Archive | June, 2008

Two Lonely Men in the Room Await a New Third

23 Jun

Senate President Joe Bruno has decided not to seek re-election this fall.

Gee, and not a moment too soon.

According to Politics on the Hudson, he says, “it is time for me to move on with my life”. Newsday quotes him as having said, “enough is enough.” Capitol Confidential has his full annoucement, and Bruno says, “it’s time to move on.”

But, timing in life is everything. While there may never be a good time to make these kinds of life decisions, I have decided that it is time for me to move on with my life.

Perhaps Senator Bruno has seen which way the wind is blowing, and realizes he probably won’t be majority leader next January. Either way, there’ll be a new person with the other two in the room who make all the decisions in the excuse for representative democracy that is the State of New York.

Clearly and sadly, this is politically motivated

23 Jun

No, not the rumors about Mayor Brown supposedly being investigated by the FBI or considered for an Albany post with Governor Paterson.

The unceremonious firing of Commissioner of Economic Development, Permits and Inspection Services, and all-around smart guy Richard Tobe.

Tobe didn’t get along with Byron’s Thing One, Steve Casey. End of discussion.

Shorter Bush / McCain Energy Policy

23 Jun

Drill, drill, drill.

Or:

The best way to wean an addict off heroin is to provide him with new sources of heroin.

It’s 2008. The gasoline-powered internal combustion engine is century-old technology. It’s time for something new to be developed for the mass market, because the supply of gas isn’t infinite, and people will always want personal means of conveyance.

To drill now would not lead to oil independence, and benefits would not be felt for a decade. It’s an oversimplistic answer to the question of $4.00/gallon oil.

The X-Prize foundation has a $10 million prize available to the team that can meet this goal:

To inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change.

And then there’s Joe Biden’s point on yesterday’s Meet the Press: There are already millions of offshore acres available to oil companies for drilling – right now – that they’re not taking advantage of.

We’re not trying to get Saudi to drill more, we’re trying to get them to pump more of what they’re drilling. They’re not pumping what they could, number one. This is a gift, a gift to the oil companies by John McCain. They have now leased 41 million acres of offshore leases. They’re only pumping in 10.2 million of those acres. Seventy-nine percent of all the offshore oil available off the coast of Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, lies within those acres that they now have. Why are they not pumping? Why are they not doing this? Why are they not pursuing what’s estimated to be a total of 70–54 billion barrels of oil at their disposal right now if they pump? Why are these greedy fellows deciding they want to go beyond that? It’s because they want to get it in before George Bush leaves the presidency. It’s because they’re not pumping the oil to keep the price up. They are not even drilling. So here you have 30 million leased acres they have right now that possesses 79 percent of all the offshore, and they’re not drilling. And John says they need more? And it would take 10 years for it to come online.

Biden’s point – the oil companies are keeping supply artificially low (as OPEC is) in order to make the price, and their profits, jump.

Hardwick Needs to Podcast

23 Jun

Listening to the entirety Kevin Hardwick’s show on Sunday mornings can be somewhat challenging, but I did catch the last 15 minutes of Joe Mesi’s interview yesterday. Mesi is running for the 61st Senate District, and based just on the short portion of it I heard, I’m not quite sure he’s ready for prime time.

Example: 62nd Senate District candidate Don Hobel called in to ask a question about the Triborough Amendment. The Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law requires that the most recent existing contract between the state and state union workers remains in effect even after its expiration. Mesi had never heard of it, but agreed with the principle that new contracts ought to start with a new sheet of paper – an answer which was beside the point.

Anyhow, all I got to hear was that, plus Mesi touted the fact that he’s younger than a lot of people in the Senate, and that he works very hard and has knocked on about 2,500 doors so far. I’d love to be able to wake up on Monday and download the full show from iTunes or WBEN or wherever in mp3 format, so I can listen to it during the week.

True, But Incomplete

22 Jun

English al Jazeera did a piece about Buffalo and how it’s weathering the American economic downturn. It paints a picture of “2nd poorest” Buffalo as being a horrible poverty-ridden place, but that there are a few well-meaning social organizations that are trying to help the destitute by, e.g., pushing living wage legislation and renovating dilapidated homes. It’s far too simplistic, and the whole “2nd poorest” thing is somewhat of a statutory accident. If, like other places, Buffalo had been able to annex its suburbs, it wouldn’t be close to 2nd poorest.

What the piece also tends to ignore is that Buffalo has been in the midst of an economic downturn for decades. If anything, we’ll fare a bit better through this than lots of other places, and we’re an example of the 40-year-long death of American large manufacturing – not of the 2007-2008 economic downturn.

If the piece wanted to focus on the credit crunch or the foreclosure crisis or a real rapid fall from wealth to abandonment, there are loads of other parts of the country that are more indicative of the current slump. Our real estate market is healthier than most.

The video, while not untruthful, was somewhat relentlessly negative and was a bit too selective about whom it spoke with as far as solutions are concerned. It also glossed over (and Byron Brown was the one who made the point) that Buffalo operated under a control board that froze the pay of city workers.

One thing’s for sure – Brown needs to stop parading this list around as evidence of Buffalo’s “renaissance”. Any such renaissance is a figment of people’s imagination, and a new Tim Horton’s at a South Buffalo B-Kwik doesn’t count. Byron Brown’s administration needs to stop using this particular list as Exhibit A of a renaissance. What it shows is a tremendous amount of public and publicly-funded/subsidized projects, many of which will never be built, many of which have been done for ages, and some others that are worth a mention only in a world of insular silliness.

So we have a city that’s in decline overall, and an administration that, instead of tackling the systemic, structural problems that lead to this state of affairs, it touts a make-believe “renaissance”.

Two people from the Coalition for Economic Justice. Aaron Bartley from PUSH are shown in the video. There wasn’t much representation from the business community, with the exception of the bit about collection jobs being the future of Buffalo. There are some initiatives like the centers for excellence that were ignored, and I chuckled at the woman who was foreclosed-upon who was nevertheless able to afford Rock Band. That’s a $170 game, and her mortgage shot up $400 from $900 to $1300.

So, take it for what it’s worth, and I’m sure many will attack the source as being al Jazeera, and a glance at the show’s website reveals that it’s generally a very critical show that selects topics that reveal America at its ugliest.

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HT David Torke

Albany in a Nutshell

20 Jun

HT Albany Project

Guess I'll Skip "The Love Guru"

20 Jun

The Love Guru just might be one of the worst movies ever, apparently. I thought that the Buffalo News’ Jeff Simon must have had a wonderful time writing this:

It’s crude, crass, stupid and ugly to look at, besides. Not only that, it sounded awful and its mother dressed it funny.

Myers plays Guru Pitka, a freelance, mass-market spiritual adviser who’s sick of being No. 2 to Deepak Chopra. Why can’t he get the Oprah gigs? His chance comes when a black hockey star with the Toronto Maple Leafs loses his wife to the goalie of the Los Angeles Kings, a moron with a prodigious sexual endowment that is a legend in the NHL. He’s played by Justin Timberlake, only one of many willing people hoodwinked into being in this rubbish.

The Leafs owner calls in Pitka to cure the team’s star player of his nerves. Buffalo’s recent run of bad luck at the movies (see “Evan Almighty”) continues here when we learn that the hockey player’s mother in “The Love Guru” leads a church choir on a mythical “Tonawanda Street” in Buffalo. (Myers obviously thought “Tonawanda” a funny sounding word, which I suppose it is.)

The cliche about movies like this is that they’re six-minute “Saturday Night Live” skits stretched out to 90 minutes. The truth about this crude and painfully awful innocent torture (the opposite of a guilty pleasure) is that its thin premise wouldn’t have made much of a six-minute bit on SNL either. It’s too specialized and all the professional comedy and vulgarity in the world couldn’t, in the immortal line from the movie “Nothing Sacred,” reach down into the mire and lift it up into the depths of perdition.

Here, nevertheless, is a list of people besides Timberlake who either have major parts or cameos in “The Love Guru”: Jessica Alba, Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Simpson, Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Verne Troyer, Val Kilmer, Celine Dion (by voice) and Mariska Hargitay (whose name provides one of the movie’s few smirkworthy jokes, whereupon it is run into the ground).

Remember every one of those names. Optimistic, generous, big-hearted people, all. And all hoping to do a good friendly turn for Myers in a wacky summertime comedy. None of them deserved the result.

Next time you see one of them doing something you’re not mad about, give them a pass. Be as generous to them as they were to Myers here.

They earned some kindness for being associated with “The Love Guru.”

The New York Times:

Which might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

Filmcritic.com:

Somewhere, sitting in a room cluttered with Mr. Pibb cans and half-consumed bags of Funyuns is the adolescent writing staff responsible for The Love Guru.

Ebert:

Myers has made some funny movies, but this film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty, but Myers seems to labor under that delusion. He acts as if he’s getting away with something, but in fact all he’s getting away with is selling tickets to a dreary experience.

Obama Opts Out

20 Jun

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As most everyone knows by now, Barack Obama has decided to opt out of the public financing system, eschewing federal matching funds so that his overall fundraising is not capped, and he can effectively battle against what is likely to be a brutal Republican onslaught from McCain, the RNC, and various swiftboat-flavored 527 groups.

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Some people are upset about this because they demand doctrinal rigidity in a candidate, rather than pragmatism. I think Bush has shown us that doctrinal rigidity in the face of changing factual reality can be quite counterproductive. Others are upset because Obama had pledged to work out something with the McCain campaign whereby both would opt into the public financing system. McCain is, notably, upset, and going on the attack on the issue. It won’t be very persuasive, however.

Why? Josh Marshall explains:

McCain himself is at this moment breaking the law in continuing to spend over the spending limits he promised to abide by through the primary season in exchange for public financing. (By the FEC’s rules, we’re still in the primary phase of the election and will be until the conventions.)

I want to return to this subject though because this is not hyperbole or some throw away line. He’s really doing it. McCain opting into public financing, accepted the spending limits and then profited from that opt-in by securing a campaign saving loan. And then he used some clever, but not clever enough lawyering, to opt back out. And the person charged with saying what flies and what doesn’t — the Republican head of the FEC — said he’s not allowed to do that. He can’t opt out unilaterally unless the FEC says he can.

The most generous interpretation of what happened is that McCain’s lawyer came up with an ingenious legal two step that allowed him to double dip in the campaign finance system, eat his cake and spend it too. But even if you buy that line, successful gaming of the system doesn’t really count as strict adherence. And the point is irrelevant since the head of the FEC — a Republican — says McCain cannot do this on his own.

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Shorter Lou Dobbs

20 Jun

Political Picture - Lou Dobbs
see Obama pictures

Politiks gets stoopid

20 Jun

Why I detest cable news and Rush Limbaugh clones:

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