Archive | January, 2013

Valenti’s: Where are they Now?

24 Jan

A little over a year ago, then-Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun reviewed a seemingly pedestrian and typical red sauce joint that had recently opened in a plaza in North Tonawanda.

In ten years of blogging, no other series of blog posts I’ve ever done so completely unraveled some bad journalism, a pack of clumsy lies, or generated quite as much conversation in comments and social media. The saga of Valenti’s will go down in the annals of western New York’s culinary lore. 

 At the time, it was fun to deconstruct Okun’s reviews, and how they emphasized booth comfort while de-emphasizing food taste and quality. Yet the Valenti’s review was different, because Okun’s review recounted how the young owner-chef had recently returned to his native western New York after stints as an executive chef in Texas and Florida. But that’s not all – Valenti was reportedly so accomplished that he supposedly competed against – and defeated – celebrity chef Bobby Flay on the TV program “Iron Chef America”. This was a lie. It was alleged that Mr. Valenti’s culinary excellence had rendered the lowly parsnip into something so delightful that the judges were floored.  Here is a snippet from Okun’s review, which I annotated at the time: 

To this day, I don’t know what constitutes “parsnip cuisine”, nor do I understand how it could be the “parsnips that did it” if, apparently, they were the secret ingredient for the fictional episode on which Valenti never appeared.  In fact, the image shown above reflects the Buffalo News’ first edit of the review, to remove a mention that Valenti had appeared on Iron Chef America in 2003. At that time, no such show existed. Valenti also claimed to have graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 1993 – another lie confirmed by that institution’s spokesman, Jeff Levine. By the end of that particular Friday, Okun’s review in the online Gusto was changed to read thusly: 

As it turned out, he never could have been a cook at Mama Leone’s, either, as it had long since closed by the time he allegedly graduated from the CIA

But don’t blame Ms. Okun – she was doing what a lot of journalists do; transcribing press releases almost verbatim.

But Valenti’s had bigger problems than just a cook with a false resume. Terry Valenti and his girlfriend Lori Brocuglio opened the restaurant with a partner in September 2011. It was a problem tenant for plaza owner Frank Budwey almost from day one. By early February, Valenti’s was evicted for failing to pay back rent. It had loads of debt and a trail of people who had been taken advantage of.  Among them was Valenti’s and Brocuglio’s nominal “partner” in the business, Melissa Janiszewski, who had signed on for all the business’ liabilities, but had no access to the restaurant’s finances, no signing privileges on the business’ accounts, and (ultimately luckily for her), was not named on the lease.  It appeared to be was a bust-out scenario, where Valenti and Brocuglio used Janiszewski’s good credit to run up debt, skip town, and leave her holding the bag. Luckily, she got wise and sought help, but not soon enough to avoid a bankruptcy filing. 

Dramatically, during the late January 2012 eviction trial in North Tonawanda City Court, Terry Valenti was taken into custody on a Texas felony warrant for forgery. After losing his job at Captain Hiram’s in Florida, Valenti moved to Texas, where he cooked at a retirement community in Odessa. Valenti stands accused of forging an ex-girlfriend’s name on a Power of Attorney and title, to fraudulently transfer a motor vehicle for his benefit. The whole saga is available here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated herehereherehereherehere, and here.)

So, where are they now? 

By late February, Budwey had contracted with Cash Auctions to sell off the contents of Valenti’s Restaurant. The building now houses North Tonawanda’s own branch of Mighty Taco. 

In April 2012, a Midland County Texas grand jury indicted Valenti on the forgery charge. Interestingly, around that same time, there was a rumor that Valenti was back in western New York, looking to start up a new restaurant on Delaware Avenue, and was supposedly trying to recruit people who had worked for him in North Tonawanda.  This turned out never to have materialized, thankfully. 

By late June 2012, the Texas charges against Valenti were still pending, and he was appearing there in person with counsel. Meanwhile, in Florida, Valenti’s ex-wife initiated a court action seeking physical custody of their son. Lori Brocuglio’s ex-husband in Florida had custody of their son, and an action was brought to allow his new wife to adopt. Brocuglio contested the adoption, but the court instructed her that she needed physically to appear in court to testify – the problem is that there were a couple of minor warrants out for Ms. Brocuglio in that state, rendering her appearance a tricky proposition, at best. Meanwhile, Mr. Budwey’s criminal complaint against Ms. Brocuglio for grand larceny is still pending in North Tonawanda City Court and scheduled for an appearance in February. 

Meanwhile, the entire time they lived in western New York, Valenti and Brocuglio rented a living space in Eden. 

By July, Valenti had rejected a guilty plea in Texas that would have resulted in probation, court costs, and restitution. As for the adoption case involving Ms. Brocuglio, when process servers in New York attempted to serve papers on her, Valenti told them that she had moved back to Connecticut. This was quickly resolved – during the time that Mr. Valenti had to appear in Texas, they re-served papers in Eden knowing that the only person who would be home would be Ms. Brocuglio.  On July 29th, she was home, and she was served. 

But Valenti and Brocuglio attempted to fight back.  Valenti sought a temporary restraining order against Valenti’s ex-girlfriend, but failed to serve it in a way that could be enforced against a non-resident of New York. At best, it was a nullity; at worst, it was an attempt to intimidate the star witness in the Texas forgery trial. Nothing ever came of the TRO. Lori Brocuglio lost her parental rights as to the son in Florida in November on the grounds of abandonment. Terry Valenti’s ex now has physical custody of their son in New York. He is also about $13,000 in arrears on child support. There are no-contact orders imposed upon Valenti and Brocuglio in connection with these actions. The forgery action in Texas had to be re-filed and a new indictment was issued in December, and that matter is still pending. 

About that place in Eden: as you might expect, Valenti and Brocuglio ended up mistreating their landlords there, as well. They were forced to bring two eviction actions against them; the first time, they obtained an emergency rent assistance loan from Erie County, and the back rent was paid. By July 2012, the landlords were dealing primarily with Brocuglio, who indicated she was going to Texas. After the second eviction for non-payment, the judge gave Valenti and Brocuglio a week to show receipts that $3,000 was paid.  It hadn’t been. Not only did Valenti and Brocuglio skip out on back rent, but they are alleged to have stolen or sold items belonging to the landlords that were stored on the property, such as an upright air compressor, a drill press, welders, and a John Deere tractor and trailer.  The house was left in a horrible state, filled with garbage and junk. They left moldy, rotten food in the refrigerator, moldy clothes in the washer, food and garbage in the dishwasher, 36 bags of garbage, six truckloads of garbage furniture, six very large televisions, and tons of clothes and belongings left behind. Among the treats Valenti and Brocuglio left behind was shut-off of all utilities for non-payment, including $800 for electric fees. Because the electric system ultimately needed to be changed, it took three months and thousands of dollars to do so and also to clean up the property. 

Their whereabouts are not precisely known at this time, but Ms. Brocuglio’s grand larceny charge is set for an appearance in North Tonawanda City Court on February 7th.  There are also rumors swirling of new charges. 

Throughout all of this – right up to the present day – a very cohesive group of former strangers has formed, all with one thing in common – each one has been cheated or mistreated by Mr. Valenti, Ms. Brocuglio, or both. Through a bizarre set of Artvoice posts – all relating to a strange restaurant review in the Buffalo News – these people have developed a virtual support group to help each other find out where these two are, what they’re up to, whom they might be taking advantage of, and to generally vent about the wrongs done to them at the hands of Iron Chef Parsnips and his henchwoman. There have been bankruptcies, lawsuits, criminal actions, threats, harassment, child custody actions, evictions – federal, state, and interstate civil and criminal litigation has arisen as a result of two apparent sociopaths riding roughshod through the country, leaving behind a trail of debt, lies, broken lives, and broken property. The Valenti / Brocuglio fact pattern could very easily be an essay question on a bar exam. 

In the end, be nice to people. Treat them with respect, fairness, and kindness. If you don’t, you could be in for a world of hurt, and karma will indeed maintain its reputation for being a bitch. 

And Beyonce Lip-Synced, Too

24 Jan

There was, of course, Rand Paul’s chutzpah – complaining about the management of an underfunded State Department, the budget for which he would further halve. But Rand Paul is Ron’s kid, and he has no use for State or for foreign relations whatsoever. He’s the very embodiment of ignoramus fortress America, which disengages from the rest of the world and becomes some fantasyland glibertarian dystopia. 

But the best exchange was the one below, where Republican Senator Ron Johnson cross-examined Secretary of State Clinton on the big scandal Republicans concocted out of the Benghazi attack – the one where it was scandalous that the US Ambassador to the UN went on the tee vee to regurgitate talking points about Benghazi that had been drafted and approved by the CIA.  

Ron Johnson, by the way, is an Iran interventionist, a tea partier who thinks 50 million uninsured Americans, medical bankruptcies, lifetime limits on health claims, and policy rescission represent the “finest health care system in the world“, favors perpetual occupation of Afghanistan, supports discrimination in employment based on gender identity, and opposes same-sex marriage. He also thinks he can condescend to the female Secretary of State: 

 And now you know why right-wing radio talk-show hosts hang up on or pot down liberal callers. 

Wōdnesdæġ

23 Jan
The Off-Season

“The Off-Season” by Flickr user rssloan via the AV Daily Flickr Group

1. Max Dismissal

Supreme Court Justice Deborah Chimes dismissed Frank Max’s lawsuit challenging Jeremy Zellner’s election as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee. Judge Chimes ruled that Max had waited too long to challenge the June 1, 2012 redistricting that the board of elections undertook. Max’s side argued that the board acted after the 1st, but the court disagreed and determined that the lawsuit should have been filed by October 1st, but was 4 days late. 

Naturally, the dismissal of the case of Max v. Foregone Conclusion will be taken up on appeal. 

2. 2013: Brown vs. Rodriguez? 

Who is Sergio?” signs have been popping up all throughout town, and young Republican veteran Sergio Rodriguez is making the rounds, promising to be the first Republican to become Mayor of Buffalo since Chester Kowal in the mid-60s. Although he has no money, little name recognition, and little to no support among the county Republican committee, Rodriguez is right in suggesting that no incumbent should be unchallenged in a general election. The problem here is that Stefan Mychajliw, fresh off a poorly-managed mini-scandal concerning his chief of staff’s DWI conviction, is likely to face a tough re-election battle against a popular Democrat. His margin of victory could be so narrow that a Rodriguez challenge to Brown might bring out enough people in Buffalo to hurt Mychajliw’s chances. 

On the other hand, when your countywide election strategy includes consciously and actively suppressing the urban vote, then your ideas and candidates suck. Be good enough to win in Amherst and Hamburg and Buffalo. 

3. Social Media & Politics

Our podcast with Brad Riter at Trending Buffalo has changed over the last few weeks into a commentary on local social media usage, among other things. Yesterday’s edition covers social media and politics in western New York. 

http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/TBOneThing01-22-13.mp3

4. Time Machine

Incredible photographs of the Russian Revolution – many of them hand-colored – have been found in a California basement. 

Peaceable Assembly

21 Jan

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photographs by Flickr user Sunny Hasija, used with permission. 

Best and Brightest

17 Jan

Why so quiet?

That was fast. 

Just about a week ago, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw hired a person named Jeff Bochiechio to be his new chief-of-staff. Mychajliw had famously pledged to hire only the “best and brightest” and specifically campaigned on a pledge to not just end, but root out, the “friends and family plan” of county hiring commonly referred to as patronage. 

Jeff Bochiechio may have been the best and brightest person to apply or submit a resume for the position of chief of staff – I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for an elected official to surround himself with close friends and associates in some positions, because these are the people you know and trust to do a good job for you. Patronage isn’t always horrible. But compare: 

 So, Mr. Mychajliw has held himself to a higher standard, given his campaign pledges about eliminating patronage completely, which is why his former WGRZ colleagues so sharply questioned him on January 10th about this Bochiechio hire

According to Bochiechio’s resume and LinkedIn page, he began his career working for former Republican congressman Tom Reynolds, he was former County Executive Chris Collins chief fundraiser for three years, he says he ran Jane Corwin’s 2008 campaign for state assembly, and had a patronage position in Buffalo with Republicans in the state senate.

In defending his hiring of Boccheicio, Mychajliw points to the fact he’s a lawyer.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw: “My predecessors have hired a public relations person for that position of chief of staff where I have hired a public sector attorney with municipal experience and extensive experience e and state and local finance law and tax law and IDA law.” 

Scott Brown: “You say extensive experience, he worked for less than a year at a local law firm, he’s fresh out of law school where is his extensive experience?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “In the same respect that Mark Poloncarz was a private sector attorney and served in the office of Erie County comptroller.”

Heh. Nice one, right? Except Mark Poloncarz was sworn in as a lawyer in 1998, and became Comptroller in 2006. That’s 8 years’ worth of experience doing corporate finance law at a big downtown firm; the comptroller should know that 8 is more than 1. Also – public sector attorney? Bochiechio’s LinkedIn page reveals only a brief stint with a private downtown firm. There is no evidence whatsoever of him having been a “public sector attorney”. 

But perhaps Bochiechio had special qualifications? For instance, he was a full-time law student at UB between 2008 – 2011, yet served as the New York State Senate’s “WNY Regional Director – Majority Operations” during his third year of law school.  According to SeeThroughNY, Bochiechio “earned” $49,154 in 2010, and a further $34,112 in 2011. That’s over $83,000 in taxpayer money for what is – if you’re also simultaneously attending law school – essentially a no-show job. 

Today, Bochiechio resigned abruptly as Channel 4 reported that he had pled guilty to DWI in Machias. He was arrested in October for blowing a .13 BAL – almost twice the legal limit. It’s unlikely that he’ll serve time in jail, but he will likely pay a fine, be on some sort of probation, have his license revoked for 6 months, and be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his car. What kind of vetting took place to hire this young kid, about whom no one would be paying any attention if he was just working in the private sector? 

Scott Brown: “Most of his (Bochiechio’s) background in politics is as a fundraiser, will you used him to raise money for your campaign?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “Certainly an option, I want to hired the best and brightest for this office and I also want to make sure that I have the best and brightest and most competent people when it comes to running for re-election this year.” 

Bochiechio’s position has a starting salary of $62,000 a year. 

This guy was hired because he’s got political experience running campaigns for Republicans, and because he’s well-connected. There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with that – indeed, it’d have been a smart hire, if he didn’t have the DWI. But when you make a big deal about rooting out patronage, you’re going to come under especial scrutiny about hiring friends, family, and the well-connected. This wasn’t just a hire violative of Mychajliw’s campaign pledge – it was poorly vetted, even for a patronage hack. 

The Second Amendment and Tyranny

16 Jan

Tyranny is defined generally as oppressive, absolute power vested in a single ruler. The United States cannot, by definition, be tyrannical because it is a representative democracy where you have the right to overthrow any person or party every two, four, or six years – depending on the office. Your recourse is political action and being enfranchised to vote, organize, and petition. 

When the 2nd Amendment was drafted, the United States did not have a standing army – because of our experience with our British oppressors, America was decidedly hostile to the idea of a standing army.  As a result, our new nation depended on amateur on-call militias; Switzerland still uses this model wherein only 5% of its military is made up of professionals, while the militia and reserves are made up of able-bodied men aged 19 up to their 30s and 40s.  Because these people are members of a reserve militia, they keep and own their own military equipment. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

But we long ago reconfigured our domestic military structure to switch from state-based reserve militias into a professional national military. To the extent the old state militias exist, they’re made up of the various National Guards. We don’t call upon average citizens to keep arms to fight off the Indians or the British; we have the Pentagon. 

If you look at the two recent Supreme Court cases which held that the “well-regulated militia” language, which was so carefully inserted into the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, doesn’t really mean anything. Astonishing, that, but little can be done about it. In DC v. Heller , the Court affirmed an individual right to possess a firearm without respect to whether the bearer is a militia member, and that these arms can only be possessed for lawful purposes, such as self-defense. 

Heller also confirmed that your 2nd Amendment rights are not absolute or unlimited. Concealed weapons can be banned by states, you can limit their possession by felons and the mentally ill, and you can ban carrying a weapon in certain areas and regulate the sale of weapons. Particularly dangerous and unusual weapons can also be regulated or banned.  Although Heller applied only to federal districts, a subsequent case – McDonald v. Chicago – held that the 14th Amendment ensures that the 2nd Amendment and its jurisprudence also apply to state action. 

Because handguns aren’t unusual, and the petitioner in Heller intended to keep a handgun in his home for personal protection, his use was lawful and DC was ordered to issue him a permit, and could not require him to keep the gun essentially unusable while being kept. 

Nothing that happened yesterday in Albany is violative of the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment is silent on the number of rounds a clip can hold, and bans on certain types of weapons have been consistently upheld. If you have to re-register to drive a car every few years, you can re-register to own a gun. How do we monitor felonies or mental illness with lifetime permitting? 

But I want to pivot back to something – tyranny. How many people have you heard in the past month since the Sandy Hook massacre explain that assault weapons and other militaria must be legal because we have some sort of right to fight tyranny. How many people have suggested to you, with an astonishing ignorance of history of propriety, that, e.g., German Jews could have halted the Holocaust if only they had been armed. 

Make no mistake, notwithstanding Jefferson’s tree of liberty, there is no law, statute, or Constitutional provision that exists in this country to allow someone to fight domestic “tyranny”. What these people are saying is that they detest the government – especially Obama’s government, because he is Kenyan or an usurper or a Nazi or a communist or a “king” or maybe just because he’s brown-skinned. At which point do we determine as a society when we have made the flip to “tyranny”? Who is the arbiter of “tyranny”? At which point do we determine that all of our anti-treason statutes and the constitutional provision found in Article III, section 3 of the Constitution can be set aside because of “tyranny”? 

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

You have no right to possess militaria to fend off “tyranny”. If you think you do, show me the statute or law that says so. Show me the statute or law that repeals our anti-treason legislation. It doesn’t exist. 

If New York wants to ban assault weapons or clips holding more than 10 bullets, it can. If you don’t like it, get your tea party buddies together and elect a legislature in Albany that will repeal it.  But there’s not a thing in the world that suggests that you can, if you don’t like it, take up arms against Albany or Washington. That would be a crime. If you try it and you’re armed, law enforcement won’t like that. Not at all. 

 

The Morning Grumpy – 1/16/13

16 Jan

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

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1MotherJones has put together a handy guide to the basic information that you need to know about the flu. They cover how to distinguish it from a common cold, and how your decision to skip a flu shot could end up putting someone else’s life at risk.

I’m young and healthy. It’s not like the flu is going to kill me. So why should I bother with the vaccine?

Herd immunity. If you don’t come down with the flu, there’s less of a chance that  your elderly neighbor, your friend’s infant, or your coworker who’s going through chemo will.

Seriously, go get your flu shot and quit complaining.

2. Last night’s Frontline episode was a fantastic inside look at the first term of President Obama. It starts by telling the story of a meeting organized by Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz on the night of Obama’s inauguration in which Republican leaders defined their strategy for the next four years. Oppose everything.

Watch Facing a Permanent Minority? on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

It’s an incredible look at how a rational President with dreams of bipartisanship met the immovable object of total war and Republican partisanship in Washington.

3. Wal-Mart announced a plan to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years. I loathe Wal-Mart (and so should you), but this is a net positive, I suppose. Others disagree.

Gary Profit, a retired Army brigadier general who is senior director of military programs at Wal-Mart, said the company might not be able to guarantee that every veteran who wants a full-time job will be able to get one. But he said that because of the size of Wal-Mart’s retail operation and supply chain, it is almost certain that the company could find a job — even a part-time one — close to any veteran who wanted one.

“If you’re a veteran and you want a job in the retail industry, you have a place at Wal-Mart,” he said.

Wait, a retired General is running this program? I think this means Wal-Mart might be building their own private army.  Target must be quaking in their boots and I’m hearing that Bass Pro is building their own private Navy in response.

4. The YouTube geniuses who brought you the legendary Bad Lip Reading videos of Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Joe Biden now bring us Bad Lip Reading, NFL Edition.

“You got an orange peanut? An orange peanut? For Me?!”

5. The right wing is freaking out over the leaked rumors that President Obama will obviate the need to deal with an irrational Congress and sign executive orders to change federal gun control laws.

Kentucky senator Rand Paul has accused Obama of acting “like a king or a monarch.” South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan declared last week, “We live in a republic, not a dictatorship.” Mike Huckabee proclaimed that the White House has “nothing but contempt for the Constitution” and seeks to “trump … the checks and balances of power in which no branch could act unilaterally.” Texas congressman Steve Stockman has already threatened impeachment.

However, if it’s the use of executive orders that are upsetting the lunatic fringe, it might help to seek a little perspective on Obama’s use of executive orders as compared to his predecessors. Turns out, he’s been pretty cautious with his use of this constitutionally granted power.

obama_executive_ordersAs usual, the facts help.

Fact Of The Day: The FBI once wrote a letter to Martin Luther King suggesting he commit suicide.

Quote Of The Day“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” – Thurgood Marshall

Video Of The Day: Epic Drum Solo. Because, why not? When Al Gore created the Internet, this is the kind of content he was hoping for.

Song Of The Day: “So Good At Being In Trouble” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

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

PoliticsNY.net: Open

16 Jan

Congratulations to Michael Caputo and Pete Herr for today’s inauguration of the new, libel-free PoliticsNY.net. Check out this first post, wherein Caputo explains why he bought the URL and then decided to resurrect the site

Fuck Your Gun

15 Jan

Let’s limit gun ownership to what Heston is holding here.

Yesterday, in something of a whirlwind session of the oft-feckless New York State legislature, Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to the key provisions of what is called the “NY SAFE” act, or “Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement” Act. It passed the state senate late Monday, and will be taken up by the Assembly today. 

The law will do the following: 

– limit gun magazines to hold a maximum of 7 bullets; 

– universal background checks for every single gun transfer, including private ones that are person-to-person; and 

– a “Webster provision” mandating life without parole for anyone who murders a first responder. 

Here’s what at least one 2nd Amendment purist had to say about it on Twitter: 

 

The second amendment. The one that helps enshrine perpetual violence and revolution. Its purpose – clearly stated – was to make sure that our new country, which at the time had no standing army, could protect itself from attacks by Britons, Frenchmen, Spaniards, and whatever Indian tribe or nation from which we were trying wrest control of land.  

You want a gun for hunting? Target practice? Skeet? To ward off robbers or burglars? That’s fine. You don’t, however, get to keep a military arsenal. 

Those on the deepest fringes of the right wing – the people who think lunatic Alex Jones is an influential and sane voice about guns – love to bring up the notion that the 2nd Amendment exists to protect you from “tyranny”. No one gets too worked up trying to define what “tyranny” is, or who gets to decide when “tyranny” becomes a clear and present danger. This crowd loves to cite the Declaration of Independence – a document that was a declaration of war against a monarch who brutally exploited his American colonies. The Declaration, however, ceased to have any legal effect the moment that Britain lost the war and recognized American Independence. 

So, no, proud patriot, you don’t have a right to take up arms against the government. Indeed, Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution makes that sort of thing a very serious crime.  

One more gun control effort, one more gun fetishist makes some broken, semi-informed analogy about how if the Jews were armed in the 30s, they could have somehow halted their own genocide in the face of a German war machine. One more gun debate, one more person suggesting that our representative democracy – flawed though it might be – is or could oh-so-easily-be the equivalent of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. One more effort to limit the firepower we so casually make available to lunatics, one more person expressing their idiot fever-dream of single-handedly taking on the FBI or One World Government or ZOG, notwithstanding the fact that the government could – if it wanted to – easily take out your entire neighborhood with an unmanned drone operated by a teenager nursing a Monster Energy Drink in a dank, smelly basement in Northern Virginia. 

One more gun fetishist, one more clumsy analogy made to some other object with a large capacity or capability of doing harm that we are allowed to own, but the primary purpose for which is not “putting holes in things at breakneck speed”. Gas tanks, fast cars, pencils.  

And what of tyranny? We’ve had plenty of tyranny in this country, but when the Black Panthers agitated for blacks to arm themselves during the civil rights struggles of the 60s, the NRA was happy to support the Mulford Act, which limited the Panthers’ ability to carry arms and inform black citizens of their Constitutional rights. The NRA supports your right to bear arms, so long as you’re of European descent and not too uppity. 

Some have taken to social media to criticize the limit on magazines. I don’t understand why it’s ok for someone to have a semiautomatic pistol that can fire 7 bullets in 7 seconds and extinguish 7 lives in that period of time, but I suppose it’s exponentially better than the 33-round clip that Gabby Giffords’ would-be assassin had in his possession. He was subdued only as he tried to reload; by that time, six people had been killed

I get that violence is an integral part of American society and history. But I also recognize that you don’t get to own an F-15 or a nuclear missile just because it makes you feel safe or helps you ward off “tyranny”. 

I know that the rhetoric on this issue is going to get much worse before it gets any better. After all, we have a Kenyan communist President, against whom any facile lie is routinely thrown. I also think that insane lunatics shouldn’t have access to military weapons and equipment; shouldn’t be able to waltz around your town with enough firepower to put 11 holes in a first grader. Shouldn’t be able to get so many rounds off in so little time that the first grader’s jaw and hand are disappeared. 

If you like guns, good for you. If you’re a Glenn Beck / Alex Jones type, I sincerely hope that you get Galt’s Gulch going – that you divest yourself completely from American society and go off and start your post-hippie, penis envy-laden republic of gunnutistan – a place that is not on American soil and is free from American law and jurisdiction, so you can carry out your secessionist fever dreams away from us normal people. 

Because our easy access to guns and our gun culture make our society a particularly violent one; not video games or TV shows – those are safe avenues of expressing the reality of warfare. We love war and conflict. We can’t get enough of it. Somehow, other societies are able to function without it. 

New York is going to limit your ability to transfer your guns to the angry and insane, and it’s going to make you have to reload more frequently while you’re shooting up your neighborhood or a schoolroom. This isn’t the end of the 2nd Amendment – it’s a first step to protecting those of us who don’t run around living in perpetual fear, armed to the teeth. 

The Morning Grumpy – 1/15/13

15 Jan

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

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1. Last week, a government committee released a draft of a federal climate assessment report. It was one of those Friday afternoon news dumps that are summarily ignored by the media and the American public. However, the report is quite alarming and needs to move to the front of the national policy discussion.

The 60-member panel approved and released a draft report today that says many coastal areas face “potentially irreversible impacts” as warmer temperatures lead to flooding, storm surges and water shortages.

“The chances of record-breaking, high-temperature extremes will continue to increase as the climate continues to change,” the panel said in its report. Temperatures are predicted to increase, on average, by 2 degrees to 4 degrees in the next few decades, according to the report.

The panel of scientists from academia, industry, environmental groups and the government prepared the report, and its findings are the closest to a consensus about global warming in the U.S. Reports in 2000 and 2009 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the Earth’s temperature, which threatens to cause extreme weather, drought and floods.

Nature magazine reports:

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” leaders of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee said in a letter accompanying the document. Environmentalists immediately said the report underscores the need for action, but it will also attract scrutiny from sceptics in the days ahead.

Demand change.

2. A heartbreaking series of photos by Chris Byrd from the local blog, Broadway Fillmore Alive.

A few months back, I wrote about the former Chopin Singing Society building on Kosciuszko Street.  At that time, the building looked in sorry shape.  While cruising around the neighborhood yesterday, I decided to stop at the building again.  The front door was wide open and I ventured inside.

chopin

The building was in a lot worse shape on the inside than the outside…water damage everywhere, fallen ceilings, buckled beams, trash, a foot or more water in the basement and the sad background sound of water dripping.

The experience and seeing what I was seeing literally made my stomach flip over.  Why?  Because I know this building doesn’t stand a chance now.  It will soon be added to the long list of Polish heritage sites in East Buffalo’s Historic Polonia that have disappeared forever.

chopin2

Why do we allow these things to happen? These places are part of our regional heritage and they deserve to be preserved. However, we live in a city that absolutely refuses to properly mothball abandoned buildings or hold property owners accountable for neglecting their properties. This building no longer stands a chance at rehabilitation, but it never should have been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. The core of our problem is that the City of Buffalo takes little proactive action to preserve our built environment, which results in the entirely reactive tactic of citizens frantically filing last minute lawsuits to prevent demolitions of buildings that are beyond repair.

We need a comprehensive plan for the abandoned and neglected properties in the City of Buffalo and we need it now. We need to demand it, because it’s our responsibility to make it happen.

3. Steve Poland, a leader in Buffalo’s burgeoning tech sector would like you to join him in building a bigger and better entrepreneurial community.

I want to see startups in Buffalo. And I have rededicated myself to getting more events to happen in Buffalo that focus on the cool stuff being built and hacked on. This is when I picked up “Startup Communities” by Brad Feld, in which he lays out the path that Boulder has taken over the years to become an amazing startup/tech community. If you have an interest in being apart of changing our fine city of Buffalo into a state of startup/tech awesomeness, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a rolling 20-year outlook. It’s a “give before you get” outlook of helping others.

Because of the smaller size of Buffalo, you can do something and have an impact. The time is NOW with all the success that is going on in Buffalo — Synacor’s IPO over the summer, CampusLabs acquired, the creation of Z80 Labs w/$5.3mm fund for investing in tech startups, the success of TEDxBuffalo, the success of Startup Weekend, the launch/success of CoWorkBuffalo, Buffalo Billion, and much much more!

Things are happening and there are a litany of ways to get involved and make a difference. Check out the opportunities and start attending some events.

4. Interesting work by Richard Florida about where human capital tends to cluster. What is human capital?

It’s now conventional wisdom that human capital (what economists call educated people) is a key factor in the growth of cities and metro regions. Cities are engines of economic development, and the skilled people are the high-powered fuel that drives them.

It’s long been considered conventional wisdom that for a city or region to grow, human capital should be centered in the city center. But that might be changing.

Human Capital in Cities and Suburbs” [PDF] a study I co-authored with my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarick, looks at the distribution of human capital between the center cities and suburbs of United States metros and the effects this has on their economic performance.

The main thrust of our study was to develop statistical models of the distribution of highly skilled people between suburbs and city centers so we could see how each affected economic performance. Basically, we found that human capital in suburbs and cities play different but important roles.

First, we found that suburban human capital is important to metros of all sizes, with the percentage of college grads in the suburbs having a positive effect on their income levels and housing values across the board. Suburban human capital is especially important in in smaller and medium-sized metros, those with fewer than one million people, according to our analysis.

Essentially, if you live in a sprawl region (like Buffalo) with low commute times and lower population density, human capital clusters in the suburbs. However, as population density increases, more people move in to the city to avoid the hassles of suburban living and long commutes. Not rocket science, but useful data for regional planners. I’d share this information with our regional planners, but we don’t have any. The point of posting this? It’s just a reminder that if you want people to live in the city, you need to focus all efforts on job growth and other attractors of human capital. The era of planning to build an urban creative class is fading, while the need to build high-tech job sectors with a robust depth of employment opportunities moves to to the forefront. At least, that’s my take on the data.

5. I realize the irony of posting this in my daily “listicle” column, but this article by Will Leitch at Deadspin has had me thinking for weeks.

I bring all this up because I think we’re starting to care more about popularity and financial success than legitimate quality. All right, so that’s hardly news; that’s always been the case, as a general rule, for most of humanity’s reign. But now the smart people are doing it: People who should know better. I’m talking about you, dear reader: You, me, all of us.

You see this everywhere, from box office results to online pageviews to Nielsen ratings to freaking Twitter followers. More people watch the NFL on television than any sport so therefore IT IS THE BEST SPORT. You have fewer Twitter followers than the person you’re criticizing? YOU’RE A HATER. You don’t like that album that went platinum? YOU JUST JEALOUS. BuzzFeed has put a bunch of pictures of kittens together in a way that is easily passed around by idiots? THEY HAVE FIGURED OUT THE INTERNET THEY ARE SUCH BRILLIANT PACKAGERS OF CONTENT THE FUTURE OF MEDIA. We have become a culture that, because we can quantify things in a way we’ve never been able to before, are acting as if those numbers are all that matter.

Our culture is in trouble and I keep thinking that we’re only momentarily trapped in a cul de sac of nonsense, but I’m starting to think it’s a permanent condition. We need to be better at everything.

Fact Of The Day: Roughly 2 out of every 3 people alive today have not yet been on the internet.

Quote Of The Day: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King

Video Of The Day: Pretty much the worst thing that has ever happened, the Microsoft and Qualcomm presentation at CES2013. I’m ashamed of everyone who was involved. Even Desmond Tutu.

Song Of The Day: “Waterfall” – The Stone Roses

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