First, you cite Bush’s “inept, reckless foreign policy.” But you’ve agreed with him on every major policy decision along the way. You voted for the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. You said, “I believe we must always have a preemptive right” to first strike, which is illegal under the UN Charter. You have blamed the Palestinians for Israel’s refusal to abide by UN Resolutions calling for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. You were right behind Bush in condemning US abuse of Iraqi POWs -- and rightly so -- but you also joined Bush in declaring the problem to be limited to a few “bad apples”, and not the pattern of abuse that the evidence shows (the kind you once seemed to recognize in Vietnam). I’d expect a reversal of these positions.

You also voted for the “USA PATRIOT Act”, the “Visa Entry Reform Act” and other draconian legislation, much of which was on the Republican wish list for years. You seem to agree with the President that the only way to protect our lives is to trash the Constitution, the same document you would have to swear to defend if you’re elected -- just the opposite of what I look for in a candidate.

True, as you say, millions live in fear of losing jobs, healthcare, pensions, etc. But these are more than academic issues to many of us who have not had the benefit of your personal wealth. My own family has experienced unemployment, layoffs, lack of healthcare and other benefits, underfunded education, children raised in poverty and abortions out of desperation. My mother, who is disabled and recently suffered a major heart attack as well as gall bladder surgery, may be about to lose her Medicaid. These are issues I personally, along with millions of other Americans, need to see addressed in reality not just rhetoric. You say you want to replace “doubt with hope,” “fear with security,” and “broken promises with a real plan.” But mostly what I see coming out of your campaign so far are doubt, fear and not much of a plan.

On jobs, you called the idea of pulling out of NAFTA and the WTO “disastrous,” even though these kind of so-called “free trade” agreements are in fact draining off US jobs at a “disastrous” rate, not to mention the devastating effect on neighboring economies. You haven’t promised to stand behind unions when their employers lock them out or permanently replace strikers. You haven’t come out in favor of penalties or other consequences for corporations that “cut and run” from communities that have subsidized them for years, leaving unemployment, poverty and despair in their wake. (They could pay the money back, for example.)

On healthcare, you haven’t spoken in favor of a single-payer plan, of the kind that eliminated the problem of the uninsured in Canada, or national healthcare as in England. My wife is from England, and, sure, they complain about the National Health, but when they learn how America’s system works (or doesn’t work) they can’t believe their ears. To them, no civilized country would tolerate the US healthcare system. In Canada, too, their healthcare system is the single favorite government program of all time, and it works. That’s why so many Americans now are crossing in Canada to buy their drugs. As far as I know you haven’t spoken out in favor of “free trade“ in pharmaceuticals, however.

And I’m not clear at all on what you plan to do to save pensions, or Social Security, from the common theft of bosses and government budget policies. I know you voted against the Republican “lockbox” bill, but I haven’t seen your “real plan” to protect either of these.

I’m glad that you oppose school vouchers and support abortion rights, which does distinguish you from the President. But you seem vague on these points, too. The real problem with education funding now is that most public schools are funded by property taxes, so the poorest kids get the poorest education. The current problems with abortion rights, too, are mostly economic. Federal funds pay for many medical procedures, but not abortion or proper reproductive counseling. On the other hand, many women feel driven to have abortions because of the prohibitive costs of day care, or because they are forced to work by Clinton-era welfare cuts. I haven’t heard you offer to help with these problems.

Your letter asks for my help in waging “a campaign in which we stand up for what we believe in” -- but what do you stand for? You mention “our cause,” but you don’t seem to have one -- except getting elected. If I’m wrong, I apologize, but your campaign seemed to start off center-right, and since you sewed up the nomination you have jogged further right. We don’t need another Republican in the White House, Mr. Kerry; that’s supposedly why we have the Democrats. You need to offer us a genuine alternative if you want to inspire us to turn out and vote for you, much less work on your campaign or give you money.

Maybe you will win despite the problems I point out, and nobody will be happier than I would be to see George W. Bush’s policies repudiated. I’m just not clear that voting for you, or sending you money, represents that kind of repudiation. I sincerely hope you can prove me wrong.

Okay, who is really beleaguering the City of Buffalo? The Republican-dominated Control Board, the State GOP under George Pataki and Joe Bruno, the Republican Party under George Bush and of course the elitist Group of Eighteen hold all the cards. Is it the people who control all the money and power that are the problem here or is it the people with little of anything?

In quiet breakfast meetings and heartfelt downtown chats, Buffalo's business leaders are waging an intensive search for one of their own to become the city's next mayor.

Why are the breakfast meetings so quiet? Is it because no one wants to wake up Bob Wilmers? And how do these people have heartfelt chats about further cuts in fire, police, education, etc? “This will hurt them more than it will hurt us.” “Yes, heartbreaking, isn’t it? Pass the cream cheese.” If these guys are really business leaders and not just the products of inherited wealth would it really be necessary to conduct an “intensive search?” And if it is one of their own that they’re really after, why is the task so arduous? After all, there’s hardly any legitimate business left. I mean, leaders are supposed to stand out aren’t they? Maybe they’re looking for the new breed of business leader exemplified by our President, one who hides from the press and spends more time on vacation than Cal Coolidge.

It is time for someone outside the normal political establishment to step forward for the 2005 election, they say, pointing to massive population loss and a state financial control board as the products of politics as usual. Whoah! Hang on a sec! I thought they were conducting “an intensive search for one of their own”? They are the normal political establishment! They’re the same people who managed to run Tony Masiello unopposed.

Population loss and the state control board aren’t the products of politics as usual, they’re the products of The Buffalo Club’s Group of Eighteen– pure and simple. Our political system is driven by money. Political contributions have flowed into the coffers of politicians who helped their contributors exploit federal and state aid to the City.

Breaking the municipal unions has been part of the game plan for Bob Wilmers & Co. since the early nineties. At a time when other cities were enjoying a boom in investment and enhancing their natural attractions, Buffalo’s business elite focused instead on magic bullet mega projects that would present opportunities to loot government largess on a scale commensurate with the grandeur of the appointments at 388 Delaware Ave.

"Finding someone who will come at (the city's problems) from something other than a political process is something we need to explore seriously," said Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, who is spearheading the search. "We need to try and find someone from outside that perspective."

The problem with politics is that it’s too political. The problem with education is that it’s too educational. The problem with automobiles is that they’re too automotive. This is the sort of brilliant logic that sends its rays of enlightenment across America’s political spectrum from left to right casting its dark shadows only on foreign shores. As a consequence we need to create a public relations barrage that will convince people that as we subvert the democratic institutions of a community it will be done so in a manner that is “something other than a political process.” Of course, Andrew J. Rudnick is “spearheading” the search for someone “outside that perspective.” Wow, the nineties must really be over. Otherwise, we’d be looking “outside the box” for that special someone. Andy Rudnick with a spear? That’s sounds like a reality show that might actually be fun to watch.

The business group is conducting a citywide poll this week to test the idea and has contacted about half a dozen business types so far - some well-known and some obscure Wait. They’re conducting a poll to test the idea? Which idea? The quiet breakfast meeting idea or the idea that there’s some sort of superior politics beyond good and evil? If they poll me

I’ll tell them that they should have their quiet breakfast meetings at Nietzsche’s at three in the morning and barley sandwiches should definitely be on the menu. That way those “obscure” business types could show up. Who knows? Maybe they could even attract Charlie Gargano or Butchie Quarcini, you know, guys who think outside the box.

While Rudnick says a career politician may very well emerge as its candidate, his group continues searching for a fresh face. Okay, so the idea of getting a non-political politician may be out the window after all! Or maybe there’s a non-political politician that’s completely obscure because he’s had his “fresh face” jammed up some bigwig’s ass for years. Now, I t hink we’re getting somewhere.

That face could be a college vice president or a downtown business owner recently profiled as a hip dresser. Of course! Colleges and universities in the United States are completely apolitical! It’s what makes the endless war against terror doable, but does this additional emphasis on wide recognition of fashionable attire mean that gay candidates have an inside track? If so they might have to move the breakfast meetings to a gay bar.

It could be a member of the control board overseeing city finances, or a young Republican from Alden named Wiggle. If only the prerequisite called for a young Republican control board member from Alden named Wiggle who was also a born again Christian – then they could definitely move the quiet breakfast meetings to a gay bar!

Though other names may enter the mix, the most serious prospects include John J. Hurley, 47, vice president for college relations and general counsel for Canisius College. Hurley, a Democrat, was a member of the Charter Revision Commission that redesigned city government several years ago, as well as a City Hall panel searching for a new planning chief last year. He said he is aware of the coordinated effort to find an "outsider" that most likely would reach beyond the current political aspirants.

Canisius College VP for college relations, huh? I had relations when I was in college but never college relations. Is that when the school screws you over on tuition and fees for things you never use? You can’t get a higher “outsider” status than Canisius, with Carl Montante and Paul Koessler stoking the coffers. The great Charter Revision spooled out reams of top shelf toilet paper for control board members to wipe themselves with, so if Hurley was a part of that he’s probably in tight with Jim Magavern, another outsider. And lest we forget Emperor Joel was also a Democrat once upon a time. We gotta keep our eye on this Hurley kid.

"Not a business'

"They don't see in the current lineup the kind of bold and decisive leadership needed to grapple with the problems before the city," Hurley said. "The fact is, government is not a business. But there is something to the argument that the training and experience of someone actually outside of government might be needed."

Oops! The kid might’ve blown it. Apparently, he hasn’t heard the mantra “We have to run it like a business.” The business we have to run it like is Adelphia or maybe Enron (nobody goes to jail with Frank Clark in charge). You’ve got to like Hurley’s virtuous, apolitical public servant rhetoric, though. Very Robert Moses of him. Too bad he’s not Robert Moses.

Other names being mentioned include:

• Steven A. Calvaneso, 44, owner of high-visibility businesses such as City Grill, Bacchus, YaYa Bayou Brewhouse and the Ultimate Men's Shop in Buffalo, as well as Calvaneso's Cosmopolitan Grille in Amherst. Image is everything! Foodies Unite! Dedicated followers of fashion to the ramparts! A flashy Masiello beneficiary! Now that is so far outside the box that I think everyone can get on the bandwagon.

He is registered with no party but is concentrating on the Republican nomination, which many observers think could play a key role in the 2005 election. Again he’s clearly non-political and the unnamed observers so often appealed to in Buffalo News articles (Bacchus? Dionysius?) think that the Republicans will play a key role in 2005. After all, after George Bush wins a landslide victory in the City of Buffalo this fall it only stands to reason that the party will stay on a roll.

• Richard M. Tobe, 55, vice president of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and a control board member. A Democrat, he held high-profile positions with former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski and the late Assemblyman William B. Hoyt. Though Tobe acknowledges discussing a possible run with business leaders, he says he does not expect to seek the post. Remember that ideal obscure candidate specializing in facial proctology we mentioned earlier? Please put the rock back in the position that you found it in, thank you.

• Glenn C. Wiggle, 32, division manager with Next Financial Group in Williamsville and Las Vegas, and co-host of a paid programming radio show called the Financial Forum. At only 32, he has assembled a long resume chock-full of business accomplishments and investments.

Fanatastic choice! An insurance salesman/financial planner/stock picker with a branch office in Vegas and a home on WBEN’s right wing talk radio! That’s a public service record that’s right up there with that of our great Congressman Tom Reynolds. Plus, he’s based in Williamsville and belongs to the Saturn Club. Maybe he can help our geriatric suburbanites figure out which slot machine is right for them when the casino opens.

Hurley said he would compete only if Mayor Anthony M. Masiello decides not to run again, and over the last several weeks has actively explored the possibility. But he says his interest may be cooling in light of responsibilities at Canisius and a new realization of the extent of Buffalo's problems.

We’re talking about Hurley again? Well it’s nice to know he’s got a non-compete clause with Tony, but so does everyone else. This nonsense about responsibilities is annoying, too. Everyone knows the only responsibility he would have as Mayor is to the almighty dollar. As for his “new realization” of Buffalo’s problems, well, let’s just say this kid has been paying very close attention, has he?

"Discussions are not at a complete halt," he said, "but I have been looking at what's being reported out of the control board and the magnitude of the task ahead." Whatever.

Others who have expressed interest in running for mayor include regionalism advocate Kevin P. Gaughan and Bruce L. Fisher, chief of staff to Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, but neither has been contacted by the Partnership. Gaughan’s parents hung out with the Kennedys. Shouldn’t that entitle him to be Mayor of Something? And why is Bruce Fisher embarking on this fishing expedition? Is he afraid of the “toxic Gumby” disease spreading from the Imperial Suite in the Rath Building?

"The usual suspects'

Though its effort remains low-key, the Partnership approaches its objective emboldened by recent successes it considers departures from normal political patterns. They include citywide approval of Common Council downsizing, and last year's surprise election of Andrew A. SanFilippo as city comptroller in a campaign the Partnership helped fund.

Racism is hardly a departure from normal political patterns in Buffalo’s elite circles. Both the Council downsizing and the comptroller’s race benefited from the ability of the Partnership (with some heavy lifting from The Buffalo News) to portray Jim Pitts as the big bad black who was responsible for all the City’s problems. Race was an issue in the referendum and it also helped SanFilippo to beat Pitts. These race-based victories enabled the introduction of the most anti-democratic control board ever. The control board is actually an authority and as we’ve seen time and again, there’s no point to establishing an authority unless you plan on issuing bonds until the end of time.

"We're including all the usual suspects in this," Rudnick said of the overall effort, "but we are also serious about looking for a new type of city government leader." Let’s see. Racist political campaigning, usual suspects, new type of city government leader, hmmm…Got it! Dave Franczyk for Mayor. Now, if only we can gerrymander the City of Buffalo into the Tonawandas.

That is exactly the kind of thinking that guides Jordan Levy, managing general partner of Seed Capital Partners in Buffalo and a member of the 43x79 Group that is also part of the effort. He describes the political-action committee as a "group of guys who get together and put our money where our mouths are." Speaking of usual suspects, it’s good to see Jordan Levy is back with the 2X4 club. We wouldn’t want the Group of Eighteen to suddenly expire from old age with no replacements now, would we?

"If the mayor chooses not to run, we feel strongly about finding someone who will effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound," Levy said. "We don't have an agenda other than creating jobs and making this a better place." So the Mayor who oversaw the biggest decline in property values in the City’s history, aided and abetted by a bank president who now sits on the Control Board, is the kind of guy who will “effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound.”? Only if Tony steps down will they bring in someone new to replace him as Poop Boy #1. That’s really encouraging.

When people from the elites at the Buffalo Club talk about “creating jobs”, they really mean that they’re interested in cashing government welfare checks from ESDC, EIDA, BERC, etc. The boom economy of call centers based in the U.S. is not long for this world, Jordan.

Attention focuses on candidates such as Calvaneso, who says his city investments are proof of his commitment and who expects to formally announce his candidacy early next year.

"Anything involved in making the city better piques my interest," said Calvaneso, the subject of a Buffalo News profile last November as a "metrosexual" who makes an effort to dress stylishly. Yes, but does he go for the full Brazilian bikini wax? If so, we might be back to Andy Rudnick’s quiet breakfast plan.

Wiggle, a Republican, lives in Alden but says he would move into the city if he had an opportunity to lead it. If, and only if, he may ascend to the commanding heights by golden chariot will this bold new Promethean figure grace us with his presence.

"If you look at the city and its crisis, I just don't know if another politician is the answer for the City of Buffalo and the surrounding area," Wiggle said. "Business has been largely ignored by the politicians, and I think that's a critical mistake." Yep, business does it better. Everyone knows that the landed gentry here in WNY is NOT political. Once upon a time they just controlled the political process with money. Now they ARE the political process. They control the control board. No more Jim Pitts to point the finger at! As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for!

Masiello disappointed

Masiello, who has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term, said he is disappointed by the apparent desertion of a business community that has always supported him in the past but that rarely contacts him now.

Lonely? Looking for a date? Tony needs to pick up a copy of Artvoice.

"It's very clear they're looking for another candidate, but I can make a case with them and everybody else," Masiello said. Wow, does he sound like an over the hill porn star, or what?

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, who has been informally campaigning for mayor for several years, said he will prove to the business community and other factions that he will be a "pro-growth, pro-business Democrat" even as a traditional politician.

"I won't be a yes man to anyone, including the unions or the Partnership," he said. "But if either organization is looking for a seat at the table, there will be two seats at the table." Sam’s his own man, and he’s not black, either.

State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, another potential candidate from traditional politics, also seeks a more "businesslike approach" to city governance. But he has not given up on the political system, saying that it is "time to stop pointing fingers and assigning blame." Uhh, Byron? They said it was time to stop pointing fingers when they were caving the Council and running Pitts out of town. By the year 2005, it might be time to find another black person to blame for everything.

"When we get to another mayoral election, I don't know that it will be the business community by itself that will decide it," he said. "The community at large will make the decision about the type of person they want to see as the next mayor of the City of Buffalo." The community at large is still largely influenced by the race-baiting editorials of The Buffalo News, though.

The proactive approach of the business community has worked in cities such as Cleveland, according to Rudnick, who calls it a worthwhile "test" that will determine who is interested. Rudnick said, "I think there are even folks in the more traditional political process who say that what we have now is broken down."

Of course it’s broken down, Andy! You, Wilmers, and Lipsey made sure of that! You wanted complete control. Now there’s no one left to blame. You can continue to extract as many pounds of flesh from the fire, police, and teachers as you want to but the patient is beyond critical condition, at this point. The U.S. Cavalry is not about to come over the hill anytime soon. The Governor’s “Casinos for Kids” campaign may prove that even the science of public relations has a frontier. That leaves only yourselves to blame for blocking outside players like Golisano, while pumping a money well that is dessicated, to say the least. What did they do with whorehouses in the old days, when the company closed the mine?

If any of the prospective mayoral candidates mentioned in Mr. McCarthy’s article have the answer to that question we’d have at least have a different kind of discussion about our community; one that is honest about what has brought us into this abyss and who is truly responsible for it.

Until then, we’ll continue to have local political stories like this that provide no insight, but plenty of unintended comedy.

HSBC Arena is one block from The Buffalo News Building at the foot of Main Street. As we approached the entrance of HSBC Arena we saw that union folks were picketing. It seems that The Buffalo News fired thirty plus pressmen who had fallen victim to the German efficiency of new presses.

How ironic! The Buffalo News and Warren had received a $40 million tax break to buy these new Bavarian presses. It seems that The Buffalo News was magically located in a New York State Empire Zone making them eligible for a major tax break on any capitalization expenditures. (Somebody at The News must be a socialist).

We walked to the entrance. I was excited about the possibility of asking Warren all about these ideas of corporate taxation, corporate death penality and community responiblity. I know Warren is happy about the $40 million profit he gets annually from The Buffalo News.

I wanted to ask him if he would think about investing some of that money in local businesses other than in “Control Board Bob” Wilmers’ M & T Bank. (Warren owns 27 percent of M & T Bank). I wanted to tell Warren to invest in the little guy, not like that Geico (another Warren owned enterprise) deal where again, a magical New York State Empire Zone appeared in Amherst with millions of dollars in tax breaks. This was all in the name of investing and creating jobs for the underprivileged people of Amherst. I told you Warren is a closet socialist!

The HSBC security had told the Union folks that they had to protest on the other side of the street. The sidewalk in front of the HSBC is apparently not public property, despite the fact that the HSBC Arena was built almost exclusively with public funds.

We marched up to the main entrance and we showed our press passes and were directed to the security entrance in the back. At the security entrance a young man, named Ben and a rather attractive security woman again asked for our press I.D. After a brief phone call, Ben escorted us into an elevator. I was excited with the thought of what I would ask Warren; was it true that he sold his interest in the Ambassador Bridge Company? What is it like owning Tastee Freeze? My wife Marie’s first job after graduating magu cum laude in women’s studies from UB was at Tastee Freeze for $1.75 hour in Tucson, Arizona. She cried the day she was fired for mixing up the vanilla and chocolate twists with plain vanilla. She still talks with bitterness about it.

I was lost in my thoughts. When the elevator door opened and we walked into the main corridor, we were escorted to the best seats in the HSBC Arena, the hundred level seats. Instead of the usual sight of the Sabres warming up in a pre-game skate, the main floor was a panorama of candle-lit tables filled food and liquor. This was the Wizard of Omaha’s Emerald City awaiting an army of munchkins ready to pay homage.

We took our seats, with thoughts of the coming spectacle that was before us. I thought of what it would be like to be a voyeur at Caligula’s birthday party and here we were, observing the world of the Buffalo’s privileged boyars paying honor to the owner of The Buffalo News, their voice.

Gabe X. started taking pictures. I noticed a security man with a dog going behind the podium. It was a bomb-sniffing dog. The rink began to fill with guests, Common Council member Richard Fontana, Common Councilpresident Dave (KKK) Franczyk, US Attorney Mike Battle, and, of course, Andy Rudnick.

And then he appeared, Warren Buffett. He was wearing a light gray suit, and a dark color tie. He was at the far edge of the rink. He walked humbly, smiling. I was thrilled! This was going to be my big chance for a major scoop, since we were the only members of the local press. No Artvoice, no Buffalo Spree magazine, no Night Life, No After Six - just Alt Press. It was a given we would get the interview. The man and the dog were getting closer and closer until the dog started sniffing me and Gabe X. For a minute I thought the security officer was going to ask us to leave. But he was friendly enough and so was his dog. They continued their task of sniffing for bombs into the upper decks of the arena. I thought to myself being in one hundred levels had given us credibility.

Warren walked closer into the center of the rink. Then I noticed a well-dressed man with a white beard staring angrily at us. In a minute, a big fat guy jumped over the boards from the rink, into the seats and asked us for our press passes and again we handed them to him. He looked confusingly at them and said ok.

A minute later, a woman in her forties with a bad blonde dye job, a standard business suit, and who from the looks of her had both hit the glass ceiling of careerism and the disillusionment of a longed faded beauty menacingly waved her finger toward us, calling us over to edge of the rink.

Smiling, I approached her and began to introduce myself. Before I could get a word out, she demanded to see our credentials and again we handed them over. At this point everyone in the rink was staring at us. I was hoping that Warren, the man of the people would come over to see what is was all about. Surely, he would not allow for the same sort of disdain and mistreatment of the press associated with the Bush Administration.

I pulled out my tape recorder. She said our pass credentials were not good and that this was a private party, invitation only, no press and we would have to leave. I began to interview her. She reacted with fear. She said her name was Dottie Gallagher and that she was a vice-president of the Buffalo News, before I could continue, the big fat guy tried to grab my recorder. A scuffle ensued as a gentle bossanova wafted over the P.A. I explained to the guy that it was inappropriate to touch me and that I was with the press. He responded that he was going to arrest me for trespassing. I explained that we were given permission to be there from three security persons and were leaving as per Dottie’s request.

Warren never came over. As I walked out of the one hundreds level seat area into the corridor I explained to the big idiot for his own good that he should not touch people. He continued to threaten me with arrest, a true child of homeland security at its dumbest. I thought of Warren and of what would never be.

We walked outside into the evening light. The pressmen and their supporters were still there. A union should never give up.

How ironic! The Buffalo News and Warren had received a $40 million tax break to buy these new Bavarian presses. It seems that The Buffalo News was magically located in a New York State Empire Zone making them eligible for a major tax break on any capitalization expenditures. (Somebody at The News must be a socialist).

We walked to the entrance. I was excited about the possibility of asking Warren all about these ideas of corporate taxation, corporate death penality and community responiblity. I know Warren is happy about the $40 million profit he gets annually from The Buffalo News.

I wanted to ask him if he would think about investing some of that money in local businesses other than in “Control Board Bob” Wilmers’ M & T Bank. (Warren owns 27 percent of M & T Bank). I wanted to tell Warren to invest in the little guy, not like that Geico (another Warren owned enterprise) deal where again, a magical New York State Empire Zone appeared in Amherst with millions of dollars in tax breaks. This was all in the name of investing and creating jobs for the underprivileged people of Amherst. I told you Warren is a closet socialist!

The HSBC security had told the Union folks that they had to protest on the other side of the street. The sidewalk in front of the HSBC is apparently not public property, despite the fact that the HSBC Arena was built almost exclusively with public funds.

We marched up to the main entrance and we showed our press passes and were directed to the security entrance in the back. At the security entrance a young man, named Ben and a rather attractive security woman again asked for our press I.D. After a brief phone call, Ben escorted us into an elevator. I was excited with the thought of what I would ask Warren; was it true that he sold his interest in the Ambassador Bridge Company? What is it like owning Tastee Freeze? My wife Marie’s first job after graduating magu cum laude in women’s studies from UB was at Tastee Freeze for $1.75 hour in Tucson, Arizona. She cried the day she was fired for mixing up the vanilla and chocolate twists with plain vanilla. She still talks with bitterness about it.

I was lost in my thoughts. When the elevator door opened and we walked into the main corridor, we were escorted to the best seats in the HSBC Arena, the hundred level seats. Instead of the usual sight of the Sabres warming up in a pre-game skate, the main floor was a panorama of candle-lit tables filled food and liquor. This was the Wizard of Omaha’s Emerald City awaiting an army of munchkins ready to pay homage.

We took our seats, with thoughts of the coming spectacle that was before us. I thought of what it would be like to be a voyeur at Caligula’s birthday party and here we were, observing the world of the Buffalo’s privileged boyars paying honor to the owner of The Buffalo News, their voice.

Gabe X. started taking pictures. I noticed a security man with a dog going behind the podium. It was a bomb-sniffing dog. The rink began to fill with guests, Common Council member Richard Fontana, Common Councilpresident Dave (KKK) Franczyk, US Attorney Mike Battle, and, of course, Andy Rudnick.

And then he appeared, Warren Buffett. He was wearing a light gray suit, and a dark color tie. He was at the far edge of the rink. He walked humbly, smiling. I was thrilled! This was going to be my big chance for a major scoop, since we were the only members of the local press. No Artvoice, no Buffalo Spree magazine, no Night Life, No After Six - just Alt Press. It was a given we would get the interview. The man and the dog were getting closer and closer until the dog started sniffing me and Gabe X. For a minute I thought the security officer was going to ask us to leave. But he was friendly enough and so was his dog. They continued their task of sniffing for bombs into the upper decks of the arena. I thought to myself being in one hundred levels had given us credibility.

Warren walked closer into the center of the rink. Then I noticed a well-dressed man with a white beard staring angrily at us. In a minute, a big fat guy jumped over the boards from the rink, into the seats and asked us for our press passes and again we handed them to him. He looked confusingly at them and said ok.

A minute later, a woman in her forties with a bad blonde dye job, a standard business suit, and who from the looks of her had both hit the glass ceiling of careerism and the disillusionment of a longed faded beauty menacingly waved her finger toward us, calling us over to edge of the rink.

Smiling, I approached her and began to introduce myself. Before I could get a word out, she demanded to see our credentials and again we handed them over. At this point everyone in the rink was staring at us. I was hoping that Warren, the man of the people would come over to see what is was all about. Surely, he would not allow for the same sort of disdain and mistreatment of the press associated with the Bush Administration.

I pulled out my tape recorder. She said our pass credentials were not good and that this was a private party, invitation only, no press and we would have to leave. I began to interview her. She reacted with fear. She said her name was Dottie Gallagher and that she was a vice-president of the Buffalo News, before I could continue, the big fat guy tried to grab my recorder. A scuffle ensued as a gentle bossanova wafted over the P.A. I explained to the guy that it was inappropriate to touch me and that I was with the press. He responded that he was going to arrest me for trespassing. I explained that we were given permission to be there from three security persons and were leaving as per Dottie’s request.

Warren never came over. As I walked out of the one hundreds level seat area into the corridor I explained to the big idiot for his own good that he should not touch people. He continued to threaten me with arrest, a true child of homeland security at its dumbest. I thought of Warren and of what would never be.

We walked outside into the evening light. The pressmen and their supporters were still there. A union should never give up.

“Everything they’re doing is the opposite of what they should be doing,” Jim Speyer, President of Local 261 told Alt. “We’re not against technological innovation. We wanted to work together with management to create a win-win situation.”

Instead, The News has given its own workers no resort but to picket an event intended to be a celebration of The Buffalo News’ commitment to the community.

“We have, I believe seven charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board. The way they can fulfill their quota of people, we feel is wrong,” Speyer said noting that The News is not retaining the pressmen’s jobs even though Empire Zone grants are intended to promote job retention and growth. “Their filling the void with management,” he said.

Speyer, also pointed out that while Western New Yorkers have been bombarded with “glowing and rose colored” reports of the new presses and the makeover at The Buffalo News, many people are unaware of the fact that forty workers have lost their jobs and more workers will be cut through attrition.

“I don’t understand it myself, Speyer said, “You’ve got fifty million dollars, most of it government money going into this renovation and you’re firing forty workers.”

Alt Publisher Joe Schmidbauer’s attempt to interview Buffalo News Chairman Warren Buffett about this and other anti labor positions promoted by the monopoly daily newspaper was not successful.

Fun Facts

One of the ways The Buffalo News achieved one of the highest profit margins of any newspaper in the country was by avoiding basic investments like the one represented by the purchase of modern presses. How did they avoid it? Easy, the News enjoyed a monopoly. Also, the company received over thirty-three million dollars in subsidies from the Empire State Development Corp. for the expansion. Why was The News handed this gift? Because the editorial staff at The News has taken advantage of its monopoly by brokering political power. Think of it as a little thank you note from Gov. George Pataki.

The monopoly newspaper is the property of Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn is controlled by the second richest human on the planet, Warren Buffett. Since Berkshire acquired a 25% interest in local banking megalith, M&T bank, the editorial staff appears to have favored the Republican politics of M&T Bank President “Control Board Bob” Wilmers.

Mr. Wilmers’ road map for the community appears to be taking us off the edge of a precipice as the City of Buffalo has been forced into abject penury, with the Buffalo Board of Education clinging to the rear bumper. Soon to follow, if things go according to schedule, will be the unions of the teachers, firemen and police.

Who’s On Top?- Journalism and The Missionary Position

Somehow, all of these fun facts seemed to escape Professor Coppola’s attention. From the vantage point of his secure ivory tower in Olean, The Buffalo News must be above and beyond critical scrutiny, so much so that it deserves an infomercial. In journalism textbooks the firewalls between journalists and powerful financial entities are secure. In the real world there’s this thing called public relations that obliterates such abstract distinctions.

Coppola asked Buffett what, in his opinion, makes a good newspaper. Buffett said, in summary, “It really depends on who’s on top and what their goals are.”

The goals of the people on top at The Buffalo News obviously harmonize with the goals of the people on top of our political caste system. The same politicains representing the same powerful interests run virtually unopposed year after year with glowing endorsements from The News, year. This political caste system has proven to be a failure and yet we're celebrating the “success” of The Buffalo News.

In his interview with Margaret Sullivan, the Managing Editor of The News, Coppola made Today show host Katie Couric look like a pit bull. “Everyday we have something we call a focus story and that is our effort to provide something you can't get anywhere else in any other medium. You're not going to get it on the internet. You probably won't get it on local TV or in Business First or Artvoice or in any of the other publications that are out there.”

Rather than question this attack on competitors for advertising dollars, Coppola served up a marshmellow question about the wondrous “enterprise reporting” stressed by The News, suggesting that The News is the only outlet for investigative reporting in Western New York.

If promoting people like Masiello, Giambra, George Pataki, Victor Rice, the Rigases, and “Control Board Bob” Wilmers qualifies as “enterprise reporting”, then perhaps The News does have an edge over the competition.

If defending corrupt, anti-democratic institutions like: the Empire State Development Corporation, the State Dormitory Authority, the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the New York State Power Authority under Louis Ciminelli, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the public benefit corporations at Roswell Park and now ECMC, and of course our latest dead weight, the Fiscal Stability Authority and the Joint School Construction Authority is “enterprise reporting” then we're happy to cede that territory to The News , as well.

News You Can Use Or Getting Used?

It’s all about news you can use. Sometimes it’s about getting used by The News. You would think that an institution as powerful as The News would be able to afford the cost of its own infomercial. Surprisingly, at the end of this PBS program we were shocked to learn that this nice little propaganda piece was paid for by “viewers like you.”

If that’s true, then there must be a lot other people who think that with his six figure salary, it’s about time that WNED Chairman Don Boswell stopped using precious local programming dollars to support a monopoly business enterprise with a vicious anti-labor, anti-democratic agenda.

The story began in April, 2003, in an ordinary press release from CSCDynCorp. The company proudly announced the award of a State Department contract worth up to $50 million in the first year. In return for this remarkable amount of money, CSCDyncorp was to provide 1,000 civilian advisors “to help the government of Iraq organize effective civilian Law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies.” These civilian advisors qualifications were extensive indeed, with years of law Enforcement experience, impeccable resumes and excellent health, among others. The ability to speak English was a requirement for applicants, but there was no mention of Arabic. Curious. It appears that they’re still hiring. As you go down the list of qualifications, CSCDyncorp lists one that is even more curious: “we are seeking applicants with two years experience in specialized skills.” For a contract length of one year, the pay for the top prospects is $153. 600.00.

As the Abu Ghraib abuse story broke in earnest, two Private Military Companies (PMC) came to the fore as well: Titan Corp and CACI International. Both companies provide private interrogators or linguists. Then another Press release caught my eye. It was issued by the CACI International back on February 2, 2004. It read in part: “CACI International announced today that CACI Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. J.P. (Jack) London was selected by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah to receive the distinguished Albert Einstein Technology Award…It was presented by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski at a ceremony held at the Jerusalem City Hall on January 14, 2004…”

Other than belated congratulations to Dr. London, so what? The Press Release gushed on: “The ceremony was part of the first annual Defense Aerospace Homeland Security Mission of Peace to Israel and Jordan…the purpose of the mission was to promote opportunities for strategic partnerships and joint ventures between US and Israeli defense and homeland security companies…CACI works directly with the US Department of Defense and the Intelligence community…demonstrating expertise in systems integration, secure network services, intelligence services…and knowledge management.”

Death Squads and counter-insurgency.

After the Fall of Baghdad, American officials claimed that hard-core cells of Baathists were behind the escalating guerrilla war against the coalition. De-Baathification was at the heart of the American strategy for stability in a post-Saddam Iraq, so clearly these people had to go, so much more if they were killing US troops. The Pentagon put together Task Force 121, recruiting from Delta Force, Navy Seals, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and their paramilitaries. Task Force 121 was to capture or assassinate Baathists insurgents. There were, however, several problems.

According to The New Yorker, one Pentagon official said: “The problem with the way the US has been fighting the Baathist leadership is we’ve got no intelligence, and we’re too squeamish to operate in this part of the world.” Another former intelligence officer asserted, “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”

The US military first turned to an old enemy for help, Saddam Hussein’s infamous secret police, the Mukhabarat. The irony here is just as infamous, the Mukhabarat kept the former dictator in power, murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis over the years. The Sunday Times interviewed a ten-year veteran of the Mukhabarat, Mohammad Abdullah, who confirmed that he has been working for CIA since last May, for $700 dollars a month. He was quoted as saying that, “…dozens of former officers have already been recruited…they need us. The Mukkhabarat was one of the best security organizations in the world.”

What the former enemies could deliver was who, what, and where of those who were most likely to be actively engaged in resistance against the Americans. Task force 121 could therefore execute them or snatch them up for later interrogation.

In the best tradition of life in shadowy, double-cross, don’t trust anyone but the man with the money. Abdullah still confessed his loyalty to the fallen Hussein, but found it easy to accept his new reality: $700 a month in Baghdad, in cash, no doubt.

With former members of Saddam’s secret police now on the payroll, and task Force 121 organized, we turn out attention back to Israel.

Last winter, The Guardian printed a story disclosing that members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had sent “urban warfare specialists” to Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of US Special Forces. Special Forces are primarily known for its work in counter-insurgency. The story reported that Israeli advisers were helping US Special Forces in setting up “assassination squads” against guerrilla leaders. But a well-informed source in Washington went a step further: “Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for providing consultations.” Other sources confirmed Israelis inside Iraq, but IDF officials would not confirm or deny saying: “Does it affect Iraq? It’s not in our interest or the Americans’ interest or anyone else’s interest to go into that. It would just fit in with jihadist prejudices.”

And just last week, The Globe and Mail ran a story quoting Eugene Bird, a former American diplomat who stated: “We know that the Israeli intelligence was operating in Baghdad after the war was over. The question should be, ’were there any foreign interrogators among those that were recommending very, very, bad treatment for the (Abu Ghraib) prisoners?’” It should be noted that Bird has strong ties to the Palestinian cause. It also should be noted that a pro-Israeli lobby protested the item, forcing a “clarification” and, “..noting that there was no evidence that Israeli complicity existed.”

Another Israeli military intelligence officer summed up the lessons taught: “How to do targeted killing, which is very relevant to the success of the War (in Iraq), and what the United States is going to have to do.” The Americans were being told to duplicate the work of Israeli Army commando units called “Mist’aravim.” These units operate undercover inside the Gaza strip and the west bank, killing Hamas leaders or potential suicide bombers.

The Special Forces operation is known as preemptive man hunting. But some planners inside the pentagon fear such an operation might have turned into a modern day Phoenix Operation. From 1968 to 1972, the operation was designed to capture or kill Vietnamese sympathetic to the Viet Cong, and Viet Cong leaders themselves. The US claimed more than 20,000 killed out of the more than 60,000 captured. South Vietnamese officials numbered more than 40,000 executions. Those tortured for information remain unknown. Phoenix did work, up to a level. However, William Colby, who took over the running of Phoenix in 1968 admitted that “a lot of things were done that should not have been done.”

Death Squads became notorious once again during the 60’s and 70’s. Officers from various Central American banana republics, engaged with “leftists guerrillas’, were trained at the infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. “Leftist guerrillas” included innocent men, women, children, labor leaders, priests, nuns, journalists, and anyone who was opposed to the notion of mass murder.

Both programs did eventually come out from under the government rocks where they were hiding. But the Pentagon may have found a way around unwanted curiosity. Private Military Companies are hired by the Pentagon, and remain unaccountable to the Congress. CACA International and Titan are only two of the dozens of corporations providing the thousands of private military contractors (individual mercenaries) working inside Iraq. What better way to conceal their presence, activities and mission than through the murky world of the modern day mercenary? It may be, and probably is, that Jack London of CACI is unaware just who some of the people CACI hires actually are. If the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) wants to conduct Death Squad activity inside Baghdad with its US Allies, what better cover than a private military company?

Last September, The Independent’s Middle East correspondent claimed that 1,000 Iraqi civilians were dying each week, because of widespread lawlessness, or by military action. In such a climate, covert action assassination teams could work unimpeded.

General Taguba’s report talks about “Other Government Agencies (OGA’s) transporting “Ghost Prisoners.” One scenario is CIA agents bundling Iraqis fingered By Saddam’s former secret police, then snatched up by PMC death squads composed of Mossad agents and Task Force 121 operatives and then turned over for interrogation. Reads like a cheap spy novel. But Operation Phoenix was not cheap. And it was not a novel. It happened and may be happening again.

And there are at least 9,000 Iraqi in the hands of the coalition, some of the more high value targets (insurgents) are located in secret prisons so sensitive that no one knows where they are.

Remember those private Israeli contractors and Israeli homeland security types rubbing elbows with CACI International in Tel Aviv just four months ago? One is tempted to call them for a comment. But I’m sure one would not be forthcoming. As the Israeli commando said above: “Its not in anyone’s interests to go into that…”

Shortly after the attacks of September 11, philosopher Jurgen Habermas was asked for his analysis of the implications that the terrorist actions might have on our society. The following comment appears to have been somewhat prescient, especially in light of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority’s treatment of the City’s police and fire:

“The courage, discipline, and selflessness demonstrated by the New York firemen who on September 11 spontaneously put their lives on the line to save others is admirable. But why do they need to be called ‘heroes’? Perhaps this word has different connotations in American English than in German. It seems to me that whenever ‘heroes’ are honored the question arises as to who needs them and why. Even in this looser sense of the term one can understand Bertolt Brecht’s warning: ‘Pity the land that needs heroes.’”

Indeed, after Sept. 11th police and fire departments across the nation basked in the reflected glow of their martyred brethren in New York City. Then along came Jessica Lynch and then Pat Tillman.

Now in Buffalo, downsizing is the order of the day. Police and Fire represent bloated government bureaucracies that are greedily sucking the life out of the City of Buffalo, the former admirers say. Yesterday’s heroes have become today’s targets of opportunity for the Buffalo Club elite that now disdainfully holds the purse strings of government in the form of the City’s so-called “Control Board.”

The Firefighters’ Union President Joe Foley and Vice President Frank Lucca recently discussed the City’s fiscal crisis and the Union’s position with Alt.

“There's an average of about 1600 structure fires a year in the city of Buffalo and we respond to about 33,000 calls in a year,” Lucca said. “For the plan for the reorganization of the stations, the Masiello Administration didn't bother to consult the Fire Dept,” he said, “This was done totally without any input from the membership and to me that's a huge mistake. We felt left out.”

He also noted that the membership has already been reduced from a high of 930 firemen down to 687. The Masiello Administration has closed 9 companies so far, almost a quarter of the Fire Department's services. About Masiello, he added that, “His overwhelming concern seems to be financial and not safety.”

Resentment seems to have built up towards both Masiello and County Executive Giambra, since prior to their appointment to the Control Board both Tony Masiello and Former City of Buffalo Comptroller, Joel Giambra cut political deals that placed further burdens on the City's firefighting budget. In 1998, a controversial lease-back arrangement saw the City of Buffalo sell two firehouses to real estate developers and then rent them back.

The deals turned sour as both Harold Schectman and Dreamco Development, owned by Giambra's sister-in-law Rosanne Lettieri failed to pay taxes and utility bills on the properties. The city also spent three million dollars for a fire station on Elmwood and Virginia. Meanwhile, a firehouse in the same vicinity on Jersey St. that was eligible for federal renovation grants was closed. These deals make it difficult for many firefighters to take the Control Board's so-called reform proposals seriously.

“They just said, 'This is what we're doing. You guys figure it out after the fact,'” Foley said of the latest plans. “The politicians can make all the mistakes they want to and nothing seems to happen. When we make a mistake, somebody winds up leaving that fire in a body bag.

In discussing the current campaign against the Firemen as represented by the Republican Control Board’s heavy-handed tactics, Foley reflected on the perceived cynicism of the Bush Administration’s glorification of firefighters and police: “The Bush administration after 9-11 says, ‘We love you guys!’ and then we hear about how important we are to homeland security here in Buffalo on the border with Canada.”

Now over two and a half years after the tragedy of the World Trade Center, badly needed federal homeland security money has yet to materialize. “Unfortunately, the way it was set up, there's ten million dollars for ‘04, but we're only given 16 percent of the money, Foley said, “The Giambra administration has hijacked 8 million dollars that should have gone into the City of Buffalo.”

Essentially, the City Fire Dept. is being cut to the bone, the homeland security money gets picked up by the Giambra Administration. So where’s the money?

“We went down to Albany and Washington and we asked them to find the dollars. They're all being told different figures and different things. It's just a shell game,” Lucca said.

Foley added: “In most states you can go to a website and find out how that money is being spent in your community. Carl Calabrese was sending different information to every office. Any homeland security dollars that come into the City of Buffalo help us because the cuts we're being faced with by the Control Board and the City, it seems that the Fire Dept. is taking the brunt of those cuts. We seem to be doing more under this (homeland security) scenario but we're getting less resources to do it with...We have no new inititatives for training.” City Insurance Fraud

Foley and Lucca also spoke about the failure of the City to honor its medical insurance guarantees to the Union. “What happens is the City doesn't pay bill, pharmacies blacklist the City of Buffalo, we have something like $330,000 in unpaid medical bills, and they won't negotiate with you, They won't pay your medical bills,” Foley said.

“When is somebody going to stand up and do the right thing by us? It's a career. It's a vocation,” Lucca added, “They (the firemen) take the risks that are involved, and now they're being threatened with being laid off? The people on the Control board: Townsend, Faso, and Tobe ask, ‘Why are these guys being protected?’ Because they've risked their lives! That’s why.”

In terms of the Republican elite led by Wilmers and his sidekick Andrew Rudnick, Foley said, “They do nothing progressive for the City. They've done nothing but attack unions. But they don't understand that you can't cut your way to prosperity.”

As always though, the state of the world compels me to overcome both my apathy and the student’s. We are in a war and a couple of times a week on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer I sit through those terrible minutes of silence as pictures of the war dead are shown with only a name, age and rank to describe the humans that have perished. Most are the age of my students. If my students have trouble making sense of, or caring to make sense of, the global state of affairs, could these young men and women in the armed forces have been any different? Didn’t they just enroll, grumble, go where they were told, grumble, do what they had to do, and grumble some more, just like many of my students? Yet, those young faces would never come home to Mom’s house laden with laundry and many of those young faces would never appear in family photo albums holding their first born.

End of semester and the obligatory final speeches. I have asked that students pick a topic that they care about. Throughout the semester I have insisted that they do care about issues as a result of life experiences and that, in sharing, they can influence us all. Of course, I realize that this sentiment acknowledges the experiences of those who have been “born again,” come to believe that abortion is the murder of the innocent, and other such issues that can not be the effective topic of a five to seven minute persuasive speech. One boy has chosen the topic “Why we should support the troops.” Yet, despite the empty rhetoric in his title, he successfully defines who the troops are and what he means by “support.”

During the next class another student hides her main agenda behind a speech entitled “A history of the Marines,” but she succeeds in influencing the way we all view the current war. She allows the students to ask questions of, and see the hallow sadness of a young Marine sniper who has seen action in Iraq and truthfully tells the class that “no one knows what we are doing there any more.”

The young Marine tells us a moving story about the crowds of Iraqi people who gather around the vehicles as the servicemen enter the town: “They try to give us food. We take it, but of course we wouldn’t eat it. There are a hundred of them. It’s just that sometimes someone in the back of the crowd takes out an AK- 47 and starts shooting at us. What can we do? Shoot everyone in every crowd?” He asks this question as a school child would, as if there is a simple answer, and if someone could just give it, then he could sleep at night.

The young man states that he has no regrets. He states that his main frustration is that “his guys” are still there. And that he would go back again.

Our next speech is against capital punishment. The final argument is that the Bible says “thou shall not kill.” The class is silent. I am silent. I have just heard a report on the radio regarding President Bush’s own experience of being born again. How it is the moving force behind his leadership; how a phrase something like “for one greater than us all” is the motto of his leadership. How he has pictures hanging in the oval office to represent this inspiration. Yet he, and other leaders before him who professed great belief in the laws of the Bible, have killed, whether by bomb or sanction or inattention.

I know there is an answer here. I know there are just and unjust wars. But I cannot answer. Someone says “then what are we doing in Iraq?” And the class ends.

The filing of the lawsuit comes after an investigation by the Attorney General's Public Integrity Unit, and after the issuance of an audit by the Erie County Comptroller. The comptroller's audit identified significant overcharges in the county's furniture contracts.

Lawyers for the Public Integrity Unit analyzed documents obtained in the case and conducted a series of interviews in recent weeks. State lawyers also met with lawyers for both the company and the county on May 7th.

On May 10th, a private law firm hired by the county announced a similar lawsuit against the furniture vendor. However, by law, the county's action "is transferred to and becomes absolutely vested" in the state upon commencement of the state's action.

Spitzer said he appreciated the fact that the county had taken action, but he maintained that the state is best suited to handle the matter. In addition to saving the county legal fees, the involvement of the Public Integrity Unit, which has a lengthy record of investigating procurement fraud across the state, ensures an arms'-length handling of the matter.

Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra said: "To protect taxpayers, we need the most appropriate public attorney to pursue this matter. I have been advised that the Attorney General's lawsuit seeks the same relief as the lawsuit Erie County already filed. I have therefore instructed the Erie County Attorney to withdraw the county's lawsuit. A court will decide the facts of this case fully and fairly."

The investigation and lawsuit are being handled by Carrie H. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Public Integrity Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Alvin Bragg.

Ostrowski is former chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Erie County Bar Association and was co-counsel in a federal court lawsuit which led to improvements in conditions at the then-overcrowded Erie County Holding Center. He regularly represents prisoners in habeas corpus cases and lawsuits complaining about prison conditions. He won an important ruling from the U. S. Court of Appeals in 1997 establishing that prisoners have a right to privacy in their medical records.

About recent apologizing over the mistreatment of prisoners, Ostrowski said, “Republican concerns over the humane treatment of prisoners is a recently acquired taste. Conservative Republicans consistently decry giving legal rights of prisoners in the United States and have passed legislation to restrict their right of access to the courts through habeas corpus and prisoners’ rights lawsuits. They have done little or nothing about the problem of male rape in prisons, a sickening and widespread epidemic. Republicans are more likely to joke about inmate rape—as they did about Martha Stewart--than to do anything constructive about it. So, forgive me for thinking that these recent apologies are contrived to save careers rather than being based on genuine concern for human rights.”

The scandal over mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq occurred after publication of the book; however, in a passage concerning the crimes of communism, Ostrowski prophetically takes conservatives to task for their well-known callousness regarding the rights of the accused and the treatment of prisoners. In the book, Political Class Dismissed, Ostrowski lampoons the prevailing Republican conservative notion that prisoners are coddled. In an essay originally published in December, 2000, reviewing The Black Book of Communism, Ostrowski wrote:

A certain type of conservative would have approved of the communist legal system. There were no lawyers to speak of, except in graveyards; no criminal lawyers “getting people off”; no “ambulance chasers”; and no namby-pamby civil rights lawyers filing suits over prison conditions. Habeas was a corpse. Communist prison reform consisted of cleaning out the raw sewage from tiny prison cells at least once a month. Knee-jerk lawyer-bashing conservatives would have loved it there—right up until the moment when government agents broke down their doors in the middle of the night, arrested them for some imaginary crime, locked them up and tortured them until they not only confessed to the imaginary crime but asked for forgiveness and literally thanked the government for prosecuting them, minutes before they were taken out, without appeal, put up against the nearest wall, shot and buried in an anonymous grave, while their families were sent a bill for the bullets.

James Ostrowski is the author of over eighty published articles, including a 1989 Cato Institute report, “Thinking About Drug Legalization,” that, according to Google, is currently the most popular article on “drug legalization” in the world.

From the cover: “Political Class Dismissed is an unrelenting assault on America’s (and Buffalo’s) political class: the people who have seized political power and used it to advance their own private interests—domestic and foreign—at our expense.”

Political Class Dismissed contains fifty essays which range widely over the current issues of the day, including the decline of Buffalo, the bloated federal budget, the 9/11 attacks and the mess in Iraq. The essays on 9/11 and Iraq are virtually prophetic and presage the two current topics in the news: the cause of 9/11 and the debacle in Iraq.

IRAQ WAR

On the Iraq War, quickly turning into another Vietnam, here’s what Ostrowski had to say before the war began:

The combined impact of all the prior “good wars” that “we won” utterly failed to bring peace and harmony to the world. Quite the contrary. Excuse me for thinking that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will likewise fail. [229]

More force is always the answer. (What’s the question?) So the U.S. will go to war again over Iraq (maybe). It’s because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and may want to use them. That’s the official reason. The actual reasons are oil, Israel and imperialism. [226]

After the war began, Ostrowski wrote:

That the same government that daily deprives me of the freedom I was born with, is going to liberate the Iraqis is a sickening lie. And, being mindlessly trumpeted by the media, it’s a scary lie as well. . . . [231]

Roughly rpeaking, Iraqhas three large groups, each located in a diScrete arEa. The Kurds are$in the norti$0the Shiites in the south, and tée SuNnis in the"mitdle.0The Shiites appear to be the$Most popqlous group. Lep&8217;s aSsume for the sake of argument that there i no strong tòadition of limited governme.t in Iraq. Thus, any democracy will be of the relativeli unRestrained viriety. Whichever group is iN chargu will impose"its wéll on the others. The prospects for peace are dim. . . . [232-2s3]

The Kurds, Shiit%s,0and SunnIs sjould each form their own separate repubLigs !nd allow qeople in their domayns the zight to leave or stay and live in freedom. If each of these vould-be republics paid me a One í)llion dodlar consulting fee (Swiss Fgderal Bank, ACcount No. 983570957187) for this advice and followed it, that would be an infinitesimal fraction of the money and lives that will be was4ed tryiog to force these dióparade groups to live together. . . . [236-237]

THE DECLINE OF BUFFALO

The heart of the book is a never-before published, 25,000-word essay explaining the decline of Buffalo over the last forty years. For the first time ever in print, the cause of the decline is explained: a corrupt, self-serving, ever-expanding political class and their numerous greedy allies and special interests.

The machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner city and industrial areas looking like a war zone with abandoned and decaying housing and factories. At night, some neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who in earlier years would have found work in the factories. They ply different trades now. [89]

There is much, much more: Chomsky dissected; the Clintons sent up; FDR debunked; the corporate state explained; Lincoln revealed; Thoreau venerated; Bowling for Columbine reviewed; Pataki and Andrew Cuomo skewered.

About the book, Ostrowski, whose boyhood hero was Thomas Jefferson, said, “I’d like to think that these essays approximate what Jefferson might say had he been around to witness the rise of the monstrous modern state with its corrupt political machines, ceaseless centralization of power and perpetual wars.”

###
It was one of those eureka moments. Bourne was so excited by the age, look, and feel of what Buffalonians called The Rockpile, that he reportedly jumped out of the car and shouted: “This is it!” The movie brought a lot of positive energy and attention to the region and it was a hit at the box office. Other features made in Buffalo’s so-called glory days of filmmaking include Hide In Plain Sight, starring and directed by James Caan, and Best Friends starring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn. Additionally, Planes, Trains And Automobiles (starring Steve Martin and John Candy) utilized Western New York locations, but unfortunately, not much else followed. For years, any inquiries about shooting movies in and around Buffalo were almost always handled by a redoubtable and farsighted woman named Mary Summers, who worked for what was then known as the Buffalo Convention And Visitors Bureau (BCVB). She was not a film person, but was a woman who loved Buffalo and saw to it that anyone asking about the region got reams of information. While working on-air as WIVB-TV’s entertainment reporter, I had numerous dealings with Summers. Frankly, if this were Hollywood, she’d have her own star on the Walk Of Fame.

Jump cut to 2002. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra tells reporters that when he was on the City Of Buffalo Common Council, he had visions of a Buffalo Film Commission. The rise of local film commissions since Giambra’s youthful political years has every region in the country thinking it can be Hollywood for a day, a week, or maybe even a few months. As County Executive, Giambra was determined to inaugurate an area film commission. Working with the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise (a job development and marketing entity funded partially by Erie County and New York State with some private monies included) and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, he got his wish. With $150,000 of county taxpayer seed money, the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission was born. A private-public co-venture, it was to operate out of the BNE’s offices at 665 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, accountable to Giambra’s administration.

A director was hired, the aforementioned Mark Stricklin. He had worked for or had run film commissions in Oregon, Alabama, and Wilmington, North Carolina. That Stricklin knew very little about the Western New York area’s assets – its people, architecture, production facilities (or lack thereof) didn’t seem to be a problem to the group that approved his hiring. He had credentials that impressed.

Since Stricklin’s arrival on the scene nearly two years ago, there have been no major studio productions in Western New York for which he can claim credit. Some context is necessary. There are nearly 200 state, regional, and local film commissions in the U.S., over 300 total around the world, all existing to promote their respective communities. New York State has a Film Commission, and there are six regional commissions: Buffalo Niagara, Rochester Finger Lakes, Capital Saratoga, New York City, Nassau County, and Yonkers. It’s an insular world. Film commissioners know each other. They protect each other’s reputations and watch each other’s backs. They move in the same circles, go to the same conventions, and have what some see as a relatively cushy, often high-paying job. There are terrific perks, not the least of which is worldwide travel. They even have their own association of film commissioners. Of course, since the task is to get films shot in their communities, some secrets are kept. The main problem for film commissioners is that the locals don’t think anything is being done unless they fall over movie stars at the neighborhood brew pub. Every film commissioner to whom I spoke noted that problem. Taxpayers demand bang for their buck.

Basically, the job of these commissions is to highlight their area’s benefits. Most film commissions consist of one or two persons, often only a director and a secretary. Some film commissions are private enterprises; some are government funded. The task is to let filmmakers (studios, production companies, etc.) interested in shooting movies, television series, documentaries, commercials, industrial films in a specific area know what that city, region, or state has to offer. It can be something as simple as the local acting talent pool, to the availability of production equipment, to clearing red tape for permits, to something as complex as financial incentives. Until recently, no states offered tax breaks to production companies. Two recent legislative moves in New Mexico and Louisiana have altered the landscape. Both states are willing to spend large amounts of money and offer tax windfalls to get studios to shoot a movie in their state. Across the border, Canada virtually throws money in the direction of Hollywood, an act that has seen film production mushroom.

New Mexico, Louisiana, and Canada see film production as jobs creation programs. In California, where moviemaking is essentially headquartered, this battle for the filmmaking dollar is seen as fiercely competitive. Although its new governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is an actor and producer, he has no current plans to offer tax breaks to shoot in his home state. Studios and production companies select locations for their movies based primarily on budgetary considerations. However, star and director and even producer egos being what they are, it’s not unheard of to take a movie shoot to Palermo or Paris or Prague because someone connected to the film thinks “it’d be fun” to shoot anywhere but Los Angeles. There’s nothing like a free trip to Rome or even Romania (where the American-themed Cold Mountain was shot) to stroke an ego.

In the United States, the outsourcing of jobs is a contentious presidential campaign issue. For some reason, most people don’t consider movie jobs heading across the border or across an ocean as part and parcel of the larger problem, but it is. In the U.S. Senate, legislation has been debated for years about keeping moviemaking in the United States. Not even actor turned president Ronald Reagan succeeded in compelling studios to shoot in the States. Currently in the Senate, S1637, a jobs bill, is being debated. It includes tax breaks and financial incentives to shoot movies in good old America. It might pass, but whether or not the provisions relating to moviemaking survive is anybody’s guess. Ward Emling, director of the Mississippi Film Office, told me that all movie shoots are purely “business decisions. It’s all about the cost of making the film.”

There has been a huge outcry within the past few weeks over director Ron Howard’s decision to shoot Cinderella Man in Toronto. The movie is about famed American boxer James J. Braddock and stars Russell Crowe (as Braddock), Rene Zellweger, Craig Bierko, and Paul Giamatti. In the U.S. Congress, Rep. Diane Watson and 26 other members wrote a letter on April 5 to MPAA boss Jack Valenti complaining about the shoot. It was as if Mr. Apple Pie himself, the beloved Opie, had turned against his own country. The letter stated that “while we applaud the effort by Universal Studios to tell the triumphant story of James J. Braddock…one of our nation’s greatest boxing heroes, we are deeply concerned…about the hundreds of U.S. jobs affected.” Valenti was quoted as saying that the decision was “influenced by one compelling advantage.” That advantage? Only Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens could stand in for New York City’s Depression-era Madison Square Gardens. Howard and his team began shooting Cinderella Man in Toronto April 19. The truth of the matter is that Howard can hardly be blamed. He’s made 16 other movies in the U.S., many of them location shoots around the country.

I’m sure something in the above paragraph jumped out at you astute readers. Depression-era arena? What about right here in Buffalo? The city itself has streets that could pass for early twentieth century Manhattan, and War Memorial Auditorium is a Depression-era architect’s dream. Which brings us full circle. Did the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission and its director drop the ball? There’s a serious wall of silence about this project at Imagine Entertainment (Howard’s production company) and in film commission circles. One person closely connected to Cinderella Man told me under condition of anonymity that “Buffalo was never really seriously considered.” There was a “list of cities under serious consideration,” places like Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Kansas City for example. Buffalo never made the “short list.” Ironically, Howard has had positive thoughts about Buffalo. In late 1993, he conducted a secret test screening of the movie he had directed entitled The Paper. Only one local media or newspaper outlet even knew he was in town, WIVB-TV. Sources told me about the screening, and I scored an exclusive interview with Howard for my station.

Again, some context is in order. The Jim Carrey star vehicle Bruce Almighty did some background shooting in Buffalo, but the major portion of the production was shot in California. Although he was in charge of the local film commission at the time, Bruce Almighty is a movie for which Stricklin cannot claim credit because the decision to use Buffalo as a back-drop had been made regardless of whether or not there even was a local film commission. Carrey grew up in the Toronto area and recalled his days watching Buffalo television and thought it would be fun to memorialize his youth on-screen. Again, star power. James D. Brubaker, president of physical production for Universal Pictures, a man who’s been in the business for decades and knows his way around a movie set, told me he had high praise for Mary Summers, County Executive Giambra, his executive assistant Tim Clark, and Pat Kaufman, president of the New York State Film Commission, all of whom worked to bring the project to fruition. Unfortunately, Summers is no longer with the BCVB.

However, regarding the issue of Cinderella Man, Kaufman is decidedly prickly. In fact, she was downright shrill and condescending. Both the movie and the resulting negative publicity have irritated a lot of people. From her Manhattan office, she exploded at me when I telephoned to ask about whether or not Buffalo was ever considered for the shoot. Shrieking at the top of her lungs, she said: “IT BELONGED IN NEW YORK CITY.” But when that proved not to be feasible from a budgetary sense or amenable to Imagine Entertainment, she noted that she was aware of “The Aud” and claimed she advised Imagine of its existence. Clearly, Buffalo is in for the fight of its life if it has to compete with New York City for movie productions. Unless Buffalo is specifically wanted for a location, does anybody doubt that New York will get the whole loaf while Buffalo gets the crumbs?

For his part, Stricklin was clueless as to the fuss over the Cinderella Man shoot. He had not heard of Rep. Watson’s letter, the Congressional appeals, or the controversy. A phlegmatic sort, Stricklin refused to answer a number of key questions about the success of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. He did build upon his previous pronouncements that people have to realize that simply because they aren’t seeing movie stars, he isn’t doing his job. But is he doing his job? He initially refused to state his budget or his salary, advising me that I should ask County officials for that information. Calls to the County had been made before talking to Stricklin, but the only return calls were from staffers asking me to clarify my questions. Stricklin approached our interview contentiously, claiming; “I know where you’re going with this.” Obviously, others have challenged the money being spent on a film commission, especially since no concrete results are visible. Again, that old star power bugaboo.

However, by the end of the interview Stricklin did say that his salary was in the “high 60s” and his yearly budget was “$165,000.” He has no staff and has been at his Buffalo post since “July 1, 2002.” Stricklin’s personal web page notes that he “brings over 16 years of film commission/management experience to the Buffalo Niagara region. His efforts have resulted in over $955 million in revenue for Buffalo, Oregon, Wilmington (NC), and Alabama from 1987 to 2003 through the recruitment of over 280 productions. Stricklin served as Director of the Wilmington (NC) Regional Film Commission for almost six years and was instrumental in the start-up of the organization.” Admittedly, Buffalo’s share of the Stricklin pie is very, very small. It should also be noted that in 1993, when he and others organized the Wilmington Film Commission, yearly film and television production revenues in that region were already at $504-million. As commissioner, Stricklin oversaw a dramatic drop in production revenues to around $230-million just before he left in 1999.

Stricklin has publicly stated that he has had success in bringing commercials and independent movies to the Buffalo region. When asked about this, he refused to provide a list of commercials or independent movies that have been shot in WNY as a result of his efforts as film commissioner. Here is what he said: “Where are you going with this? I just don’t like the tone of this call.” When I reiterated that he had said that commercials and films had been shot here and asked again if he could give me some titles and some names of commercials, he replied: “we’ve worked on over a hundred different projects. We’ve completed over fifty projects.” Asked again if he could provide some titles and names of commercials, Stricklin refused, uttering a firm “no.” Later in the interview, I asked him again about commercials and indie films, he haltingly mentioned something about a national commercial for Chevrolet for which he took credit.

The reply to a direct question about his efforts to land Cinderella Man in Buffalo was greeted with a very long silence. Movies can take years, even decades, to go from idea to the screen. In a long slow dance of an answer, Stricklin finally did say that he was familiar with, and had done location plans for, an earlier version of Cinderella Man when he was at Wilmington. But that was then, and this is now.

Commenting on Stricklin’s stint at film commission work in Oregon, a motion picture executive in Los Angeles did not have high praise. Regarding filming on location, he noted that there was a vast gulf between what studios are willing to pay to shoot in a locale and what local entities expect them to pay. Price gouging does not endear Hollywood to anyone’s heart. No helicopter needed for a shot that’s going to last perhaps a minute of screen time is worth paying $25,000 for. It’s a schmoozing kind of world and egos are huge and budgets are tight. Those millions of dollars that studios spend on making movies would be helpful to any community’s bottom line. But service is a two-way street. One studio executive told the Buffalo Alternative Press that he specifically advised Giambra not to hire the peripatetic Stricklin.

The bottom line is that Buffalo has about as much chance at getting a major studio production as any place on the planet. It could happen. But, the process is as much about budgets as it is about location needs. Just because a novel’s set in Buffalo doesn’t mean it will be shot in Buffalo. What works is salesmanship. Film commissioners need to be firebrands. They have to display a little showmanship. It’s a glitzy business. They must be aware of every movie on the slate, every location need, every screenplay in turnaround, every production in play. And this information is definitely available in trade publications and elsewhere. They’ve got to have contacts in the business who they can call and who are eager to call them and work with them. Even making a movie is now part of the can of worms called the global economy. Film commissioners must be one of the most proactive people around. They have to seek the work. Based on conversations with people in the business in Los Angeles, the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission needs to do a better job. Mary Summers had more success than Mark Stricklin.

There’s no denying that Buffalo has assets. After years of reviewing movies and interviewing movie stars, directors, and producers, I can tell you that any film can be shot anywhere. That’s the magic of the movies. There are dynamic vistas here and superb actors and actresses. But Buffalo also has failings that need to be overcome. There isn’t a lot of equipment necessary for shooting major films here. Components have to be trucked in from New York. Empty buildings are a dime a dozen, but at least one sound stage may need to be constructed. 35mm film lab work and sound processing need to be done in state-of-the-art facilities.

But perhaps most vital of all is that the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission needs to get out from under New York City’s shadow. The clubby film commission atmosphere also doesn’t help. Ms. Kaufman comes across as a demon who will scarf up everything for New York City first. Stricklin needs to give Kaufman marching orders, not the other way around. She is not his boss. He is his own boss. He needs to fight for Buffalo tooth and nail. The money’s there. The scripts are there. It’s not just about what’s available. All movies don’t get made in Canada or the Czech Republic. Many are shot across the United States. A great film commissioner can convince a studio executive that a movie shoot must come to their town. At studio headquarters, Buffalo must be made to seem like the perfect economical place to be. That’s how Hollywood works.

Yahya Goba was sentenced to ten years. The Court refused to recommend that he be imprisoned in the federal prison closest to his wife and daughter in Lackawanna. Faysal H. Galab, married with three children, received a sentence of seven years. Former president of his Lackawanna mosque, Sahim Alwan, married, was given nine and one-half years. He had faked an ankle injury so that he could leave the training camp early. The men were charged under the federal anti-terrorism statute with providing material support to al-Quaida which, prior to September 11, 2001, had been designated by the Secretary of State as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The designation was published in the Federal Register, a thick compendium of federal rules and regulations not found on the shelves of most local public libraries. Specifically, the men were charged with providing material support in the form of training. The training consisted of paying for a uniform, attending the training camp where they learned to use weapons, and standing guard duty. The charges against them also specified viewing videotapes concerning the bombing of the USS Cole and speeches by Osama Bin-Laden.

None of the defendants engaged in acts that were, at the time, obviously criminal in nature. It was not until several months after their return from Afghanistan that planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and the United States embarked on its virtually endless “war on terrorism.”

The maximum sentence faced by the men under the charges brought against them was 25 years. All of the defendants were in their twenties when arrested. Each defendant was convicted on the basis of a guilty plea entered into in order to avoid the possibility of receiving the maximum sentence. As part of the plea arrangement, the Government agreed to forego “any right it has to detain the defendant as an enemy combatant...” By raising the potential for such treatment, the Government implicitly threatened to hold the men indefinitely without access to their families or to their attorneys. The Government also insisted as a condition of the plea on a waiver by each defendant of the right to appeal, even if the Supreme Court were later to find the law unconstitutional, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently done. Such pressure tactics, especially in light of the constitutionally suspect character of the law, were unconscionable and should be repudiated by our public officials.

During their plea proceedings, some of the defendants made public admissions of wrongdoing, principally that they had made a mistake. But the mistake was obviously one recognized in retrospect, after the events of September 11, 2001, after their arrests, and after their pre-trial detention. These admissions were made to mitigate the possibility of even harsher punishments, and they were extracted to legitimate a highly dubious prosecution.

The Lackawanna Six were prosecuted in an environment pervaded by fear and hysteria. Their punishments were unduly harsh, and even vindictive. Despite denials by the Court and the prosecution, the crimes alleged against them actually were “thought” crimes. How could Shafal Mosed, for example, have known that by going to the training camp, where he learned more about al-Quaida then he knew before he arrived, that he would be charged criminally with taking action in support of a terrorist organization? How could he have known that learning more about a movement of worldwide political significance was in effect a decision to commit crimes punishable by up to twenty-five years in prison?

When a criminal law implicates important First Amendment concerns, it must be sufficiently clear so as to allow persons of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is being prohibited. A person of ordinary intelligence would not anticipate that “training,” even military-style training, would constitute criminal activity punishable by a lengthy prison term. This was especially true in pre-September 11, 2001 America. How could anyone then anticipate that severe criminal sanctions would flow from obtaining a uniform, attending a training camp and doing guard duty? The most that can be said, and this in hindsight, is that these men exhibited poor judgment. But how can it be criminal to view videotapes of the bombing of the USS Cole or speeches by Osama Bin-Laden when the same material is broadcast over the airways, even on network television?

The potential of our government to use the vague contours of the law to inhibit free speech and associational activities must be rejected. These men were charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Yet how can paying a few dollars for a uniform constitute the provision of material support? It may provide moral support, but how can it be material to the success of the efforts of a terrorist organization like al-Quaida?

As the Supreme Court observed in 1963 in NAACP v. Button, our First Amendment freedoms “are delicate and vulnerable, as well as supremely precious in our society.... Because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive, government may regulate in the area only with narrow specificity.”

The ties that hold our community together are delicate and vulnerable. The prosecution of the Lackawanna Six has torn at the fabric of our community. I hope that it is not too late to repair the damage by restoring the defendants to their families and to the community-at-large. They should immediately be released from federal custody.

Last week out side Ramadi, another insurgent city west of Fallujah, US troops issued two-way radios to the Iraqi forces supposedly supporting them. But the communications rich Americans were not concerned with coordinating movements with their Iraqi allies, they were listening in to know when these so-called Iraqis comrades were tipping off the bad guys inside Ramadi as to the Americans positions. Some Iraqis did more then just tip off insurgents. A Knight-Ridder photographer saw Iraqi ICDC soldiers and Iraqi police mixed in with insurgents who ambushed Marines on two separate occasions. On a grimmer note, some of the renegade Iraqis were wearing US Marine uniforms and body armor.

One senior Iraqi political officer, who refused to be identified, put it bluntly: “It’s a disaster, the entire security situation that the coalition has constructed. The Intelligence service is a joke. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) are implicated in the mutilations of the Americans (in Fallujah). Fifty percent of the ICDC mutinied. Some did their jobs. Some ran away. Some joined Muqtada.”

In the infamous city of Fallujah, some of the insurgents killed by Marines were wearing police equipment. The commander of the 1st Armored Division complained that about 40% of the Iraqi security forces deserted and that about one in ten “actually worked against” US troops.

Any army in the field will tend to leak soldiers during combat operations. But in Fallujah the entire 36th Security Brigade of the Iraqi Defense Corps refused to fight. Based in Baghdad, the 36th was ordered into trucks and moved to Fallujah where they would be used to support the US forces assembling there to attack the city. Ali al-Shamari explained the following mutiny: “They told us to attack the city and we were astonished. How could an Iraqi fight an Iraqi like that? This meant that nothing had changed from the Saddam Hussein days. We refused en masse.” Shamari further complained that the brigade did not know where it was headed until it arrived outside the city.

After the Brigade refused, the mutineers were stripped of their unit patches, and confined to an American base outside the city. Rations were reduced to one meal a day. “ I escaped, but around 200 of our comrades remain there. We demand their release,” Shamari stated.

Prior to its deployment to Fallujah, the brigade had been used to guard facilities and conduct searches. “Suddenly, we were asked to take part in a huge offensive.” Said one unhappy private. The 36th brigade was composed of former Iraqi army soldiers and the Peshmerga, part of the Kurdish militia. The executive director of the Iraq Center for research and Strategic studies observed that putting Sunnis and Kurds together in the same unit is as mistake. They hate each other.

One Kurdish soldier explained,” They were bombing the city with warplanes and cluster bombs. I could not be a part of this.”

The 36th Brigade was not the only Iraqi unit to refuse to fight. Previously, the 2nd battalion of the ICDC was loaded into a convoy, also headed to Fallujah. As it drove through Sadr City, it was attacked by insurgents. The battalion then turned around and head back to their camp northeast of Baghdad. What, if any, punishment they received is not known.

With the handover of power back to the Iraqis looming, it is hard to imagine how the security issue can be resolved. Major General Martin tried to sum up the situation: “It’s very difficult at times to convince them that Iraqis are killing fellow Iraqis and fellow Muslims, because it’s something they shouldn’t have to accept. Over time I think they will have to accept it.”

Dempsey added,” We have to get this latest increase in violence under control. We have to take a look at the Iraqi security forces and learn why they walked.”

She was protesting our nation’s training program in torture and terror techniques which is located at Ft. Benning. This program commonly known as the School of the Americas was responsible for training the assassins who murdered six Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989. As a result the Jesuit community along with other peace activists has held a yearly, non-violent protest at Ft. Benning, with the goal of convincing the American military to abandon this program.

Last year, protesters were informed that they would be punished severely for their act of conscience. After Ms. Gerard and her fellow protesters stepped across the line, our government made good on its promise and sentenced Ms. Gerard and others to three months in federal prison.

After CBS aired photos of American military personnel torturing Iraqi prisoners, it has become apparent to the entire world that the refusal to end our military’s commitment to terror techniques not only makes a mockery of our so-called “War on Terror,” but only serves to perpetuate a cycle of meaningless violence. Ms. Gerard submitted the following letter while incarcerated at the Danbury Federal Penitentiary in Connecticut.) April 19, 2004

The blues and pinks of the early morning sky rested softly above the bluish-gray of the distant hills. Despite the fact that I now reside in a minimum-security federal prison, my world felt serene and hopeful, full of peace and promise. All was calm. I watched an orange globe peer out from behind the hills. I wondered if the whole world might be watching the sun, taking turns throughout the time zones.

But my peaceful world was a bubble that quickly burst and fluttered away. The news was full of explosions, gunfire, violent death and destruction. The Israeli military destroyed the house of a Hamas leader. The bloody fighting in Iraq continued unabated. I was back to a world in which gunshots drown out the melodious twitter of bird songs. The words of U.S. Military personnel, however, were far from melodious. One was quoted as saying something about “violence begetting violence.” I agree completely with that comment. This world’s sad and sorry state is due, in large part, to the anger, hatred, and fear that causes all of that violence to continue, perpetrated by ever- younger participants. When one is killed, there are always many willing replacements. But the military representative wasn’t finished. He proceeded to discuss the value of “controlled violence” in Iraq. Controlled violence? To my ears, that made no sense, whatsoever. Like fire, violence is hard to control. It isn’t something that you can turn on and off like a spigot. The hatred and bitterness instilled in persons whom violence has touched personally don’t magically turn into feelings of love and forgiveness, once hostilities have ceased.

It doesn’t work that way, and it never has. Memories of past cruelties linger for months, years, decades and even centuries. Osama bin Laden is a good example of a never-dying search for revenge. In his world, revenge must be exacted for the bloody excesses of the crusades which occurred hundreds of years ago. In his world the crusades could have happened yesterday. He calls his actions, “revenge for past wrongs.” We call them, “terrorism.”

In my world, violence cannot be controlled, and revenge is pointless. According to one of my favorite books, Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, author Bob Fulghum advises us to apologize when we hurt someone. He also counsels, “Don’t hit people.” In my world “Don’t hit people,” means, don’t launch preemptive wars and justify violence as “controlled.” In my world governments, like individuals, must take responsibility for their actions.

When I chose to force the issue at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was objecting to the U.S. Government training thugs, assassins and dictators in such skills as “psychological operations,” torture, and coups d’etat. The U.S. Government calls its actions, “protection of U.S. Interests.” I call them terrorism. I was objecting to the U.S. Government’s response to mounting criticism of the School of the Americas: a name change to the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” a slick public relations campaign, and lots of denial. Apparently, saying that you’re sorry when you hurt someone never occurred to those who fund and or run SOA/WHINSEC. I have discovered, though, that the U.S. Government objects strenuously to being called to account for its actions. The U.S. Government certainly objected when I called its actions to account.

The government must have believed that it was teaching me a lesson by sending me to federal prison. After two weeks in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, I have learned a lesson, but probably not the one the government wanted to teach me. I’ve learned that the more the government wants to cover up and distract the public from the wrongs it has committed, the more it tries to crush those who expose those wrongs and who seek to confront the government, the bigger its crimes must be.

I’ve also learned that, for the government to effectively crush me, I have to give it my permission to do so. By continuing to write critically of the government’s conduct, I do not give the government permission to crush me.

I do feel, however, that it is the government that so desperately needs to be taught a lesson. It’s the government’s behavior, not mine, that’s out of control. It was just target practice, not a war at home, that I heard today. But the sound of that gunfire reminded me that there is war elsewhere, in such countries as Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Columbia. It reminded me that there are foreign troops being trained by the U.S. Military, both in the United States and abroad. It reminded me that all is not right in this world.

But the pinks, blues, and grays of the early morning sky were a sign of hope. My moment of the quiet peace felt right. I wanted everyone in the world to experience such a moment, free of the fear of serious injury and violent death, inflicted by other human beings. For just a moment, that sort of goal felt attainable. Even after the reality of the world’s violence soaked back into my consciousness, I still felt that it is possible for ordinary people willing to put forth hard work and to make sacrifices to make a difference in this world.

By being willing to confront power with truth and by being willing to resist being crushed by a government that is not yet willing to give up its addiction to violence, it is possi

Alt attended a Bison Scholarship fundraiser a few years ago that, not surprisingly, resembled a Republican Party rally. A black kid was ushered in to sing the national anthem. The theme was separating the wheat from the chaff, a straight forward attack on public education. Each speaker emphasized the need to rescue the worthy kids from these awful public schools - Social Darwinism applied to education. Not a word of support was given to the mission of public schools.

Fast forward to the present: the Buffalo Public Schools are being pushed into bankruptcy as the district must fund new charter schools which have been sprouting up like weeds. The full weight of the Buffalo Club political machine has kicked into high gear behind Chris Jacobs. They've blanketed the City with campaign literature and appear to be behind a "push poll" being conducted by Conquest Communications. a major league Republican political consulting outfit.

The campaign lit from Chris Jacobs is somewhat disturbing for two reasons. The candidate poses with school children in three of the mailers. In two of the pictures he is with children who are exclusively white. In another he is with children who are exclusively black. While we wouldn't accuse Chris Jacobs of racism on this account, it appears obvious that his campaign has opted to exploit segregationist sentiments in hopes of gaining control of the school board. What are we to learn from this?

Chris Jacobs campaign lit appears on the same card stock that was used to support the reduction of the Common Council. That sales pitch promised more teachers firemen and police as a result of the savings accruing from removal of three black common council members. Now it appears that the money was merely transferred into the salaries of the mostly white, unelected Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.

The second, and perhaps more disturbing thing about these campaign photos is how uncomfortable and detached Chris Jacobs appears to be amongst the children. None of the photos depict the sort of affection one sees between a popular teacher and his or her students. Maybe that's because Chris Jacobs didn't come up the ranks as a teacher. He was born into the elite. While he was trained as an attorney, its interesting to note that the University of Buffalo's School of Management is named after the Jacobs family. It appears obvious that the school board aspirations of Chris Jacobs arise not out of some altruistic urge for community service but out of the same motivations of the MBA culture that produced the Savings and Loan scandals in the eighties, the market manipulations of Enron, and finally the presidency of George W. Bush.

Millions of dollars go into public education. Isn't it time to seperate the wheat from the chaff? The success of Mr. Jacobs represents the next chapter in the MBA revolution. And for future reference when referring to Chris Jacobs, it's always Chris Jacobs, never Mr. Jacobs or Chris or Christopher. After wading through some of the vast inventory of Chris Jacobs P.R. this has become quite clear. It's Chris Jacobs, the average, ordinary guy from Buffalo. The Buffalo News will continue to remind its readers of this fact at every available opportunity, to be sure.

Friendly Astro-Turf: The Buffalo School Board election got off to a dubious start as the first open forum with candidates was held at a charter school on Easter Saturday morning. It reminds us of the "open meeting" that settled the fate of the Buffalo Joint School Construction Authority. That early morning meeting was held in East Aurora.

The charter school candidates' forum was also poorly publicized. It helped create the impression that whether candidates were in favor of charter schools or not, the charter school slate of candidates would carry the debate. It's the "done deal" debate all over again. Don't argue, the issue has already been decided. The debate that takes place is not democracy in action, but the kind of window dressing that helps us cling to our belief that as our soldiers fight and die in a foreign land, our own democracy here in WNY is still alive and well. It's not.

Jack Quinn Leaves GOP High and Dry - Republican Congressman Jack Quinn created a furor by announcing that he will not run for Congress this November. Conventional wisdom has it that Quinn was able to hold his seat in the largely Democratic district because he was seen as an advocate for organized labor and because he was Irish Catholic.

By removing himself from the race Quinn has left the Republicans in a lurch. Up until this point, the GOP was focused on protecting the seat left vacant by the retirement of Amo Houghton. Tom Delay crony Tom Reynolds was also facing surprisingly strong opposition in the person of the ex-Republican Akron millionaire, Jack Davis, who started his campaign with $500,000 of his own money. The Quinn news has made a dubious situation that much worse.

None of the candidates mentioned by GOP County Chairman Bob Davis are likely to please the party's extreme right wing currently holding power in Washington. The early frontrunner, Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan will likely run not only on the strength of his celtic DNA, but also on the conviction of the Lackawana Six for which he was a cheerleader. Like we said, dubious.

Prior to Quinn's announcement the only Democrat willing to seriously challenge Jack Quinn was longtime Party stalwart Peter Crotty. Now that there's blood in the water, though, the field of Democrats running has grown exponentially.

Low Intensity Burn: As County Executive Joel Giambra continues to amaze us with his "serious" consideration of a run for Governor, leftover embers from his first term continue to smolder. First and foremost is the Grand Jury investigation into the Aurora garage scandal, which saw Giambra appointees scurrying for cover. Since Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark would like both major Party endorsements, betting money says the Aurora garage problem will disappear.

This leaves the sticky issue of Giambra's campaign manager James Spano allegedly overcharging the County for office furniture from his company, Buffalo Office Interiors. State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's office has been mulling over that situation, but again the rule of thumb with any sort of political corruption is to study your opponent but avoid prosecution. You might pick up some valuable how-to's in case your party finds itself in the same office!

More Phantom Jobs: State Democrats led by the ambitious Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky have again brought attention to the economic development philosophy of the Governor's Empire Development Zones. Government money for phantom jobs is nothing new but the Dems' estimate of $500,000 of government subsidy per actual job created in WNY is. That estimate actually seems kind of conservative to us. In a related note, Certainteed, a PVC manufacturer that might create twenty-five positions will receive 2.1 million dollars in Empire Development subsidies. As reported in our last issue, Certainteed's plan to relocate on Buffalo's waterfront, has angered environmentalists who have pointed to the company's dismal environmental record as evidence that 2.1 million dollars is a price that's too high to pay - even for a potential of twenty-five, part-time, low wage jobs.

Of course, Paul Ciminelli would probably not agree with that sentiment. You see, Mr. Ciminelli is the developer of the Union Ship Canal area that will become Certainteed's new home. Ciminelli received over four million dollars from New York State and three million from the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. He received this taxpayer largess for developing the site, which was designated as a brownfield. The beauty of this deal is that if Certainteed dumps more toxic chemicals

How did you like President Bush coming to Buffalo and being snubbed by Mayor Masiello? Personally I didn’t see anything wrong with “Too Tall Tony” skipping the dog and pony show. Lots of us really enjoyed watching all the puppets sitting on the bar stools surrounding Yale University’s most famous hillbilly. The great occasion could have been a lot better if Control Board Bob Wilmers had served up some of his famous estate bottled wine. Bob looked at the bottom line though and decided it might not be a good investment what with “Dubyah” running for re-election in November. The chief from Amherst really looked impressive in his uniform and it was really cute the way he kept saluting the commander-in-chief. Mike Battle our famous US Attorney General read the cue cards as he had been instructed and caused no waves. Is he related to Condi?

Speaking of being snubbed, how about those Seneca Indians confusing the issue and saying “White man speak with forked tongue,” and then negotiating with Cheektowaga to build a casino on a toxic dump. Either way it wouldn’t be on the tax rolls of either the city or the town so what’s the big deal? Gambling, if it paid the bills would be great and apparently it doesn’t. Just think of the gamble the taxpayers in Buffalo took and all they have to show for their money is a control board that now doles out a miserly allowance that makes the pols believe they’re important.

Remind me to ask Fred Wolfe, Erie County Attorney, if a county executive can open a new or used furniture store specializing in office furniture or would it be better if he were a comptroller. I was going to ask District Attorney Frank Clark but he is apparently very busy pursuing Richard “Cat Shit” Kern so that his office can make Kern disappear into a top hat. By the way Frank how is the investigation going into the forgery problem with that Buffalo City Court Judge. I mean the one that recused herself on that false arrest by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. Semper fi Frank, semper fi and did Skretny really grab you and tell you that you’re losing your magical powers. Good golly gee willikers folks I’m just funning cause we certainly do know that good