Archive | October, 2006

Political Compass

31 Oct

Ever read a personal description of an individual political persepctive and almost every word of it applies to you? It’s always unexpected when you stumbled upon your political doppleganger.

I’m not exactly sure how to describe myself politically these days, but liberal is definitely the wrong word.

I’m more of an ex-Marxist, ex-socialist, ex-revolutionary who realized long ago that Marx got his economics wrong, that socialism doesn’t work and that Peter Townsend was essentially right about the new boss being the same as the old boss. When I was in Russia, I even got to see the old bosses who became the new bosses turning back into the old bosses again.

On the other hand, I still despise bourgeois “morality” (the mother of all oxymorons), feel a persistent pull of sympathy to class-based, left-wing movements in places like Latin America (even though I believe resistance is essentially futile) and would very much like to see a radical redistribution of political power in this country — although through peaceful, not violent, means. Obviously, I’m not holding my breath.

Mostly what that makes me, I suppose, is politically irrelevant and — in today’s environment — something of a borderline nihilist. Also a fairly complete sell out, since I get up each day and go to work for an enormous corporation that stands for just about everything I claim to oppose.

But what it does not make me is a liberal, except in the sense that I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the fact that the pathetic old shell of the Democratic Party is the only effective barrier to one-party rule by a bunch of really dangerous authoritarian creeps.

So call me a racist, call me a hypocrite — hell, call me a communist and a lunatic. I’ve been called worse before breakfast. Just don’t call me a liberal. Because as some in the blogosphere have already discovered, I tend to regard that as a fighting word.

Thanks to eac for sending this along, it really got me to thinking about where I stand in the political spectrum and to which party I subscribe.

Unfortunately, I am unable to discern where I fall anymore. I generally loathe the victimhood of the left and the assured nonsensical positions of the right. I also believe that libertarianism is the last home for scoundrels and those who fail to understand the natural tendencies of people and corporations. Does anyone else feel this way? I never know who to vote for because it’s so incredibly rare that I find anyone with a common sense approach to matters of policy.

So, how would you describe your political compass? Do your ideals conflict with the choices you’ve made? Can you name three government representatives that demonstrate qualities you respect?

Just wondering if I’m all alone in the wilderness around these parts as a man without a party…

The Buffalo News Endorses The Status Quo

30 Oct

With their special features on needed reforms in Albany, their tacit support of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Unshackle Upstate agenda, one would think The Buffalo News would shy away from issuing endorsements to status quo incumbents. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The Buffalo News endorses:
58th District: No endorsement
59th District: Dale M. Volker
61st District: Mary Lou Rath
62nd District: George D. Maziarz

They did not issue endorsements in the 57th or 60th where Catherine Young and Antoine Thiompson are running essentially unopposed respectively.

The reasoning behind their endorsements? The incumbents know how to bring the pork back home and that’s what matters. It just feeds into the mentality that the problem is always someone else’s representative. WE are the biggest obstacles on the road to a reformed state government.

Tomorrow, I fully expect them to endorse the same Assemblypeople who have overseen the long demise of Western New York and the upstate economy.

It’s time for new representatives who are less concerned with pork, patronage, and politics and more concerned with building consensus in Albany for real reform.

Tolls No More

30 Oct

The New York State Thruway Authority has voted to permanently cease the collection of tolls on the I-190. Yes, permanently.

The vote ends collections at the Ogden and Breckenridge toll plazas, and paves the way for their ultimate removal.

Under the plan, the toll barriers will remain in place, requiring motorists to slow down as they approach the booths. The booths will be removed next year.

The plan was worked out after it was agreed to use $14 million in pork barrel funds from the state Senate to cover the loss of a year’s worth of toll collections at the two toll barriers.

Huzzah! The removal of the tolls represents the end of a fiscal and psychological barrier between the city and the suburbs. Everyone wins…especially incumbent legislators who can claim a role in this moral victory.

On to more important topics, Which politician will claim the credit for bringing down the toll booths?

US Rep. Brian Higgins
Mayor Byron Brown
State Sen. Dale Volker
Erie County Clerk Dave Swarts
State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt

My money is on Higgins calling a presser at which the Democrats can all take turns patting each other on the back.

In reality, I think the Thruway Authority’s vote was swayed by the lawsuit filed by Carl Paladino and Erie County Executive Joel Giambra which had the chops to take down the tolls.

UPDATE: Chris Byrd has posted video of toll booth deconstruction.

UPDATE 2: Marc has the video from the press conference at which each politician battles for a share of the spotlight.

UPDATE 3: Marc‘s take on the political ass slapping that took place…

The Bush Base

30 Oct

Here’s an peek into the motivations of President Bush’s most steadfast supporters, the evangelical community.

Cornerstone Church, a vast squat white temple in San Antonio, is rapidly becoming the movement’s epicentre, thanks to the charismatic founder, Pastor John Hagee, the rising star of America’s TV evangelists. For these evangelists, the war in Iraq is not a disaster, but the beginning of the fulfilment of biblical prophecies that culminate, possibly very soon, in a mighty struggle between good and evil at Armageddon.

This belief lies at the core of the teachings of the bespectacled pastor, who argues that Christians and Jews must make common cause against forces of darkness he identifies as Arabs, Russians and even a future president of the EU. Christians who fail in their duty will be “left behind” when the obedient are summoned to heaven.

This is not a solitary case, this is what is heard every Sunday in evangelical mega-churches around the country. They are the most motivated voting base in America and they are the reason Bush won in 2000 and in 2004.

“In 2006, vote Democrat or abstain”. HT Andrew Sullivan.

Erie County Proposition 1

30 Oct

Do you have any idea what Proposition 1 is and how you should vote?

Proponents of Proposition 1 say the referendum represents the most significant reform of Erie County government in a quarter century.

Prospects for its passage would appear good, since the 23-member Charter Revision Commission recommendations were passed in a unanimous, bipartisan vote of the Erie County Legislature and there is no organized opposition.

Except for two things: There is no group mobilized or funds available to push for its passage, and ballot language makes the referendum nearly indecipherable.

Pretty typical as political transparency goes around these parts. An informal and unscientific survey of 20 people who mildly give a damn about local politics shows that 90% of them stare at me with mouth agape when asked about Prop 1.

Prop 1 is the referendum that was put on the ballot so the public can vote on the findings of the Erie County Charter Review Commission. Remember them?

Of course, there is no link to it on the Erie County website and the Erie County Board of Elections website is down for hamster wheel replacement.

After about fifteen minutes of searching around various and sundry county websites, I finally found an abstract summary of Proposition 1 on the Erie County Charter Review Commission website. Here’s the upshot:

• An independent county comptroller would be empowered to oversee budget revenue projections and trigger budget corrections if a deficit is foreseen. Currently, only the county executive can do so.

• The budget would be written in more easily understood language and in a more informational form than the current line-item system.

• Performance standards would be used to monitor and evaluate delivery of services.

• “True cost” accounting would be sought to better clarify how much each department spends instead of having some items used by one department covered elsewhere in the budget.

I know that Erie County is in dire financial straits however, their inability to distribute a vital piece of information to their constituents in an election year is prima facie evidence of their impotence.

Spread the word on Prop 1.

Follow The Money

30 Oct

Here’s the latest updates on who has contributed to some of our Western New York political candidates. All numbers are taken from the NYS Elections homepage and represent data found in the date range of 1/1/06 and 10/15/06.

NY State Assembly 142nd District

Mike Cole (R)
Total: $77,616.37
Notable Donors: George Maziarz ($1,000), Empire State Associated Builders ($2,000), Jeffrey Freedman ($2,000), Jim Hayes ($1,000), JACK PAC ($2,000), Dale Volker ($2,698). Lots of individulas and small businesses.

Laura Monte (D)
Total: $52,138.66
Notable Donors: Laura Monte ($20,000), Jack Davis ($142), Sam Hoyt ($250), 1199 SEIU ($3,400). Mostly small donations from individuals.

NY State Assembly 144th District

Rus Thompson (R)
Total: $446.50
Notable Donors: Larry Playfair ($100.00)

Sam Hoyt (D)
Total: $ 96,499.00
Notable Donors: AFSCME ($2,480), Democrats For Education Reform NYS PAC ($3,600), Obviously Ironic Diana Dillaway ($50), unions, attorneys, politicians, power elites (Flickinger, Schoellkopf, etc.) lots of individual donors.

Buffalo Common Council – Delaware District

Mike LoCurto (D)
Total: $ 21,387.00
Notable Donors: 1199 SEIU ($1,000), Sam Hoyt ($500), Building & Trades Council ($600), every union in Buffalo and individual donors.

Marc Brown (R)
Total: $13,206.99
Notable Donors: None, all small individual donors

The Reynolds/Rove/FEMA Backstory

30 Oct

If you’re looking for further evidence that Western New Yor’s designation as a “Major Disaster Area” by FEMA last week was politically motivated, look no further than this piece in the LA Times.

During a whirlwind five-hour trip to bolster an endangered GOP congressman’s reelection prospects, White House political guru Karl Rove last week delivered a fiery speech to 500 party activists, then shook every available hand and posed for snapshots like a rock star. He toured suburbs recently trashed by a snowstorm. He also found time to huddle with local strategists.

But the most significant element of Rove’s effort to help four-term Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds keep his job may have occurred behind closed doors, when the White House strategist met with a federal disaster relief official contemplating how to respond to the storm. Four days later, Reynolds announced that President Bush would authorize millions of dollars in federal disaster aid for the area.

The timing was perfect: Reynolds broke the news hours after testifying before the House Ethics Committee about his role in the Mark Foley sex scandal — knocking reports on the scandal out of the spotlight.

As Pundit pointed out on the day of the declaration, the timing was indeed serendipitous for Reynolds.

How fortuitous that the White House would designate western New York a disaster area on the very evening that Mr. Reynolds gave testimony to the House Ethics Commission investigating the Mark Foley page scandal.

Reynolds was on Hardwick’s show on Sunday (on the phone) and said that a federal disaster designation was imminent. Yet Monday and Tuesday and most of Wednesday rolled along with no such designation.

They waited until last night.

To give Reynolds a boost.

In essence, it forced the Buffalo News to exile this story to the front of City/Region.

Of course, Reynols steadfastly maintains that the issue of timing the release of good news to provide maximum benefit for him is complete horseshit.

In the end, it all worked out for Reynolds as his mise en scene of marshalling federal resources to bail out his “beloved Buffalo” resulted in a significant uptick in his poll numbers.

Paraphrasing Mencken…”Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the Western New York Voter.”

Transparency in Appointments

30 Oct

Buffalo South District Councilman Mickey Kearns has sponsored a proposition on the Nov. 7 ballot that will supposedly increase transparency in the appointment of party hacks citizens to vacant seats on the Buffalo Common Council.

Prospective candidates would have to submit resumes and letters of intent with the city clerk, making the documents public records that would be fair game for anyone to inspect. Candidates would still have to be members of the same political party as the lawmaker they are seeking to succeed.

Anyone think this will make a lick of difference in the process? Any chance that this will keep Democratic Poobah Len Lenihan out of the process? It’s like hanging curtains in a house with no windows…pointless.

My Weekend in Pictures

29 Oct

It’s been a pretty busy weekend at BuffaloGeek HQ. Our friends eac and his wife are expecting a child in a few weeks and Mrs. Geek spent Saturday at a baby shower to celebrate. eac and I predictably went out for beer duing the celebration because, well, that’s how we roll.

Later that night, our friend JB celebrated a milestone birthday that was cleverly combined with a Halloween bash. Mrs. Geek and I went dressed as “Old Buffalo”. In the picture, JB is dressed as a Moulin Rouge dancer, Mrs. Geek is dressed as the Flutie fanatic, and I’m the one with the mullet and the sixer of Genesee. Shockingly, no one looked askance at my costume when I stopped in at a convenience store in Cheektowaga. I guess they’re used to guys with hunting caps, mullets, old Bills jerseys and sweatpants. As an aside, I fruitlessly searched high and low for a pair of Zubaz pants to complete my ensemble. Either these symbols of Old Buffalo are still in people’s closets or they have died a merciful death at the hands of the fashion gods.

Halloween 2006

Sunday was the day our friends and family helped celebrate the arrival of BabyGeek. My Mother and Sister-In-Law graciously hosted a shower for my wife and future child. Frankly, the generosity of our friends and family was overwhelming and wonderful. Whether we have a boy or girl, our child will certainly be loved.

Some shots from the shower (I’d post more shots of the attendees but, I’m not sure they’d approve):

The overflowing generosity of our loved ones was incredibly humbling.

Baby Geek Shower

Of course, my kid will be decked out in the coolest Buffalo themed clothes. You can pick yours up at Definitely Buffalo in the Main Place Mall. Thanks to the BOHW girls for the gifts!

BabyGeek Shower 2006

A cool baby gift cake made by our friend Jennifer.

BabyGeek Shower

The future home of BabyGeek

BabyGeek HQ

So many thanks to all who made it a special and memorable weekend for the Geek family. We are humbled.

The Liberal Media

27 Oct

Once again, that pesky liberal “mainstream/drive-by” media is up to their old tricks!

That bastion of lefty liberal and labor friendly unionistas, NBC, has banned a controversial ad.

NBC is refusing to air an ad for the new Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up & Sing.” Variety reports, “NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it ‘cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.’”

/sarcasm

Torture is love, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength…America in the new millenium.