Archive | March, 2013

The Morning Grumpy – 3/20/13

20 Mar

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

donnie_marie

1. Yahoo! plans to expand their datacenter operations in Lockport, potentially adding 115 jobs. Of course, they want additional tax credits in order to do so, $2MM worth, actually.

The Yahoo incentives package also calls for the company to receive 7.2 megawatts of low-cost hydropower from the Power Authority, according to the Cuomo administration. The Power Authority’s board of trustees is expected to vote Thursday on that allocation.

And Yahoo would receive up to $2 million in Excelsior tax credits through Empire State Development over a 10-year period to advance the company’s expansion plans.

As a reminder, Jim Heaney did the math on the original incentives given to Yahoo! as they built out the datacenter and it was startling.

New York State would be spending roughly $1.35MM per job created or $90,000 per job, per year.

With such a massive incentive package, this development proposal should be paired with a regional planning strategy to attract other companies active in the datacenter vertical to help build an industry center and broaden our tax base. Sadly, that hasn’t happened.

When the Yahoo project was originally announced, I broke down how other regions plan for this industry and how regional benefits can be derived and it’s still relevant. Check it out.

2. On an illegally wiretapped recording, President Lyndon B. Johnson caught Richard Nixon prolonging the Vietnam War to win the 1968 presidential election; over 15,000 more Americans were killed in Vietnam.

3. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Here is a a timeline of how we were dragged into Iraq, lie by lie. Also, it’s important to look back onwhat we were told in the run-up to the war; that it would probably only cost between $50-60BN, and to look back on how complicit the media was in not thoroughly vetting the case for war. Oh, by the way, next time you want to blame our national debt on President Obama’s mythical “out-of-control spending“, remember this chart.

cost_of_war

4. SXSW has been releasing tracks from the acts playing during the festival since 2005. This year, 7.39 gigs of music were released through a DRM- free torrent — that’s 1,210 tracks from as many different acts. The song of the day by Emily Bell was culled from this torrent, it’s an awesome collection of unsigned acts. Check it out.

5.  From 1987 to 2008, corporations paid an average of 22.5 percent in federal taxes. Since the recession, this has dropped to 10 percent — even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years.

General Electric: The  worst tax record over five years, with $81 billion in profits and a $3 billion refund.

Boeing: In addition to receiving a refund despite $21.5 billion in profits, the company ranked high in  job cuttingunderfunded pensions, and contractor misconduct.

I thought lower taxes on these corporations would mean more jobs?

6. Meanwhile…America’s infrastructure is in dire need of upgrading. This is a problem that needs to be fixed now rather than later.

Fact Of The Day: The World Health Organization classifies tanning beds as a Level 1 carcinogen, the same as plutonium and cigarettes.

Quote Of The Day: “Americans… still believe in an America where anything’s possible – they just don’t think their leaders do.” – Barack Obama

Video Of The Day: “The Known Universe” – Hans Zimmer

Song Of The Day: “Back To The Way I Was” – Emily Bell

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

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Obama, Satan, and Spelling

19 Mar

Ha ha! A tee vee show about a 2,000 year-old work of fiction hired a Moroccan actor to play a fictional bad guy, and he looks sort of like President Obama! Let’s talk about this! This is important business! Can you imagine? The devil looks like Obama! Well, more accurately – the guy the producers hired to play the “devil” resembles President Obama.

This must be important because even WBEN is talking about it! And the comments from people who are apparently not at all embarrassed to use their own names are predictably ignorant and hateful. Also, spelling. 

 

Get me out of here. 

Smart, but Fee-Fees

19 Mar

Shorter Buffalo News “influential people” profile of County Executive Mark Poloncarz: he’s excellent at his job and a hard worker, but some anonyms and tea party legislators don’t find him to be warm and fuzzy enough for their own needs. 

I mean, seriously. If Joe Lorigo writes some pablum for the Bee, good on Mark for fisking it. 

The 2013 Undy 5000

15 Mar

I seldom write about my personal life, and when I do I keep it as vague and general as possible. You’ll forgive me for making an exception today, but it has to do not with me, but with all of you. 

Back in October, my wife’s gynecologist Dr. Judith Ortman-Nabi advised her to undergo a colonoscopy due to a significant family history of colon cancer. Usually, people aren’t prescribed colonoscopies until the age of 50, which we haven’t yet reached. She went to the endoscopy center on Maple near Millersport. It wasn’t an uncomfortable procedure, but the sedation knocks you out for a day. Bad news – they found a polyp; devastating news – it was cancerous.

That commenced a particularly scary and difficult time. We had to find an oncologist. We had to find a surgeon. My wife returned to the endoscopy clinic, where they tattooed the area so a future surgeon would know from where the polyp had been removed. The area “looked clean” but we didn’t want to take the chance that it hadn’t all been caught. We were exceedingly lucky to discover Dr. Timothy Adams, a talented, young, and friendly surgeon who performs laparoscopically-assisted colon resection surgeries. 

In mid-November, my wife underwent a successful resection surgery and we were overjoyed to find out that the section removed contained no cancer, and the bundle of lymph nodes that were removed along with it showed that the cancer had not spread. We had found it early – had we waited another year or until we were 50, the result would have been tragically different. Just this week, her oncologist, Dr. Frederick Hong, confirmed that all her bloodwork was normal. 

Catching this early was the difference between a full and curative recovery, and something far worse. Just this week, Simpson’s co-creator Sam Simon revealed that he was diagnosed with colon cancer, but he hadn’t caught it in time.  It had metastasized throughout his body, and he is told that he has months to live

I am writing this because my wife is now committed to helping raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  On April 27th the 2013 Buffalo “Undy 5000” will be run in Delaware Park, and she and my older daughter will take part. She is raising money for colon cancer research via this page, and if I’ve ever made you think, laugh, or angry via this blog, I humbly ask you to donate whatever you can – however small. Your donation is 100% tax deductible. If you don’t or can’t, I understand, but I urge you to take colon cancer seriously. If caught early through a colonoscopy, it could be the difference between life and death. Here’s where the money that’s raised will go – to advocate, to promote and to expand access to screening, to educate, and for cancer research. 

Every day is a gift. Thanks for reading and for considering this. 

The Morning Grumpy – 3/15/13

15 Mar

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

NOOO

1. A Buffalo doctor has made big money from drug companies since 2009, according to research from ProPublica. Speaking and consulting for drug companies is a very lucrative business for practicing doctors.

Sanjay Gupta

Location: Buffalo, N.Y.

Board Certification: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Medical School: University of Delhi, Class of 1984

Amount: $515,329

Companies: AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Forest, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis

Sanjay Gupta is a clinical professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University, where he completed his residency, as well as at SUNY at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was formerly president of Global Research & Consulting, Inc.

The amount listed is for speaking and consulting only; compensation for travel, meals, research and other categories is excluded. The disclosures include payments to doctors dating back to 2009 for many drug companies, though others do not go back as far. 

2. In case you missed it, New York’s Department of Labor released statewide unemployment numbers this week and the results are pretty grim.

Between December and January, New York unemployment rate rose from 8.2 percent to 8.4 percent.The national average was 7.9 percent.

In January, 35 counties had unemployment rates above 10 percent, compared to 25 that did so in January 2012, the labor statistics show. The highest rate was in the Bronx at 13.4 percent. Other top unemployment rates were in rural counties, such as 12.7 percent in Oswego County and 12.4 percent in Orleans County.

Buffalo-Niagara Falls posted an unemployment rate of 9.6% last month, an increase from a rate of 9.1% in January 2012. Specifically, Erie County is at a 9.3% rate of unemployment as compared to 8.9% last year.

3. The largest banks in the United States face a serious political problem. There has been an outbreak of clear thinking among officials and politicians who increasingly agree that too-big-to-fail is not a good arrangement for the financial sector

4. The history of the steamship suggests the car’s replacement probably exists—we just don’t recognize it yet.

5. Gabriele Galimberti takes photos of kids with their most prized possessions. Fascinating.

6. JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, ignored internal controls and manipulated documents as it racked up trading losses last year, while its chief executive Jamie Dimon withheld some information from regulators, a new Senate report says.

7. Senator Sherrod Brown (D, OH) is taking on the big banks.  He is introducing legislation, co-sponsored by Senator David “Diapers” Vitter (R, LA), to break up a half-dozen mega-banks, setting a hard cap on their size.

8. This is what happens when Planned Parenthood is defunded. In Texas, where dozens of clinics have shut down, nearly 200,000 women are now in search of affordable health care.

9. MIT students design a nuclear reactor using nuclear waste as fuel which could conceivably power the entire world for 72 years.

Fact Of The Day: Every December 25th a town in Peru celebrates “Takanakuy”. Men, women, and children settle grudges with fistfights. Then everyone goes drinking together, ready to start the new year with a clean slate.  We need to start celebrating this holiday in Buffalo.

Quote Of The Day: “There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.” – Bertrand Russell

Video Of The Day: “I Love My Penis” – Mitch Fatel

Song Of The Day:  “Invisible” – Steve Earle

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

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Bashar al-Issa Convicted of Tax Fraud in the UK

14 Mar

From the Glasgow Daily Record, we learn that,

LOOSE Women star Andrea McLean was offered a big movie break – and became an unwitting pawn in a multi-million tax scam.

The Scots former weathergirl was cast as a bisexual therapist in gritty gangster film A Landscape of Lies.

But she was unaware the production – which also featured equally unsuspecting former EastEnder Marc Bannerman – was being hastily shot to get the taxman off the conmen producers’ trail.

The fraudsters, fronted by redheaded actress Aiofe Madden, 31, had told the tax authorities her company, Evolved Pictures, were making a £20million film.

They hoped to claim £2.8million in tax credits and VAT repayments and had raked in £1million in tax credits before HMRC swooped and arrested them.

Then, in a farcical attempt to cover their tracks, they hastily recruited an unsuspecting crew and cast and shot their film in four months.

But the shoestring effort they produced for just £100,000 bore no relation to the ambitious plans they had submitted – and the taxmen saw through the ruse.

Yesterday, at Southwark Crown Court in London, bankrupt Iraqi building company boss Bashar Al-Issa, 33, was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

His accomplices Tariq Hassan, 51, Osama Al-Baghdady, 50, and Ian Sherwood, 53, were each found guilty of a single count of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

Mr. Issa came to Buffalo in a flourish several years ago, buying the Statler Towers and pledging to restore them to their former grandeur. He sought no public money and was greeted as a hero. He pledged that he would build the tallest skyscraper in Buffalo just off Niagara Square, and proposed an underground parking garage under the square to accommodate visitors’ parking needs. He even promised that a speedboat he bought would be available for the use of Statler guests and residents. 

Having renovated an elevator or two, he left town, selling the property at a loss in a flurry of litigation and bankruptcy filings, and his entire phony empire crumbled quickly around him

The Morning Grumpy – 3/14/13

14 Mar

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

Christopher-Hitchens1

1. Meet Scott Prouty, the man who essentially ended Mitt Romney’s Presidential hopes and dreams by releasing the infamous “47 Percent” video.

2. Last week, Graham Hill, noted founder of TreeHugger.com and popular TED speaker, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled “Living With Less. A Lot Less.“. Many people have embraced his message of reducing consumption and living a simpler life. That annoying friend on Facebook who is always linking to haughty TED talks probably shared the article with you and told you it was a “must read“. But, let’s cut through this guy’s incredible cloud of smug.

For the past few days, one of the most popular stories on the New York Times website has been Graham Hill’s op-ed “Living With Less. A Lot Less.” In a majestic display of guileless narcissism, Hill, an Internet multimillionaire, congratulates himself for downsizing his life and getting rid of all the stuff—the homes and cars and gadgets and sectional sofas and $300 sunglasses—he accumulated over the past decade. Now he lives in a 420-square-foot studio and has only six dress shirts and “10 shallow bowls” that he uses “for salads and main dishes.” Imagine that. Eating off the same plate. Twice. In one meal.

There are too many phrases to mock (“Olga, an Andorran beauty”; “My space is small. My life is big.”), and the Internet has already done a great job pointing out how obnoxious it is for a multimillionaire to hold himself up as a model of moderation when so many Americans are being forcibly downsized from already cramped lives.

Americans are not going broke buying clothes, books, music, furniture, cars, appliances and other consumer goods. Rampant consumer spending is not the source of their increasingly precarious lives.

So where did the money go? Two words: education and healthcare. The share of the average household budget devoted to education grew by 22 percent between 1999 and 2010, for healthcare by almost 17 percent.

I hate condescending tree huggers.

3. Barack Obama promised transparency: The White House is as opaque, secretive, and hostile to open government as George Bush’s administration.

4. Eleven heinous lies that conservatives are teaching America’s schoolchildren.

5. The Militarization of Policing in America

Fact Of The Day: In the 1970s, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis I) hid some of the Argentine military dictatorship’s political prisoners from a human rights watch group. The military routinely executed political prisoners by throwing them from an airplane into a river and sold their orphaned kids.  But, at least this pope isn’t a former Nazi, so the church has that going for it, which is nice.

Quote Of The Day: “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson

Video Of The Day: “My Favorite Pal” – Mitch Fatel

Song Of The Day: “Under Cover of Darkness” – The Strokes

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

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Ruse de Guerre

14 Mar

Mike Blake alleges in his blog that a source has revealed to him that the threatening texts he received didn’t come from “friends” of WBEN’s deranged, conspiratorial zookeeper. They came from the zookeeper himself. It’d be funny if it wasn’t downright pathetic. Also, this:

Smoke

14 Mar

This past weekend, New York City Council Chairwoman Christine Quinn announced her candidacy for mayor. If she wins, she would be the city’s first female mayor, and first out gay mayor. 

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Assemblyman Steve Katz on the Bills Stadium

13 Mar

The next time you get all parochial and upset about something that’s happening in some other part of the state, and think to yourself, “why should we pay for that?” consider this.

Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) represents the 94th Assembly District, and is a Republican representing extreme northern Westchester and part of Putnam Counties. (He happens to be my parents’ Assemblyman). When confronted with a bill to send $60 million in state funds to renovate Ralph Wilson stadium, he said,

Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Herman Farrell, Jr., (D-Washington Heights) the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, brought up the examples of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn and the Jets and Giants playing in New Jersey. A Democrat from Manhattan defending your hobby fandom against a Republican from the rural New York exurbs? Consider that, Buffalo.