Archive | June, 2010

Sharron Angle and the Mainstream Media

30 Jun

In their recent primary election, Nevada Republicans chose tea party activist and former Nevada Assembly member Sharron Angle to run against Democratic Senator Harry Reid. She has been ducking media that isn’t expressly friendly to her views ever since. Until yesterday. Here she is, interviewed by a Reno-based TV reporter. The whole thing is incredible to watch and speaks for itself. It is the perfect intersection of political ignorance and extreme libertarian political-economic theory.


This is a woman who said, “people are really looking those Second Amendment remedies” to “take Harry Reid out.” So, she’s also the intersection of using the Constitution to justify the vigilante execution of opposition politicians. She also thinks that there’s no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution. If Harry Reid loses this, it’ll be inexcusable.

Senate Republicans Excoriate Thurgood Marshall

30 Jun

Fascinating day in the Elena Kagan confirmation hearing yesterday. I don’t quite get why Republican Senators are busy trying to demonize long-deceased Justice Thurgood Marshall, but there ya go.


Contemporary Republicans love activist judges when they’re activist in favor of corporate interests over the rights of the individual.


New York State: Taxaholic, Spendaholic

30 Jun

I absolutely love this cartoon.

HT Marquil at

Buffalo News Pwn3d by Commenters

29 Jun

The Mayor of the City of Buffalo appointed interim Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda to the post permanently. The Buffalo News’ article reporting that fact is quite odd, to put it mildly.

On a whim, I checked out the comments to the article. What I found there, posted by anonyms who were free to write without fear of retaliation by City Hall or Police HQ, was information that directly contradicted the news transcribed in the Buffalo News from city press releases and provided by the Mayor’s office.

Derenda, 50, an East Side resident and 24-year veteran of the force, declined to comment, though he was seen headed into meetings with Mayor Byron W. Brown at City Hall this morning. The position of top cop pays $116,989 a year.

More specifically,

Derenda and his wife and their two young children reside in Buffalo’s Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, where he grew up. In past interviews, Derenda said it was always his goal to join the police department.

But anonymous commenter “ProperEnglish” posted this:

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

Seeing as though you and your minions at the Snooze refuse to do any investigative reporting and continue to print blatant propaganda from Brown, Casey, Cutler and the likes, I took it upon myself to do a simple search of public records.

Dan Derenda and his wife currently reside in Clarence, and have for several years. Correct me if I’m wrong but, when he was Deputy Police Commissioner he was supposed to be under the rule that states he was SUPPOSED to live in the City, right?

He claims an address on Pierce street in Buffalo. However, if you or your fine reporters had done ANY sort of homework, you would have realized that this is a fraud! The particular piece of property that he and his wife own on Pierce street is legally deemed a paper street. I don’t know of anyone who resides on a “paper street”.

My next post will have my references, so don’t delete this post as uninformed hearsay!

Sure enough, ProperEnglish in the very next comment reveals that Derenda has resided in Clarence Center since about 2006, according to the County Clerk’s records, and his phone number is listed there.

Another anonymous commenter, who might not want his or her real identity known says:

lou michel and brian meyer have absolutley lost all credibility, printing this propaganda should be criminal: failure to recognize his lack of rank, failure to explore his business ties with the brown bandwagon, a failure to investigate his real residence and a failure to explore his real “work ethic” by running his company on city time, makes this article a total fluff piece, as if we will fall for it. figures the only cop to talk about derenda on the record is diina, those two and the word dedication in the same sentence is actually funny. diina will have to give up his trophy for the most hated commissioner, now that his buddy derenda is working his 3 hrs a day, 7 day a week work schedule…

Maybe it’s not just the racist BS that prompted the News to get rid of anonymous commenting in the coming weeks. Maybe it’s also the fact that it can be pretty brutally pwn3d by its readers within a few hours of the article’s appearance.

And here’s what Artvoice wrote about Derenda’s chances of becoming Commissioner a full month and a half ago:

Derenda a “Shoe-In”

That’s how a policeman friend of ours described Daniel Derenda’s prospects for being named Buffalo’s next police commissioner. Derenda has been interim commissioners since Mayor Byron Brown unceremoniously fired H. McCarthy Gipson at the end of last year. The mayor promised that there would be a national search for Gipson’s replacement, but lately some members of the Common Council have complained that there’s been no earnest effort to find any other candidate than Derenda.

You may recall reading something about the matter in this column in the first issue of 2010: “The number one candidate is Deputy Commissioner Dan Derenda, who reportedly has the support of Deputy Mayor Steve Casey,” we reported. We suggested then that the Brown administration worried that the Common Council majority might hesitate to confirm the selection. In addition to kneejerk reaction to Casey’s support, the Council might balk because Derenda’s primary residence is apparently in Clarence and he lacks. A delay in appointing him would give him time to sort that out.

Derenda has donated $2,200 to Brown’s campaign coffers since 2006, and his apparel company, First Impressions, donated $696 in goods to the mayor’s re-election campaign. First Impressions has provided campaign support to numerous candidates Brown has sponsored in recent years, including Barbra Kavanaugh, Antoine Thompson, Jessica Maglietto, and Craig Hannah.

I’m sure Derenda’s tenure as Commissioner will be neither more nor less distinguished than that of his predecessors. But at the very least, one would hope that the local paper would do more than simply offer Peter Cutler transcription services.

Collins’ “Course” is Equal Parts Dictatorial and Transactional

28 Jun

Here’s a short review of Chris Collins’ first 29 months in office. Some successes, some failures. Running county government “like a [closely-held, non-public] business”.

I don’t fully understand why the Democratic “majority” hasn’t yet taken Collins to court over his repeated refusals to carry out decisions and make appropriations for which the legislature has voted. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that three of them are aligned with him, and their staffers are busy sending “let’s get her!” texts to legislators whose names happen to appear next to “Grant, Chris” in their address books.

Collins runs county government not so much like a business – because there are several kinds and constructs of businesses – but more like a petit dictatorship. The most telling part of the News’ article:

I let people picket me, chirp at me, editorialize against me, write letters about me. It doesn’t matter.

I let?!” The only thing missing there is the majestic plural. Chris Collins all but admits that he thinks he has the power to place prior restraint on press and criticism he doesn’t like.

What the Buffalo News doesn’t do in this piece is pull the trigger on the only clear conclusion to be drawn from Collins’ tenure.


While running, he pledged to not be “chief politician”. Yet he is the most hyper-political, transactional person in county government today, cutting deals with Grassroots and Steve Pigeon in order to weaken the Democratic establishment. Cutting deals with the ECFSA to get one over on the county comptroller he so detests.


Positively Giddy Super-Rich Republicans

27 Jun

The Buffalo News’ political reporter, Bob McCarthy, apparently got comped some tickets to a big-dollar Republican fundraiser (is there another kind?) where four – count ’em four! – sitting Senators appeared.

The reception was only $1000 per person. If you wanted to eat dinner, that would cost $25,000 per couple. Gold-plated truffles for everyone!


Of course, since New York State hasn’t elected a Republican senator since Al D’Amato went back to Long Island, they had to ship in John Cornyn of Texas, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Cornyn hates the environment and loves oil drilling and Mercury emissions, he equates gay marriage to marrying a “box turtle”, voted against improving armor for American servicemen in Iraq, and voted for TARP, but against the stimulus. Sessions is pro-torture, pro-deepwater drilling, and against stem cell research. Corker looks forward to endless occupation of Afghanistan and voted for TARP, but against the stimulus. McConnell? He wrote a 2008 bill that would have drastically expanded offshore drilling – particularly deepwater drilling.

So, clearly these are the GOP’s best and brightest.

McCarthy transcribes the opinions of the ridiculously wealthy Republican donors on hand for the event who expressed their sudden optimism for the upcoming elections.

Of course Republicans are upbeat. Their entire ethos is to oppose the current Administration in order to weaken it and ensure electoral success later this year. More specifically, the Republicans in Congress are deliberately sabotaging the country’s economic recovery and preventing job growth for pure political advantage.

No wonder they’re so giddy.

The Buffalo News’ Problems Must Be All Fixed, Now

26 Jun

Donn Esmonde somewhat needlessly picked up where Margaret Sullivan left off last week with respect to the Buffalo News deciding now to treat online reader comments similarly to letters to the editor, with real, verified names. Esmonde pats the Buffalo News on the back for getting rid of what were oftentimes truly awful, reprehensible comments.

I’m sure it took many hours for people at the News to police and delete racist or defamatory comments. Needlessly.

Anyone commenting after an online story—or commenting on another comment—has to use his or her name, verifiable with a phone number. No more hiding behind “MailGuy272”, “NYCGal” or other on-screen masks. Everybody stands behind their words. And everyone has to live with the reactions, criticisms and judgments of other folks in the online forum.

The Wild West days of cyberassaults are over. Hallelujah!

The ugliness wrought by the no-holds-barred forum bothered me and a lot of my colleagues. It upset people whose names appeared in articles and were unfairly attacked. Readers I heard from were disgusted by descents into gutter-level discourse.

All columnists and reporters at this newspaper puts their name behind their words. I think it is only fair that anyone reacting to their writing does the same.

Time and again, I have seen anonymity— whether in a blog or a letter or a phone call—bring out the worst in human nature. When someone calls and starts pounding on me for something I write, I ask for a name. If I do not get it, the conversation is over. If I do, the conversation— nearly every time—rises to a higher level.

Well, who the hell asked the Buffalo News to permit comments on regular News stories in the first place? The New York Times doesn’t allow you to post comments to stories that appear in the paper – only to some stories, and some posts on its various blogs, like City Room. Instead, the Times has a bar across the top where it’s set up its own micro-social-networking site called TimesPeople, enabling you to recommend stories to people you’ve friended there, and also to post links to stories with your comments to Twitter, Facebook, and other existing social networking platforms. (You can follow me on TimesPeople here.)

In addition, every single comment posted to City Room and other Times Blogs has gone through pre-moderation. While the Times doesn’t require real names, it vets every comment before it’s seen by others.

In other words, the Buffalo News is doing it wrong.

Is the News truly shocked that people cloaked in anonymity will say stupid things? Does the News really think that slapping a commenting system to its online presence makes all done its leap into the 21st century?

No one asked for, nor needs, the ability to post a comment to the News’ site about routine News stories. Columns and opinion pieces? Sure, that would make sense, since people might want to express divergent opinions. And in those cases, the news can moderate each comment prior to posting.

The main point gets somewhat lost amidst Esmonde’s wordy sanctimony, but he calls out anonymity as the main culprit. It can be summed up as: those internet people!

Anonymity, pseudonyms, noms de plume – they’re all longstanding traditions in internet discussions, going way back to the free-wheeling days of usenet newsgroups. It moved on to blogs where writers assumed online identities like “Atrios”, “Calpundit”, “Kos”, “Allahpundit”, and reader/commenters did the same.

The reasons for anonymity? Yes, they allowed people to say things they may not otherwise dare say – but while that lets racist morons write racist garbage, it also allows insiders, officials, involved parties to provide important and sometimes delicate insight into issues that they may not feel free to provide if they had to use their real names. It’s happened quite often on my blog and others.

The Buffalo News presumably has no prohibition against its journalists providing anonymity to sources for stories. In fact, it does so quite routinely, as do all responsible journalists. Yet that practice runs the risk that stories sometimes won’t get pursued to their fullest extent so that the writers can preserve and protect their sources, and access to them.

It’s so patently evident that the Buffalo News has absolutely no clue how to manage its online presence. It’s lost many top-notch, veteran journalists over the past several years through buyouts and early retirement. Its circulation is down, and its longtime monopoly over civic information, opinion, and discussion has long gone. The News has no plan or strategy for survival in a world where it’s forced to compete not just with one other paper, but with slews of internet sites devoted to news and ideas in the WNY region. It tries to do what the blogs and social media sites do, but for the most part it’s clear that they’re doing it in a slapdash manner – it’s an afterthought. I’m told that the sports blogs at the News are quite excellent, but on the political news side the only one that has any relevance or influence is Jim Heaney’s Outrages & Insights, which has been on hiatus for a few months due to a tragic accident.

And because Heaney expresses opinion along with his information on his blog, it makes perfect sense to permit comments there.

If it hasn’t already happened, the day will come soon where more people will obtain news about Buffalo and WNY on a device, rather than through reading a newspaper. The iPad alone should be a massive wake-up call for newspapers throughout the country.

The Buffalo News loves anonymity, except when it’s employed by the masses. The Buffalo News has to come to peace with the fact that the internet exists, and that it operates differently from the Newspaper business, and it needs to do more adapting, and less grampa-doesn’t-like-the-rock-and-roll-music.

Best Twitter Feed

25 Jun

Many thanks to Buffalo Spree‘s readers and editors for nominating and selecting me as the owner of the Best Twitter Feed in Buffalo and WNY.

The awards around this site usually go to Alan for his excellent blog (also, because I’m an insufferable and condescending know-it-all) so it was nice to be recognized.

So follow me on twitter @buffalogeek or subscribe to my Delicious Feed which serves as the partner to most of my Twitter content.

Paladino: Bestiality Addict?

25 Jun

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant and anesthetic drug, often abused in various forms. In 2008, Governor David Paterson admitted to having tried cocaine:

I think I was about 22 or 23. I tried it a couple of times…And marijuana, probably when I was about 20. I don’t think I’ve touched marijuana since the late 70s.

Trying cocaine “a couple of times” hardly constitutes being an addict. This must be why Carl Paladino said this:


…when Watertown resident Lorraine Clement started crediting Gov. David A. Paterson for bending the Legislature to his will through the budget extenders, Mr. Paladino didn’t stop himself.

“I’m telling you that Paterson is not your friend,” he told Mrs. Clement. “Paterson is a drug addict. All right? He’s been a drug addict his entire life.”

He then motioned in my direction.

“I’m just speaking – well I don’t care. Say it.”

Russ Thompson, a Buffalo area tea party organizer who was traveling with Mr. Paladino, is the voice that suggests the comment should be off the record.

But to his credit, Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo understands that something you say with a camera running, with a voice recorder taping, with media present and with a dozen witnesses can’t really be off the record.

“No. He won’t let – It’s not off the record,” Mr. Caputo said.

A “drug addict his entire life” because he tried coke and pot a few times thirty years ago? By that logic, Paladino sends bestiality porn to his friends on a daily basis for his entire life because he clearly did it once, and pornography has been alleged to be as addictive as crack cocaine.

Doubling down on the idiocy, Paladino’s campaign manager refused to issue an apology. It would probably be seen as a sign of weakness were they to do what’s right. Instead, it’s important that they look like they have big macho balls. So, this:

On Wednesday at a meeting in Watertown, Carl Paladino referred to Gov. David Paterson as a drug addict. Carl was referring to the Governor’s admitted use of cocaine, a highly addictive narcotic that ruins lives. As anyone who ever fought to help a habitual cocaine user will tell you, once you are an addict, you are always an addict. It is a constant fight to stay clean and productive in daily life.

Illegal drug abuse is not a small issue and cocaine abuse is one of the most troubling addictions. If the Governor is no longer using cocaine, then good for him, good for his family and good for the State of New York. But once you are an addict, you are always an addict. And if the Albany ruling elite is okay with present or past drug use among their political leaders, they need to know that the vast majority of New York is not.

Unlike any other candidate for Governor or our present chief executive, Carl Paladino has never used marijuana, cocaine or any other illegal drug. The Office of the Governor is no place for drug abusers – and Carl is not one of them.

Carl is not politically correct. Carl tells it like it is. And if this is uncomfortable talk for the Albany crowd, they should buckle their seat belts because this will not be the last offense of their delicate sensibilities.

Carl may not have used any illegal drugs, but he has now again placed his morality and cleanliness at issue in this campaign. Has Paterson been known to enthusiastically forward pornography to hundreds of his closest friends? Has Cuomo ever sent around images of black people referring to them by the most offensive derogatory term one can imagine?

Paladino is no paragon of morality, we’ve learned. The attempt to keep this exchange “off the record” is as clumsy as the statement itself, and the subsequent description of Paterson as an “addict” when there is no evidence whatsoever of that fact, and ought frankly be libel.

Referring to common human decency and telling the truth as “political correctness” is the jumping of the rhetorical shark for the Paladino crew. Doubling down on stupid statements may be the only thing they have left, but an apology would be more appropriate in polite society.

I think the Paladino campaign is a distillation of everything that is wrong with contemporary politics.

Boomtown Buffalo?

25 Jun

Adding some context to something I discussed yesterday during Brad Riter’s show on WECK 1230.


The Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution publishes a quarterly document titled The MetroMonitor.

The MetroMonitor is a quarterly, interactive barometer of the health of America’s 100 largest metropolitan economies. It examines trends in metropolitan-level employment, output, and housing conditions to look “beneath the hood” of national economic statistics to portray the diverse metropolitan trajectories of recession and recovery across the country.

Essentially, this report serves as a planning resource and a measurement tool for metropolitan progress.  While the Brookings Institution is the home of the dreaded “third way Democrats”, their data collection and research on metropolitan areas is valuable in innumerable ways.

Surprisingly, Buffalo rates as the 5th strongest performing metropolitan region in America.

The data can be interpreted to demonstrate that since Buffalo did not participate in the “boom” of the last twenty years, we didn’t really have a bubble to burst.  Or it can be interpreted to show that other cities have fallen so far that we now have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from Southern boomtowns and initiate a slow growth cycle.  I think it’s a mix of the two.  Our economy is resetting itself and the self-perpetuating high growth sprawl policies of the south and west are no longer proving to be sustainable strategies for economic development.

You can read the full report here and you can read a more focused report on the Great Lakes region here.

Here are some infographics built from the data in the report:

This first graphic demonstrates data based on four factors: “employment change from peak; unemployment rate change from one year ago; gross metropolitan product change from peak; and housing price index change from one year ago.”

This graphic explains change in unemployment rates:

And this one demonstrates straight up current unemployment rates:

I think the trend lines in this document are telling and can serve as a precursor to a larger discussion about our regional strategic priorities and how we can best position Buffalo for the coming new economy.  We see that the bust is hitting Florida, California, and the entire Southeast and Southwest especially hard.  We see that many areas around the Great Lakes and Midwest are relatively stable.  Is our predictability an asset?

If we had a big picture Mayor or County Executive, we might be chewing on the data and building a strategy focused on how to best position ourselves for growth.  Unfortunately, we’re (as usual) mired in petty political battles and barking at who gets to eat the last crumbs on the table.  If we had a proactive business community or regional development authority, we might be putting together a list of priorities to capitalize on weakness in other regions of the country rather than simply seeking public funding for pet projects.

Since none of the above is likely to happen due to our habit of (generally) electing mouthbreathers and half-wits to public office, how do we capitalize on general national economic weakness and make sure that we begin a period of slow growth rather than continue our decades long state of stasis/decline?  When do we stop focusing on the minimal out-migration of knowledge from our regional economy and instead focus on in-migration of highly educated people?  We’ve held steady through the past two recessions fairly well, after a tidal wave of economic change nearly gutted our region after the recession of 1990.  How do we capitalize?

If I were Mayor, I would start by identifying our differentiators from the regions glowing in red and marketing ourselves to the people and businesses of those regions.  I’d start to align our public policy, planning documents and zoning code to capitalize on the opportunities presenting themselves and assemble a team of tacticians who can best build a better future for Buffalo.  I’d lean on the local University talent to help build a blueprint for success with measurable goals over five years.

Does this data tell you anything interesting?  How do you see it as presented?