Tag Archives: Activism

The Tyranny of the Economists

19 Oct

The economists have won. Often called “the miserable science” by those who study it, economics has cleared all its foes from the Field of Popular Ideas. Is it any wonder we’re all so glum?

I’m not sure what championship date to put on the trophy, but I’m ready to award it after the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests, a movement that uses economic strata as its prime rhetorical conceit. That “money” is a popular subject is not surprising, especially now that we are in the middle of a seemingly unending recession. But money and economics is our favorite subject in good times as well, now to a near monopoly (pun intended) of public discourse, overwhelming our conversations about other things our society claims we love. Can you talk about hockey without the salary cap, the NFL without big vs small market teams, or movies without their revenue on opening weekend? The consumer motif pervades, from internet content to good government to healthcare reform to school-choice in education. The traction-gaining Libertarian movement extols us to see our daily interactions and relationships as simply mutually beneficial economic exchanges. Politics is about campaign finance reform and Buffalo architecture is about drawing tourism dollars. The business and economic side of every endeavor dominates.

Part of this is obviously harmless shorthand. Calling something a $100 million movie or $250,000 house is a convenient way to quickly express how popular or large something is. But words matter, especially when used so often and exclusively that the shorthand becomes the reality. We have very few discussions anymore about what government programs do, just how much they cost (see: the last year of Washington budget debates). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently appeared before a Congressional subcommittee to discuss $450 billion in cuts over ten years. As far as I can tell, the talk was almost exclusively about the dollar figure, and not specific weapon systems, readiness, or the current missions of the armed forces. The arts funding debate in Erie County was never a comparison of the relative merits of the art/architecture/science draw of any particular museum or theater. To the arts proponents it was about funding cuts, and to County Executive Collins it was about attracting tourists. 

Economics has its place, but not every place. We don’t seem to collectively spend a lot of time on liberty or fraternity or art or astrophysics. . . at least, not without discussing their economic implications. We talk about market forces. We talk about tax incentives. We’ve traded Sagan for Krugman. The brightest minds of the last two generations are focused on how to make money from buying and selling money, wealth creation above all.

I can think of few segments or endeavors in American society not smothered with a business blanket. Perhaps the most mainstream unencumbered trend is the food movement, in all of its slow, local, heritage and organic forms. And while hardly a foodie myself, I can respect that I rarely hear how expensive a food item is in relation to how good it tastes or how healthy it is for you; the $7 steak is the land of gimmicky 1970’s Las Vegas promotions. That the foodiest amongst us often have the personal wealth to not worry about how much extra the foie gras topping costs on their $25 burger is perhaps part of the reason why.   

What is undeniable is that the two largest political movements today, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, are both fundamentally about money. The Tea Party is focused on the government’s: taxes and debt. Occupy Wall Street is skipping the bankrupt government and is heading right to the source, seeking it in the only place it seems to remain. The Tea Party wants to keep the money they have, Occupy Wall Street wants the opportunity (read: money) they feel they were promised. In a former age, veterans marched on Washington for their bonus check. Note how the balance of power has shifted to the unelected corporation; economics has won.

It’s Occupy Wall Street’s focus on the lost opportunity that makes me perk my ears up. There are many reasons occupiers are piling up in town squares across the country. How could there not be for a movement that claims to represent 99% of the population? But one consistent theme is the fundamental unfairness of the “system.” Last Friday’s On Point program discussed the rise of for-profit colleges, the University of Phoenix being only the most well known. This $25 billion industry (see, I did it too), of which $23 billion comes from federal Pell grants and loans, sells the dream that the younger Occupy Wall Streeters are so disillusioned by. The story I keep hearing goes something like this: my parents and high school guidance counselor told me that if I went to college I could get a job. So I went to college, and took out huge loans, and now I’m unemployed. You guys screwed me. I’m the 99%.

Ignore for a moment that the parents and high school guidance counselors were basically right: the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is 5.4%, versus 10.3% for those with a high school diploma. Instead, just note the tone, how different today’s rhetoric feels compared to the Civil Rights Movement of a near half century ago. I try to refrain from ideology, but I am guilty of this excess: I thought college was for thinking. Put enough smart thinking people together on a college campus in the 1960’s and ’70’s, and large political reform movements were born. And while economic opportunity was certainly part of the fight against racial and gender discrimination, so were voting rights, education, and our basic societal norms and relationships. Are colleges now simply glorified job placement centers?

That we waste college on the young is not a new thought, and fully exploring the topic of higher education reform would require another article on another day. But if economics has won, and college is just about a job, then its time our education system reflected that. Use Germany as a model, and start sorting out children to technical roles and middle management careers in grade school. Triple the size of the community colleges, and make business, accounting, marketing a such programs a two year stint. Suspend President Obama’s call for the United States to lead the world in bachelor degree rates (we’re currently at about 40%), and let only the history and philosophy majors take out $30,000/year loans to learn about Kant. The rest don’t need it, and we could reduce our collective debt load by eliminating loans for years of schooling obviously few care about.

If our most recent graduates don’t feel their understanding of the history of western civilization justifies their loan burden, then let’s save the liberal arts for the Great Courses series. Let’s transform college into a leisure pursuit of the wealthy middle aged. It’s the logical reform to match the goals of those in the system who feel like they have been most let down. Who feel disenfranchised and lied to enough to occupy public parks around the country and demand the opportunity they were promised. College is a mutually beneficial economic interaction, and the system has failed our recent graduates, members of the Millennial Generation, lauded as the most optimistic and idealistic yet. They have made their demands, and it is this: “You said we would have jobs and buy a house. Give me a job.”  Economics has won.

#BuffCashMob Nominations Now Open

17 Aug


Last week, Village Beer Merchant was the beneficiary of our #BuffCashMob to the tune of $600 and visits from dozens of new customers. It wasn’t as big a turnout as we had for the first week and based on feedback I’ve received from many of you, we’ll be making some changes.

You told us, we listened. This next round of #BuffCashMob will feature something other than a purveyor of the devil sauce. The votes from the readers determine where we mob, but we’ll try and get to a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore or retailer; so make your nominations accordingly.

We’ll also be adding a media partner and a few local business organizations to the effort to expand the circle of influence, an announcement is forthcoming.

Most importantly, while this effort was intended to inject some cash and introduce new customers to locally owned businesses, it’s still a tough economy. Asking our readers, friends and extended network to pony up $10 per week for the effort may be a little too much for local wallets. So, the Buffalo Cash Mob will now happen fortnightly (once every two weeks for the readers in Depew).

Going forward, we’ll accept nominations for a full week, announce the winner the following Monday and profile the business throughout that week as we lead up to the #BuffCashMob event. The intent is to increase attendance, provide some marketing support to the local business and allow you people to save your pennies for the event.

So, lets open up the nominations for next week’s event. As I wrote earlier, let’s try and keep it non-alcoholic.


#BuffCashMob To Village Beer Merchant

11 Aug

You voted, we listened and the winner of this week’s #BuffCashMob is The Village Beer Merchant! If you have no idea what the Buffalo Cash Mob is, click here to find out and then click here to see how the first Cash Mob went last week at City Wine Merchant. Or read the story in The Buffalo News.


Located at 547 Elmwood Avenue, Village Beer Merchant (VBM) is the most unique and complete gourmet food and specialty beer one stop-shopping store in the City of Buffalo.

You can buy the beer in bottles, make your own six-pack, or fill up a growler of beer from their wall of taps.

While VBM offers more than 1,200 craft and import beers, it is much more than just a beer store. VBM’s extensive selection of gourmet products and foods, from Stonewall kitchen products to Belgian chocolates, will help you liven up any meal and inspire new culinary ideas. At VBM you can also find fine cheeses, assorted imported meats and olives, along with toppings, spreads and crackers.

Join us this Friday between 5-7PM to show the love to a local business that made an investment in our community by spending a minimum of $10 on their products. Lets keep it local and support our entrepreneurs!


Beers On Tap are always being replaced once a keg is finished. Please call ahead to insure availability of your favorite beer On Tap.
While we hope to have the below selections available when you arrive at The Village Beer Merchant, we cannot promise that a keg won’t run dry before you get here.  We rarely put the same beer on tap once a keg has kicked. We apologize if one of the listed beers is gone when you get here.  Be sure to call and double check for current listings!

Beers On Tap as of Saturday 08.06.11

01. Sierra Nevada Summerfest
02. 3 Heads Ontario Coast IPA
03. Flying Bison ESB
04. DeKoninck Belgian Amber
05. Ellicottville Black Hops
06. Flying Bison Buffalo Lager
07. Wolavers Wildflower Wheat
08. Abita Satsuma Wit
09. Original Sin Vermont Cider
10. Sam Adams Latitude 48 (Simcoe single-hop version)
11. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
12. Otter Creek Summer Pale Ale
13. Victory Sunrise Weisse
14. Sam Adams Imperial White
15. Lake Placid Ubu Ale
16. Southern Tier Farmer’s Tan Imperial Lager
17. Southern Tier Hop Sun
18. Sam Adams East/West Kolsch
19. Flying Bison Aviator Red
20. Flying Bison Cascade Hop Lemonade (N/A)

The Village Beer Merchant on Beer Advocate

Village Beer Merchant on Yelp

Village Beer Merchant on BuffaloBarfly

Click here for directions to the Village Beer Merchant.


#BuffCashMob Nominations Now Open

9 Aug

Last week, we held the first Buffalo Cash Mob at the City Wine Merchant. You may have read about it here, on Twitter, Facebook or seen the story in The Buffalo News. Here’s a recap of last week’s event.


Last week, we brought about 60 people into City Wine Merchant and they spent a little over $2,000. So, we made a big difference for a valued member of our local small business community. Want to do it again? Maybe bigger and better this time? Before we get to that, let me give the backstory for the new readers.

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Do you like social media? Are you someone who digs doing cool stuff with cool people? Do you love supporting local small business? Well, welcome to the hastily formed #BuffCashMob! 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 organized social media denizens of Western New York, come in. Rather than do the slacktivist thing, posting links to businesses we like and writing on their Facebook pages, let’s get out, en masse, and show them some straight up cash love. Buy their goods, pay for their services, patronize their establishments. And have a great fucking time doing it! The goal will be to get 100 people to “flash mob” a local establishment to spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered. No discounts, no coupons, no special deals. Just spend $10 in their business.

We’ll take nominations for businesses who will get a visit from the #BuffCashMob on the WNYMedia website . We’ll also keep our eyes on Twitter to check for other nominations there as well, but make sure you use the #BuffCashMob hashtag so we’ll know to look for it. Your nomination should tell us something about the business, what they sell and why they deserve some #BuffCashMob love. Lets show local businesses that social media isn’t just about nerds talking about “branding”, that it’s about bringing people in the door to spend some cash.


The Morning Grumpy – August 5th

5 Aug

I read things, lots of things. I keep a list of the best things and post them here for you. Enjoy the news and views that make your morning constitution a little less grumpy.

1. Let’s start the Friday grumpy with this awesome story of petit City Hall corruption and incompetence. You might remember the saga of former City of Buffalo Human Resources Commissioner Karla Thomas, fired by Mayor Byron Brown after the City Comptroller’s office found the HR department paid out over $800,000 in health insurance premiums to dead people. The process of firing her was a political circus and exposed fissures in the foundation of the Grassroots political organization and humiliated the Mayor for months.

The city spent more than $200,000 and invested dozens of hours in hearings to prove that Thomas, its human resources commissioner, should be fired for failing to do her job

The investigation leading to a report which justified the Mayor’s firing of Thomas was pretty pricey as well.

The mayor removed Thomas from her $91,734-a-year job in January, shortly after Michael Battle, a former U.S. attorney, conducted a hearing and concluded that Brown was justified in firing in his onetime political ally.

Battle’s 23-page report criticized Thomas for ignoring Brown’s order, issued a year earlier, to correct deficiencies in her department. They included an embarrassing discovery unearthed by the City Comptroller’s Office: The city had been paying health insurance premiums for 170 dead retirees.

According to figures released Wednesday by the Comptroller’s Office, the city paid Battle $134,600 — or $425 an hour.

The best part? After all the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours spent in hearings and testimony, Compensation and Benefits Director Antoinette Palmer failed to deny Thomas’s claim for unemployment benefits. Thomas has been receiving those benefits for seven months.

The Mayor took action and suspended Palmer from her position. Amazing how the rank incompetence of this administration never seems to get laid at Brown’s footsteps. Ignorance of the law, corruption, and unethical behavior is always the fault of some underling, never Byron Brown.

Not only is he a do-nothing caretaker mayor who lacks a vision for the city, he clearly doesn’t believe that the buck stops with him. 2013 can’t come soon enough…

2. Thanks to the Citizens United decision—which allows for corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, we get awesome stories like this,

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Essentially, an LLC was formed by a lawyer who works for a law firm that has been a long term business partner with Romney’s former company (Bain Capital). The offices of the mystery corporation were listed in corporate filings as being at a building in Manhattan which also happens to house offices for Bain Capital. The mystery company than made a $1MM donation to Romney’s campaign and then promptly dissolved itself. Welcome to the 2012 Presidential elections, banana republic style.

3. Kevin Drum breaks down the current economic situation thusly.

2001-2008: Republicans run economy into ditch.

2008: Obama elected.

2009-2011: Republicans respond by doing everything possible to prevent him from fixing things.

2012: Republicans use lousy economy as campaign cudgel against Obama.

2012: Republican candidate wins presidency (maybe).

Yup, pretty much sums it up.

4. The jobs report that will be issued today will be a collective kick to the nuts for the American economy and will send the markets further into panic mode. But, a report issued yesterday by the IRS is even more alarming.

The data showed an alarming drop in the number of taxpayers reporting any earnings from a job — down by nearly 4.2 million from 2007 — meaning every 33rd household that had work in 2007 had no work in 2009.

Average income in 2009 fell to $54,283, down $3,516, or 6.1 percent in real terms compared with 2008, the first Internal Revenue Service analysis of 2009 tax returns showed. Compared with 2007, average income was down $8,588 or 13.7 percent.

Looking for a silver lining? Here ya go.

No income tax was paid by 1,470 of the 235,413 taxpayers earning $1 million or more in 2009, compared with the 959 taxpayers with million-dollar-plus incomes who paid no income taxes in 2007.

Phew! I’m glad those millionaires, I mean “job creators” are keeping it together!

5. A clever website as we gear up for the 2012 election, Multiple Choice Mitt, exposing the litany of positions Mitt Romney has taken on a multitude of issues as he panders to whatever base stares him in the face.

Here’s a fun example on the issue of gun control.


And, then there’s this:



6. How are foreign powers responding to the debt ceiling debate and the resulting political chaos? It smells something like schadenfreude.

As the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, China’s interest in the debt ceiling debate was hardly academic. State wire service Xinhua expressed its dismay at the potential of a default in the run-up to the final debt decisions, calling the political brinkmanship in Washington “dangerously irresponsible” in an editorial last week.

The Chinese state-sponsored paper Global Times takes a bigger picture view, editorializing on how the -debate has already negatively affected U.S. standing in the world. “The US is well-known for promoting rules and regulations to other countries, but now countries are increasingly realizing Washington can stamp all over its own rules and regulations,” the editors write.

The Hindustan Times editorializes that “If routine has become Armageddon, the US cannot be counted on when the tough decisions are being made.”

7. From the seminal work, “What’s The Matter With Kansas“, a quote to help make sense of the last few years of Tea Party politics…

8. I’ll leave you with this, Christopher Walken reading “The Three Little Pigs”


Have a day!

#BuffCashMob To City Wine Merchant

4 Aug

We asked you to nominate a local business to receive a visit from the inaugural Buffalo Cash Mob and you’ve chosen in overwhelming numbers…the City Wine Merchant.

If this is the first article you’ve seen about the Buffalo Cash Mob, here’s a refresher.

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Do you like social media? Are you someone who digs doing cool stuff with cool people? Do you love supporting local small business? Well, welcome to the hastily formed #BuffCashMob!

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 organized social media denizens of Western New York, come in.

Rather than do the slacktivist thing, posting links to businesses we like and writing on their Facebook pages, let’s get out, en masse, and show them some straight up cash love. Buy their goods, pay for their services, patronize their establishments. And have a great fucking time doing it!

The goal will be to get 100 people to “flash mob” a local establishment to spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered. No discounts, no coupons, no special deals. Just spend $10 in their business.

You nominate the business and whichever garners the most votes, will receive a visit from the mob.

We received over 300 nominations for the first BuffCashMob visit, but City Wine Merchant received almost double the votes of any other retail establishment. So, clearly, there is some real love for this store at 715 Main Street (Click for map and directions) which has been open since 2009. As owner Eric Genau told Buffalo Rising when he first opened,

Years ago I lived at the corner of Chippewa and Main,” Eric told me. “And there was nothing happening down here. Now we have the Medical Campus and the lofts… there’s the Washington Market. I see young professionals, a hip artistic crowd and an entrepreneurial spirit… that wasn’t here five years ago. We’ve even raised the City of Buffalo flag on the building.

This is a quality, locally owned business that cares about its community and its product,

When you walk into the City Wine Merchant remember that you are not walking into a mega Walmart-sized wine warehouse. Rather, you are stepping into a wine boutique where every single label has been hand selected by the owner. Whether a bottle of wine is $8 or $80, Eric assures his customers that they are getting the best value when it comes to quality.

City Wine Merchant offers wines at all price points from $9 to $90 and offers a full line of glassware and wine accessories.

So, please join us in supporting an entrepreneur who took a risk and opened his business in the theater district. Support locally owned businesses operated by individuals who love their city and have a passion for the product they sell.

Join us between the hours of 4-7PM tomorrow and spend $10 or more at City Wine Merchant, tell them the #BuffCashMob sent you.

Follow @BuffCashMob on Twitter or Follow the #BuffCashMob hashtag for updates on what’s next or like us on Facebook.

The Morning Grumpy – August 4th

4 Aug

I took a vacation for a couple of days and no, I didn’t tell you ahead of time. I don’t like to let 30,000 people know when my house is going to be empty. I’m back now, here’s your daily morning grumpy.

1.  Later this afternoon, we’ll be announcing the first local merchant that will get a visit from the #BuffCashMob. I need to call the owner today to make sure he can handle a (hopefully) large influx of people and that he is both properly staffed and stocked with merchandise. I have no idea if we’ll get the turnout I hoped for, but I’m planning for 100 people to visit this business within a two hour period on Friday. Stay tuned.

2. Chris Sasiadek and I will be covering the Accelerate Upstate confab today and tomorrow. What the hell is “Acclerate Upstate”? Well, howdy-doo, here’s the details.

Buffalo will be host to a two-day conference of Upstate leaders in August to develop an action plan for accelerating priority projects and economic growth in the 40,000 square miles that compose Upstate New York. The leaders will focus on how Upstate can thrive given the state’s particular political balance and the resulting limited political clout Upstate.

The Partnership organized the Accelerate Upstate conference after encountering universal frustration – expressed by Upstate business leaders, labor leaders, municipal and school leaders, environmentalists, not-for-profits, farmers and more – over the region’s inadequate political clout, and the negative impact of it.

Consider the following:

  • Only 81 of the NYS Legislature’s 212 members represent Upstate constituents
  • All major statewide elected offices are held by Downstaters
  • The leaders of both legislative houses hail from Downstate districtsThe 17 New York State counties that showed a population decline in the 2010 census are Upstate

The conference will produce an action plan that will be delivered to Albany within 4-6 weeks. Will the plan be a regurgitation of the standard Buffalo Niagara Partnership annual agenda which simultaneously demands smaller government and lower taxes while asking for big budget public projects? Or will this event provide some fresh perspective on the unique challenges of Upstate New York? This time, I’m hopeful for the latter. Here is the agenda for the event, Chris and I will file reports through the rest of the week.

3. Here’s a homework assignment for you. Have you ever heard of ALEC?

If not, read this article about how ALEC shapes the legislative agendas of state legislatures across America, including New York.

For decades, a discreet nonprofit has brought together state legislators and corporate representatives to produce business-friendly “model” legislation. These “model” bills form the basis of hundreds of pieces of legislation each year, and they often end up as laws. As media scrutiny of the nonprofit—the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC—has grown, we’ve built both a guide and a searchable database so you can see for yourself how ALEC’s model bills make their way to statehouses.

This is simply an AWESOME piece of reporting from ProPublica…just a stunning work of enterprise data journalism. We’ll be revisiting this topic more often in the coming weeks and months. Read up and see how your government fucks you over on the regular.

4. I’m not going to say much about the debt ceiling debacle, except to point you to Matt Taibbi’s pitch-perfect take on why the Democratic Party capitulated and why it’s become clear that the majority of Americans no longer have a political party working on their behalf.

The Democrats aren’t failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there’s political hay to be made moving to the right. They’re doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I’ve said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television.

Maybe this time, the Green Party will nominate someone who isn’t a total disaster and I’ll have a reason to vote on their line.

5. Hey, remember that whole BP Oil Spill thing that we seem to have completely forgotten about as a nation?

Yeah, it’s not going real well down along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. See, BP did a great job of making the oil disappear rather than actually cleaning it up.

Those who work along the coast say they know the presence of tar mats left by the BP oil spill last year is heavy because tarballs continue to float ashore every day.

And that’s heightened with the activity of rough seas.

About a week ago, a 1,500-foot by 30-foot tar mat as much as 18-inches thick “exposed itself” just west of Little Lagoon Pass just off the water’s edge, according to Grant Brown, spokesman for Gulf Shores.

BP’s use of chemical dispersants to break up nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil solved some short term problems of oil making it to the coast, but it created a longer term problem. The oil will be churned up in rough weather and it is nearly impossible to track where the oil has sunk to or how how far it has traveled. Over 1 million barrels of oil remain unaccounted for, and there is a dispute about how much was actually recovered. Awesome.

6. A beautifully well done long read about the capture and kill of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Brigadier General Marshall Webb, an assistant commander of JSOC, took a seat at the end of a lacquered table in a small adjoining office and turned on his laptop. He opened multiple chat windows that kept him, and the White House, connected with the other command teams. The office where Webb sat had the only video feed in the White House showing real-time footage of the target, which was being shot by an unarmed RQ 170 drone flying more than fifteen thousand feet above Abbottabad. The JSOC planners, determined to keep the operation as secret as possible, had decided against using additional fighters or bombers. “It just wasn’t worth it,” the special-operations officer told me. The SEALs were on their own.

Fantastic access…

7. The Conservative Nanny State is coming to get you

Under language approved 19 to 10 by a House committee, the firm that sells you Internet access would be required to track all of your Internet activity and save it for 18 months, along with your name, the address where you live, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and IP addresses you’ve been assigned.

Remember, conservatives hate big government, except for big government which favors their social and corporatist agenda.

8. Al-Jazeera English does what our “liberal media” fails to do, tell the liberal (factual) side of the story on the economy and wealth inequality.


A brilliant expose on just how fucked the working class is in America and how current policy intends to keep it that way.

9. After all that bad news, I feel like I owe you something cool. So, I present to you, the best of Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm. He brings the ruckus to the ladies.


Joe Pepitone up in this motherfucker.

Have a day!

Announcing The #BuffCashMob

31 Jul

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Do you like social media? Are you someone who digs doing cool stuff with cool people? Do you love supporting local small business? Well, welcome to the hastily formed #BuffCashMob!

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 organized social media denizens of Western New York, come in.

Rather than do the slacktivist thing, posting links to businesses we like and writing on their Facebook pages, let’s get out, en masse, and show them some straight up cash love. Buy their goods, pay for their services, patronize their establishments. And have a great fucking time doing it!

The goal will be to get 100 people to “flash mob” a local establishment to spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered. No discounts, no coupons, no special deals. Just spend $10 in their business.

We’ll take nominations for businesses who will get a visit from the #BuffCashMob on the WNYMedia website each Monday. We’ll keep our eyes on Twitter to check for other nominations there as well, but make sure you use the #BuffCashMob hashtag so we’ll know to look for it. Your nomination should tell us something about the business, what they sell and why they deserve some #BuffCashMob love. Lets show local businesses that social media isn’t just about nerds talking about “branding”, that it’s about bringing people in the door to spend some cash.

We’ll make the #BuffCashMob event cool with some onsite activities, so let’s get this thing started.

Suggestions? Make ’em! Criticisms? Let’s hear ’em!

Most of all, just show up on Friday at 530PM to support the local business we’ve all nominated and selected.

The Morning Grumpy – July 27th

27 Jul

1. Yesterday, I was asked to break down the debt ceiling debate into simple terms for someone who hadn’t been following the ongoing nonsense. I fumbled for various analogies, but settled on the final Mexican Standoff scene from Reservoir Dogs as the basis for explaining the political fight. However, the above scene fails to explain what is really going on right now. We’re mired in an epic battle for the soul of America. No, I’m not overstating it.

This is about the top 1% of our economic strata fighting for final control over our political process. It is corporatism vs. populism, it’s a defining moment for America and the populists are finding themselves severely outgunned for the fight. Why? Because the man we elected to represent us in this fight, the progressive President that we had hoped for, who promised to change the fundamental course of our politics turned out not to be the one we’ve been waiting for.

When Obama said “Change”, he meant a more intellectual discussion, filled with mutual respect for all viewpoints, a more gracious tone, a more civil debate filled with the beautiful results of continual compromise. What he didn’t expect was to find himself mired in “debate” with an opposition party which simply refuses to grant him legitimacy. He simply cannot govern when the minority party refuses to engage in the process. As Josh Marshall said yesterday,

“Yes, at some level it’s (the debt ceiling debate) a game of chicken. Something we can all understand pretty intuitively in human nature and game theory terms. But to really get what’s really going on you’ve got to understand one key point: one of the two cars doesn’t have a driver in it. Which changes everything”

Where we go from here, I really don’t know. One thing is for certain, we’re surely in uncharted waters and it doesn’t look like the Skipper knows how to navigate.

2. To that end, here is the speech the President could give to the nation which would pull us back from the brink.

Congress has not passed an increase in the statutory debt limit as the deadline approaches. Members of the House majority have informed me that they will not agree to an increase in the debt limit without imposing restrictions on the government budget that will threaten our nation’s recovery, imperil the national defense, and cause widespread suffering. I have offered to negotiate in good faith, as I did during the budget crisis, but they have shown no interest in real negotiations.

As of midnight tonight, the government’s statutory borrowing authority will be exhausted. If no measures are taken, the government must either default on its bonded indebtedness or on its obligations to seniors on Social Security, to unemployed workers dependent on federal insurance payments, and to American service personnel serving in areas of armed conflict.

The Constitution explicitly requires me, under my duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” to meet and pay all debts of the United States.

This requirement is absolute. It is contained in Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which directs, in no uncertain terms, that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

3. Alan wrote about the Mayoral Leadership vacuum that plagues our fair city. It is a topic we have visited in various ways over the years; from the lack of definition of our civic brand to our lack of a coherent planning and development strategy which hampers any efforts to make citywide or regional improvements. Every problem in WNY, no matter what you can think of, has a political cause and requires a political solution. We still lack a leader who can help get the all the wood behind one arrow and define measurable goals for the city and region.

You’ve no doubt noticed by now that I’m fascinated with the ongoing battle to save Detroit. Their problems may be similar, but their approach to solving them is radically different from our own. They have a Mayor with a vision who is setting measurable goals for success and holding everyone accountable for creating an environment in which Detroit can again prosper. Read about the Detroit Works Project and read this article about how the project is being implemented. Maybe we can learn from the failures and successes in Detroit and apply those lessons to making a Better Buffalo.

4. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo visited Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse to formally announce the membership of this much-ballyhooed Regional Economic Development Councils.  Cuomo has created ten regional councils which will be tasked with developing “economic master plans” that are specific to the local community.

Those councils will report their plans to Lt. Governor Duffy and each region will compete for a share of $1BN to implement their plan. To get a batter understanding of how the plan works, click here to read the full proposal. During his visit to Buffalo, Cuomo announced the brain trust which will make up the WNY regional council. The team will be co-chaired by local developer Howard Zemsky and UB President Satish K. Tripathi. You can find out what other local luminaries made the council by clicking here.

While it’s nice to see some new faces involved here, it’s not the most inspiring of lists. A mix of corporate welfare queens, campaign donors, heirs to spaghetti fortunes, government leaders, etc. The people chosen to serve by Cuomo were obvious choices, for the most part. But, it lacks anyone with a significant vision. These people are all practitioners, not thinkers. It lacks people who know how to “Question the question”, think differently and be innovative.

The bench for those type of people in this region is pretty short, because there is a paucity of youth, energy, entrepreneurial spirit, new ideas or fresh perspectives. That’s not a problem with Cuomo and his process for choosing, it’s THE problem which faces WNY.

5. Let’s lighten it up a bit, shall we?

6. The July 2011 FAIL Compilation


Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 26th

26 Jul

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

I’ll keep it short today, just two items, but I’ll be back tomorrow with your regular dose of 8-10 stories.

1. Joe Illuzzi, my favorite convicted felon, alleged blackmailer, and “journalist” decided to respond to our in-depth coverage of marriage equality with the following post on his website:

Now, I certainly won’t defend myself against an accusation that I’m gay. Why? Because I don’t feel the word “gay” is a pejorative. I will, however, defend the fact that we have written over 50 stories, posted several videos and taken to the public airwaves to advance the marriage equality agenda while small-minded religious assholes like Joe fought to deny people their human rights.

The marriage equality movement and the vote for its passage into law was one of the most important social justice and civil rights issues of our time. I am proud of every word we’ve written, every frame we’ve shot, and every syllable we’ve uttered in support of it and we will continue to fight against religious bigots like Inmate Illuzzi.

Politicians who advertise with this horrible excuse for a man should be ashamed of themselves and do not deserve your support until they re-evaluate their subsidy of his hate, bigotry, corruption, and terrible web design skills.

Pro Tip for Joe: Get a spellcheck program you ignorant fucking moron.

2. I’ll skip posting any analysis of last night’s showdown at debt ceiling corral between our weak-kneed President and the lunatic fringe of American politics and instead leave you with this. The closing editorial by Bill Moyers during the last episode of his PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal.


Moyers is a hero of mine and his words provide the proper perspective on everything that is happening right now on our national political stage. Please share this video in as many places as you can.