Sports during the pandemic

For those so inclined, the televising of live sporting events has provided some relief from the limitations we find ourselves living under, even as we in New York State cannot attend the events in person.  There is only so much binge watching of dramas and sit-coms that a person can handle.

My wife Sophia and I got to see an exhibition baseball game in Florida (Astros versus Nationals) in late February before things started shutting down.  That seems like ten years ago.

Major league baseball, however, did come to Buffalo this year for the first time in what, 105 years?  It was interesting to see some of the Blue Jays games televised from Sahlen Field.  For you Yankee fans, your heroes were playing and temporarily residing right here in downtown Buffalo!  Go Jays!

Baseball has long been an interest of my, dating back to the games I attended with my dad at Offermann Stadium.  Note to Steve Cichon:  have you done a throwback Tuesday concerning that old field?

BlueJaysWhile I did not see any in-person regular season baseball games this year, my two-dimensional cardboard cutout (KenK) did, positioned in a great seat at Sahlen Field.  Seen here, KenK attended all 26 Blue Jays home games in Buffalo, his favorite being the shellacking that the Jays gave the Yankees on September 7th.  At the end of the season he traveled to Canada for a few days and then last week wound up on my front porch.  I don’t know how he got through customs twice, but he is now safely home.

What will happen with baseball in 2021 is still anyone’s guess.  Juggled scheduled, fewer games, few fans in the stands are likely.  The fate of minor league baseball is even more muddled.

The Sabres season ended early, which was probably just as well.  I don’t follow the team closely enough to comment in any way about their draft selections, signings or other personnel moves so we’ll see what it all brings when the next season starts.  It seems strange how the Pegula football franchise is well managed and performing well while the hockey team seems to have trouble navigating revolving doors.

The tentative start of the NHL’s next season is early January; emphasis on the word tentative.  The league did an incredible job with their playoff bubble arrangements but that won’t work for a season that is going back to home cities.  Another big complication is that there are seven franchises in Canada that will have to temporarily form their own division.  So, we’ll see.

The NBA also did well with their Disneyworld bubble end-of-season and playoffs and they are now working on a home-city schedule that will probably start before Christmas.  Traveling, sequestering and playing a full season will present difficulties for all the leagues until COVID testing is further refined and the distribution of vaccines starts to kick in.  Wondering:  where do professional sports teams stand in the pecking order of vaccine distribution?

College sports, particularly football, have had serious scheduling problems as large numbers of players and staffs on some teams have contracted the virus and some games have had to be cancelled or postponed.  That doesn’t seem like a particularly surprising development considering infection rates on some campuses.

And then there is the NFL.  With a couple of postponements and schedule adjustments, two of which affected the Bills, the season is nearly two-thirds complete and they are still marshaling on.

The Bills have had a very good run thus far.  The end-of-the-game loss to Arizona was as much a fluke as anything.  At 7 wins and 3 losses at the bye week they have a good shot at the division title, although Miami and New England are continuing to breathe down their necks.  The team has a good shot at an 11-5 or 10-6 finish and a playoff appearance.  The challenge this year will be getting past the first round.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and your family the best Thanksgiving that is possible in 2020.  Stay safe.  As they say on CBS, stay positive; test negative.

Knowing when to leave

A Dionne Warwick song from days long gone by offers these words of wisdom:  “Go while the going is good.  Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn.  Go!”  This being a blog about politics I think we have some real life political applications for those words, nationally and locally.

We can start with the obvious:  it is time for Donald Trump to leave the presidency.  It’s over.  He’s done.  His goose is cooked.  Time to start packing.  Don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out.  Go!

It should be obvious even to Trumpkins that you are in trouble when the best you can do to fight to hold on to the presidency is to have your most bombastic and incoherent lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, stand with second son Eric in front of a landscaping business, next to a sex shop, to proclaim that you are winning after Associated Press and all the networks, including Fox, have called the race for Joe Biden.

Eric recently emailed:  “There are ridiculous discrepancies in the votes all over the Country, so my father has formed the Election Defense Task Force to FIGHT BACK against this corruption…  Can my father count on you?   Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to join the Election Defense Task Force and to increase your impact by 1000%.”

Note to potential contributors:  none of your money will actually go to “election defense” activities unless you contribute more than $8,333, a pesky little detail.

As has been widely reported, the “Election Defense Task Force” is actually for Donald Trump’s collection of money to pay off campaign debts, undoubtedly in the millions, and then to finance a new leadership PAC, Save America, that Trump has created.  The Republican National Committee gets a 40 percent cut of the proceeds.  The new PAC will also pay for Trump to set up a political structure to fund his super spreader rallies and to dole out a few bucks to favored politicians who will line up to kiss his butt.

All of that, of course, will freeze the ball on Republican 2024 candidates who will be too timid to challenge fearless leader.  How long will wannabees like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, etc., etc. stand idly by waiting for their chance at the brass ring?

Maybe there are some other plans for the “Election Defense Task Force.”  “Individual 1” could be facing a legal day of reckoning concerning possible violations of election laws, tax laws, or business laws.  The Task Force money could come in handy for paying legal bills.

And then there is the matter of paying off $421 million in debt.  It has been suggested that Trump might divulge national security secrets.  Hmmm!

Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn.  Trump may be clever and cunning but he isn’t too smart, so such advice is wasted on him.

On the local front

It is not too early to start looking ahead to 2021.  There will be a couple hundred local elected positions on ballots in Erie County next year.

Changes in the Election Law which moved up party nominating processes leave little time for a political break before the next round of petitioning, fundraising and primaries are upon us.  Petitions for those 200+ positions will need to hit the streets in February.  That means that the parties need to line up the candidates by about late January, which is just ten weeks away.

Most of the 200 offices, which include county legislators plus town and smaller city offices, will not attract much attention; many will not even have two candidates.  The marquee races will be for mayor of Buffalo, Erie County sheriff, and Erie County comptroller.

Serving as mayor for going on 16 years and then considering a race for a fifth term is quite an interesting proposition.  Is there a shelf life or sell-by date for that key executive office?

At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any obvious alternative candidate to Byron Brown.  State Senator Tim Kennedy might want to seek the office someday, but Brown and Kennedy are allies so Kennedy will defer for the time being even while adding to his one million dollar war chest.

Soon to be Senator and current Assemblyman Sean Ryan might also have some future interest in the office but he does not seem likely to take a shot in 2021.  City Council members are either not inclined to run or don’t have the resources to do so.  Those holding various judicial positions are paid too well to give it up for a chance to become mayor.  There are no non-politicos waiting in the wings. So it will basically come down to “you can’t beat somebody with nobody.”

Word on the street is that Sheriff Tim Howard will be a candidate in 2021 – for supervisor of the Town of Wales.  Various names are circulating in political circles for new candidates for sheriff, including former Buffalo Police officers, the wife of a judge, and a former candidate, but none have emerged as anyone who might be considered the front runner at this stage.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw may very well be a candidate in 2021 – for supervisor in the Town of Hamburg.  Or maybe run for a seat on the County Legislature. Or maybe he will seek a private sector job.  After burning his bridges to the county Republican Party in his congressional campaign the least likely scenario for Mychajliw would be a run for another term as comptroller.  Perhaps Deputy Comptroller Lynne Dixon will take another shot at countywide office.  Ten weeks out from party endorsement time there are no major Democratic candidates on the horizon.

Go while the going is good.  Great advice, not always followed in politics.

Money in politics

Check out the latest edition of Investigative Post‘s “Money in Politics.” In the current post Geoff Kelly and I discuss the political contributions of brothers Jon, Jeffrey and Jerome Williams. You can also click on the our latest podcast. Here’s the link: http://www.investigativepost.org

A critical election comes to the end

So we will now be required to sit through 70 days of endless lie-telling, whining, finger-pointing and who-knows-what federal government actions controlled by a man who has been rejected by the largest popular vote in the history of the United States.  So be it.  Honest government and serious attention to the people who are going through the devastation of the pandemic are just around the corner.

No one, including Joe Biden, says that Biden is perfect.  That simple comment, of course, is exactly the opposite of what Donald Trump has always said and always believed about himself.  The change will be refreshing.

Since Republican elected officials and party leaders have the backbones of jelly fish, no one from that party has stepped forward to tell Trump that enough is enough.  Chris Jacobs, is your phone working?  Even the couple dozen 2024 Republican contenders are remaining silent, cowed by Donald Junior of all people.  Where is Barry Goldwater when you need him?

Maybe Trump will back off, although that seems unlikely, unless he confronts issues that will be staring him in the face.  I’m thinking his failing businesses.  I’m thinking $421 million in debt.  I’m thinking some serious legal problems.

Trump will undoubtedly want to run again in 2024 or maybe have Junior or Ivanka as the candidate.  (Why doesn’t anyone ever mention Eric as a potential candidate?).  That will freeze in place the multiple 2024 wannabees, who will are afraid to irritate fearless leader.  Too bad.  Ivanka 2024!

So we are left trying to keep things in perspective, knowing that the cavalry is on the way.  Put a countdown clock on your phone and set it for noon on January 20.

The next four years are not going to be easy.  Trump has torn this country apart.  The pandemic is raging and the deniers are still denying.  Millions are out of work; people are in danger of losing their homes and their health insurance; businesses are closing; state and local government will be cutting services.  But in their finest imitations of Herbert Hoover, Trump, McConnell and their colleagues remain unmoved about the need for massive relief.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s mid-October survey:

  • 24.1% of American adults expect someone in their household to experience a loss in employment income in the next 4 weeks
  • 10.9% of American adults lived in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the previous 7 days
  • 7.0% of adults are either not current on their rent or mortgage payment, or have slight or no confidence in making their next payment on time
  • Of adults living in households not current on rent or mortgage, 28.4% report eviction or foreclosure in the next two months is either somewhat or very likely
  • 33.1% of adults live in households where it has been somewhat or very difficult to pay usual household expenses during the coronavirus pandemic

The failure of Senate Democrats, for the third cycle in a row, to produce a majority will mean that many of the initiatives that Biden and Democratic members of Congress want to pursue will be stymied by McConnell and company.  In baseball, when you swing and miss the pitch three times, you’re out.

Both parties face some reckoning.  Even with Biden’s victory he will likely face a McConnell controlled Senate (Georgia could change that, but winning one, much less two Senate run-offs in January, will be extremely difficult); a reduced House majority that failed to increase their numbers or even protect all incumbents; and Congressional progressives chomping at the bit to push their programs, perhaps not all pulling in the same direction.

The Republicans, as previously noted, will have their own problems as they operate without any coherent policy positions (see the 2020 Republican platform) https://politicsandstuff.com/?s=republican+platform.  They will have multiple congressional members off on their own, trying to position themselves as heirs to the Trump regime.  House Republicans will have a QAnon caucus.

On the state level Nick Langworthy, the state Republican Chairman, had a pretty good election.  House seats were protected on Long Island and there were a couple apparent wins, one on Staten Island and the other upstate.  The efforts of state Senate Democrats to pad their majority failed as Republicans have apparently picked up some seats on Long Island and elsewhere.  Additions to the Senate Democratic caucus from Buffalo (Sean Ryan) to Syracuse will help moderate the interests of New York City members.

Locally, things were a mixed bag.  Most incumbents won.  Jacquie Berger didn’t come close to defeating Ed Rath for the Senate seat of retiring member Michael Ranzenhofer.  Monica Wallace might still eke out a victory when the absentee votes are counted, but why are the results so close in a district where the Democratic overlay is 19,000 and no one has ever heard of the Republican candidate.  Bill Conrad was successful in winning the seat left vacant by Robin Schimminger’s retirement.  The Assembly Democratic caucus will in January include about six Democratic Socialists from New York City who probably will not see eye-to-eye with many returning members.

The State Supreme Court contest between Democrat Amy Martoche and Republican Gerald Greenan is not resolved, with Greenan holding a narrow lead in early voting and Election Day voting.  With more than 120,000 absentees remaining to be counted, 80,000+ of them being in Erie County, we will have to wait awhile for the actual result.

The story of the 2020 election is not done yet, but it has certainly been interesting so far.  Many of us would probably say much too interesting.  Stay calm and carry on.

Public service and the need for a new president

By Paul Fisk

I believe that there are many people who take pride in their public service.

John F. Kennedy’s admonition to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” was still fresh in our national consciousness when I chose a college major in political science and a field of graduate study in public administration. Public service was considered an honorable endeavor and hopes were high for a more just and equitable society.

Continue reading

Judicial candidates on the campaign trail

Campaigns this year that have not drawn much news coverage are the races for judicial offices.  Despite their interest in contested judicial elections the Buffalo News has avoided making endorsements.   Ethical restraints necessarily and wisely placed on judicial candidates prevent them from fully and appropriately engaging.

That makes peer review very important in judicial races.  The WNY area has four bar associations that appoint committees whose members thoroughly review judicial candidates’ qualifications, rate the candidates, and attempt to publicize their ratings.

Continue reading

A day in the life of the campaigns, less than two weeks out

Over a period of time I have found my way on to the email lists of a variety of national political candidates and their committees.  Being a Democrat, emails from that side of the aisle come naturally.  On the Republican side I trace the contacts to my travels around South Carolina during the Republican presidential primary in 2016.  At that time the process was to request tickets for an event, so I got on the email lists of the Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Kasich campaigns.  Many campaigns have a habit of loaning or selling their lists, so over time the contacts spread far and wide.

Continue reading