Irish Wake for the Buffalo Political Machine

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Remarks at Free Buffalo’s ‘Irish Wake for the Buffalo Political Machine’

by James Ostrowski by James Ostrowski

First Amendment Club

In my life, I have often taken the road less traveled. That road has taken me through many twists and turns off the beaten track. I have avoided the path of least resistance and end up here now with you and I can honestly say, in response to Marv Levy’s famous question: "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?" No where.

Free Buffalo may be the first organization that was ever pronounced dead before its first meeting.

On March 3rd, a poster on Speakupwny.com wrote:

"Right now Free Buffalo’s a two man show — Tom and Jim until they prove otherwise. From a political standpoint they have made so many mistakes thus far — and gotten zero media attention. They are pretty much dead in the water. They launched at the highest level of the taxpayer revolt and no one outside of the boards noticed."

So Free Buffalo was pronounced dead before our first meeting at which 300 people and the entire local media attended. We were then pronounced dead after that meeting. We were also pronounced dead after our second meeting where another 300 people showed up at 9am on a Saturday morning. Our opponents have been pronouncing us dead about once a week ever since.

A few months ago, I read one popular blogger’s post — "Where’s Jim Ostrowski?" That very day, my picture was on the front page of the Buffalo News. In the words of one of Free Buffalo’s patron saints, reports of Free Buffalo’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

We’re here today to turn the tables. We’re here today to bury our undertakers, the Buffalo Political Machine!

After 45 straight years of presiding over our community’s decline while lining their own pockets, without any serious or organized opposition, that ship of statists, the Political Machine, was going full steam ahead when suddenly it struck a huge iceberg — the tax revolt!

They’re still in charge for the moment. Their soldiers are busy rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Some are sneaking into lifeboats. Their musicians are still playing merry tunes at $500 cocktail parties as the Titanic’s musicians did long ago.

But, we all know how this story ends — sooner rather than later, this mighty ship of fools will go down and we’ll all have another and bigger Irish Wake. This one is just a dry run for practice. Well, perhaps "dry" is not the right word.

While the machine flops around on the beach mortally wounded, many of its formerly non-working parts have left this mortal coil, a consummation devoutly to be wished. In the words of one of the patron saints of machine politics, you won’t have those ten politicians to kick around anymore.

The death of the machine was and is inevitable for the same reason that the fall of communism was inevitable. Both eventually destroy the community and economy upon which they prey. This simultaneously weakens the machine and emboldens the normally compliant masses who are usually reluctant to support drastic change. The result is a sudden collapse of the ruling regime. That collapse happened this year in Buffalo, and with Free Buffalo’s help, will extend throughout the state. Next year, we’ll roll this tax revolt down the New York State Thruway to Albany where it must go.

My Irish great-grandparents didn’t flee British-dominated Ireland to move to the freest nation on earth where all government spending was only six percent of national income, so their great-grandchildren could suffer under a greedy and self-serving political machine and to live in a nation where the government takes every spare nickel from the family budget, while present-day Ireland has lower taxes than we do and is thriving.

My ancestors and yours had the courage to escape from tyranny when that was the only option. Now, we need that same courage to drive that same tyranny from our community and from our state because that is our only option — unless we wish to declare this whole American experiment a failure and return to Europe.

Unthinkable? Yes, and so is defeat at the hands of this corrupt, self-serving, malicious, political machine that rests on the twin pillars of its own greed and our own fear.

So I say, as I said in the book that propelled me into this battle: "Once more into the breach dear friends." We have a few more Irish Wakes to schedule before we sleep — a few more before we sleep.

The military historian Von Clausewitz once defined war as "the continuation of politics by other means." In this area, however, politics sometimes resembles the continuation of war by the same means. So let me quote what Shakespeare said about another battle long ago fought against long odds

This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered — We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

November 14, 2005

James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including "What’s Wrong With Buffalo." See his website.

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