Archive | February, 2012

The Morning Grumpy – 2/27/2012

27 Feb

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. Last week, the Conservative Party of Erie County endorsed the abhorrent Chuck Swanick in the NY-60 State Senate race against incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti. Swanick’s endorsement and nominal membership in the Democratic Party now puts Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan in a tight spot. Does Lenihan endorse a Pigeon loyalist who also happens to be anti-marriage equality, pro-gun, pro-life, and a generally terrible guy or does he endorse some other underfunded candidate looking to go on a political suicide mission? The balance of power in the state senate could very well rest on the outcome of this race. Will Lenihan receive pressure from downstate democrats who want control of the senate by any means necessary or will he stand on principle? Where does the Governor come down on this issue?

This whole chapter is a reminder about the incredible awfulness and small-mindedness of our local politics. Intra-party squabbling, backroom deals, power plays, and control of jobs governs everything.

2. Insinuation as war propaganda. Today 71% believe Iran has nukes. Nine years ago 70% believed Iraq was behind 9/11.

What’s bizarre about this, other than the fact that there is no credible evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons, is that no one in a position of official authority is claiming it either! Every report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, even when framed in a way to make Iran seem ominous, confirms the “non-diversion” of nuclear materials to weaponization purposes. The CIA and intelligence community have consistently stood by the National Intelligence Estimate findings that Iran has not sought a nuclear weapon since 2003 (and Iran doing so back then is only suspected based on very scant evidence produced by the Israeli government).

What’s more, in the last week or so, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed that not only does Iran not have nuclear weapons; there is no evidence that Iran even wants nuclear weapons!

In the alternative universe of republican debates and right wing talk radio, the Iranian nuclear issue is of pressing concern and needs to be addressed immediately. This is how disconnected our various spheres of political influence have become. A good portion of Americans believe something to be true that simply isn’t, and they are willing to go to war on this false premise. I don’t usually like to make things this base, but what the fuck? Seriously.

A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.

The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.

Well, 16 agencies agree, but Rick Santorum wants to bomb them into the fucking stone age…America 2012!

3. The Republican reliance on “culture wars” is turning off young voters.

Obama defeated his Republican opponent John McCain, by a 2-to-1 margin among voters under 30 when he won the White House in 2008, widening a political “generation gap” that has arisen since 2000 in which younger voters are increasingly Democratic.

Participation by young people in Republican primary races is down compared to four years ago and pollsters are seeing signs that the culture wars could weaken support for Republicans among younger voters.

“Millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) are a very tolerant generation. They have very much of a live and let live philosophy and when you suggest that government ought to come in and determine how you live, you lose millennials,” said Morley Winograd, a University of Southern California professor and author of “Millennial Momentum: How a Generation is Remaking America.”

The vile ginning up of the hate machine that Republicans rely upon to generate larger turnout amongst their shrinking core demographic of paranoids, greedy assholes, xenophobes, elderly white people and christianists is really turning off sensible people. Rather than moving to a big tent philosophy, they are telling more and more groups that they aren’t welcome. Their immigration stance has alienated much of the massive and growing hispanic vote, their crusade against Planned Parenthood and contraception has alienated women and the young, racist dog whistling has alienated any chance at the black vote, and their knobgobbling of the rich has alienated much of the urban/working class vote. But, they still own the white christian and rural blue collar vote and they’ll do their best to demagogue the shit out of the culture wars while whispering that the black President is a Kenyan neo-colonialist muslim sleeper agent sent here to take your guns and burn your bibles.

4. Rick Santorum doesn’t “believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute“.

Rick Santorum took issue with President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the separation of church and state on Sunday, telling This Week’s George Stephanopoulos that he does not believe the separation is absolute:

I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.

A candidate who threatens to impose his religion and its laws on the people of a nation, even if they don’t ascribe to the tenets of his faith, is what, exactly?

5. Why is gas so expensive? Let The Center for American Progress introduce you to Charles Koch and the deregulation of the oil commodity market.

A McClatchy investigation found: “Prior to the 1990s, speculators made up about 30 percent of the futures market. In the latest reporting period, the ratio on May 3 stood at 68 percent speculators to 32 percent users of oil.” The following chart illustrates the dramatic changes in the oil speculation market following the Koch-prescribed deregulation campaign, and how non-commercial speculators have pushed the price of oil higher and higher

Free markets!

Fact Of The Day: On Feb. 27, 1991, President George H.W. Bush declared that “Kuwait is liberated, Iraq’s army is defeated,” and announced that the allies would suspend combat operations at midnight.

Quote Of The Day: “All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.” – Edgar Allen Poe

Video Of the Day: The Beauty of Everyday Engineering, The Stay-On Tab

Cartoon Of The Day: “Ali Baba Bunny” – Chuck Jones

Song Of The Day: “Shake A Tail Feather” – The Five Du-Tones

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

Okun Re-Retires

27 Feb

The Buffalo News’ venerable restaurant reviewer Janice Okun called it quits this week, and News Editor Margaret Sullivan made the announce in her Sunday column. I’ve had some fun over the past several months picking apart Okun’s self-parody reviews, culminating in the epic fail fed to her by the parsnip aficionados at Valenti’s Restaurant in December

Incidentally, you can own a piece of Valenti’s if you’re the winning bidder at an auction on February 29th

Okun had officially retired from the News in 2009, but continued to write reviews in part because new food editor Andrew Galarneau thought himself a bit too recognizable, thanks to his video series on the News’ website. But every restaurant kitchen in WNY – even Valenti’s – had a picture of Okun up on its wall and knew exactly who she was when she walked in. When a one-paper town has a single restaurant critic, it’s not that hard to figure out who’s who. 

The News’ restaurant reviews were sometimes embarrassing anachronisms, waxing poetic about booth comfort and the author’s chumminess with the staff, and less about an informative assessment of the preparation and flavor of the food. It was more about how these restaurants could interpret the dishes that Okun and her ever-present companion ordered most often, and less about innovation or risk-taking.  One of my favorites was when Okun was surprised that muffuletta had an olive salad in it; olive salad is one of the muffuletta’s core ingredients. 

To put it mildly, for people in town who take this sort of thing semi-seriously, it had long been time for a change. 

Although I’ve sometimes disagreed with Galarneau’s assessment of restaurants he’s reviewed for Cheap Eats (he was dismissive of Bingo’s Dim Sum and Five Guys), but he has an overall good reputation in a burgeoning local foodie community, and I like him. I wish Galarneau well in his new & important position, and hope that the quality of restaurant reviews in the Buffalo News goes from mockable to must-read. 

Who’s Weppner Got?

27 Feb

I’m about 99% sure that the dynamic political duo of Carl Paladino and his young ward Rus Thompson are behind this Twitter account, (Rus denied it to me last year, but I have two sources and one telling, deliberate error in spelling the President’s name that say otherwise), which is busily pimping ultra right-wing causes and people they support. During my vacation, they pinged me on these two entries: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/NotJoeIlluzzi/status/171429800983015424″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/NotJoeIlluzzi/status/173101737081712641″%5D

Why would I possibly care about a former politician appearing on a Saturday AM infomercial for some financial planners? Aside from the hilarious rumors that the unliked and unlikeable Collins is considering a run against Kathy Hochul in NY-26, who cares? Ring me when Joel Giambra goes on TV to hawk the Ronco Showtime Standard Rotisserie & BBQ Oven. 

AV Photo Daily: 2/26/12

26 Feb

Buffalo Waterfront Tower Buffalo Waterfront Tower by W Alex Fisher

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AV Photo Daily: 2/25/12

25 Feb

January 30, 2012 January 30, 2012 by craigccannon

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items in Buffalopundit: AV Photo Daily More in Buffalopundit: AV Photo Daily pool

 

The Morning Grumpy – 2/24/2012

24 Feb

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. The cash mob idea that started here in Buffalo made it on to Public Radio International yesterday, spent the day at the top of Reddit.com and was seen by about 5MM web readers. So, a good day for the idea as it continues its organic growth throughout the world. Yes, the world.

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, we hosted our seventh cash mob and it was a tremendous success. The event was held between 5-7PM last night at Thin Ice on Elmwood and was attended by over 100 people. At the conclusion of the night, the store owner reported 10x her typical sales and that money not only went to support her store, but also the local artists who stock her shelves. Due to the way we organize the event, the staff was able to spend time with these new customers, build a relationship and hopefully build repeat business. Afterwards, many of the attendees crossed the street and enjoyed dinner and drinks at The Acropolis and stopped by Chow Chocolat for some dessert. A very successful night.

In the next week or so, I’ll have some exciting news about the establishment of several suburban cash mobs in WNY as well as some new partnerships. Each time we host this event, it’s surprising to see how many people respond enthusiastically and support our courageous local entrepreneurs. Thank you for your support!

2. As usual, Matt Taibbi nails it. His take on the Republican debate on Wednesday night and the overall orthodoxy of the current party.

This is the last stage in any paranoid illness. You start by suspecting that somebody out there is out to get you; in the end, you’re sure that even the people who love you the most under your own roof, your own doctors, your parents, your wife and your children, they’re in on the plot. To quote Matt Damon in the almost-underrated spy film The Good Shepherd, they became convinced that there’s “a stranger in the house.”

This is where the Republican Party is now. They’ve run out of foreign enemies to point fingers at. They’ve already maxed out the rhetoric against us orgiastic, anarchy-loving pansexual liberal terrorists. The only possible remaining explanation for their troubles is that their own leaders have failed them. There is a stranger in the house!

And, boy oh boy, is it fun to watch.

3. Paul Tsouflidis, owner of The Acropolis restaurant has been using his personal blog to blast opponents of his restaurant expansion plans and take members of the Buffalo Common Council to task.

Mr. Locurto, you have been lobbied by a very few people to vote against a bar on the second floor and shame on you for that.  I have 1000 signatures of people supporting Acropolis.  I have gone to great lengths to convert many of the opposition into supporters.  The EVA even changed their tune when (EVA Executive Director) Justin (Azzarella) came into the council chambers and stated on public record that the EVA isn’t opposed to the bar upstairs, the 2nd floor patio, or a music license.  But that isn’t enough for you. 

In the end, my councilman and his protege Brad Hamm has been playing dirty politics with me and I will expose this because I already know I lost my dream restaurant with his decision.  I lost a lot but I didn’t lose everything.  What you lost Mike is a financial supporter, a voter, and hundreds upon hundreds of voters who will never put trust in you with their vote again.

I’m writing a larger story on this issue, but you can read his blog for some backstory.

Fact Of The Day: Apple computer co-founder Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco on this day in 1955.

Quote Of The Day: “It would be almost unbelievable, if history did not record the tragic fact, that men have gone to war and cut each other’s throats because they could not agree as to what was to become of them after their throats were cut.” – Walter P. Stacy

Cartoon Of The Day: “Dog Gone South” – Chuck Jones

Video Of The Day: Lollipop – The Rockafire Explosion Band

Song Of The Day: “Dead Sound” – The Raveonettes

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

AV Photo Daily: 2/24/12

24 Feb

Michigan Ave Lift Bridge Michigan Ave Lift Bridge by tark9

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#BuffCashMob Today at Thin Ice on Elmwood!

23 Feb

Who: You and $20

What: A Buffalo Cash Mob!

When: Today between 5-7PM

Where: Thin Ice at 719 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo

Why: Because you want to invest in the businesses that have invested in Buffalo. Because you love social media and making a difference in your community. Because you want to do cool things with cool people. Because you cast 2351 votes in the final round of voting and chose this business!

Stop in, check out an anchor of Elmwood retail and support their business as best you can.

This little idea, born in Buffalo, has now spread to over 70 cities and three countries. It’s received coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc. and on NBC/MSNBC, NPR, and dozens of web outlets. Be sure to come out and show America that we’re still the home of the cash mob and that we support our local businesses like no other city in America.

AV Photo Daily: 2/23/12

23 Feb

Buffalo Light

Buffalo Light by tark9

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The Morning Grumpy – 2/23/2012

23 Feb

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 As true today as it was in 1963

1. Welcome back, Jim Heaney. We missed you. If you missed my link earlier this week in the grumpy, the best investigative journalist in Buffalo is back on the prowl with his new project, InvestigativePost. His first article out of the box took a look at Gov. Cuomo’s promise of $1BN in economic development incentives in Buffalo and how we might expect to see them doled out.

The key, of course, is how the state targets its $1 billion. While the plan is a work in progress, some aspects of Cuomo’s general approach appear ambitious – at best – and beg a larger question: Is the apparent focus on big-ticket projects the best way to rebuild the region’s economy?

He began to answer the question with his own reporting and supplemented his work with links to dozens of related stories and data points that I’m still churning through. Really great stuff.

In a blog post, Heaney also explained the DNA of this collaborative, non-profit news outlet.

I’ve had a quote from Carl Bernstein taped to the front of my computer terminal for the better part of 20 years that reads, “Reporting is not stenography. It is the best obtainable version of the truth.”

I’ve never been a fan of the “he said, she said” brand of journalism practiced by many reporters and taken to its lowest form by pundits and other talking – or shall I say, “screaming” – heads on cable. That is, present two sides of the story – as though things are ever that simple – and let readers figure it out.

I always thought my job as a reporter was to figure it out – after all, I was the one with the time, training and resources – and provide readers “the best obtainable version of the truth.” This required me to do my homework, get things right and write with clarity – “telling it like it is,” in the words of Howard Cosell.

This is the mindset I will instill as I build the reporting culture at Investigative Post.

Halle-fucking-lujah!  I can barely contain my excitement about this project and what it will mean for enterprise journalism in this region.

2. Were you arrested and charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident resulting in death, and two counts of tampering with physical evidence whilst driving while intoxicated and texting? Are you also a millionaire doctor?  No problem, call Michael Clayton Joel Daniels!

Dr. James G. Corasanti’s actions were not criminally reckless and there isn’t evidence to prove second-degree manslaughter, defense lawyer Joel L. Daniels said.

Daniels is mining an astounding array of technicalities as he mounts his vigorous defense. This case will play out over the summer and if Daniels does what he is well-paid to do, a whole new playbook will be issued to criminal defense attorneys on how to keep wealthy pricks out of jail. Our resident lawyer, Alan Bedenko, will most certainly provide comprehensive coverage on this as the story develops.

3. You should follow the steps at this link and clean up your web history. With a massive change to their privacy policy, the Google is coming to assimilate you.

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy, which will affect data Google has collected on you prior to March 1st as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google’s other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more. If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.

Here’s how you can do that.

Follow the easy, illustrated steps and retain some of your ever shrinking amount of privacy.

4. This story is perfect for talk radio. The type of information that when relayed, causes visceral anger over these entitled 1 percenters who abuse their power and privilege to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal treasury through graft, corruption, and tax evasion. We simply won’t stand for it! Wait…what?!

Not long ago, the Atlantic did a story on the cosmetic surgery rider that Buffalo teachers have.

On Monday, CNN continued to shine the national spotlight on a story that we reported extensively a year and a half ago (“Cosmetic surgery dearly costs city schools,” “Saving face(s): Cosmetic surgery costs for school employees skyrocket,” “Cosmetic surgery rider was saved once,” and more.)

The piece on Anderson Cooper’s show, “Teachers nip, tuck for free,” recaps what we already know: Buffalo teachers have the cosmetic surgery rider; teachers pay nothing for procedures; taxpayers pick up the full tab; last year, it cost about $5.9 million; the district wants the union to waive the benefit as a gesture of goodwill; the union is willing to get rid of the rider, but only through contract negotiations; the contract expired nearly eight years ago.

Stories like this are designed to get you riled up and pissed off about how those damn unions are fucking us over at every opportunity. Sandy Beach can blow an artery and Tom Bauerle can get his thong in a bunch over how these damned teachers are just stealing from you. My reaction? Meh. And I’m in the distinct minority.

Being a teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools is not an easy job. The pay isn’t that great, the working conditions can be hostile, and violent student behavior is a major concern for many teachers in some of the more dangerous city schools. The benefit was originally instituted for medically necessary plastic surgery procedures and has expanded over time to include elective procedures. Imagine a teacher in the BPS suffering injuries at school which might require plastic surgery. Why should that restorative surgery not be covered if deemed medically necessary?

Even so, union leadership is willing to give up the benefit in the next round of negotiations, but the teachers union has been operating without a new contract for nearly ten years. So, instead of demanding the BPS sit down to seriously negotiate with the union, we ask the teachers to make a “gesture of good faith” and voluntarily waive the benefit. To which I say, “Fuck that!”.  Once that’s done, a precedent is set and negotiating power is lost.

Contract negotiations should be a mediated process in which offers are exchanged and compromise is found. Want the union to give up a $6MM benefit? Well, offer them something in return to compensate them for relinquishing it. Perhaps a reduction of the benefit to cover only those procedures deemed medically necessary as a result of injury on the job and moving the saved cash into a teacher training fund, pay increases, or to cover the purchase of new classroom supplies and equipment. Transfer the savings to improve the product.

I only wish I had a union working on my behalf to secure benefits, protect job security, and demand employer accountability. We should all be so lucky. Instead, we operate in fear of losing our jobs at the whim of quarterly profits and the constant demands to increase shareholder value. And we’re thankful for the treatment and call into WBEN demanding that everyone else suffer our fate. It’s a weird country.

5. Do you remember that KeystoneXL pipeline that Republicans have a hard-on for? The pipeline that will reduce our gas prices to Reagan-era levels and bring us hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in economic development? Yeah, about that…

Unfortunately, there’s an all-too-typical problem with the Republican line on Keystone: it’s completely unsupported by the facts. On the jobs front, the Cornell Global Labor Institute estimates the project would create only 2,500 to 4,650 short-term construction jobs—not the “hundreds of thousands” of jobs claimed by House Speaker John Boehner.

Similarly, gas prices would not decrease if Keystone was built—they’d likely go up in many areas of the country.

This is nonsense on many fronts, most of all because the price is oil is fundamentally set on global markets. As the Congressional Research Service pointed out in late January, when there’s trouble in places like the Straits of Hormuz, the price of oil goes up for everyone and Keystone will make no difference, since the oil market is “globally integrated’; it’s not like Exxon offers a home-country discount to American motorists.

But in the case of the Keystone pipeline, it turns out there’s a special twist. At the moment, there’s an oversupply of tarsands crude in the Midwest, which has depressed gas prices there. If the pipeline gets built so that crude can easily be sent overseas, that excess will immediately disappear and gas prices for 15 states across the middle of the country will suddenly rise. Says who? Says the companies trying to build the thing. Transcanada Pipeline’s rationale for investors, and their testimony to Canadian officials, included precisely this point: removing the “oversupply’ and the resulting “price discount” would raise their returns by $2 to $4 billion a year.

So, are we all done with this now?

Fact Of The Day: An economist spent ten years studying street gangs and found they function much like corporations. Executives in the 1%, the street dealers making less than minimum wage and firmly in the 99%. Linked video is from a classic TED Talk.

Quote Of The Day: “They don’t think it be the way it is, but it do” – Oscar Gamble unaware that he just explained the universe in one sentence.

Video Of the Day: Every punch to the face in the classic film, Roadhouse. As someone who has watched Roadhouse over 300 times, you should know that it is more of a religion than a movie. Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.

Cartoon Of The Day: “Terrier Stricken” – Chuck Jones

Song Of The Day: “Acid In My Heart” – The Sleepy Jackson

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com