Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend

Sept 7-Sept 21, 2005
Issue #83

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
Brown Nose
Buffalo News Endorses Mediocrity
Allan Uthman

Occupational Hazard
Why They Hate Us
Alexander Zaitchik

Lie of the Storm
No one could've predicted this, or something
Kit Smith
Joltin' Bolton
UN Ambassador as bad as you thought
Jeff Dean
Beast Calling!
A Tele-prayer with the 700 Club
(includes audio)

Area Man Remembers 9-11 Twice Daily
Ian Murphy

A debate on withdrawal

Buffalo in Briefs
The Sports Blotter
The Week in Sports Crime
Matt Taibbi
Page 3
Bills Season Preview
Ronnie Roscoe
Separated at Birth?
Kino Korner: Movies
[sic] - Letters
 Cover Page

Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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Brown Nose
Buffalo News Fulfills its Destiny
Allan Uthman

The Buffalo News’ endorsement of Byron Brown in the Democratic primary this Tuesday the 13th ranks among the least surprising events in my lifetime. I would have been shocked to learn that the News had endorsed any other candidate. Brown was established early on as the Democratic Party’s fast-track candidate, and has gathered all the big endorsements there are to be had, because Buffalo politics is usually about going through the motions: you figure out who’s going to win, and you endorse him, and hopefully he’ll be nice to you when he’s in charge. Brown was picked as the winner of this race before it even began.

But the News endorsement was surprising in its reasoning. One can almost hear the writer groaning as he twists his mind in search of a logical path to a Brown endorsement that doesn’t include the phrases “he’s going to win anyway” or “will serve the existing plutocracy well.” Painted into a corner by the relative ingenuity and earnestness of Brown’s opponents, the News resorts to cliquish “you don’t get it” sneering to make its case. Basically, the theory is that drastic changes are necessary to Buffalo’s survival, but impossible to implement, so we need someone who looks good and knows how to pander. That doesn’t make sense. When your car breaks down, you don’t take it to a car salesman.

Yes, this is just a primary. But in Buffalo, the Democratic primary is traditionally considered the “real” election—whoever wins this one gets to be mayor, by virtue of the overwhelmingly Democratic affiliation of the city. Some think that racism will play a factor this time if and when Brown wins the nomination, tilting the balance in Republican candidate Kevin Helfer’s favor. This is unlikely, and would be shamefully stupid. It’s obvious that race has nothing to do with competence—just look at the President.

But should we vote for Brown simply because he’s black? The News seems to think so, saying, “…let’s be frank: Electing this Rust Belt city’s first black mayor would in itself be a healthy and progressive achievement.”

Frankly, I’m embarrassed to be from a city where this is considered sound opinion. The News here speaks with the voice of its bosses: ancient tycoons so removed from reality that their take on modern society is decades behind the times. Black mayors are nothing special; in fact they’re frigging everywhere these days. Considering Brown’s election some kind of impressive civil rights landmark only shows how backwards the Buffalo News is on race. Regardless, the idea that we should apply affirmative action to an election is dumb beyond comprehension. This is serious business. We can’t afford another do-nothing administration, white or black.

So, when it comes down to it, why does the News endorse Brown? Well, he’s charismatic, and he’s black. He’s spent years in the most corrupt and inefficient State Legislature in the country, so he has a lot of experience not getting things done.

Their reasons for rejecting Gaughan and Calvaneso? They have new ideas and they want to change things. Seriously:

[Calvaneso] brings a business person’s values, a few appealing initiatives and a libertarian approach to Buffalo’s overstuffed reformist agenda. But if elected, he likely would have trouble governing. Demanding change and extracting it from an entrenched political system are different tasks. Asking does not guarantee ye shall receive. We don’t question his dedication; we doubt he can be effective.

In other words, change is difficult, so don’t bother. While the News doesn’t elaborate on why exactly Calvaneso would face such resistance, their dismissal of Gaughan is downright insulting, and has “lightweight” written all over it:

Gaughan may function best in a Shangri-La where innovation matters more than votes, where ideals count more than politics, where vision has more value than campaign contributions. It’s a good place for him, and this region is indebted to him for his work.

Gaughan is presented as in his own silly dream world, a ‘60s hallucination of utopian municipal government. The clear implication is that it’s ridiculous to place vision over fundraising, ideals above politics, or innovation over votes. The News is describing every jaded voter’s dream candidate, the one who, in their own estimation, really gives a shit, and dismissing him as useless, precisely because he’s untainted by the craven process of machine politics. It’s a surprisingly cynical assessment from a paper which is usually all too happy to believe in fairy tales, as long as they involve major taxpayer-funded construction contracts.

Gaughan is “smart” and “forward thinking,” but Brown is “savvy” and “smooth.” Calvaneso and Gaughan “offer appealing, fresh ideas and determined spirits, and much-needed vision,” but Brown is “caring without condescension, dedicated without zealousness.” The News’ position is clearly that style matters much more than substance in politics. What kind of asinine position is that? Whose interests does it serve?

In a particularly blatant show of sophistry, the editorial cites the same idea—delegation of authority to secondary assistants—as both a strike against Gaughan and a plus for Brown: Gaughan “would cede to a city manager day-to-day control of a city in dire need of a day-to-day leader,” a sign of irresponsibility, but one of Brown’s “good ideas” is to “hire two deputy mayors - one for multi-level legislative liaison, and one for administration and operation.” The News is clearly biased in favor of Brown, for reasons it has chosen not to share with us.

The case against Brown? I’ll let the News make it:

Brown’s downsides include his inability to articulate an inspired vision of his mayoralty or this once-great city’s future; his likely indebtedness to his entrenched political backers; and his career-long acceptance of a public paycheck at a time when new models of governance must be found. The next mayor can’t just do things better than Mayor Anthony M. Masiello; the next mayor must do things differently.

But, again, the other candidates are no good precisely for wanting to do things differently. And there is no indication that Brown will. The News offers up paltry pickings on his behalf—”Brown says abuse of taxpayers [sic] dollars will not exist on his watch,” and he promises to—gasp—hire people who are qualified. But these are the promises of every single candidate running for mayor this year, sort of like a Presidential campaign promise to “protect American workers.” Nobody’s running around promising more patronage and developer handouts, after all. If the News is willing to wholeheartedly believe the campaign promises of a veteran politician, described in their own words as “savvy” and “smooth,” why not the others, the unsophisticated newbies?

Brown’s considerable drawbacks are listed and summarily dismissed. He is given the benefit of the doubt on all questions of integrity, while his opponents are cast aside as simple-minded naïfs whose very hope for the future indicates their incompetence. Hope for the future of Buffalo seems childish in a mayoral candidate to the News. Big ideas about demanding change are amusing, even commendable, but hey, grow up kids; this is the real world.

Think about this for a second: Big ideas. Demanding change. Aren’t these exactly what all the noise since the county budget crisis has been about? All of these grassroots organizations sprouting from the woodwork, the renewed vigor with which local TV news affiliates have pursued stories of government inefficiency and corruption, the demonization of Giambra—all of it has been about rejecting the status quo in favor of fresh, revolutionary approaches to old problems.

But that’s not part of the Buffalo News’ agenda. They have paid some lip service, and joined in on the Giambra-bashing, but let’s not forget that the News endorsed Giambra and Masiello—twice. And let’s also not forget that, as our economy has tanked, the News has raked in more and more cash. They have a monopoly, and another publisher would be nuts to start a second daily in a crippled economy like ours. The News is just fine with that. The last thing Warren Buffett and Stan Lipsey want is some unorthodox upstart rocking the boat.

If they really agreed that fundamental change was necessary, all the News had to do was change their endorsement. After all, they are far more powerful than a bunch of lazy bureaucrats. With a stroke of the pen, this city could have felt the full editorial weight of the lone major daily, as the inevitability of a Brown election changed over breakfast to a mere possibility. But the News doesn’t challenge; it soothes. It fears change as much as its readers do. All it wants is a predictable, crony-coddling company man, and it’s found him, just like it always does. The only question is: are you going to listen to it—again?

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