Archive | February, 2013

Dov Hikind’s Masquerade

27 Feb

 

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

#HockeyMob – Just Like A #CashMob But With Beer

26 Feb

HockeyMob

The Buffalo-born idea of cash mobs has now spread to nearly 600 cities on six continents and has resulted in nearly $700,000 of cash being exchanged between customers and local retailers. Pretty cool, eh? . It’s kind of a thing. In Buffalo alone, we’ve generated nearly $25,000 of revenue for local businesses while garnering dozens of news stories which help grow the customer base for these plucky little entrepreneurs.

This is a tough economy and many small businesses in Buffalo and WNY are looking for ways to increase cash flow.  That’s where we, the loyal soldiers of the Buffalo Spirit come in.  These businesses are rebuilding this city and working to make it a better place and we should return their investment with one of our own.  The goal will be to get 75-100 people to join the mob and spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered.  No groupons, discounts, or coupons allowed.  Just support our local merchants by spending $10 in their place of business.

As the idea has spread and grown, different activists have found new and interesting ways to apply the idea. The guys at TrendingBuffalo.com thought the idea of mobbing local bars and restaurants which suffered during the 2012 NHL Lockout was a good way to support our local community. The first #HockeyMob was held at the Irish Times in Downtown Buffalo and was a big success.

Tonight, they’ll host the second #HockeyMob at Helium Comedy Club in the Cobblestone District, just steps away from First Niagara Center.  Brad Riter from TrendingBuffalo breaks down the Top Ten reasons you should attend the event, including beer, giant TVs, jersey giveaways, t-shirt giveaways from Store716, swag from Labatt, tickets to future Helium events, and lots of free parking. The Sabres stink, it’s more fun to watch them with friends and beer than to sit home by yourself and bitching about the game on Twitter.

 

A Question

26 Feb

Which is Buffalo and WNY’s bigger problem?

The poor quality of substantive policy decisions, or the process and its utter lack of meaningful merit or transparency? Or is it simply that the process is the direct and intended result of poor policy, thus making the whole thing an interconnected, overcomplicated mess that help keeps government acts and omissions from adequate public review and scrutiny? 

 

US Sequestrian Team

26 Feb

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Pressure Conference

26 Feb

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Leaving and Coming Home Again

25 Feb

I was out of town for a week visiting London, and neither know nor care what may or may not be happening in WNY politics, much less general American politics. So, instead, just a few logistical observations: 

1. The HAILO app that works in New York, Boston, and Toronto, is fantastic.  It tells you how long you’ll have to wait to hail a cab to your location, tells you when the cab is coming and sends you a receipt. You can pay by credit card with an automatic tip precalculated. Check out the screenshot, which identifies the driver who’s coming, and see how the license plate given matches up with the car that pulled up. I was impressed. You can tell the driver via the app where you’re headed, and when it’s particularly busy, the app gives you the option of letting prospective drivers know that the fare will exceed a certain threshold, bringing a quicker response time. The driver was great. 

 

2. One of the secrets of traveling with little kids is to just let stuff go. Didn’t make it in time for a parade? Go somewhere else. Also – put limits on museums. Two hours max is plenty, and be choosy about what you see. Get a map, select what you like (say, 15th – 17th century Flanders art) and go see it, then leave. Take the kids for ice cream or something. We found that the kids actually enjoyed and didn’t complain about the museums, ice cream notwithstanding. We went to one museum 1 1/2 hours before it closed, so we were forced to keep it short, but learned it was one of the best of the bunch. Another museum was a bit disappointing, so we just left after about an hour. Be flexible, and check your coats; museums suck when you’re too warm. Also, if you go to foodie paradise like Borough Market and it’s 34 degrees out and windy, you don’t eat street food outside while standing up, after 2 hours at the Tate Modern. You find a little Italian place, warm up, sit down, and have pizza and pasta. 

3. Bus vs. Subway – subway bypasses traffic, so it gets you places quickly. However, you see nothing. Bus may be slower, but you see things. Also, kids love the upstairs of double-deckers.  We used buses maybe 85% of the time we were commuting. 

4. From London, we did a day trip to Canterbury to see the historic cathedral of Thomas Becket and Chaucer. It was something of a counterpoint to seeing Chartres two years ago. The cathedral has guides wearing sashes who are all too happy to tell you stories about the history there, and the town itself is a charming reprieve from London bustle. To reach it, we took the high speed rail from St. Pancras, which reached speeds of 140 MPH. 

5. Rent an apartment as a home base. We used www.ivylettings.com and rented a one-bedroom apartment that had a washer/dryer. It had plenty of room for 4 – it was difficult to find affordable hotel rooms for 4 – as well as a full kitchen. We bought groceries like locals and became regulars at local restaurants and cafes.  It was cheaper than most hotels, and although you sacrifice things like daily maid service, the washer/dryer meant we could pack a lot less clothes. 

6. The signage at Toronto Pearson Airport for the Viscount Discount Parking Garage is atrocious. Upon arrival after going through immigration and customs, the first sign we saw for it was a small plaque by an elevator up on the departures level. There was all kids of signage for the daily lot across the street, but nothing for the airport’s own discount lot. This is also true of the signage as you approach the airport – I had to circle both terminals before I finally got a sign directing me to that lot. 

7. I thought this was the coolest food truck: 

 

The Morning Grumpy – 2/25/13

25 Feb

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

johan_suggestion_bachs

1. Late last year, Kaleida Health announced that the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital would be transformed into a Veterinary College upon Kaleida moving its operations to the growing Buffalo Medical Campus.

Supporters of the project, such as Oregon attorney and consultant Mark Cushing, point out, there are only 27 veterinary colleges in the entire country.

“Veterinary schools are very expensive. The capital costs are prohibitive. The American population almost doubled, and it added one more vet school in a 25-year time period. The pet population exploded, we added one more vet school,” Cushing said.

Yesterday, The New York Times published an expose on the crushing costs of veterinary education at for-profit schools and called into question whether or not a city would want to invest in such an endeavor.

For years, the veterinary medical association contended that the United States needed more vets, not fewer, especially in rural areas. To support this view, in 2007, the organization helped underwrite a study, hoping to bolster a call for government assistance to help meet a putative shortfall of 15,000 vets by 2024.

The results, released last year, came to a strikingly different conclusion. Titled “Assessing the Current and Future Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine” and conducted under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found little evidence of vet shortages. It also concluded that “the cost of veterinary education is at a crisis point.”

So, a shrinking career field in which fewer and fewer vets are finding work, coupled with crushing tuition rates, especially at the for-profit colleges at which the aforementioned Mr. Cushing is a consultant.

That is a common sentiment among working vets, many of whom say the job market is the worst they have seen. But the deans of many vet schools see growth and opportunities, and one of them is Dr. Elaine Watson of Ross, the only profit-making vet school accredited by the veterinary medical association. Some vets and professors say the school, which is owned by DeVry Inc., a publicly traded educational company based in New Jersey, is a vivid example of all that has gone haywire for aspiring doctors of veterinary medicine, or D.V.M.’s, as they are known.

I suspect that a few years from now, we’ll be wishing that Kaleida Health had chosen the Uniland proposal for the former hospital site which featured a mixed-use residential and office space project rather than a presumed for-profit veterinarian factory.

2. An inspiring story about V.F.W. Post 12097 in Tonawanda.

The post, officially called the Dorothy Kubik/Katherine Galloway Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12097, has a membership of 24 women and 8 men. Officials say it is the only current V.F.W. post that was specifically created for women in the military. Its members are concerned mainly with education and health care.

Randi K. Law, a spokeswoman at the V.F.W.’s national headquarters, said the post was believed to be the only existing one that “was founded to address the current needs of women veterans.” Of the organization’s 1.6 million members, she added, only 12,130 were women. The nation’s first V.F.W. Post geared toward women was created in Topeka, Kan., in 1995 and lasted six years, officials said.

Culture changes as time marches on.

3. It would be nice to see a change in tone on the national news when debating issues of national policy. Perhaps it would serve our pundits and news readers well to look outside the beltway and frequently reference what the American people actually have to say about an issue.

In the poll from USA Today/Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans back increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25 currently, with 26% opposed. The plan, introduced by Mr. Obama in his State of the Union address, has 87% support among Democrats and 68% support among independents. Among Republicans, 50% back the measure, with 47% opposed.

People who identified themselves as agreeing with the tea party opposed the minimum wage measure 64% to 32%.

Of course, it’s much simpler to let John Boehner or other talking heads presume they speak for the American people or to listen to the angry white gun and religion clinger olds of the Tea Party. Even though Republicans were soundly beaten in the Presidential election and more total votes were cast for Democrats in 2012 House elections. The arguments against a raise in the minimum wage have been heard before. Less jobs!  Higher prices!  Decrease in demand! 

Mind you, these arguments were used when workers wanted 8 hour workdays, when workers wanted mandatory lunch breaks, when workers wanted weekends off, when workers wanted vacations, when workers wanted safe working conditions, when employers would have to pay everyone the same regardless of race or gender, when it came to workers wanting to unionize and every other time the minimum wage has been raised. I guess losing the same argument every time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still make it. Ponderous.

4. Abstinence education and red state values stink as a means to keeping teens from getting pregnant. But, you already knew that.

The teen birth rate is nearly one-third higher in rural areas of the United States than it is in more populous areas of the country, and teen pregnancy rates have been much slower to decline in rural counties over the past decade, according to a new study from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Between 1990 and 2010, the birth rate dropped 49 percent for teens in major urban centers and 40 percent for teens in suburban areas — but just 32 percent for adolescents who live in rural counties. While teens across the country have largely been having less sex and using more contraception, teens in rural areas have actually been having more sex and using birth control less frequently. It’s not clear why that’s the case, but it could partly be because teens in rural areas still lack access to a range of comprehensive contraceptive services.

If you’ve seen the film “Idiocracy” or Honey Boo-Boo, you know why this particular statistic is troubling.

5. Why is health care so expensive?

The American health care market has transformed tax-exempt “nonprofit” hospitals into the towns’ most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions’ most richly compensated executives. And in our largest cities, the system offers lavish paychecks even to midlevel hospital managers, like the 14 administrators at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.

Sounds familiar.

Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.

This is a fascinating long read, set aside the time to digest it properly.

Fact Of The Day:  In WWII The US would have had their 3rd Nuclear weapon ready for use by Aug. 19 (4 days after Surrender). Their next target would have been Tokyo.

Quote Of The Day:  “Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.” –Ron Swanson

Video Of The Day:  After witnessing the annual cloud of smug that emanates from Oscar acceptance speeches, how about we go to the greatest acceptance speech of all time, from Mr. Rogers.

Song Of The Day: “Lucky You” – The National

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

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

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

The Morning Grumpy – 2/20/13

20 Feb

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

hammer_ice

1. You might want to check out the podcast I recorded yesterday with Brad Riter for Trending Buffalo about the cleave in America between dummies and smart people. I call it the US Weekly Cultural Divide.

2. If America is to again experience a truly shared prosperity, the enemy we need to defeat is “southernomics”.

Northernomics is the high-road strategy of building a flourishing national economy by means of government-business cooperation and government investment in R&D, infrastructure and education. 

Southernomics is radically different.  The purpose of the age-old economic development strategy of the Southern states has never been to allow them to compete with other states or countries on the basis of superior innovation or living standards.  Instead, for generations Southern economic policymakers have sought to secure a lucrative second-tier role for the South in the national and world economies, as a supplier of commodities like cotton and oil and gas and a source of cheap labor for footloose corporations.  This strategy of specializing in commodities and cheap labor is intended to enrich the Southern oligarchy.  It doesn’t enrich the majority of Southerners, white, black or brown, but it is not intended to.

The southern race to the economic bottom, in which workers rights are weakened and regulation rejected, is a national economic poison. The ironic piece of the story is how the southern states cut state spending to the bone on social programs and infrastructure, only to supplement with a massive annual influx of federal spending. Southern states receive way more in federal spending than they contribute in tax revenue. Yet, by and large, red state voters loathe the federal government.

3. Fun fact! The largest 0.2 percent of banks (just 12 institutions) control 69 percent of total bank assets in the United States.

banksizechart

Why worry, right? They’ve proven to be responsible stewards of our money in the past, right?

If you ask Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher, the solution to all these megabanks being “too big” is to make them smaller. Chop ’em up. Whittle ’em down. Or in the language that these megacorporations like to use in similar situations pertaining to their employees, “right-size” them.

In a speech last week, Fisher called America’s megabanks “overly complex.” According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, Fisher noted that “99.8 percent of the nation’s banks are subject to failure, which ensures that these smaller institutions limit their risk.” The nation’s 12 largest “megabanks,” in contrast, hold 69 percent of U.S. banking industry assets, and have been given a blanket guarantee that they’re too big to fail.

Fun Fact #2! Did you know that the financial sector sucks $635 billion every year out of the economy that could otherwise go to more productive uses. The more you know…

4. How to become Pope.

5. The chemistry of snowflakes.

Fact Of The Day: Hugo Boss was not only a supplier of uniforms to the Nazis, but was the designer of the black uniforms worn by the SS

Quote Of The Day: “Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” – Hubert Humphrey

Video Of The Day: “Hearing Test” – Godfrey

Song Of The Day: “Radio Free Europe” – R.E.M.

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

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

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

The Morning Grumpy – 2/19/13

19 Feb

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

 Tea party

1. Matt Taibbi breaks down the story of how HSBC Bank hooked up with terrorists and drug traffickers, laundered billions of criminal dollars, and got away with it.

For at least half a decade, the storied British colonial banking power helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, suspected in tens of thousands of murders just in the past 10 years – people so totally evil, jokes former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, that “they make the guys on Wall Street look good.” The bank also moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions; and, in between helping murderers and terrorists and rogue states, aided countless common tax cheats in hiding their cash.

“They violated every goddamn law in the book,” says Jack Blum, an attorney and former Senate investigator who headed a major bribery investigation against Lockheed in the 1970s that led to the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business.”

That nobody from the bank went to jail or paid a dollar in individual fines is nothing new in this era of financial crisis. What is different about this settlement is that the Justice Department, for the first time, admitted why it decided to go soft on this particular kind of criminal. It was worried that anything more than a wrist slap for HSBC might undermine the world economy. “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a press conference to announce the settlement, “HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

It was the dawn of a new era. In the years just after 9/11, even being breathed on by a suspected terrorist could land you in extralegal detention for the rest of your life. But now, when you’re Too Big to Jail, you can cop to laundering terrorist cash and violating the Trading With the Enemy Act, and not only will you not be prosecuted for it, but the government will go out of its way to make sure you won’t lose your license. Some on the Hill put it to me this way: OK, fine, no jail time, but they can’t even pull their charter? Are you kidding?

Decades from now, the refusal to prosecute, punish, or even sternly reprimand the banks and traders who nearly destroyed our economy and broke untold number of laws may well be the legacy of the Obama Administration. As Taibbi said in an “Ask Me Anything” session or “AMA” on Reddit.com,

“Again, to repeat, breaking up the banks is the big thing,” he typed to Reddit users. “That should be the Holy Grail of activist goals. Everything flows from the Too Big Too Fail problem. If that can be accomplished, we’re off and running.”

2. $7,000,000,000 was spent on the 2012 federal elections.

That’s how much candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits spent last year to influence races up and down the ballot. As Politico reported, Ellen Weintraub, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, announced the $7 billion figure this week. Candidates spent the bulk of the 2012 total, at $3.2 billion, while parties spent $2 billion and outside groups $2.1 billion.

Bill Moyers breaks it down.

And then for good measure, Moyers gives an example of how the money spent on these elections buys access and favor.

3. Turning a city into a startup. Interesting ideas from former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Q: You open your book with the 2011 election in Los Angeles when only 12 percent of registered voters went to the polls. How can you expect digital tools change that level of citizen apathy?

A: It is not just e-government and online efficiency. It is a new distribution of decision making, collaboration, active participation, and citizen engagement. A whole generation of folks who have grown up as digital natives are also the generation of choice, the participation generation. Their expectations of service are different than digital immigrants like myself, who are used to a professor student model, the broadcast model. You have to be customized not standardized. Half a billion people are spending time on online games. The typical young person spends more time each year on online games than in the classroom. How can we harness that energy, not just for Angry Birds but for a Citizenville app for democracy?

A good start is putting all government datasets online so third party developers can build nimble and more responsive citizen engagement tools.

4. America, the land of opportunity? Not as much as it used to be.

It’s not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.

This is what happens in a nation that refuses to modernize its education system or expand educational opportunities to those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse. In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted over the last few decades — and especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job.

When liberals tell you why income inequality and wealth concentration matter, this is what we’re talking about.

5. A comprehensive, completely unnecessary, and utterly fascinating legitimate data breakdown and analysis of American porn stars. Also, note that everyone in porn is called a “star”.

For the first time, a massive data set of 10,000 porn stars has been extracted from the world’s largest database of adult films and performers. I’ve spent the last six months analyzing it to discover the truth about what the average performer looks like, what they do on film, and how their role has evolved over the last forty years.

I was able to scrutinize adult performers in a way no man, despite regular attempts to do so, had ever managed before, and find out once and for all which stereotypes about porn stars are true, which are bogus, and what these men and women have been doing for the last forty years.

I don’t like infographics, I LOVE them and this article puts forward one of the most majestic sets of infographics I’ve seen, even though the topic is utterly frivolous. In a nation that spends over $13BN each year on porn (Utah being the home of the most frequent consumers), this is cool data.

Fact Of The Day:  John D. Rockefeller’s net worth, translated into today’s dollars, would be up to $663 billion, or almost 10x the worth of today’s richest man

Quote Of The Day:  “For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives.” – Franklin Roosevelt

Video Of The Day:  “Playing Golf” – Godfrey

Song Of The Day:  “Love Is The Drug” – Roxy Music

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

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

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

The Morning Grumpy – 2/18/13

18 Feb

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

dog_at_bar

1. When many Western New Yorkers think of “preservationists”, certain memes have become pervasive. They’re often called obstructionist busybodies who abhor progress, often times by writers here at Artvoice (including me). The reason for this? Because some are obstructionist busybodies who abhor progress, that’s why. And many of us are too intellectually lazy to credit the others for the good work they have done and continue to do. We simply paint them all with the same broad brush.

Often lacking the capital, will, or desire to get their hands dirty, to own the problems and lead by example, old school preservationists can get bogged down in bikeshedding and NIMBYism and sometimes miss the larger community issues at hand. However, a new breed of preservationists are emerging in Buffalo and they’re changing the game. In fact, they’re inspiring. They’re loosely organized under the umbrella term of “Buffalo’s Young Preservationists“, an energized group of young professionals and university students in the city and region.

Buffalo’s Young Preservationists (BYP) is an energized group of dedicated historic preservationists actively sharing our knowledge and passion for our region’s historic built environment. We are young professionals and university students in preservation and other related fields, such as architecture, planning, history, and the arts. BYP engages, educates, and mobilizes young people through preservation advocacy and action.

These people have put skin in the game and are hustling, organizing, fundraising, starting small development companies, and putting in the labor to save Buffalo’s architectural gems. Action is contagious and yesterday, Mike Puma, (a Project Manager at Preservation Studios and a writer for Buffalo Rising) led a team of 20 to winterize, secure, and stabilize the Sattler Theater on Broadway.

sattler

In December, they raised money and then worked with the property owner to help preserve the building before the damage becomes irreparable. They secured the assistance of Zee’s Property Services to pump nearly eight feet of water out of the basement, secured open entrances, boarded up windows, and are working with the owner to get a new roof put on the building this spring.

sattler2

Redefining the fight to save these buildings as economic progress rather than obstructionism is key to wider adoption of the preservation cause. Redefining what being a preservationist means is also key to changing minds and garnering broad-based support. Rather than scolding or chiding us for our disregard for these pieces or our past, BYP is celebrating the beauty found in them and showing us how to join the effort to save them. That’s why they’re changing the game.

2. How corporations and shadowy PR firms manipulate public opinion via hordes of paid bloggers and their echo chambers, drowning out legitimate discussion and poisoning US politics.

The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public.

Companies now use “persona management software”, which multiplies the efforts of each astroturfer, creating the impression that there’s major support for what a corporation or government is trying to do.

This software creates all the online furniture a real person would possess: a name, email accounts, web pages and social media. In other words, it automatically generates what look like authentic profiles, making it hard to tell the difference between a virtual robot and a real commentator.

A good example of astroturfing is found in the coordinated effort to malign a woman named Susan Crawford, whose book, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age has taken the telecom companies to task for purposely stifling Internet speeds and inflating costs.

If you look at this woman’s book reviews on Amazon.com, there is a mysterious spike of 1 star reviews. For the most part, these 1 star reviews are very detailed, with bullet points, trying to debunk the material in the book. A hatchet job by paid consultants, perhaps? It certainly seems that way when you dig into the history of these “reviewers” who seem to only comment on books about the telecom industry, have links to lobbying and PR firms, re-use the same talking points, and slam the authors. Everything is terrible.

3. President Obama has asked Congress to raise the Federal Minimum Wage from $7.25/hr to $9.00/hr and then indexing it to inflation. Why?

The first statement we can make without fear of contradiction is that, at $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage is pretty low. In nominal dollars, it’s gone up quite a bit over the past twenty-five years. In 1978, it was $2.65; in 1991, it was $4.25. But these figures don’t take into account rising prices, which eat away at purchasing power. After adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage is about $3.30 less than it was in 1968. Back then—forty-five years ago—the minimum wage was $10.56 an hour, according to a very useful chart from CNNMoney.

The rest of the story informs why reporters shouldn’t simply throw up their hands and say “Who knows?” when it comes to the issue of whether or not minimum wage increases help or hurt the economy.

A second important and (largely) undisputed finding is that there is no obvious link between the minimum wage and the unemployment rate.

The national debate on issues of import like this are damaged when reporters fail to explore the depth of information on the subject at hand. Let’s be smarter.

4. Meet the guy who I think is America’s best reporter, Charlie LeDuff, a Pulitzer Prize winner who is now reinventing city beat reporting in Detroit. He tells non-traditional stories about Detroit in a way that is incredibly “of the moment” and “of the place”.

He’s the author of a new book called Detroit: An America Autopsy. Here’s the scoop on the book from NPR.

For some, Detroit may be a symbol of urban decay; but to Charlie LeDuff, it’s home. LeDuff, a veteran print and TV journalist who spent 12 years at The New York Times, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, returned home to the city after the birth of his daughter left him and his wife — also a Detroit native — wanting to be closer to family.

The city he returned to, however, was dramatically different from the one he had left 20 years earlier. “It was empty,” he tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “It wasn’t scary. It was sort of like, in many respects, living in Chernobyl in some neighborhoods. … I looked and I thought to myself one day: What happened here? What happened?”

He explores that question in his new book, Detroit: An American Autopsy, which, he says, “is dedicated to those of us who live here in the industrial Midwest, specifically Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs. We’re still here trying to reconstruct the great thing we once had.”

“I don’t mean that as an anthem to a dead city, but it’s almost there,” he says. “Everybody asks me, ‘What’s the future here?’ and I say, ‘We have auto companies. We have the biggest trade corridor on the continent with Canada. We have all the freshwater in the world. We have great hospitals and the tech center. We are well-positioned, but none of that is going to flower until we weed the garden today of people like [former city councilwoman] Monica Conyers and these sludge contracts, and all the cheating and robbing and killing. Forget the future. Focus on the present. And if we don’t, then, yes, we will completely be dead.”

Sound familiar? There is a shared tragedy between Buffalo and Detroit and in some way, we’re the story of America. Documenting the decline and destruction of these great American cities is necessary to plan for their possible re-emergence. Listen to the full Fresh Air interview.

5. The deficit chart that should embarrass deficit hawks.

Here’s a pretty important fact that virtually everyone in Washington seems oblivious to: The federal deficit has never fallen as fast as it’s falling now without a coincident recession

deficit_reduction

The deficit is expected to fall faster in 2013 than at any time in the last 60 years and with that sort of austerity usually comes recessions. See: Europe 2008-2013. Also, see the current analysis from the Congressional Budget Office that austerity and Washington’s “deficit obsession” has hurt the economy.

Fact Of The Day: Printed dates on food are not required by the FDA and are not intended to mean food safety, only quality. An avg family of 4 throws out 1,344 lbs of perfectly good food each year because of the misconception of the meaning of these dates

Quote Of The Day: “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” – Hubert Humphrey

Video Of The Day: “African” – Godfrey

Song Of The Day: “Frozen Love” – Buckingham Nicks

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

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

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