Archive | January, 2013

Liberty and Such As

31 Jan

Here’s how yesterday went. 

1. A survivalist in Alabama shot and killed a school bus driver, kidnapped an autistic 6 year-old boy, and absconded with him to his homemade bunker, where a standoff continues. He committed the murder and kidnapped the boy in order to “air his grievances.” Neighbors told reporters that he was a strange person who seemed ready to snap at any time. No word on whether gun enthusiasts in Alabama have come out in support of a comprehensive public mental health scheme yet. I’m sure there will be a well-attended and angry meeting in a suburban library to demand better mental health and improved background checks, right? Or is this just another episode where a well-regulated militiaman liberated a tyrannic bus driver from his life, and protected a 6 year-old boy from the tyranny of his home. 

2. While former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords dramatically addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee as a spokesperson for reasonable gun control measures, a workplace shooting took place in Phoenix, AZ

Arizona and Alabama have comparatively no gun control whatsoever, and are theoretically populated by “good guys” who are armed to the teeth. It is that possibility of any prospective victim being armed that is supposed to deter crime, say gun control opponents. 

3. Why can’t you just own a bazooka

4. 91% of NRA members agree that the mentally ill should not be allowed to buy or own guns – I’d like to meet the 9% who think it’s ok. Yet when asked yesterday about background checks, NRA spokeszombie Wayne LaPierre suggested that, because we aren’t prosecuting people who try to buy guns despite being denied due to a bad background check, we should dispense with them altogether. The logic here is non-existent, and it underscores the fact that, in the end, the NRA is just a shill for the gun manufacturers. This is all too reminiscent of past hearings where tobacco company executives rejected science which showed that smoking is a major form of cancer and other diseases. 

5. Another responsible gun owner/patriot bravely defended his liberty against the tyranny of a person whose GPS got him lost

Rodrigo Diaz, 22, was driving around with his girlfriend and two friends when he pulled into a driveway, thinking they had arrived at another friend’s house, his brother says. But instead he pulled into the driveway of Phillip Sailors, 69, who thought his home was being robbed, his lawyer says. Sailors then shot Diaz, according to the police report, citing what Sailors told officers at the scene. Diaz later died after surgery.

“Basically, what happened is they were looking for one of my brother’s girlfriend’s friends,” says his brother David E. Diaz-Valencia, 23. “The guy came outside and my brother’s girlfriend said he was screaming, ‘Get off my property!’ and he shot into the air. My brother was backing out fast because he was scared and he rolled down the window to say he was sorry and he was not doing anything wrong. Then the guy shot him in his head.”

6. Yesterday, it was announced that the economy unexpectedly shrunk by .1% in the 4th quarter of 2012. At first blush, this is bad news, but if you look at the data, the reason for the contraction has to do with a 22% drop in defense spending. Imagine that – reduced government spending in the economy has the ability to contract the economy; government spending has the ability to grow the economy. People who oppose the economic stimulus and Keynesian economics, however, usually dummy up when it comes to military Keynesianism.

Paired with evidence of how the austerity imposed by Cameron’s Tories in the UK is leading to a triple-dip recession, while stimulus spending in the US has managed to help keep the economy moving quite well.  

Maybe that Krugman guy knows what he’s talking about

Learn Something New, Meet Some People, Be Social at BarCamp Buffalo

30 Jan

Building a regional culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity requires more than capital, it requires a community of like-minded people to foster ideas. To that end, Buffalo’s burgeoning startup and creative technology movement takes another step forward this weekend as members of the tech community will spend Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at Medaille College. Not to take classes, but to teach them, to each other.  BarCamp Buffalo, a collaborative “un-conference,” gives everybody a chance to teach a session or a “lightning talk” about their work, their hobby, or their esoteric knowledge.


BarCamp Buffalo is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees. No spectators, only participants. All attendees should give a demo, a session, or help with one, or at least strive to meet a few new people. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.

In the past, the standard 10-15 minute presentations have covered topics as varied as community journalism, homebrewing, search engine optimization, and programming code. In other words, there’s usually something for everyone. And if there isn’t? Sign up and give a presentation on a topic of your choice.

BarCampBuffalo by Jennifer WOzniak, local writer, web designer and marketing professional in Buffalo

Photo Courtesy of

Steve Poland, one of the event organizers wrote the following on the Buffalo Open Coffee Club Google Group, “The goal of BarCamp is to teach others something, expose them to something, hate something you’re passionate about or been learning yourself, or a project or startup or app you have been working on, etc.  Let others get to know you. You may find others are just as excited as you are.”

Registration is free, and the first 100 registrants at receive a free event T-shirt.  Breakfast, lunch, and beverages will be provided for all in attendance, barring overcapacity crowds.  If you attended a prior BarCamp Buffalo, we lacked space and had altered the format — expect the real deal now that we have lots of space (30-min presentations, multiple presentations in different rooms at every moment to give you greater choices).

Follow @BarCampBuffalo on Twitter for more real-time updates about the events. Also check out BarCampBuffalo on Facebook to get updates on future BarCamp events.

Event Details:

BarCamp Buffalo #6

BarCamp Buffalo is February 2nd, 2013 at Medaille College with 5 classrooms for 5 tracks of talks going on all at once. 30 mins each. If you’ve ever been to Rochester’s BarCamp, this will be just like it.

8:00 am: Doors open! Breakfast and registration
9:00 am: Welcome and Intro’s
9:30 am: Talks begin!
5:00 pm: Wrap up and meetup for after party

When entering Medaille College’s main entrance, follow the signs with balloons on them. You’ll turn left when you enter, and it’ll circle you clockwise around the buildings to the back. Plenty of parking available, look for the balloons for the door entrance.

One Region Forward – Likely Without You

30 Jan

Last night, something called the “Community Congress” as part of a new regional planning effort called “One Region Forward” was held at Babeville. First I heard of it was when I started seeing pictures and Tweets about it as it was going on.

Admittedly, this is partly my own fault, since both the Buffalo News and Buffalo Rising had regurgitated key points from its press release in the last week, but regionalism and regional planning are things that I’m extremely interested in – I think it’s a huge component of what may be WNY’s improvement, if not renaissance. 

So, given that I pay at least marginally more attention to this stuff than the average person, I was genuinely disappointed that I knew nothing about it, and had no idea that it was going on. It was, however, well-attended, so that’s why I’m so surprised. One way the effort could have gotten the word out would have been to follow lots of people on Twitter – the moment you get followed by a local regionalism congress, chances are you’d check it out. Instead, as of this morning, it’s following 39 people. On Facebook, it has a paltry 208 followers.  That’s a crappy job getting the word out, if you ask me. Given that we have more marketing, PR, and social media experts per capita than we deserve, this is amazing to me.

UPDATE: I learned today that no one at the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation knew about it at all. 

So, what’s this all about? 

 One Region Forward is an effort to better plan how we grow or shrink western New York through a collaborative process; a way to reduce wasteful sprawl without population growth that wastes resources and empties existing communities, rather than trying to repair or reverse their stressors. It is a huge issue that is fraught with difficulty related to racism and classism. From the press release, 

The regional vision will help guide development of One Region Forward, an initiative aimed at ensuring long-term economic prosperity, environmental quality, and community strength across the two counties and 64 municipalities of the Buffalo Niagara Region.

“We will face enormous challenges as a region in the 21st century,” Hal Morse, executive director of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council said. “Where we work, how we get around, what kind of neighborhoods we live in, and many other aspects of our daily lives – even where we get our food and water – will be under pressure. One Region Forward is about repositioning our assets to support long-term sustainable growth and development.”

The One Region Forward effort is building on a series of recent planning initiatives aimed at reviving the Buffalo Niagara economy, reducing our regional “carbon footprint,” regenerating core cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, developing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and growing the University at Buffalo, among others.

“We’re not starting from scratch,” Howard A. Zemsky, chair of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, a leading partner in the effort, and co-chair of the Regional Economic Development Council, said. “Our commitment is to make sure that all the plans for our region are working toward the same ends.”

Discussions at the Community Congresses will build on recent planning work in the region – not just the Regional Economic Development Council strategy, the “Buffalo Billion,” the Buffalo Green Code, and others – but others including more than 160 regional, municipal, and special purpose plans throughout Buffalo Niagara.

“We’ve read all of these plans and abstracted a series of statements about what values are common across them – statements about economic development, parks and recreation, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, climate change, water resources, food access, and more,” continued Shibley

“It will be up to citizens participating in the Community Congresses to tell us whether or not we got these right,” Shibley added, “and how we have to change them if we didn’t.”

Based on this direction from the general public, detailed implementation strategies will be developed by a series of working teams on land use and economic development, housing and neighborhoods, transportation, food systems, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. A subsequent Community Congress will review these strategies later in 2013. Further work will produce a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, a document that will give our region priority status for funding opportunities today and into the future.

One Region Forward will develop more than just a plan, it will build capacity and tools to support local decision-making, conduct public education activities, and launch implementation campaigns for prototypical projects around key issues such as redevelopment of suburban retail strips, strengthening village Main Streets, or rejuvenating urban neighborhoods.

The effort is led by a broad-based steering committee that includes representatives from both counties; mayors and supervisors from across the region, the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, major community based organizations, major public agencies in housing, education, and transportation, and the leading business sector organization in the region.

One Region Forward is funded by a highly competitive, first-of-its kind, $2M federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Initiative, an interagency partnership among HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is administering the program through our region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

 One Region Forward is sponsored by the following entities: Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), Erie County, Niagara County, City of Buffalo, City of Niagara Falls, Association of Erie County Governments, Niagara County Supervisors Association, University at Buffalo Regional Institute and Urban Design Project (UBRI/UDP), Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement (CSCCE), VOICE Buffalo, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Buffalo (LISC), The John R. Oishei Foundation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc. (Belmont), Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), Empire State Development, Niagara County Department of Social Services, and Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

There will be a second congress held in the Niagara Falls Conference Center on Saturday February 2nd from 2pm – 4pm.  

Gun Owners Pretend Behaving Like You’re Calling in to WBEN is OK in Real Life

30 Jan

When you get gun owners angry about the coming confiscation and equate it with the holocaust, you get ugly scenes like the one yesterday at the Clarence library. One presenter relates that they were there to show a Powerpoint to educate people about the NY SAFE Act, and instead of taking a few minutes and some questions, they were continually heckled and yelled at; the “meeting” took 3 hours, with people in camouflage taking over the podium at times, claiming that this was about “Nazis” starting a “new holocaust”. 

The “responsible gun owners” aren’t comporting themselves very responsibly. 

Gun meeting draws anger in Clarence

The Morning Grumpy – 1/30/13

30 Jan

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


1. We’re famous for a lot of things in Buffalo. Chicken wings, Beef on Weck sandwiches, architecture, Buffalo Bills Super Bowl failures and snow. Well, now we’re famous for a new reason. Meet Giovanna Plowman, the pride of Western New York.

There’s a kid from West Seneca, N.Y. named Giovanna Plowman who, earlier this month, ate a used tampon, recorded the action, and uploaded the video online. She’s, like, 15. Her video was pulled from YouTube for obvious reasons, but it found a second life on that bastardized child of YouTube—LiveLeak—and now it’s gone super-viral. I haven’t watched it, and you shouldn’t either. No one in the office was able to watch it actually, which is saying something, because we all saw Goatse when we were in middle school.

Nevertheless, Plowman is now incredibly famous among teenagers. She has 236,000 Facebook subscribers, and every status update she posts garners thousands of likes. Her Twitter feed has over 30,000 followers. She constantly retweets kids who say stuff like “im so proud of you, the way you stood up for yourself infront of some people on here.

Incidentally, she is “Facebook married” (whatever that is) to a kid from Hamburg who eats his own poop.  Dozens of people have contacted me and asked for me to interview her for Artvoice or to have her on a podcast, but I just can’t do it. I haven’t even watched the video as I’m a big believer in the theory that there are some things you just can’t un-see. However, her fame is noteworthy and disturbing enough that I thought I’d share it.  I’m already regretting it, but this is a full-service boutique internet aggregation blog, so it seemed like I should relent and post about it.

This is our new reality in America, just when you think we’ve hit the cultural bottom, someone eats a bloody tampon and sets a new low. I’d like to make note that those words have never, ever been put together in that order and I’m disturbed that I was the guy to do it. Let’s all try and be better parents to our kids and persuade them to set their GG Allin fever dreams to the side, mmkay?

2. Meanwhile in Texas, the school systems are turning kids into morons.

In Texas public schools, children learn that the Bible provides scientific proof that Earth is 6,000 years old, that the origins of racial diversity trace back to a curse placed on Noah’s son, and that astronauts have discovered “a day missing in space” that corroborates biblical stories of the sun standing still.

Two Americas. One that is educated and the other which believes The Flintstones cartoon is a historical record.

3. In other news, the Catholic Church has hit a new low.

Confidential letters between Los Angeles Catholic church officials that had been withheld for decades–despite long efforts by victims to obtain them and stonewalling by the Church–were released Monday after becoming part of a  civil court case against a priest accused of molesting 26 Los Angeles children in the 1980s.

The notes  detail plans by the two men to keep police from discovering that children were being molested in Los Angeles parishes, with Curry suggesting the predator priestsnot see therapists who could then alert authorities; instead, he wanted to give priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal charges. Curry was the chief advisor to the Archbishop on sex-abuse cases at the time. One priest discussed in the released files was Msgr. Peter Garcia, who tended to abuse undocumented children because he could keep them quiet by threatening to have them deported.

Molest kids and threaten to deport them and their families if they speak to authorities? How low can people sink?

4. Awesome and weird story about a family that was found living outside of time in the Siberian hinterlands of Russia.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”

A fascinating tale.

5. 35 things Dads hope their kids will say about them.

10. “He was generous” with his home, his money, his time, and his energy.

For some reason, this list hit me right in the feels. I hope I do right by my kids as they grow, watch, and learn.

Fact Of The Day: Blue-eyed people tend to have a higher alcohol tolerance and are therefore more likely to be drunks.

Video Of The Day: Probable Nudity (Also, not really. It’s Safe For Work)

Nudity Probable from the irregulars on Vimeo.

Song Of The Day: “Attitude” – Misfits

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Buffalo Talk Show Host: al Qaeda better than the Government

29 Jan

On January 24th, during the 11am hour, Entercom’s WBEN talk show host Tom Bauerle and his guest, Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-147), discussed what they consider to be constitutional jurisprudence, the supposed coming confiscation of all guns, how Obama has destroyed America, and the fact that armed citizens must be ready and willing to assault and murder law enforcement when they come to take your guns. All of this semi-informed nonsense culminated with Tom Bauerle exclaiming, “I regard the [US] government as a greater enemy than al Qaeda”. Because? Because guns. 


Tom Bauerle and al Qaeda: besties.  This guy is a never-ending compendium of lowest-common denominator derp. 

Buffalo’s ultra-right wing is always lurching from manufactured outrage to conspiratorial fever-dream, and has WBEN’s morning host Tom Bauerle to act as its lurcher-in-chief, spokeschampion, and ur-patriot. Last week’s outrage involved the New York State gun legislation that was recently passed by overwhelming state senate and assembly majorities. Signed by Governor Cuomo, New York’s gun regulations rank among the toughest in the United States, and people who take issue with them promise to fight them through litigation. 

That is, after all, how our system of laws; our representative democracy with its checks and balances, is intended to work. 

It’s the sort of thing that gets a particularly uninformed and ignorant part of the community angry and riled up. These are people who bastardize Martin Niemoller’s famous quote about encroaching fascistic tyranny into, “first Hitler came for the Germans’ guns” and “then Stalin came for the Russians’ guns” and they were just given up willingly, and so Europe endured genocide and war. This is all part of the “fight tyranny” falsehoods that people have built into the 2nd Amendment, whose true purpose was to ensure that the United States – which did not have a standing army at the time – could call up militias who would already be armed, in order to defend the country against its foes. Nothing in the Constitution, nor in the case law, nor in the vast volumes of statutes of the United States gives citizens the right to take up arms against the government. 

Being the constitutional scholars that they purport to be, one would expect Mr. Bauerle and Assemblyman DiPietro to be somewhat familiar with the 5th Amendment’s Taking Clause and its interplay with the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which together stand for the proposition that the government cannot arbitrarily take one’s private property without due process. Instead, derp. 

At one point, Assemblyman DiPietro alleged that his legislative colleagues have no respect or understanding for the constitution; that they consider it to be a nuisance. Such inflammatory talk from someone who is himself so fundamentally ignorant of Constitutional jurisprudence is despicable. Perhaps the 5th and 14th aren’t taught as part of the BBA program at Wittenburg University, nor must they make up part of the communications or history curriculum at UB, however this doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Derp. (Hey, what part of “shall not be infringed” does Antonin Scalia not understand, AMIRITE?)

Turning to the radio program in question, lest anyone think I heard it live, here’s how I found out about it on Thursday, January 24th: 

Here is the clip, within its context, with Assemblyman DiPietro’s comments immediately preceding it: 

Bauerle and al Qaeda: Besties

And this wasn’t some fluke: 

183 people like that. Several more left encouraging comments, (all [sic]) like Richard Wheeler, who suggests that this is “counterrevolution. The dems drew first blood”. Laurel Krupski thinks it was “Well said !!” Kale Crum says, “The one thing thats preventing a full on revolution is the air cover the US military currently has. The only way thats mitigated is if there is a secession and the leaving states claim ownership of airbases and military equipment in state. I see it coming and hopefully can get a shot in before i myself am taken out. Snipers Unite!!!!” At least one commenter, Jim Walczak, brought up a discredited, false quote from Josef Stalin. Because guns go with derp. 

Here we have a talk-show host, employee of a multimillion-dollar public corporate entity, taking to the publicly owned airwaves and to a corporate-sponsored Facebook page to talk about armed insurrection, and to favorably compare al Qaeda to New York and the United States. Wow. 

I know that Bauerle is a conspiratorial birther, but I have yet to see the proposal to turn America into a part of al Qaeda’s global caliphate.

In fact, Obama comes under much criticism for maintaining a “war on terror” policy whereby unmanned drones are used to target suspected al Qaeda terrorists. I am not, however, aware of any government policy encouraging or permitting the deliberate or indiscriminate targeting of civilian non-combatants. When you see Governor Cuomo or Hillary Clinton post a video to the internet wherein he and some cabinet henchmen behead a captive, you let me know. When the state sets up a paramilitary training camp to train terrorists to mass murder civilians, you let me know. When Shelly Silver hijacks a plane or three to hurl it into some landmarks, you give me a holler. When Harry Reid or John Boehner dons a suicide bomb and detonates it in a crowded shopping area, text me. 

As for Assemblyman DiPietro, he was perfectly content to stay on the line and talk with Bauerle through another several segments after Mr. Bauerle expressed his comparative admiration for al Qaeda. But he didn’t hear that; Mr. DiPietro released this statement: 

I was interviewed via telephone Thursday by WBEN’s Tom Bauerle. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Bauerle and I am a fan of his show. I did not hear him compare the New York State government to al Qaeda. As a legislator, I am a member of the New York State government and I do not believe we are the moral equivalent to the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.

There you have it – a sitting Assemblyman appearing on a radio program in Buffalo, NY, having to issue a statement disavowing the radio host’s statement that the United States is a terrorist organization? These sorts of discussions didn’t, interestingly enough, take place when, e.g., the government made up stories about Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in order to start a war.

You can disagree with the new gun laws the state passed. You can protest them. You can move to another state. You can file a lawsuit to challenge it. You can do just about whatever you want, within the law. You can even go on the publicly owned, privately licensed airwaves to favorably compare al Qaeda to New York State, if you’re a complete mental defective who spends time on the radio advocating secession and civil war, riling up every gun nerd with a micropenis and an AM radio. 

Indeed, to the extent Bauerle’s political speech doesn’t make the shift into armed insurrection or outright treason, he has every right to say or write whatever idiocy he wants to. But you can’t get away with saying it in a vacuum, and I – you – have every right to expose it, criticize it, and hate it. And frankly, his speech is perilously close to the kind of speech that is expressly prohibited by Article III, section 3 of the Constitution

It comes full circle – the people who remained silent during the run-up to the Iraq war tainted anyone who opposed it with the “treason” brush. But now, with a duly elected Democratic government, treason and armed insurrection is all the rage. 

I don’t quite understand why Entercom (ETM) or WBEN thinks it’s a good idea to have its commentators make stuff up about confiscation (as if Albany was going to pass a law to reimburse people for the confiscation of their guns), but Bauerle and his corporate parent Entercom are whipping gullible, already angry gun owners into a much bigger frenzy.  If they keep it up, I fear one of them will hurt someone. Maybe a cop. Maybe you. 

Nary a word was spoken about the fact that a lunatic stole his mother’s militaria in order to massacre almost two dozen first graders. Mssrs. Bauerle and DiPietro make stuff up about the Constitution and denigrate the patriotism of those who think that gun violence is a problem in this country, but they cavalierly reject any notion that people – that parents – have a right to be free from gun violence that is at least equal to their right to arm themselves against some fantasyworld. Assemblyman DiPietro argued that humans have always been violent; after all, Cain killed Abel. 

Constitutional questions should rarely be settled with allusions to Biblical allegories. 

In the meantime, who will protect us from the tyranny of the angry, violent, and misinformed 2nd amendment revisionists? 

Max v. Ward, et al.: Transcript of Judge Chimes’ Decision

25 Jan

Judge Chimes’ Decision on Max v. Ward, et al. by

Valenti’s: Where are they Now (Slight Return)

25 Jan

Remember yesterday, when I indicated that I didn’t know where they were? Well, I did know, but wasn’t at liberty to reveal their location  because of pending legal matters.

Well, they’re in the Dallas area and had been leasing kitchen space in a nursing facility. There was supposed to be a meeting yesterday to let the residents complain about the food coming out of that kitchen. In the meantime, as seen above, Valenti was arrested on the newly re-filed Midland County forgery charge and is being held in a Dallas County Jail on $10,000 bond. Now you know. Karma and whatnot. 

The Morning Grumpy – 1/25/13

25 Jan

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


1. There still seems to be a bit of confusion amongst the populace about the Federal Debt Limit. What is it? Why has raising it been a constant problem since Obama was elected? Who is at fault? Even though congress kicked the problem down the road another 3-6 months, it’s still a useful exercise to explain the subject to dummies.  And by dummies, I mean that racist uncle of yours who keeps sending you chain e-mails and goes to gun rallies with Rus Thompson and Dave DiPietro. CGPGrey is here to explain it for them. Real nice and simple.

This guy should receive an appointment to be “Federal Explainer-In-Chief”.

2. An informative, relevant, educative, and interesting look at the Manti Te’o story.

None of the news stories are commenting on the fact that Manti Te’o is Samoan. The reporters are wondering whether he was truly hoaxed, or whether he was complicit. Why didn’t he ever insist on visiting his girlfriend in person? They had been in touch for four years after all – chatting by Facebook message, texting, calling each other on the phone. How could he not be a bit suspicious? But in wondering all these questions, they never ask what his cultural background might be – what ideas about truth and verification did he learn growing up in a Samoan migrant community, especially one that was so religious (in his case, Mormon)?

So as an ethnographer of Samoan migrants, I want to say that I heard a number of stories that sound almost exactly like Manti Te’o’s story — naïve Christian golden boys who had been fooled by other Samoans pretending to be dewy-eyed innocents. Leukemia was even a theme, I guess Samoan pranksters keep turning to the same diseases over and over again. But I did this fieldwork before Facebook or cell phones, and even before email became all that widespread outside of college circles. All the stories I heard involved husky voices on telephones, and maybe a letter or two.

Like everyone else, I had fun with the Te’o story, but this article wraps some context around all the bizarre details.

3. More than 200,000 Florida voters were disenfranchised in the 2012 election due to long lines at polling places.

Analyzing data compiled by the Orlando Sentinel, Ohio State University professor Theodore Allen estimated last week that at least 201,000 voters likely gave up in frustration on Nov. 6, based on research Allen has been doing on voter behavior.

His preliminary conclusion was based on the Sentinel’s analysis of voter patterns and precinct-closing times in Florida’s 25 largest counties, home to 86 percent of the state’s 11.9 million registered voters.

“My gut is telling me that the real number [of voters] deterred is likely higher,” Allen said. “You make people wait longer, they are less likely to vote.”

Around the state, nearly 2 million registered voters live in precincts that stayed open at least 90 minutes past the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time, according to Sentinel analysis of voting data obtained from county elections supervisors. Of those, 561,000 voters live in precincts that stayed open three extra hours or longer.

Of course, this outcome was by design. If you can’t win the vote, fuck with the vote.

4. Neil DeGrasse Tyson went to Congress and encouraged them to think bigger.

Tyson framed his talk around three things that motivate societies to tackle never-been-done-before efforts like the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Columbus’ voyages, and the Apollo program. One of these three factors—praising royalty or a deity—doesn’t apply in the US. A second—countering an existential threat, which Tyson called “the ‘I don’t want to die’ driver”—has faded since the end of the Cold War.

That leaves the promise of economic return: in Tyson’s words, “I don’t want to die poor!”

“If you have a healthy science program in this country, you guarantee your economic future,” he declared in one of the moments that could have been snipped from a campaign speech.


5. Witness two approaches to growing a political base and securing more reliable/favorable outcomes in Congressional and national elections.

The Democrats, sensing some ideological shifts in Texas politics and a surging number of Latino voters, launch a plan to grow the party in the state and turn it blue.

“With its diversity and size, Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values. Yet for far too long, the state’s political leaders, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., have failed to stand for Texans,” said Bird, who recently founded a consulting firm, 270 Strategies. “Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”

A legitimate and traditional effort to change electoral outcomes, right? Certainly, the Republicans will do something similar. And by “something similar”, I mean cheating.

The Republican election rigging plan targets blue states that President Obama won in 2008 and 2012, and changes the way they allocate electoral votes to give many of these votes away for free to the Republican candidate for president. Under the Republican Plan, most electoral votes will be allocated to the winner of individual Congressional districts, rather than to the winner of the state as a whole. Because the Republican Plan would be implemented in states that are heavily gerrymandered to favor Republicans, the resulting maps would all but guarantee that the Republican would win a majority of each state’s electoral votes, even if the Democratic candidate wins the state as a whole.

Rachel Maddow helps break it all down.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 If you can’t win an election, rig the election.

Fact Of The Day: We don’t know for sure why ice is slippery.

Quote Of The Day: “I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with them later.” – Mitch Hedberg

Video Of The Day: McNuggets Wisdom

Song Of The Day: “Delivery” – Babyshambles

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Sneak Attack

25 Jan


Courtesy Marquil at