Archive | May, 2008

Neville Chamberlains Everywhere!

22 May

Why does James Baker hate America?

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UPDATE: Apparently, General Petraeus is also an America-hating, naive, inexperienced appeaser! CHAMBERLAIN!!@@##

Was CitiStat Asleep?

22 May

Artvoice reports on the City Comptroller’s preliminary audit of the Mayor’s Impact Team, members of which were caught on video working on a supervisor’s home’s landscaping one day:

What we have found in our preliminary review of the Mayor’s Impact Team is a lack of controls across the board that in effect condones an environment where incidents like the one that allegedly occurred on April 25 can take place. Let me cite a few examples.

A spot check on May 13 at the Impact Team’s headquarters in Shoshone Park found time sheets that had been signed twice for the day, even though the workday was not yet complete. Also at Shoshone Park we discovered poor inventory controls with a lack of proper marking and reliance mostly on the memory of one employee.

We also found areas of concern regarding fuel, a costly item in the current economic environment. Four employees have access to the Fuelmaster system but gas cans can be filled for mowers and gas-powered equipment with no odometer readings, using instead the reading from the truck carrying the equipment. If a gas container can be filled, so can an unregistered vehicle, or at least topped off. Tighter controls are obviously needed.

As to the day in question, April 25, according to MIT officials, members of the Impact Team were absent without leave that afternoon when the work on the private residence took place. The sign-out sheets for that day indicate that two employees including the crew chief, who approved the time sheet, signed out at noon. Another worked signed in and out and later crossed his name out altogether.

After the fact, a slip requesting a day off for that employee appeared in Public Works offices, signed by the crew chief. There are no records to account for the use of city vehicles or equipment.

Read the whole post here.

Florida and Michigan = Zimbabwe

22 May

But only in Cloudcuckooland, which has a new resident.

To compare what happened in Zimbabwe – (the ruling party was unhappy with the result, so it rigged the results to require a run-off and permit it to wage all-out political war against the opposition) – to what happened in Florida and Michigan this year is so baseless, so beyond the pale, so Godwinian in its obnoxiousness.

We already saw yesterday that Senator Clinton likened the Florida and Michigan primaries to what happened to Democrats in Florida in 2000. To Democrats, those are fighting words – especially given the fact that Clinton uttered them in Boca Raton, where many elderly Jewish voters miraculously chose to ignore Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitism to vote for him in 2000.

The ultimate irony here doesn’t have to do with the fact that Clinton said she’d follow the rules set forth by the DNC and then decided not to when it suited her. The irony is that Florida and Michigan intentionally and knowingly violated DNC rules and pushed their primaries up to January so that they would have a similar impact on the primary race as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The DNC warned those states in 2007 that any effort to do that would result in those states’ delegates not being seated.

If people in Florida and Michigan are angry and their “disenfranchisement”, they have only to look to their state party organizations, which had been forewarned of the consequences far in advance. If Hillary Clinton is so shocked by the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan Democrats, then the time to speak up was back in 2007 when she was the presumptive nominee – not now, when she’ll quite obviously do and say anything to harm the person who has since become the presumptive nominee. She could have objected to the DNC, or tried to change those states’ parties minds.

And the further irony is that if Florida and Michigan had pushed their primaries back to May or June, they would have been far more important to the process overall than they ever could have imagined.

The saddest thing, however, is that the mismanagement of the Clinton 2008 campaign has revealed her to be a poor strategist and a worse manager. It has revealed her to be petty, hypocritical, false, and vindictive to millions of people who had respected and supporter her in other endeavors.

I look forward to her continued service in the United States Senate, which is nothing to sneeze at. I think that her current petulant and harmful behavior has prevented her from being any sort of VP contender.

This Year's American Idol Post

22 May

I used to watch pretty regularly during seasons 2 and 3. Then I stopped. Because, for the most part, I stopped caring. Now, I only enjoy watching the sideshow audition shows that kick the season off in January. Once they hit Hollywood, I’m out of there.

But I did watch the finale.

That show last night was Exhibit A as to why I don’t watch anymore. It was the results show. Everyone wants to see who wins. It’s literally a 5 minte show that they streeeeeetch into a 2 hour infomercial extravaganza. Everything is an ad – Coke product placement, AT&T product placement, Mike Myers douching it up for his new movie, Jonas Brothers and a somewhat sad-looking and sounding George Michael promoting summer tours. There’s the 12 Idol finalists basically doing the bits they’ll do during the summer tour. There’s Bryan Adams who’s hawking a new CD that no one really cares about. There’s Carrie Underwood who, as a WaPo columnist put it,

dressed as a Wimbledon streetwalker with a hammock slung between her arms, singing her newest tune about hopping into the sack with a random guy and waking up married to him so she doesn’t even know her new “Last Name.”

A half-hour show would have been plenty. A one-hour show, I could have understood. But two solid hours of promotion? I don’t sit through infomercials for scam artist Kevin Trudeau, so it pained me to sit through this marketing-fest.

And that’s why, come next year, I’ll sit through the audition shows and then drop out when they reach Hollywood. Because it’s a show that is already somewhat of an insult to one’s intelligence. They don’t have to pile on.

Pledges are Just That

21 May

It all started with this letter:

Hillary Clinton signed it:

So did Barack Obama. Upon signing the letter, Obama did not campaign or participate in either state’s primary, and withdrew his name from Michigan’s ballot.

Hillary, on the other hand, did no such thing. And then she started losing contests to Obama. Now she has this to say:

Now, I know that Senator Obama chose to remove his name from the ballot in Michigan, and that was his right. But his choice does not negate the votes of all those who turned out to cast their ballots, and we should not let our process rob them and all of you of your voices. To do so would undermine the very purpose of the nominating process. To ensure that as many Democrats as possible can cast their votes. To ensure that the party selects a nominee who truly represents the will of the voters and to ensure that the Democrats take back the White House to rebuild America.

Now, I’ve heard some say that counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules. I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country – that whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their votes should be counted. I remember very well back in 2000, there were those who argued that people’s votes should be discounted over technicalities. For the people of Florida who voted in this primary, the notion of discounting their votes sounds way too much of the same.

She has fought a valiant campaign. I’m sure she and her supporters are crushed and disappointed. But she will not win the nomination. Not unless she futzes with the rules to such an intense degree that the other people – the people in the states that chose Obama over her – are magically disenfranchised. She signed a pledge and is looking to renege on it. She wants to subvert the rules to which she agreed. Why she’s choosing so brazenly to damage her reputation and family legacy is inexplicable.

Senator Kennedy (D-MA)

21 May

All of this happened in 1994, so my memory of exact events and places may be somewhat faulty. For that, my apologies.

During the summer and fall of 1994 I was living with my then-fiance in a small one-bedroom apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts. At the time, I was either studying for the New York and Massachusetts Bar exams or else I had started working for the small neighborhood law firm at which I spent my first few years of practice. I was a rarity at the time – a registered Republican in Massachusetts, although we had a charismatic Republican governor, Bill Weld (more on him in a separate post). We did, however, have two very well-known Democratic Senators, Kerry and Kennedy.

In 1994, Senator Kennedy’s continuity in the Senate was being threatened by a charismatic Republican challenger named Mitt Romney. He was doing so well in the polls that the Kennedy campaign was getting spooked. Luckily, a lot of old Kennedy hands came back on board to help the Senior Senator keep his seat, which he ultimately did. Say what you want about the Senator, he always looked out for the poor, for the less fortunate, and for the Commonwealth.

One day I received a call from a dear family friend who was helping the Senator’s re-election effort. He remembered that we lived in Waltham and asked if we wanted to come and see him address a campaign rally at a union hall on Trapelo Road. Not being one to pass up seeing and hearing a living legend speak on friendly home turf, I jumped at the chance.

We parked on the street and made our way through the union guys and volunteers handing out lit and chose our seats on the aisle halfway back in the majestic hall. At some point I recall being permitted to go backstage where I didn’t see the Senator, but then-gubernatorial candidate Mark Roosevelt was waiting to speak.

(Note this from the Wikipedia entry for Roosevelt: “Roosevelt was appointed on August 3, 2005, to the position of [Pittsburgh] school superintendent. He accepted this post under the terms of a unique performance-based “Accountability Contract.”)

After Roosevelt and some other pols spoke, someone went up to introduce Senator Kennedy. We stood up and looked back towards the doors of the hall and our family friend was pointing at me and whispering something in the Senator’s ear. As the Senator made his way down the aisle to a standing ovation, roaring applause, he shook just about every hand extended to him. He made a special stop to our seats and shook our hands, thanking us for being there.

The speech itself is both a blur and seared in my memory banks. Although I have no recollection of its content, I distinctly remember how riveting it was. That unmistakable, familiar voice. That dropping of the r. The cadence and tone. It was a magical thing to hear and an incredible place to be.

I was pleased that I had the opportunity that November to pull a lever for the Senator in 1994 and again at the Oak Square firehall in Brighton in 2000. The news that he is ill came as a shock and I wish him a speedy recovery and good thoughts.

(Edit – one of the paragraphs didn’t read right. I make change. KTHXBAI).

The Problem with the County Control Board

21 May

The County Control Board set up by now-disgraced former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi was supposed to bring Erie County needed “adult supervision”.

The problem is that the state put a bunch of petulant kids in charge of it. As former county Comptroller James Hartman argues,

The ill-chosen members of the Erie County control board do not understand their purpose. Every action they have taken in the past two years was intended to expand and perpetuate their role. They have done nothing tangible to help the county. In fact, their actions hurt the county. Let me explain:

First, they have continuously rejected proposed four-year financial plans. The legislation says that plans should be approved on the basis of “reasonable and appropriate” assumptions. Instead, the board believes it can require guaranteed results. By their strange logic, every government should have a control board because the future is uncertain.

More disturbing, having rejected the county-proposed plans, the board has ignored its statutory responsibility to develop an alternate plan. Consequently, the county has operated for two years with no approved financial plan. This ambiguity makes it harder for the county to get its credit rating upgraded.

Second, these board members have used bully tactics in trying to take over the county’s borrowing. The only reason for the control board to borrow would be if Erie County could not borrow for itself. Saving a few million dollars over 30 years is no reason for the county to give up its credit market access.

It either needs to be dismantled, or else the people populating the control board need to be replaced by Governor Paterson. The Control Board has done nothing to help the county’s fiscal house, and instead costs us $1 million per year that could be used to either pay back the taxpayers or for something that’s actually, objectively useful.

Peace Bridge Paradise

21 May

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The neighborhood in the immediate vicinity of the Peace Bridge has been designated as one of the 11 most endangered places in the United States. Part of the Peace Bridge project involves the construction of a new customs plaza, and this would require the demolition of several homes in this very attractive community.

The original plan had been to have border management shared on the Canadian side of the river. American DHS officials would check passports and handle customs matters on Canadian soil to avoid idling on the bridge and to streamline operations. The problem was that Canada would not permit US officials to fingerprint motorists who simply changed their minds and made a U-turn rather than cross the border. That is violative of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the US would not relent on that one point.

Interestingly, the Canadians suggested several alternatives to permit US inspectors to have real or quasi-US sovereignty at those booths – everything from the airport model, where US inspectors check you before leaving, e.g., the Bahamas, to literally swapping land, to embassy-like sovereignty, to Chunnel-style border pre-clearance. Nothing was satisfactory to the Bush Administration.

Let’s be honest – the fact that the federal government nixed all of these possible solutions was extraordinarily short-sighted and stupid

As much as I can’t stand the use of a Joni Mitchell song to make a point, and as much as I’m annoyed as hell by the terms “built environment” and “sense of place”, I agree that the Peace Bridge project as currently constituted should not go forward.

Buffalo obviously has no use for a signature bridge or a twin span or anything else. What’s the point? Its construction has been hindered by everything from a decade-long design process to bird flight patterns to fish swim patterns to Bush intransigence.

But this region absolutely needs improvements made to border crossing to Canada – something that could be very helpful to our economy.

The new span from Canada should not be at the Peace Bridge, and it should not be at the Railroad bridge either. What’s the point of building a bridge at a spot where it has to make a 90-degree turn the moment it hits US soil? What’s the point of building a bridge at the Scajaquada, which people are already demanding be downgraded to a skate park or something?

Instead, we need:

1. A companion span at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. It has the most congestion of any bridge crossing at just about any given non-Bills game time and handles a lot of truck traffic due to the fact that it’s the easiest connection from 405 to the I-190. An expansion of existing Customs facilities would also be needed.

2. A 21st century signage system peppered throughout WNY that shows motorists exactly which bridges have what delay. NITTEC has been using the overhead programmable signs to do just that over the last few days, and it’s been quite helpful, I’m sure, to visiting Victoria Day holidaymakers and shoppers. Separate, similar signs should be installed throughout our region and on the QEW in Ontario.

I don’t disagree that the Columbus Parkway neighborhood is worth preserving, and the uncertainty is probably in some ways more harmful than the demolition itself might be. But let’s scrap the whole Peace Bridge nonsense while we’re ahead.

If it was wanted or needed, it would have been built years ago. Let some other area both reap the benefit and suffer the inconvenience that comes with a new international bridge.

When The Only Thing We Had to Fear Was Fear Itself

20 May

Barack Obama will follow in the footsteps of the above-pictured reckless and inexperienced men:

Here’s the truth: the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons, and Iran doesn’t have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn’t we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies? That’s what strong countries do, that’s what strong presidents do, that’s what I’ll do when I’m president of the United States of America.

Wow. A grownup treating grownup issues in a grownup manner, and speaking to us grownups as if we were grownups. It sure beats the jingoistic grunting we’ve endured for the last 7 years.

McCain wants a debate about dealing with countries that are hostile to us? Bring it.

These are the Dayes of Our Lives

20 May

As you read through this account of the heavily redacted script of what’s become a most fascinating local soap opera, remember the title of this particular blog post:

It Isn’t Just a Myth, Power Turns People Into Assholes.

UPDATE: You can get a copy of the incredibly redacted report via WBEN.