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Guns, Ebola, Torture, and a Sour Weppner

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At long last, Kathy Weppner got her debate against Brian Higgins yesterday. The candidates vying to represent NY-26 in Congress faced off in front of an audience of about 1,000 students and faculty at St. Joe’s. The debate was moderated by the AP Government teacher, and students selected and asked the questions. 

Here’s what Brian Higgins tweeted after the debate: 

And here is what Kathy Weppner tweeted about it:


So, the shorter version is Brian Higgins thanking St. Joe’s and its AP Government class, teacher, and students for a lively and fun debate, versus Kathy Weppner denigrating the kids and their questions, just one step away from accusing them of perhaps conspiring with Higgins’ campaign because she had to face tough questions. 

Also, Higgins accused Weppner of missing two recent candidate fora – not three. She skipped the Good Government Club and the Association of Retired Federal Employees events in the last few weeks. She was invited to them both. For someone who’s spent the last few weeks whining about how the League of Women Voters has conspired with Brian Higgins to support only Demoncrats, you’d expect her to attend everything offered to her. 

The Weppner campaign has been one of the best campaigns ever to be run in western New York, but not for the reasons you think. I don’t objectively mean it was “good” or the “best”; instead, it’s the best insofar as it has enabled regular people to hear and consider things that are usually kept in the deepest basements of AM hate radio. It’s rare that malicious and false right-wing misinformation sees the sunlight, and when it’s taken even a millimeter outside of its typical venues, it’s revealed to be so false and dumb that regular people simply dismiss it as “crazy”.  For instance, 

Yesterday, Brad Riter and I recorded an hourlong podcast where we set out to dissect yesterday’s debate. There’s so much there, we only made it through about 15 minutes’ worth.  You can listen to the podcast here

You can listen to the entire debate here, at WBFO’s site. Did you catch how Weppner whined about how Higgins conspired with WBEN to let the entire debate audio to be shared online? Weppner evidently didn’t read the rules, because the prohibition on recording and re-use of the debate was only as to the campaigns themselves – there were myriad cameras and microphones present, and the rules were quite clear that media could share their recordings. Indeed, after spending so many weeks whining about the lack of debates, you’d reckon that Weppner would scream bloody murder if the debate wasn’t shared with voters, right? 

In terms of substance, the student-led, teacher-moderated debate touched on several issues, none of which are trivial. More importantly, they were things that the students themselves deemed interesting. The first question dealt with the apparent epidemic of school shootings – a uniquely American problem. Weppner’s response to this question was typical right-wing pablum; more guns will lead to a more polite society. Weppner said things about how only “good” people with guns – like she – can protect society from bad people with guns, as if there were no other alternatives. Higgins affirmed people’s 2nd Amendment rights, but added, 

Good people should be able to carry guns but the framers of the Constitution could not have imagined this kind of hell,” Higgins said. “If you are a good guy with a gun then what’s wrong with reasonable background checks? What’s wrong with reasonable gun control?

The Weppner plan can be summarized thusly: 

Weppner came out in support of a travel ban from West African countries, while Higgins said we should follow the lead of medical professionals, and not politicians, on these sorts of issues. Weppner said, 

The CDC has spent 6% of its $3 billion over the last few years on silly studies instead of on infectious diseases. We’ve been squandering the money that we do have. So I believe, yes, there should be a quarantine. They’re quarantining our soldiers in Germany for 21 days. 

According to Weppner, if the CDC spent 6% of $3 billion on “silly studies”, then that still leaves 94% to study and prevent infectious diseases. However, typically, she’s got her facts wrong. She seems to be parroting a Politico article penned by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who claims

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent—$180 million—of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity.

By contrast, the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement Funding, which helps municipalities deal with outbreaks of disease, has decreased dramatically in the last decade. The CDC’s overall 2015 budget is not, incidentally, $3 billion, but almost $7 billion. That also represents a decrease of 3.5% over FY 2014, and you can see specifically what the administration sought, and what the tea party Congress granted

Weppner got two applause lines – the first when she said that marijuana “kills ambition” and leads kids to sit on the couch, watching TV, and eat Doritos. Not shockingly, teenage kids love the idea of sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating Doritos, and cheered. Weppner also rejected medical marijuana, claiming,

If there are medicinal purposes that medical marijuana can be used for then we need to study it. We wouldn’t put a medicine on the market without studying it. If there are properties that help seizure disorders then we need to study what properties those are and put it into a little inhaler.  We can’t open pot stores. We need clear thinking young people to attack the problems we have. Not people that are going to sit back with a bag of Doritos and watch television.

Even Channel 2’s Michael Wooten pointed out on last night’s news that Weppner is lying about medical marijuana not having been studied. It’s been studied plenty, and shown to be effective in treating nausea in chemotherapy patients, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures, and other maladies. UC San Diego has an entire department devoted to the study of medicinal uses for marijuana, a plant that grows in nature

The mic drop moment, though, came when the candidates were asked about the use of torture in interrogation of enemy combatants and terrorists. Weppner claimed, 

I don’t think sleep deprivation or waterboarding is something, if we are going to get valuable information that can save lives, is a horrible thing. I really don’t.

The notion that torture generates valuable information is categorically, scientifically false. While Weppner shocked the Catholic schoolboys with her pro-torture position, Higgins’ one-sentence response resulted in huge applause, prompting Weppner to whine about it later on Twitter (seen above). 

Torture should not be tolerated in any context in any part of the world.

The candidates’ reactions on Twitter aren’t an accident – Higgins’ performance was competent, relevant, and rational. Weppner’s was defensive, offensive, and bizarre. This is the shorthand to describe both candidates and their campaigns, overall. 

You think I hate Weppner or her right-wing followers? I don’t. I feel sorry for them, frankly, because it must really suck walking through life being angry and afraid of everything, always. I hate people who commit crimes and hurt others, I don’t hate people who think differently from me, however misguided I think they are. Part of what I do through this blog is highlight thoughts, ideas, words, and deeds that I believe to be ugly or nice – dangerous or helpful – reactionary or progressive. I pay attention to what my ideological opponents have to say because I refuse to formulate my opinions in a left-wing echo chamber. I read and listen to lots of points of view from lots of sources – so if I see, for instance, that the local AM talk radio station leaves a comment up for over an hour, which calls for the extermination of all Muslims on Earth, I feel it’s my duty as a normal human being to call that to the station’s attention.  It’s not only Nazi thinking, it’s violative of that station’s Facebook terms of service, “… will not tolerate racist, homophobic, sexist or abusive comments”. 

The real hatred comes from those who shut down dissent, and get called out in other venues. The real hatred comes from those who are utterly allergic to scrutiny or criticism of any kind. The real hatred comes from people who cower in their echo chambers, treating as unpatriotic or insane anyone who dares to disagree. The real hatred comes when the local news radio station blocks you on Twitter, because you pointed out that maybe “all Muslims need to be exterminated” doesn’t belong on their Facebook page. 

Election Day is next Tuesday. The tea party point of view is out in the sunlight for all to see. Reject it. 

  • Sean Danvers

    Her responses seem like she was surprised children were able to form coherent thoughts and present detailed questions on real world issues. In fairness though, that’s probably not something she has experience with from her talk show or the shows she regularly calls into.

  • bugmenot2013

    Don’t be too harsh on her. She was probably still in shock from having her tiny little gun stripped from her cold, dead, pink manicured fingers.

  • Rob Patterson

    Re: Her second tweet, as a St. Joe’s grad I am proud that the current students asked about how our government tortured people.

  • (As a side note, the embed code for the Tweet where Weppner whines about why the kids asked about torture was screwing up the post’s formatting to such a degree that all content after it was simply deleted. I had to instead embed an image of the Tweet, which explains why it looks different.)

  • JP Fitzpatrick

    “because it must really suck walking through life being angry and afraid of everything, always.”

    Truer words…. I’ve had this conversation with friends of mine numerous times, to the point where i think banging my head against a wall may be more productive….. I don’t know how anyone can go through life so goddamn angry at EVERYTHING……

  • Ann Onimous

    Interesting that Weppner complains “No pro life 🙁 ”

    It’s like she doesn’t know how questions work outside of the right-wing echo chamber. If a question is “pro-life” it isn’t really much of a question at all.

    • JP Fitzpatrick

      She’s prolife, but once you are born into the world, she’ll cut your fucking hands off and water-board you because you don’t buy into her belief system. good gal with a gun in a room full of kids indeed……

  • rastamaniac

    Ironic how she rattled off all of those family members who attended Joe’s but she couldn’t have been any more disconnected from those kids if she was an Afghan Warlord. Sad too that they all had to go there, you’d think at least one of them could have passed the Timon entrance exam. Fortes in Fide, lads.

  • HapKlein

    This person and the pathetic radio audience and ideology she represents are not the best but most grotesque pretense of a Political Campaign I have ever been forced to witness.

    I really have not paid much attention to her but saw a couple of news conferences she arranged that are as embarrassing as any political acts I have ever seen.

    My question is why would any political party or faction ever allow a person so bereft of intelligence and knowledge run for office?

    I’m serious. consider Brian Higgins who truly grasps the mechanics of government and dynamics of leverage to reach goals with incredibly and obvious capability forced to share the platform with an empty headed creature with obviously more limits than promise.

    I see the grace and diplomacy of his tweets as confirmation of my admiration for him.

    Weppner represents the sick dying GOP at its worse. But sicker than she are the morons who developed and nurtured her candidacy. Finally, do you have no decency, Republicans?

    • jimd54

      This is why as a Republican, I seldom vote for one. The people that the party offers have no nuance for politics, they are just pissed off about a bunch of stuff. People may not like Brian Higgins’ stance on things but there is no doubt in my mind if we had both Democrats and Republicans approach their job with the maturity he displays, things would be running a lot smoother.

      • HapKlein

        Yes I agee. But its the spirit of compromise to reach decisions that serve the Public Good that went out the window.

        I was a Republican until 1984 and I realized Reagan was developing gulf in the nation by the tactics of reconciling the Party to the new dynamics of the South and Jim Crow while sadly attempting to hang on to the Northern Rural Areas.

        The result was an extremist party that since 2000 has been increasingly strident about issues that obviously fall to the roadside as we move along.

        My family remains GOP and insist everything is Obama’s fault like Weppner whom I think is a product of Right Wing Nuts rather than her own convictions.

        I saw her try to fumble through some announcements about immigration some time back and any Political Party that allows itself to be represented by such an uninformed and inane creature speaks volumes why Astorino/Mills slide, slide, slide.

        The Party of Lincoln demonstrates a death wish in New York State.