Archive | June, 2008

Worst. Administration. Ever.

30 Jun

Remember al Qaeda?

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired CIA officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 Arab and Pakistani militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Bush is nothing but epic fail from day one to day 2,922.

But while Bush vowed early on that Bin Laden would be captured “dead or alive,” the moment in late 2001 when Bin Laden and his followers escaped at Tora Bora was almost certainly the last time the Qaeda leader was in American sights, current and former intelligence officials say. Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.

Remember that next time you take your shoes off at the airport. To quote Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone in the Untouchables, Bush and is nothing “but a lot of talk and a badge.”

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America at a Crossroads

30 Jun

Friedman in the Times yesterday:

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry.

“America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted last week. “A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.”

We used to try harder and do better. After Sputnik, we came together as a nation and responded with a technology, infrastructure and education surge, notes Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. After the 1973 oil crisis, we came together and made dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. After Social Security became imperiled in the early 1980s, we came together and fixed it for that moment. “But today,” added Hormats, “the political system seems incapable of producing a critical mass to support any kind of serious long-term reform.”

If the old saying — that “as General Motors goes, so goes America” — is true, then folks, we’re in a lot of trouble. General Motors’s stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota’s $162.6 billion. On top of it, G.M. shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That’s us. We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

There are so many reasons and causes for this inevitable chicken roost homecoming that I can’t even begin to hurl epithets at them. But I’m willing to overlook them for now just to have some people in congress take some bold steps that will help us in the future. Fewer international misadventures and more time and money being spent on transitioning our economy would be a swell idea.

Blogs in the News

30 Jun

Literally.

Buffalo on Baie James

27 Jun

From a map in Aer Lingus’ in-flight magazine:

Instead of the hydroelectric from Niagara, according to this map we’re very close to the James Bay Project.

Grover Norquist: Loaded with Class

27 Jun

Republicans really can’t figure out whether Obama is an elitist country clubber or a Jihadist-in-waiting who American, just barely. But this, I think, is the winningest strategy out of all of them and I urge Republicans to adopt this:

Norquist dropped by The Times’ Washington bureau today and, as part of his negative critique of Obama’s liberal stances on economic issues and other matters, he termed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee “John Kerry with a tan.”

Leonard Pennario 1924 – 2008

27 Jun

The subject of Mary Kunz Goldman’s upcoming book, Buffalo-born concert pianist Leonard Pennario, died last night in La Jolla. Mary has the info here.

The ultimate child prodigy, Pennario learned the Grieg Concerto in one week so he could perform it, from memory, with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Texas Exposition, before 2000 people. This mind-boggling feat has been well documented by journalists.

At 19, wearing his private’s uniform, Pennario made his debut at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic, playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Arthur Rubinstein was in the audience, and so were critics Virgil Thomson and Olin Downes.

The great violinist Jascha Heifetz chose Pennario from all the pianists in the world to perform and record with himself and the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. By performing in that famous trio, Pennario filled the seat vacated by Rubinstein. Pennario won a Grammy Award for his work in the 1960s with Heifetz and Piatigorsky, and next to Rubinstein, he is the pianist most closely associated with those two great musicians.

The greatest conductors in the world admired Pennario and sought him out as soloist — including Fritz Reiner, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leopold Stokowski. Mitropolous said of Pennario: “Playing with this musician has been one of the joys of my life. He has technique, but he has what is more important, a soul.”

The foremost critics in the world praised Pennario and acknowledged his greatness. In 1952, writing in a London paper, Andrew Porter, who later became the longtime music critic for The New Yorker, wrote, “No one plays the piano better than Pennario.”

The Grammy-winning film composer Miklos Rozsa, who composed concertos for Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky, wrote a piano concerto for Pennario, who premiered it. Rozsa also wrote a piano sonata for Pennario. Both these pieces are highly esteemed by pianists today.

Pennario was one of only two pianists named permanent members of the jury of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. (The other was the Hungarian-born Lili Kraus.)

In 1959, both the New York Times and Musical America acknowledged Pennario to be the best-selling American-born classical pianist. Between 1950 and 1960, as the sole classical pianist for the Capitol label, he made over 40 recordings. He went on to make over 20 more.

Sometimes referred to by journalists as “the wizard of the keyboard,” Pennario became the first pianist after Rachmaninoff himself to record all four of the Rachmaninoff concertos plus the Variations on a Theme of Paganini.

In 1989, Pennario toured Communist China, one of the few American pianists to have done so. He was the first pianist to perform in all 50 of the United States.

Flip Flops

27 Jun

George W. Bush in May:

As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

(Note that the senator in question was a Republican Senator from Idaho

George W. Bush in June:

In more than two years of negotiations, the man who once declared North Korea part of an “axis of evil” with Iran and Iraq, angrily vowing to confront, not negotiate with, its despotic leader, in fact demonstrated a flexibility that his critics at home and abroad once considered impossible.

That is why Mr. Bush is likely to receive only grudging credit, if any, for the accomplishment, which could turn out to be the last significant diplomatic breakthrough of his presidency.

North Korea’s declaration — and the administration’s quid pro quo lifting of some sanctions — faced criticism from conservatives who attacked it as too little and from liberals who said it came too late.

“The regime’s nuclear declaration is the latest reminder that, despite Mr. Bush’s once bellicose rhetoric, engaging our enemies can pay dividends,” Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, whom Mr. Bush defeated in the 2004 presidential election, said in a statement after the declaration on Thursday.

“Historians will long wonder,” he continued, “why this administration did not directly engage North Korea before Pyongyang gathered enough material for several nuclear weapons, tested a nuclear device and the missiles to deliver them.”

For the record, I fully support the Bush administration’s efforts diplomatically to engage North Korea and Iran. It’s important to talk to our enemies in an effort to make the world a safer place. We cannot refuse to speak to certain countries out of some respect for morality or human rights – American history is replete with evidence that we are quite happy to speak with despotic regimes of all shapes and sizes, if not engage in full diplomatic relations with them.

I only wish that Bush wouldn’t trot out “appeasement” and Chamberlain and Munich and 1938 and Hitler as an adjective for talks with other enemies that aren’t North Korea. It is counterproductive, ignorant, and stupid. Also, KCNA doesn’t have anything up about it yet.

Oftentimes, diplomacy and moderation can trump aggression and extremism.

The Millionaire's Amendment: Stricken

27 Jun

Jack Davis won one.

In Supreme Court, he valiantly defended the first amendment rights of millionaires everywhere (.pdf). In Davis v. FEC, a 5-4 court (opinion by Justice Alito) held, among other things, that it was a first amendment violation for the FEC to reward the opponents of self-funded candidates who spend over $350,000 of their own money. Under the stricken rule, Davis’ opponents would be able to raise triple the normal amount from individual donors, and receive unlimited coordinated party funds if Davis spent over $350,000 of his own funds towards his election. Notably, in 2006 Reynolds declined to do so and the FEC argued that this fact rendered Davis’ case moot. (The Supreme Court disagreed.)

The Court also found that the heightened disclosure requirements that the Millionaire’s Amendment triggered were unconstitutionally burdensome.

Justice Alito expressly made the point that if the law was evenhanded, and also allowed the millionaire’s donors to donate more than the usual amount, etc., then the law would be constitutional. The basis for the Court’s ruling is based on the holding of Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down limitations on personal expenditures on federal political campaigns. The only valid public interest to be protected by any campaign finance limitations is the prevention of corruption, not to even the playing field.

While this makes it significantly more difficult for middle class folks to run for office against the wealthy, no amount of money can buy motivated volunteers and activists. Hopefully, congress will revisit this statute and pass a replacement that complies with the Court’s holding. It seems ridiculous to limit donations to $2,300 from individuals for candidates competing against someone who is injecting $3,000,000 of a lump sum into a campaign. If the result is that the millionaire can, in turn, raise up to $6,900 from individuals, so be it.

BTEC 2008: TODAY AT THE STATLER

27 Jun

Is Buffalo still a blue collar town in America’s Rust Belt?

The stereotype of Buffalo is that it is a town filled with blue collar lunch bucket factory workers with a love of chicken wings and Canadian Beer. Well, the wings and beer thing is true, but Buffalo is home to a growing and thriving community of new economy.

Purpose: To showcase 20 of the region’s most progressive new economy companies to demonstrate that we are rapidly building a burgeoning entrepreneurial sector in Western New York.

This will be a networking event at which larger companies can show the way to success, mid-level companies can reach out to new customers, find talent, locate real estate, and smaller companies that are just starting out can find some investors or just share their plans.

The event will be interactive with questions from the online community via text and Twitter, live attendees, and the whole event will be streamed online via BuffaloHomecoming.com, wnymedia.net, and ustream.tv.

It’s about building a community of entrepreneurs and young professionals who are looking to generate local wealth which can be used to put people to work, and build the foundation of our community. Instead of looking to traditional power structures and politicians, these are driven companies which seek to build upon Buffalo’s legacy of entrepreneurialism. Let’s look forward, work together and build the city in our own vision.

When we’re done, we’ll upload each presentation to dozens of viral video sites to spread the word about Buffalo’s business future.

Presenters: WNY’s 20 most innovative technology, design, social network, creative and media companies. Click here for more details on our presenters.

Audience: Local, regional, and national venture capitalists and angel investors, members of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, InfoTech Niagara, local entrepreneurs, general public, online participation. Attendance is 100% free and registration is NOT required. We just ask you to join us in person or virtually!

When: June 27th, 2008 9AM-2PM

Where: Statler Golden Ballroom, Statler Hotel, Buffalo, NY

THE EVENT IS FREE AND REGISTRATION IS NOT REQUIRED

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Gov. Paterson: Let the County Borrow

27 Jun

A message from the County Comptroller:

As you may know, for some time now the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority (“Authority”) has prevented my office from issuing bonds on behalf of Erie County so that we may complete important public safety and infrastructure projects for the County. When the Authority was created by the state it was never contemplated that the Authority would prevent the County from borrowing during good financial times, but it has done so and these actions have hurt this community.

As a result, earlier this week the New York State Senate and Assembly almost unanimously and with bipartisan support approved legislation to amend the Authority’s enabling act in order to close the loophole that prevented the County from completing its own borrowing even when the County is financially healthy.

While the legislation has passed the state legislature, before it can can take effect Governor David Paterson must sign this legislation into law. Today I wrote to the Governor asking him to sign the legislation into law, and now I ask that you do the same.

Notwithstanding the Authority’s claims to the contrary, the County is well on the road to fiscal stability, having achieved three consecutive years of balanced budgets with surpluses, even when the Authority consistently claimed the County was operating in a deficit. I am proud to say that at least two of those three years’ results happened on my watch, and this year is trending towards another positive year.

Since talking office I have never asked you to take any action but your help is needed now. If Governor Paterson hears from the taxpayers of our community I know he will sign this legislation into law and let our elected leaders, not appointed members of a state authority, borrow on your behalf to complete these very important but delayed projects

Therefore, I ask each of you to write to Governor David Paterson and ask him to sign into law the legislation, which will return representative democracy to Erie County and ensure that needed but delayed capital projects are completed this year.

To do so just click on this link, fill out the required information and cut and paste the below message (after the jump) to the Governor asking him to sign this important piece of legislation into law. If you do so you will have my sincere appreciation, but more importantly, you will help move our community forward.

Thank you and best wishes to one and all,

Mark Poloncarz
Erie County Comptroller Continue reading