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The Morning Grumpy – 10/29/12

29 Oct

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


1. Buffalo Startup Weekend is happening Novermber16-18 at Medaille College. Oh, you don’t know what that is? Let me fill you in.

Startup Weekend is a global movement of active entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of creating and launching successful startups. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs.

The nonprofit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, but organizers and facilitators of Startup Weekend can be found in hundreds of cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa, London to Brazil, people around the world gather for a weekend to present ideas, form teams and start companies.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups

Remember when I said the Z80 Incubator Lab was going to be a big deal? Events like these wouldn’t be happening without the inspiration they’ve provided. There are a litany of talented professionals and sponsors who are working together to provide mentorship to young entrepreneurs and connect them with capital. It is exactly what we need in order to rebuild the economic engine of this city and region.

I’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks (I’ve been asked to serve as a mentor during the event) and I’ll also invite the organizers on to my twice weekly podcast with Brad Riter at Trending Buffalo to discuss  the event further. In the interim, if you’d like to join in on Startup Weekend (especially if you have some coding/design talent), click here to sign up. Spread the word at your local offices and let’s make this a thing.

2. Mitt Romney gave a speech in Ohio, in which he claimed that Jeep was moving all of its operations to China. Mitt lied. The CEO of Chrysler strongly denied it, and every single independent fact checking news organization in the country proved that Mitt lied. So, what does he do? He launches a political ad in which he recycles the lie.

Politics is a dirty business and campaigns often spin the facts to get a better angle. But, flat out lies in national advertisements? A complete dismissal of the facts? This is a first and it’s dangerous. What a horrific candidate.

3. If you want a well-researched story on Republican efforts to suppress the vote, you have to look outside the American media.

“I think we quite likely are in a different period, where an issue that seemed to be settled by 1970 is unsettled again,” Keyssar told me. “I don’t think anyone is going to propose that we impose a property restriction, or impose racial restrictions, but I think there is certainly conflict over any measures that would try to guarantee or procedures that would guarantee that the law be made a reality.” 

In short, if disenfranchising specific groups of voters is politically unacceptable, other means to the same end are now popular. “The distinction between voter suppression and voter disfranchisement is that disfranchisement is what you do when you can actually pass laws that will keep a particular group from voting,” Keyssar said. 

“Voter suppression is what you do when you really would like to do that, but politically, you can’t disfranchise, but you can put obstacles in the way, and thus reduce the participation of particular groups.” 

The evidence of such voter-suppression is overwhelming, most notably in the form of dozens of laws creating just such obstacles. A tidal wave of state laws have been proposed to counter this non-existent problem, ever since the 2010 mid-term elections, when Republicans won the largest number of state legislative seats they’ve ever held since 1928. 

Accord to the Brennan Centre for Justice, since the mid-term elections:

41 states introduced 180 restrictive laws;
34 states introduced photo ID laws;
17 states introduced proof of citizenship requirements;
16 states introduced bills to limit registration;
9 states introduced bills to reduce early voting periods.

Why doesn’t anyone care? Also, as a reminder, UFO sightings are more common than instances of voter fraud.

4. Understanding debt and deficits with an added bonus high-level overview of Keynesian economics. A nice video for dummies. If you are not a dummy, you know there is nuance, so spare me. This is a 100 level course for people in Sloan and Oklahoma.

5. The progressive case against President Obama.

So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama.

The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpusand labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn’t fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what’s best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.

This article illustrates two points. First, the “liberals” and “progressives” you see on network news and cable pundit circlejerks are not actually liberals. Democracy Now! is one of the few outlets which promotes a consistent left wing agenda and the movement is populated by voices like Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Thom Hartmann. These outlets and voices are found outside what Jay Rosen calls the “sphere of consensus or legitimate controversy“, so you don’t get to see them on CNN. Meanwhile, centrist murmurers like David Gergen and faux leftists like Fareed Zakaria get to take up a lot of screen time.

Image From Daniel Hallin’s book, “The Uncensored War”

Second, this is interesting because progressives are often put in a position of defending Obama’s centrist/center right policies from the right itself. They claim he’s a socialist, a liberal, a man out to lead our country to the fringe of the left and a large number of Americans believe those claims. Progressives know better and it sucks to have to defend him in this way when all I want is for him to be the guy the right claims he is.

Fact Of The Day: 83 years ago, the stock market crashed as America plunged into the Great Depression.

Quote Of The Day: “There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury in 1929

Springsteen Of The Day: “The Promised Land” – Live in Barcelona

Song Of The Day: “Hurricane” – Bob Dylan

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