The Morning Grumpy – 3/26/12

26 Mar

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


1. Over 100 readers and Facebook contacts have sent me this article from Reuters in which a guy from Cleveland claims to be the originator of the Cash Mob concept.

At the first International Cash Mob day on Saturday, wallet- toting activists gathered in as many as 200 mobs in the United States and Europe, with the aim of spending at least $20 a piece in locally owned businesses, according to the concept’s founder, Cleveland lawyer Andrew Samtoy.

“It’s my baby but I’m not a helicopter parent,” said Samtoy.

The 32-year-old dreamed up the Cash Mob idea last year after spending time in Britain during summer riots that unleashed looting in cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham. His first Cash Mob, in Cleveland last November, brought around 40 shoppers packing in to the Visible Voice book shop.

The Buffalo News is the earliest mention of a cash mob on a Lexis-Nexis search as they reported on our first event in August of 2011.  Also, the reporter from Reuters could have checked Wikipedia or done a Google search and referenced any of the 35 previous articles proclaiming Buffalo as the home of the idea. While Mr. Samtoy has done a great job organizing events in his own community, advocating for the cause, and recruiting organizers in other cities, the article was just incorrect.

Just for the record, the Cash Mob concept is open source and should stay that way. It shouldn’t be monetized and the only people who should benefit financially are the businesses we support. As long as it stays that way, I don’t really care who gets credit for the idea. But, I don’t like lazy journalism either. So, let’s move on.

2. Chris Collins taking on David Bellavia in NY-27? My money is on Bellavia.

“We’re not going to die!” yells Staff Sergeant David Bellavia as his rattled platoon of soldiers takes cover from machine-gun fire in the streets of Fallujah. The platoon has been ordered to hunt down and kill a group of insurgents hiding somewhere in a block of 12 darkened houses.

Bellavia, a wiry 29-year-old who resembles Sean Penn, is pacing the street, preparing to go back in. Bellavia’s bluster on the battlefield contrasts with his refinement off it. During lulls in the fighting, he could discuss the Renaissance and East European politics. “Get on me now,” he says, ordering his squad to close in. There is little movement. He asks who has more ammunition. Two soldiers stand up and join him in the street. “Here we go, Charlie’s Angels,” Bellavia says. “You don’t move from my goddam wing. You stay on my right shoulder. You stay on my left shoulder. Hooah?” The men nod. “I wanna go in there and go after ’em.”

Collins might be able to outspend him, but Bellavia will out-hustle and out-work him. Also, Michael Caputo will be managing Bellavia’s campaign and I’ll lay money on his skills when paired with a candidate who is not Carl Paladino. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting three months…if you like horrible, nasty, political campaigns.

3. This week, the United States Supreme Court will hear the longest arguments in 4o years over an issue which could make-or-break Obamacare and have resounding effects on the Presidential election. NPR gives us an excellent primer on the issue.

Assuming the Supreme Court rules that there can be an immediate challenge to the law, the big issue, the central controversy, is the so-called individual mandate.

It requires everyone to have health insurance, in order to spread the risk and pay for the things everyone wants in this bill — namely, affordable coverage for everyone, with no discrimination based on previous medical conditions, and a requirement that insurance companies generally charge people in the same age groups the same rates.

Those challenging the law argue that this is the first time the federal government has required people to buy something they may not want, and that the government simply doesn’t have that much power. The government counters that everyone consumes health care and that the only question is when.

A fascinating examination about the role of government and how conservative legal scholars like Alito, Roberts, and Scalia perceive the mandate, which was initially a conservative idea.

4. Think raising state income taxes on the rich results in them relocating to lower taxed municipalities? Think again.

The study, by Universeity of Massachusetts economist Jeffrey Thompson, reviews several previous studies of state tax increases and concludes that the wealthy are not only as strongly influenced as anyone else by the pull of community ties and the costs of moving but often find it easier to stay put in the face of tax increases than lower-paid workers do. Wealthier citizens also frequently feel that it is worth paying higher taxes to obtain increased public services.

Well, unless your name is Tom Golisano, that is.

5. You might remember that I posted the KONY2012 video a few weeks back and frequent commenter and friend Colin Eager responded unfavorably.

There are actual civil society organizations on the ground in Uganda, composed of Ugandans. Maybe we should take our lead on this from them, instead of paying attention to this white man’s burden horseshit?

The discussion grew more nuanced and interesting, but Colin’s point remained, the KONY movement was a manifestation of white guilt and the American savior complex. This weekend, Teju Cole also wrote about this perspective and it’s worth sharing.

One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.”

A great think piece.

6. Oh, that individual health care mandate thing I mentioned a few lines back? Let’s ask Mitt Romney make the conservative policy case for the mandate…

The principle of personal responsibility.

Fact Of The Day: In-N-Out Burger is not the only fast food joint with a secret menu, McDonald’s also has one and it’s disgusting.

Quote Of The Day: “I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? It’s like, ‘Hey if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.'” – Chris Rock

Video Of the Day: Biggie The Tank Engine

Cartoon Of The Day (Bugs Bunny Week): Long Haired Hare

Song Of The Day: “Hey Hey Uh Huh” – The Verbs

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas:

21 Responses to “The Morning Grumpy – 3/26/12”

  1. Allen Miller at 12:31 pm #

    Just wanted to say good riddance to Louise Slaughter. The new 25th is extremely unfriendly to a liberal democrat. Her opponent Maggie Brooks has won this district with extreme ease every time as a county supervisor.

    • Chris Smith at 12:55 pm #

      Don’t be so sure about that NY-25 analysis…

      The Cook Political Report, a fairly well-respected political analysis service, has its first set of rankings out since redistricting. The new NY-25 is in the “leans Democratic” category, which is the second most competitive category. Cook calculates the PVI of NY-25 as D+5, which makes it fairly Democratic, but also indicates that Obama’s 18-point win in 2008 (11 points over the national results) was a Democratic high-water mark in NY-25. NY-28, Slaughter’s current district, was a D+15 “safe” district by Cook’s reckoning.

      Louise is VERY popular and the numbers line up to support her quite well. Brooks is a formidable candidate, but Louise is still very strong.

      In 2008, around 14,000 more voters voted in the towns and cities of the new 25th than voted in 2004. 55% of the bigger turnout came from the city. The city voted for Obama by an 81-17 margin, versus a 71-26 margin for Kerry vs Bush.

  2. Allen Miller at 12:33 pm #

    David Bellavia? You know the guy has made some pretty racist comments.

    • Chris Smith at 12:58 pm #

      I’m not endorsing or supporting Bellavia, I simply commented on his campaign style and the strength of his team. I just don’t believe that an arrogant, stuffed shirt corporate Republican like Collins will resonate with the voters of this district, especially when compared to Bellavia’s laid-back style. Also, by way of racist comments, I think Collins’ history of anti-Semitic comments and misogyny will play poorly everywhere he goes.

  3. Allen Miller at 1:12 pm #

    If you are not endorsing him, I would suggest not putting your money on him. Yes I guess one way to fight the racist label is to accuse your opponent of being anti Semitic and a misogynist. All we need now is a homophobe and we will have every democrats talking points. Doesn’t matter if they are true its the accusation that counts.

  4. Chris Smith at 1:27 pm #

    Bellavia’s alleged racism was in an offhanded remark at a McCain rally. He said he hoped America’s kids would forget about the Tiger Woods’ of the world and instead consider the John McCains of the world to be heroes. I remember when it happened and I thought it was a pretty specious claim that it was a dog whistle comment. Pretty weak.

  5. Tom Dolina at 1:33 pm #

    Though he claims he is not a “helicopter parent”, Andrew Samtoy does claim to have invented the helicopter…

  6. Jesse at 1:52 pm #

    I don’t think an individual mandate is in any way Constitutional, but I’m curious – if it IS, what then are the limits of our “limited” federal government? Katy bar the door.

  7. Jim Holstun at 1:53 pm #

    Chris, I’m trying to figure out if you see Bellavia killing so many Iraqis in Fallujah as a PLUS or a MINUS. The way I see it, they were defending their homes, whereas he was a Western New Yorker there without an invitation. 6000 civilians killed there–two 9-11s.

  8. Chris Smith at 2:06 pm #

    I think in that district, his combat service is a very large plus.

  9. RaChaCha at 2:09 pm #

    About #NY25 — my old stomping grounds — let me suggest that someone who refers to Maggie Brooks as “county supervisor” might be lacking a certain level of knowledge about Monroe County.

    And about the excellent poly-sci quantitative analysis by Chris, let me supplement with a qualitative perspective. Will it be a tough race? Oh, yes. But no one should lose sight of Maggie’s negatives. Her administration has been pockmarked by scandal, none of which the transactional, internecine, stuffed-shirt, chronically underfunded MCDC has ever been able to capitalize on — including in last year’s county executive and county legislature races. Robutrad is one scandal which you can Google. And much fiasco with the last two appointees to administer the county-controlled airport. Thankfully, Louise has never been dependent on the dysfunctional county party, so Monroe County Republicans will find themselves up against a real campaign — something with which they’ve rarely had to deal in the two decades since they took control of both the county administration and county legislature.

    And the Obama numbers to which Chris rightly points are due in no small measure to the fact that Rochester and Monroe County — along with Buffalo — began building a stunningly effective pro-Obama campaign effort before most folks upstate gave Obama a prayer against Clinton (if they even knew who he was). My friend Tom Brennan, then a Rochester school board member, was the first elected official in Monroe County to endorse Obama, and many others followed, standing up to both state and county party machinery to build essentially a completely new political organization in weeks that delivered both primary and general election turnout for Obama that few would have believed just months before.

    But perhaps even more impressive than that is how Ken Preston, head of Rochester for Obama, has kept the band together over the political eternity of 4 years. Since last fall, they’ve been gearing up to knock it out of the park again. And rest assured, those Obama voters will also be Louise voters. Louise being in a tough race might even result in an Obama campaign visit to WNY — which will be better than Red Bull for the base.

    Also, Louise just got the STOCK Act through Congress, after a SIX-YEAR crusade. If her campaign is smart (safe bet), every voter in Monroe County will know what the STOCK Act is, and that Louise was its champion. They’ll also have every voter in Monroe County asking themselves, in their heart-of-hearts: could Maggie have done that, and — even more importantly — WOULD Maggie have done that–?

    Perhaps on that question alone, if they stop to reflect, they’ll re-elect.

  10. Chris Charvella at 2:44 pm #

    The new 27th is a lot less pavement and a lot more farmland than the 26th was prior to redistricting. Gun-toting, Jesus-loving rural Republicans are going to love David Bellavia while Chris Collins’ campaign style (e.g. ignoring voters, constantly proving that he’s out of touch with average folks and generally being himself) will put him immediately behind.

    Collins earned rural Republican votes in Erie County because he was the only show in town. He’s in for a rude awakening if he deigns to drive east on the 90 to meet the folks.

    Add Michael Caputo as Bellavia’s message man and you end up with Chris Collins trying to catch the number of the freight train that just hit him the day after the primary votes are tallied.

    Count on Caputo to tout Bellavia’s American hero status until Collins caves in and declares that a decorated veteran does not a Congressman make. Caputo then gets to pounce on Collins’ pooh-poohing of combat veterans. Cue the outrage from VFW’s American Legions and Sportsmen’s clubs all over the new rural 27th. Meanwhile, all Bellavia has to do is look friendly and force himself not to say anything stupid while sticking with Tea party talking points.

    I’m not counting Collins out, but his ‘run it like a business message’ isn’t going to play as well as it did when he ran for Erie County Executive the first time. The new reality for King Chris is that he was fired from his last job six months ago. The Bellavia campaign would do well to remind voters of that fact and to pump voters’ perception of Collins as unlikable recent loser who couldn’t defeat a liberal Democrat no matter how much he was willing to spend.

  11. RaChaCha at 3:21 pm #

    ^ +1

  12. Mike Chmiel at 4:54 pm #

    I personally hope that the Supreme Court invalidates Obamacare with a hastily crafted decision written so over-broadly that it ends up also invalidating government-run health care in general, namely Medicare. Not because I don’t believe in the program, but mostly because I want to see the look of utter shock on the faces of these mouthbreathers in the Tea Party movement when they realize what they have done. I think that these idiots should get their way at least some of the time.

    More seriously, my prediction is that the Court punts on the decison on ripeness grounds. If they decide it strictly on the power of the Federal Commerce Clause, they pretty much have to uphold it, especially considering how broadly that has been interpreted over the years.

  13. Jesse at 5:32 pm #

    If we’re going to use the conservative side’s original approval of an individual mandate, can we at least be intellectually consistent and also use Obama’s original arguments against the mandate?

  14. Chris Smith at 6:16 pm #

    Jesse, adopting a new position and fighting for it to become law and then campaigning on your success is a bit different than fighting for legislation then disavowing you ever supported it in the first place. So, the “intellectually consistent” thing doesn’t really apply here.

    However, we can absolutely use Obama’s opposition to the mandate as part of the discussion, it’s valid. However, I was a supporter of Hillary’s healthcare plan in the 2008 campaign and see a mandate as a requirement to control costs. Obama adopted the mandate as a means to craft a bill that might get some bipartisan support and I think he was convinced that it was necessary to make the final package work.

  15. Leo Wilson at 7:05 pm #

    My hope is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be overturned this week. I don’t know that’s a realistic idea.

    What galls me is that we already pay a single payer system to cover every medical procedure in the country, plus, in the UMMC. The PPACA mandates 80% medical losses for private insurers, who are meeting that mandate, paying doctors more than the UMMC does, paying doctors up to six times faster than the UMMC does and making a profit, too.

    The UMMC itself realizes less than 30% medical losses, even though it’s so much bigger than any private effort that it should realize economies of scale that make it much MORE efficient than the private sector. Remember when the PPACA was being debated ahead of passage, when Pelosi and Reid claimed publically that the federal government “already pays for half the medical procedures in the country”? That was while realizing less than 30% medical losses… if we’d just mandated the same, perfectly functional mandate on them as the PPACA imposes upon private insurers today, it would have paid for all the medical procedures in the country and still had 20% of its funding to pay for everything else anyone could dream up, including the currently uninsured, foreign visitors and anyone else who showed up with a whim.

    Government management of health care – not just the PPACA but what was already in place before the PPACA was passed – is the most flagrant looting of the citizens’ money in history. Breathtaking thievery with no limitations, right up there with 60% of welfare funding disappearing before any recipient gets paid.

    The correct answer is to limit government’s discretion with law, following the precedent the founders put in place… for this and any other issue we face today. Trusting politicians has predictable results.

  16. Leo Wilson at 7:09 pm #

    Oh, yeah… Cash Mob is a Chris Smith original, and those who pay attention, know. I admire your magnanaminity in not making a big deal about it, as the underlying goal is to help those small businesses. You can tell that’s true because of where the money goes – just as you can tell the sincere goal of my previous post by looking at where the money goes.

  17. RaChaCha at 8:24 pm #

    About #1: Reuters also didn’t bother checking Saturday’s Buffalo Rising 😉

    How is Samtoy “organizing events in his own community, advocating for the cause, and recruiting organizers in other cities” — does he have a committee he’s working with, did he take a leave of absence from work, etc.–? I’m curious, as I’ve heard that Cash Mob organizing takes a bit of work…

  18. Tom Dolina at 12:38 am #

    Andrew Samtoy also invented technology for him to multi-locate. So he can exist in multiple instances at the same time. He actually was the only distinct entity at a recent 40-person Cash Mob in Cleveland.

  19. King Kong at 12:46 am #

    This is how Chris Collins got his mojo back.

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