you know, even if you earn less than $250k Obama and his cadres are going to come after you because communism. 

RUSH: I told this on the air the other day. I met with my financial advisor and he’s running through all the numbers.

“You got this over here; you got this over here.”

I said, “No, no, no. You’re looking at it the wrong way.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

“I don’t have any of it. I want you to understand that my attitude now is that if I ever do retire, that money isn’t going to be there. I’m counting on the fact that this administration is going to find a way to come get it, just like you think.”

It is 2014 and I can confirm that this is Rush Limbaugh’s estate

They didn’t come get it. Obama didn’t nationalize Limbaugh’s estate. Weppner continues, 

Well, they will. They absolutely will, because the country will be in such a bad shape that it will be totally reasonable in everybody’s mind, “Well, we need that money, and it’s just sitting there and we’ve gotta get out of the crisis.” That’s the way New York State is talking right now. “We need to have the baseline be the tax rate right now, but it has to be ‘progressive.’ Those who can give more should give more, just ’til we’re out of the crisis.” I don’t think we’re going to… The last week has made me so upset because they keep pulling hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars figures out of the air and they’re just spending, spending, spending. How are we going to get out of that? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

New York didn’t balance its budget on the backs of millionaire talk-show hosts or well-to-do physicians. It balanced its budget, in part, on the backs of middle-class families and the public schools with the Gap Elimination Adjustment. 

Fuck Kathy Weppner and her bullshit “I make $250k and Obama’s going to come and get me” resentment. 

Trump: An Exercise in Brand Destruction

Dear New York State ultra right-wing Republicans: 

Andrew Cuomo is right. 

The reason you’re so angry? You know he’s right. 

But I would say the state GOP is split into three distinct factions, not just two. 

In 2010, the Republican Party was divided between the wealthy, country clubby downstate moderate Republican hierarchy on the one hand, and a brash, obscene, bellicose, ultra right-winger who energized (and was energized by) the Palinist wing of the tea party.  The glibertarian Paulist wing of the tea party also backed Paladino, somewhat begrudgingly. What all this amounted to was a complete blow-out whereby Democrat Andrew Cuomo defeated Carl Paladino 61% – 34%. 

Paladino was largely self-funded, and could buy himself all the media attention he wanted. His only disadvantage was his own mouth. And the policies he espoused. New Yorkers rejected him convincingly. 

Now, the ultra-right Palinists are thisclose to recruiting Donald Trump to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is, I’m sure, not relishing the fight because Trump has many advantages over Carl Paladino; for instance, Trump has an international brand; Trump is reasonably well-liked by people, regardless of his weird politics; Trump knows how to make headlines, and do so positively for himself; Trump has been vetted in the media for decades; people know Trump for fun things that have nothing to do with politics; he is a known quantity downstate;  and, Trump has the New York Post in his pocket. 

Trump has some negatives, too, though; for instance, he has no filter between his brain and his mouth; he can be not just exceedingly rude and hostile, but downright vicious when dealing with people who offer him even mild criticism; Trump has been scrutinized as a tabloid celebrity, but not as a serious candidate for elected office; Trump does not play well with others, and is used to getting exactly what he wants (or can buy); Trump is likely to mirror Paladino’s bellicose attitude and alienate many voters; Trump’s utterly bizarre and inexplicably vocal birtherism will make Obama voters (62.6% of New Yorkers voted for Obama vs. 36% for Romney) reject Trump outright; and Trump has never, ever before paid a stitch of care or attention to anything west of the Hudson and/or north of Saratoga when it comes to New York State. 

If Republicans think that Trump can win (if he runs), they may be right – he has a chance. But it won’t remotely be the cakewalk they’re thinking it’ll be.  Cuomo isn’t warm and fuzzy, either, but he is a centrist Democrat. 

New York State is overwhelmingly populated by Democrats. The vast majority of New York voters are located within the New York City metropolitan area and media market. These people know Trump, and while upstate flirts with this pretty TV celebrity, he’s old hat downstate. Many of them are likely to not take him at all seriously. 

All of these hypotheticals are naturally based on the assumption that he’ll run. He won’t if there’s a primary, he says, and the country clubbers that run the New York GOP aren’t warming to Trump yet. I’m not so sure he’ll run – this is already a huge publicity stunt for him, and running is secondary. What a wonderful branding exercise. 

But is it? Is Trump ready to sacrifice his brand further by wading into hyperpartisan politics? As an Obama supporter, I’ve already resolved to avoid anything with Trump’s name on it like the plague; I see his relentless birtherism as thinly veiled racist xenophobia, and I see his rejection of irrefutable evidence as a huge character flaw that disqualifies him for public office, and the money I earn. If Donald Trump thinks that the President is a foreign national who is ineligible for the Presidency in the face of a certified long-form Hawaiian birth certificate, that calls his judgment and credibility into question. Now expand that aggressive ignorance into state politics, and he’ll alienate Democrats and moderate Republicans even more. 

Oh, and here’s a tip, tea partiers: stop calling Andrew Cuomo “il Duce”. He was duly elected, and you maintain a right to hate and criticize him. He is, therefore, not a fascist totalitarian dictator. But he is Italian. Your defamation of Cuomo with this false, childish, base slur will not ingratiate you or your candidates to New Yorkers of Italian descent. This bigotry is vile and beneath you; you might as well call him a mob boss or depict him as an organ-grinder as soon as you’d depict Obama as an African chieftain or with a watermelon

Because for all the bleating about the NY SAFE Act, this race will be decided in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. The rural areas will go for the Republican, the urban areas will go for the Democrat, and these key suburban swing counties could go either way. Right-leaning upstate counties simply don’t have a lot of people. 60% or so of New Yorkers are registered Democrats. 30% or so of New Yorkers are registered Republicans. The Conservative and Independence Parties are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party, so add another 5% on the Republican side. That’s the gap that Trump would have to win, and Cuomo made the point that he’s too extreme. 

Here’s what Cuomo had to say in remarks that enraged many New York right-wingers: 

You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.

… You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”

Republicans can take umbrage to that, but it’s a fundamentally true declaration. New York Republicans may enjoy the extreme hatenouncements of pretty billionaires and petty millionaires, but your average New Yorker is pretty middle-of-the-road. Pataki won because he wasn’t an extremist. Cuomo won because he wasn’t an extremist. It’s about the center in New York, and Trump may have had appeal there before the birtherism, but now he’s just Paladino with a cleaner outbox, a TV endorsement, and more money in the bank. 

Oh, by the way, the New York State Attorney General is suing Trump for defrauding students through a now-defunct “Trump University” which took money in exchange for nothing.  

So, my initial prediction is that Trump won’t win because (a) there would likely be a primary; and/or (b) he doesn’t need the headache. If I’m wrong and he does run, then I think he outperforms Paladino, but doesn’t defeat Cuomo. The reason why? Trump is being backed and promoted by a small minority of a small minority political party – a fraction of 35% of the state population. 

You guys are great at buying your own BS, and because you only credit right-leaning media and reject any sort of critical thought or debate, you think that you “surround us”. The problem is that the numbers are not in your favor, and the ease with which you descend into crass, ugly rhetoric doesn’t help. This is before we get to the actual policies you espouse, most of which would never fly in a cosmopolitan blue state like New York. 

So, good luck with this, but you might want to consider ways in which centrists and liberals might be attracted to Trump, rather than alienating them right from the start. Have a great weekend!

Love, BP

The Trump Gambit

Yesterday a junket of desperate Republicans met with noted Birther and tack merchant Donald Trump, urging him to run for governor of the state of New York against Andrew Cuomo. Among them was local political consultant and public relations maven Michael Caputo and birther tea party freshman Assemblyman David DiPietro. 

In this episode of “let’s recruit the rich guy“, the Republican left on the sidelines is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a solid Republican executive with wins under his belt, but little name recognition outside of downstate.  Astorino also doesn’t plaster his name on all kinds of stuff or have a billion dollars, nor is he the Sarah Palin of billionaires. But New York State Republicans are not beneath screwing the guy who earns something in favor of the self-funding rich guy. Right, David Bellavia

New York State has a population of just under 20 million people, almost half of whom live in the five boroughs of New York City. Add a million from Westchester, 1.5 million in Suffolk County, 1.4 million in Nassau, 317k in Rockland, 375k in Orange, and 100k in Putnam, and you have about 13.5 million of 19.5 million residents living within the immediate New York City metropolitan area – people who largely have no use for Albany or upstate in general, not to mention western New York. 

Trump’s especial brand of anti-Obama birtherism plays well for like-minded fellas like David DiPietro and his tea party cohorts. While much is being made of the duration of yesterday’s meeting, and the fact that Trump is no longer ruling anything out, this may have something to do with Trump’s new feud against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman’s office recently brought a $40 million fraud lawsuit against something called “Trump University” – or as the AG called it, a “nationwide scam” and  bait & switch fraud. Trump just this week filed an ethics complaint against Schneiderman, citing the prominent case of Argle v. Bargle

Really what this amounts to is recruiting a richer, downstate-friendly Carl Paladino. Trump is just as plainspoken, just as filled with scandal, just as flawed as our local loudmouth developer, but the difference is that Trump has name recognition downstate, to whom Paladino was a profane stranger, and Trump has actual friends in downstate media – even the NY Post was against Paladino. 

Donald Trump is the dream candidate for the angry, defeatist white male upstate voter with a “repeal NY SAFE Act” lawnsign because to the WBEN listener Rus Thompson set, Cuomo is the devil, and Obama isn’t even human. They aspire to be just like Donald Trump, and they love that he thinks like they do – and he has the money and name recognition to not care what anyone thinks. His downstate bona fides explain why he’s being wooed. 

Donald Trump would accomplish nothing in New York State. He would do nothing for education, for the poor, for upstate’s economic malaise, for Buffalo, or for anyone except the tea party and the ultrarich. I will also bet you that part of the strategy is a fusion party line or two, meaning that Trump would take advantage of the single-most corrupt process in New York politics. 

The headlines yesterday should have read, “Lawmakers to Massage Trump Ego, Trump Reacts Favorably”. 

Patriotism Run Amok

It’s not a good day for the self-described “patriot” movement. On the one hand, you have two bitter middle-aged men who decided to put their hatred to use, and decided to build a mobile death ray to kill Muslims and other undesireable ethnics in secret, while they slept.

The Tea Party is Totally Reasonable

Luckily, the synagogues that these two geniuses approached contacted the police, and the armchair terrorists were caught before they could do any harm. As an added bonus, one of them is a member of “Tea Party Patriots“, and named, pro-se, co-plaintiff on the lawsuit to repeal the NY SAFE Act – a lawsuit that is as clumsily written as you’d expect from a collection of pro-se litigants. Why would they think that Jewish congregations would be totally cool with committing mass murder and terrorism? 

On the other hand, a founder of the Arizona-based “Minuteman Militia”, which protects our country from an influx of dangerous brown people, stands accused of serial molestation of girls under the age of 10. 

Remember how the right wing had a conniption fit because the Obama White House dared to suggest that right-wing terrorism was a genuine threat to America?

Me, too.  

An Open Letter to Donn Esmonde

Dear Mr. Esmonde,

With today’s anti-school piece about Clarence’s difficulties with its school taxes, you’ve hit a new low. Frankly, given that you’re usually a reasonably progressive thinker who may have more than a passing interest in education, it’s appalling.

Did you speak with your anti-tax friends how the school tax rate – even with the 9.8% hike would have been significantly less than it was in 2003? 2005? The rate would have risen to $15.52/$1000.  In 2007 it was $15.86.  In 2003 it was $16.85. Did you know that in the last 4 years, Clarence has lost $13 million in state and federal funding?  No, you didn’t. If you did, you ignored it.  

Did you happen to mention to them that the tax rates in other highly-ranked districts like East Aurora, Williamsville, and Orchard Park are in some cases 2x the ~$15/$1000 it is in Clarence?

Did you mention to them that Clarence has the 2nd best district and is ranked 6th most cost-effective in the region by Business First?  Did you know it’s 93rd out of 98 districts in WNY in per-pupil spending?

Did you mention to your tea party friends or your readers how the district cut 60 full-time staffers since 2011? That the proposed budget that failed would have cut another 24? 

Ever heard of the Triborough Amendment or the Taylor Law? Did you know that the union agreed to a lower salary increase in its most recent contract than they would have received under Taylor? Did you mention to anyone that, even if the teachers and administration contributed 25% or 50% towards their health care, it wouldn’t close this year’s budget hole? 

Did you happen to question whether they knew that state pension costs are completely outside of the control of the local district and the teachers (and their union)?  Did the issue of the pension and the recent recession’s affect on it come up at all? Did you know that pension costs take into account the past five years’ worth of investment income, which includes the crash of 2008-2009? Did you happen to mention that the district had basically played Giambra-type games with the budget in past years, leaving us with a green/red budget type situation now?

Did you happen upon the fact that the so-called “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a local front group for Americans for Prosperity?

Why are we comparing what an educator makes to what someone at DuPont makes? In what way are they similar, except for the fact that they are “jobs”?

Did you happen to ask your friends what they think an appropriate salary for a tenured teacher with 20 years’ seniority should be?

Did you happen to speak with anyone who supported the tax hike and could have explained why it was deemed necessary? If so, why wasn’t that included in your piece? Why did you simply digest as fact what you were told by opponents?

Welcome to the tea party.

Alan Bedenko

Tea NY: Tantrum Advocacy

Some people have facts and rational factual, legal arguments on their side, while others have volume and little else. 

On Friday afternoon, a western New York tea party group nominally led by Paladino chauffeur Rus Thompson, brought a contingent of about a dozen people to hold a protest outside the local office of State Senator Mark Grisanti. 

Grisanti is already on the tea party enemies list thanks to his vote in favor of marriage equality a few years ago. Now, the target on his back is bigger still thanks to his vote in favor of the NY SAFE act – the recent gun control legislation that has sent a lot of gun enthusiasts and right wingers into a fury. 

Before NY SAFE, New York already had among the most restrictive set of gun laws in the country. For instance, you’re not allowed to own a handgun unless you apply for – and receive – a permit to do so. New York followed the prior federal assault weapons ban, and NY SAFE strengthened it further.  Rifle magazines are never allowed to contain in excess of 7 rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns with certain features (e.g., pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug, etc.) are banned, but if you owned one prior to the law’s passage, you  get to keep yours. A person’s weapons may be seized if there is probable cause to believe that the person is about to commit a crime or is mentally unstable. In New York State, the government has discretion in issuing pistol permits or conceal carry permits. In New York City, the rules are more restrictive than that. 

What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? 

Well, the right of the people to bear arms is restricted, not infringed. It is up to the courts to determine whether a restriction is a 2nd Amendment infringement. Furthermore, each state’s laws differ on gun ownership and possession. Usually, conservatives cheer that sort of 10th Amendment state’s rights sort of thing, but perhaps that cheering is absent when the states choose policies with which the right does not agree. 

When Rus Thompson and his band of a dozen SAFE Act opponents protested outside Senator Grisanti’s Buffalo office on Friday, the Senator did something that doesn’t happen that often – he went outside to speak with them. It is amazing to see what happens next. As Senator Grisanti begins discussing whether the SAFE Act will be repealed (it won’t), Mr. Thompson begins screaming at him, quite palpably for the benefit of the cameras. One supposes that Mr. Thompson thought he was scoring points here – that the general population would see this a brave exercise of 1st Amendment rights – getting right in the face of an elected official. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Thompson, that’s not at all how it came across. The Senator calmly hands out a statement and engages, occasionally, in debate with Mr. Thompson.  By contrast, Mr. Thompson is having what can best be described as a temper tantrum. He is screaming wildly at the Senator who reacts calmly but, at times, firmly. It is all a show that Mr. Thompson stage-managed for himself to make the news. Here it is, and the video speaks for itself. 

The animus that the tea party has for Grisanti is longstanding and pointless. Grisanti’s district is made up mostly of Democrats, and Grisanti is a moderate Republican. The likelihood of an ultra right-wing candidate winning that district is remote. In the video, Grisanti says he came outside specifically to confront Thompson on something he wrote online about Grisanti getting in another Senator’s “face” over gun control.

 So, Grisanti supposedly “yelled” at Senator Marchione to “back off”. Here’s what she has to say about it, 

So, that’s a lie.  

There’s a poignant irony at the end of the tape, when the assembled sweatshirt wearers are left taunting Grisanti – a two-time winner of a contentious state Senate election – with “loser”. Yet Grisanti is the only one seen in the video who seems dressed for work, and has someplace to go. Check out how a few other people (casino fight guy excluded) seemed interested in genuinely speaking with the Senator about the issue, but Mr. Thompson drowned out their conversation with screamed non-sequiturs. One man, Rick Donovan, claimed to be an Independence Party representative and yelled at Grisanti about petitions and betrayal. Donovan manages a Facebook Page for the “Independence Party of America” that has a whopping 17 likes. He ran last year – unsuccessfully – as Republican and IP candidate for Assembly 141 (Crystal Peoples-Stokes). On his Facebook page, he deftly identifies the largest issue facing the 141st Assembly district – the wholly and exclusively federal matter of immigration. 

Enlightening stuff. 

So, what is going on here? Looks like there’s a political club operating in New York State that is soliciting donations. In a reflection of their utter failure and decline, of the four political committees registered with the state Board of Elections containing the word “tea” in their name, only one is still active – Mr. Thompson’s “TEA NY PAC“. The other three, Elma’s “Tea Party Coalition PAC“, the redundant “Tea Party Conservative PAC“, and the “Tea Party Taxpayers for Liberty” – all formed in reaction to President Obama’s election – have been defunct for at least two years. 

The address for the “Taxed Enough Already NY PAC” is on Grand Island, where Mr. Thompson lives. Perhaps a reflection of what a political powerhouse and game-changer it is, it has $548 on hand, according to its January campaign disclosure report. In 2010, a Steve Garvin from Derby contributed $15,000 to Thompson’s group. $14,980 of that went to pay for radio spots during the 2010 general election.

Garvin gave to Lenny Roberto in his 2010 run against Brian Higgins. His only other contribution on record is $100 to a town-level candidate

In 2011, Thompson’s wife contributed $100 to offset bank fees from Citizen’s Bank and to pay a late filing fee fine to the Board of Elections. There were no other contributions in 2011. $100 was again deposited in 2012 to avoid bank fees. 

In the July 2012 periodical report, almost $1,370 in unitemized contribution were reported, as were $700 in expenses. Since then, Tea NY has been operating off the remaining $800 or so. It spent absolutely zero money on anyone or anything during the 2012 primary and general election campaigns. It spent $166 in late 2012 for an event.

Hardly the way to influence elections or policy. 

So, when Thompson emails his list claiming poverty and that it’s “impossible” to “wage a proper offense without the proper resources,” why didn’t he raise money – or spend any – to “wage an offense” (or defense, for that matter), in the 2012 election? 

Maybe Mr. Thompson can wage his offense simply by screaming intemperately at calm and knowledgeable elected officials. That’s free. 

 

#FreedomofSpeech

1. CNN has been offering up wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph, which has limped its way back to the US after suffering a crippling engine fire on Monday. They were calling it, and treating it like, a “disaster”, but was was disastrous about it? What it amounted to was 4,000+ passengers and crew being wildly inconvenienced and placed under poor conditions of sanitation and comfort. But no one died, and everyone came home last night. This wasn’t a floating boxcar of detainees – it was a cruise ship that broke down, revealing perhaps that cruise ships need fewer nightclubs and more backup systems, as WKBW reporter John Borsa pointed out on Twitter. It wasn’t a disaster – it was a mass inconvenience. 

2. Remember the “proud racist South Buffalo guy“? He made headlines some months ago for complaining about how those minorities commit crimes, cause property values to decline, and destroy neighborhoods. He’s now been arrested for robbing a West Seneca bank

3.  A West Seneca high schooler misbehaved at a hockey game and was asked to leave. He later took to Twitter and cursed out the teacher who did it. He did not threaten the teacher, he did not mock or insult the teacher – he merely vented his frustration with a Tweet that read, in relevant part, “f-ck [Teacher’s Name] #freedomofspeech”. The school found out and gave this honor student who, it is said, has no great history of behavioral problems, a five-day suspension. 

Interestingly, the student’s hashtag wasn’t frivolous. A kid doesn’t shed his constitutional rights when he enters the school building, and he especially doesn’t lose them when he uses a public platform from home, off school grounds, and outside school time. This particular student did absolutely nothing wrong. He took to a social media site and vented about a teacher with whom he had just had a negative experience. The only punishment this student should receive, if any, should come from his parents. The teacher can confront the student directly and demand an apology, I suppose, but the school has absolutely no right and no business to regulate or ban speech – even profane speech – a student uses on social media outside school time and grounds. Believe it or not, this is a case with federal, Constitutional, ramifications.

4. A big national tea party group – FreedomWorks, which was until recently led by former Congressman Dick Armey – made a video depicting former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving cunnilingus from a panda. The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See herehere, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was “an inside joke.” 

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that “Yes, this video was created.” 

Days before the FreePAC event, the video was screened for staff. “My mouth was wide open,” a former official recalls. “‘What the hell is this?'” Several FreedomWorks staffers were outraged and stunned that Brandon, the group’s second-in-command after Kibbe, had overseen the video’s production, appeared in it, and intended to show this film at the conference, which would be attended by many social-conservative activists. They raised objections to the film. 

“How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” a former FreedomWorks official asks, noting that two female interns had been requested to act out a pretend sex scene. “And there were going to be thousands of Christian conservatives at this thing. This was a terrible lack of judgment.”

Brandon, a former FreedomWorks official says, defended the film, insisting it was creative and funny. But eventually a decision was made not to show the video at FreePAC. 

Armey says he didn’t became aware of the film until months later: “I heard they had made an obscene video mocking Hillary Clinton.” He says he was told the video showed Clinton having sex with an intern. “I asked another [FreedomWorks] guy if he had seen it,” Armey recalls. “He said, ‘I heard about it. I was traveling at the time. It was shown around the office.'” Armey adds, “There was a concern that this kind of behavior could land you in court. I was shocked at the ugly and bad taste.” 

Dick Armey is the guy who called Representative Barney Frank “Barney Fag”. Dick Armey is a horrible person, and “FreedomWorks” is a horrible organization. The news that they produced a video showing Hillary Clinton engaging in some form of bestiality is unsurprising.  After all, 15 years ago these same clowns were probably referring to her as “Hitlery Klintoon” over on Free Republic. 

5. Tesla is a company that manufactures and markets a gorgeous, all-electric luxury sedan. It recently contacted the New York Times to do a story showing off, in cold weather and real-life conditions, Tesla’s new network of high-capacity chargers placed at 200-mile intervals along the Northeast Corridor. It didn’t go well

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went ballistic, calling the review a “fake” in social media. This prompted the Times’ reporter, John Broder, to refute Musk’s assertions via the Times’ Wheels blog. Let’s swing back to the point that Tesla pushed this test to the Times, and that, 

This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it.

A cold snap in the Northeast shouldn’t cause a state-of-the art $100,000 sedan, marketed as a regular car, to be unable to make 180 mile trip without pausing for an hour to recharge. Practically any car in America can easily make 300 miles before pausing for a 5 minute refueling stop. 

Soon, Musk took to Tesla’s corporate blog, where he challenged Broder’s assertions point by point, and uploaded what purport to be printouts of data the car recorded from Broder’s ride. Again, social media went nuts, calling out the Times for lying. Lying? 

First of all, let’s consider we have a Times reporter with no known axe to grind with Tesla or electrics in general who reported on his experiences trying to get a $100k car from Philadelphia to Boston. On the other hand, we have the CEO of a corporation and his public relations department trying to spin away the negative effects of the car’s failure to accomplish what the lowliest Honda Jazz can do. But also consider the fact that, in his blog, Musk purported to get inside Broder’s mind to ascribe motives to what he wrote. Consider, 

In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Broder had once written an article bemoaning the various criticisms and chicken-and-egg problems with electrics, and Musk simply dismisses that as animus. 

As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Musk made this assertion: 

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that driving at speeds of 65 – 81 on national interstates is not unusual, and that setting the heat at 72 on a very cold day is perfectly normal behavior – stuff that a $100k sedan that is supposed to be a replacement car and not a superfluous frivolity for the rich should easily be able to accomplish – the statement is wholly misleading. Look at the data: 

He was driving at 0 MPH a whole lot more often than he was driving 80 MPH. Indeed, the data records exactly one momentary spike to over 80 MPH – to say that he was routinely exceeding the speed limit is simply misleading. And why bother offering up the data if you won’t bother to characterize it accurately? Broder responded at the Wheels blog, after New York Times Public Editor and former Buffalo News Editor-in-Chief Margaret Sullivan became involved. As to the speed discrepancy, Broder accurately suggests the speedometer was uncalibrated due to wheel size, 

I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.

Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.

Musk accused Broder of deliberately running down the battery during a stop at a Milford, CT plaza where Tesla had a supercharger located, 

When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

Of course, Musk is merely ascribing ill motives on Broder because he is now butthurt over the article. But here’s how Broder explains what happened, 

I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.

The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.

Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”

As a lawyer, I’m trained to recognize BS when I see it, and when someone has a motive to exaggerate or mischaracterize evidence, and then does so, I’m skeptical of everything else they have to say about a matter. So it is with Mr. Musk, who goes beyond the data and labels Broder a liar who had it out for the Tesla from the get-go. Given a choice between believing the reporter and the company’s PR department, I’ll go with the Times. 

After all, Musk told Broder directly

Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

Incidentally, CNN tried the same trip and had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the temperatures had moderated, as evidenced by the snow-free photograph accompanying the article.

None of this is an indictment of the car, or even of the network of chargers. (As someone who puts lots of miles on two cars every year, I fail to see the allure of spending the equivalent of a Cheektowaga house to buy a car that has trouble making 200 miles before needing an hourlong break to charge up, but to each his own). But the tone of Musk’s response to a negative experience that Broder had, and the malicious way in which he mischaracterized what happened and ascribed to Broder a hostile state of mind, I echo what media guru Jeff Jarvis Tweeted late Thursday, 

 

And Beyonce Lip-Synced, Too

There was, of course, Rand Paul’s chutzpah – complaining about the management of an underfunded State Department, the budget for which he would further halve. But Rand Paul is Ron’s kid, and he has no use for State or for foreign relations whatsoever. He’s the very embodiment of ignoramus fortress America, which disengages from the rest of the world and becomes some fantasyland glibertarian dystopia. 

But the best exchange was the one below, where Republican Senator Ron Johnson cross-examined Secretary of State Clinton on the big scandal Republicans concocted out of the Benghazi attack – the one where it was scandalous that the US Ambassador to the UN went on the tee vee to regurgitate talking points about Benghazi that had been drafted and approved by the CIA.  

Ron Johnson, by the way, is an Iran interventionist, a tea partier who thinks 50 million uninsured Americans, medical bankruptcies, lifetime limits on health claims, and policy rescission represent the “finest health care system in the world“, favors perpetual occupation of Afghanistan, supports discrimination in employment based on gender identity, and opposes same-sex marriage. He also thinks he can condescend to the female Secretary of State: 

 And now you know why right-wing radio talk-show hosts hang up on or pot down liberal callers. 

Sandy Beach: Liberal

A local tea party activist is so incensed at WBEN commentator Sandy Beach, that she wrote a lengthy indictment of him here. Apparently, AM radio’s favorite septuagenarian has said occasional positive things about Democrats and occasional negative things about Republicans. This sort of talk is strongly forbidden within the tea party weltanschauung, which much prefers doctrinaire pronouncements about wild communard conspiracies, N0bamacare, and whether president Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia. 

Liberal Talk Radio fails every time it’s tried, and no amount of double-talk, persuasion or nice-sounding, hostile government takeovers like The Fairness Doctrine will change that. Sandy should take the knee-jerk and personal out of his politics, talk about the weather, current events and recipes, or retire. I think even my sensible Libertarian mother would agree.

There you have it. To the shrinking tea party, Sandy Beach is “liberal talk radio”, like NPR. 

Incidentally, the author of that anti-Beach screed is the press contact for NY-26 Republican candidate Mike Madigan. So, serious people and serious things. 

 

1 2 3 4