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The Morning Grumpy – 4/27/12

27 Apr

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


1. Presented without comment as I’d rather the video speak for itself. Carl Paladino meets members of the #Occupy movement.

2. Is Buffalo interested in stimulating business? Increasing government transparency? Utilizing the power of the private sector and our universities to make the city a better place to live? If so, they should follow the lead of municipalities across the country that are taking part in the “Open Data” movement. What is open data? It’s the idea that municipal data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other control.

The data created,collected, and stored by city government should be made available to the public for analysis, manipulation, and development. It’s data about us and the city we pay for with our tax dollars. It belongs to the community and the City of Philadelphia is the latest city to adopt the concept of transparent open data.

Philadelphia may soon have an opportunity to compare notes with other cities that have pursued open data platforms around the United States, including San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston and New York City. NYC has set up a wiki to help implement its landmark open data legislation, an example that Philadelphians might draw inspiration from, with respect to forming more collaborative and transparent processes online.

There’s much to like in this executive order, for open data advocates, but one phrase in particular jumps out: “Each City department and agency shall develop a schedule for making information available to the public and updating it on a regular basis.”

It’s important that data not just be released, but also subsequently updated. Information released usually covers the gamut of municipal data, including; crime statistics, emergency services response times, payroll, utility consumption, public transportation information, school attendance/enrollment stats, parking regulations, etc. This data can then be manipulated and analyzed by the community for greater accountability. It also provides a rich dataset for startup entrepreneurs to use as they develop technologies and applications for the market.

All of this is quite unlikely in the city, but with data nerd and technocrat Mark Poloncarz in the Erie County Executive’s office, perhaps we can start there.

3. There is only one issue in America, campaign finance reform. Namely, publicly financed elections. Without reform, we cannot expect that our elected officials can or will sensibly address the issues that affect us. The pernicious influence of corporate money in our politics makes the creation of legislation a distant second priority for legislators who wish to be elected or re-elected.

Some who believe this are, like me, on the left, and see every issue that we care about — from financial reform, to climate change, to health-care reform, to sensible Internet policy — blocked by the corrupting influence of money.

Some who believe this are on the right, and see every issue that they care about — from financial reform, to a smaller government, to simpler taxes, to the end of crony capitalism — blocked by the corrupting influence of money.

The problem of money (and the corrupting influence of it) in politics has never been more stark or more dire.

The nature of campaign spending in the two elections since Citizens United has changed American politics fundamentally. After this election, that change will seem normal. The idea that 196 Americans — the .0000063 percent — can contribute close to 80 percent of super PAC expenditures will seem ordinary. The tiniest slice of the 1 percent will then gladly accept the role of funding America’s elections, in exchange for the continued acquiescence by the rest of us — acquiescence in its dominant role in American politics, and because that role has been privately, not publicly focused, the continued plundering of our children’s futures.

If we let this issue go unremarked now, we could well pass a point of no return. The new normal is too profitable for those who control our government. Lobbyists can now promise clients triple digit returns on lobbying investments — what rational CEO would invest in a better mousetrap when more lobbyists on Capitol Hill promise more profit? And when the average salary increase for moving from the Hill to K St. is 1,452 percent, what rational congressperson is going to make it her cause to end the corruption that is this system?

Is there an opportunity to change this, even without the unlikely campaign finance reform we so desperately need? Perhaps, says Lawrence Lessig.

For the first time in modern history, there will be a candidate on every presidential ballot in November who is not the nominee of either major party. That candidate will have been selected by voters from across the country who register at, become delegates, and who reveal, through a series of questions, their own position on a wide range of issues. Those delegates will then narrow the field of possible candidates through a series of online caucuses. The final six nominees will then select a Vice President not from his or her party. Those six then continue to an online convention which, through online caucuses, will select the Americans Elect nominee.

Lessig goes on to address the concerns and conspiracies around this organization, but I think the concept is valid and this open online caucus system is worth engaging. You can sign up for AmericansElect, regardless of party and it will not change your voting choices in November or change your party affiliation. Check it out and let me know what you think. There are serious and unserious candidates involved – much like in any primary election – but this is as Lessig states, might be the last best chance we have for campaign finance reform.

4. If Mitt Romney were elected President and were able to repeal Obamacare, 30,000,000 people would lose their health insurance and he has no plan to ensure they get replacement coverage.

Do the Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have an alternative plan that would significantly improve access to health care? Nope.

Do they have a plan that would make quality health insurance less expensive for people who aren’t young and healthy? Nope.

Are they pretending they do? Yup.

Solid campaign plank, eh? I think Romney’s new campaign slogan should be, “Because, Fuck You, that’s why. I got mine.”

5. Liberal media? Boy, I wish. A new study from the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU found that usage of the phrase “job-killing regulation” in newspapers has increased 17,550% between 2007 and 2011.

Claims that regulations have a significant impact on American employment call for careful scrutiny. Because they are repeated so often, the idea that regulations “kill jobs” can start to sound true, or at least “truthy.”  But when you scratch the surface of these claims, too often they are based more on ideology than sound methodology.

Some of the most heated rhetoric in this debate can give the impression that regulations are creating a widespread jobs crisis and that the economy would be thriving were it not for President Obama’s environmental protection agenda.  But what are all these claims linking negative job effects to regulation based on?  In the scrum of politics it is often not clear: sometimes no analysis is cited, no data is included, no supporting documents are attached.

We need more journalists and fewer “reporters/stenographers” in our media. But, with lower revenues and profit margins in our news industry, we get what organizations can afford. Unfortunately, that means fewer Brian Meyers and Jim Heaneys in our newsrooms and a lower quality “obtainable version of the truth“.

Fact Of The Day: The United States has 5% of the worlds population and nearly a quarter of all the worlds prisoners

Quote Of The Day: “Truly free people do not need to be told they are free.” – Jacque Fresco

Video Of The Day: “A Scientist Visits The Creation Museum”

Cartoon Of The Day: “The Two Musketeers” – Tom & Jerry

Song Of The Day: “Hercules” – Elton John

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