Tag Archives: debate

Guns, Ebola, Torture, and a Sour Weppner

30 Oct

Image Credit: WBFO.org

At long last, Kathy Weppner got her debate against Brian Higgins yesterday. The candidates vying to represent NY-26 in Congress faced off in front of an audience of about 1,000 students and faculty at St. Joe’s. The debate was moderated by the AP Government teacher, and students selected and asked the questions. 

Here’s what Brian Higgins tweeted after the debate: 

And here is what Kathy Weppner tweeted about it:


So, the shorter version is Brian Higgins thanking St. Joe’s and its AP Government class, teacher, and students for a lively and fun debate, versus Kathy Weppner denigrating the kids and their questions, just one step away from accusing them of perhaps conspiring with Higgins’ campaign because she had to face tough questions. 

Also, Higgins accused Weppner of missing two recent candidate fora – not three. She skipped the Good Government Club and the Association of Retired Federal Employees events in the last few weeks. She was invited to them both. For someone who’s spent the last few weeks whining about how the League of Women Voters has conspired with Brian Higgins to support only Demoncrats, you’d expect her to attend everything offered to her. 

The Weppner campaign has been one of the best campaigns ever to be run in western New York, but not for the reasons you think. I don’t objectively mean it was “good” or the “best”; instead, it’s the best insofar as it has enabled regular people to hear and consider things that are usually kept in the deepest basements of AM hate radio. It’s rare that malicious and false right-wing misinformation sees the sunlight, and when it’s taken even a millimeter outside of its typical venues, it’s revealed to be so false and dumb that regular people simply dismiss it as “crazy”.  For instance, 

Yesterday, Brad Riter and I recorded an hourlong podcast where we set out to dissect yesterday’s debate. There’s so much there, we only made it through about 15 minutes’ worth.  You can listen to the podcast here

You can listen to the entire debate here, at WBFO’s site. Did you catch how Weppner whined about how Higgins conspired with WBEN to let the entire debate audio to be shared online? Weppner evidently didn’t read the rules, because the prohibition on recording and re-use of the debate was only as to the campaigns themselves – there were myriad cameras and microphones present, and the rules were quite clear that media could share their recordings. Indeed, after spending so many weeks whining about the lack of debates, you’d reckon that Weppner would scream bloody murder if the debate wasn’t shared with voters, right? 

In terms of substance, the student-led, teacher-moderated debate touched on several issues, none of which are trivial. More importantly, they were things that the students themselves deemed interesting. The first question dealt with the apparent epidemic of school shootings – a uniquely American problem. Weppner’s response to this question was typical right-wing pablum; more guns will lead to a more polite society. Weppner said things about how only “good” people with guns – like she – can protect society from bad people with guns, as if there were no other alternatives. Higgins affirmed people’s 2nd Amendment rights, but added, 

Good people should be able to carry guns but the framers of the Constitution could not have imagined this kind of hell,” Higgins said. “If you are a good guy with a gun then what’s wrong with reasonable background checks? What’s wrong with reasonable gun control?

The Weppner plan can be summarized thusly: 

Weppner came out in support of a travel ban from West African countries, while Higgins said we should follow the lead of medical professionals, and not politicians, on these sorts of issues. Weppner said, 

The CDC has spent 6% of its $3 billion over the last few years on silly studies instead of on infectious diseases. We’ve been squandering the money that we do have. So I believe, yes, there should be a quarantine. They’re quarantining our soldiers in Germany for 21 days. 

According to Weppner, if the CDC spent 6% of $3 billion on “silly studies”, then that still leaves 94% to study and prevent infectious diseases. However, typically, she’s got her facts wrong. She seems to be parroting a Politico article penned by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who claims

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent—$180 million—of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity.

By contrast, the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement Funding, which helps municipalities deal with outbreaks of disease, has decreased dramatically in the last decade. The CDC’s overall 2015 budget is not, incidentally, $3 billion, but almost $7 billion. That also represents a decrease of 3.5% over FY 2014, and you can see specifically what the administration sought, and what the tea party Congress granted

Weppner got two applause lines – the first when she said that marijuana “kills ambition” and leads kids to sit on the couch, watching TV, and eat Doritos. Not shockingly, teenage kids love the idea of sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating Doritos, and cheered. Weppner also rejected medical marijuana, claiming,

If there are medicinal purposes that medical marijuana can be used for then we need to study it. We wouldn’t put a medicine on the market without studying it. If there are properties that help seizure disorders then we need to study what properties those are and put it into a little inhaler.  We can’t open pot stores. We need clear thinking young people to attack the problems we have. Not people that are going to sit back with a bag of Doritos and watch television.

Even Channel 2’s Michael Wooten pointed out on last night’s news that Weppner is lying about medical marijuana not having been studied. It’s been studied plenty, and shown to be effective in treating nausea in chemotherapy patients, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures, and other maladies. UC San Diego has an entire department devoted to the study of medicinal uses for marijuana, a plant that grows in nature

The mic drop moment, though, came when the candidates were asked about the use of torture in interrogation of enemy combatants and terrorists. Weppner claimed, 

I don’t think sleep deprivation or waterboarding is something, if we are going to get valuable information that can save lives, is a horrible thing. I really don’t.

The notion that torture generates valuable information is categorically, scientifically false. While Weppner shocked the Catholic schoolboys with her pro-torture position, Higgins’ one-sentence response resulted in huge applause, prompting Weppner to whine about it later on Twitter (seen above). 

Torture should not be tolerated in any context in any part of the world.

The candidates’ reactions on Twitter aren’t an accident – Higgins’ performance was competent, relevant, and rational. Weppner’s was defensive, offensive, and bizarre. This is the shorthand to describe both candidates and their campaigns, overall. 

You think I hate Weppner or her right-wing followers? I don’t. I feel sorry for them, frankly, because it must really suck walking through life being angry and afraid of everything, always. I hate people who commit crimes and hurt others, I don’t hate people who think differently from me, however misguided I think they are. Part of what I do through this blog is highlight thoughts, ideas, words, and deeds that I believe to be ugly or nice – dangerous or helpful – reactionary or progressive. I pay attention to what my ideological opponents have to say because I refuse to formulate my opinions in a left-wing echo chamber. I read and listen to lots of points of view from lots of sources – so if I see, for instance, that the local AM talk radio station leaves a comment up for over an hour, which calls for the extermination of all Muslims on Earth, I feel it’s my duty as a normal human being to call that to the station’s attention.  It’s not only Nazi thinking, it’s violative of that station’s Facebook terms of service, “… will not tolerate racist, homophobic, sexist or abusive comments”. 

The real hatred comes from those who shut down dissent, and get called out in other venues. The real hatred comes from those who are utterly allergic to scrutiny or criticism of any kind. The real hatred comes from people who cower in their echo chambers, treating as unpatriotic or insane anyone who dares to disagree. The real hatred comes when the local news radio station blocks you on Twitter, because you pointed out that maybe “all Muslims need to be exterminated” doesn’t belong on their Facebook page. 

Election Day is next Tuesday. The tea party point of view is out in the sunlight for all to see. Reject it. 

The Borscht Belt Debate

23 Oct

Courtesy WNED and CBS2 New York

Despite Brian Meyer’s desperate efforts to keep the format tight and moving, it was unwieldy. With four gubernatorial candidates being provided with equal time, it seemed at times that Cuomo and Astorino were afterthoughts. After all, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Party candidate Michael McDermott threw some good ideas at people last night at WNED’s studio.

McDermott liked to cut through the BS and had one of the best answers about fracking; that his philosophy was that it was important to wait and see what it does to the environment, because you’re allowed to do on your property whatever you want unless it harms someone else. For his part, Hawkins gave super-liberals the red meat they crave – single-payer, a hard no on fracking, social justice, funding for mass transit. 

Alas, Hawkins and McDermott don’t have a credible chance. 

The format gave candidates one minute to answer questions that often seemed to run on for twice that time, and then occasionally a 30 second rebuttal. One of the problems with contemporary political speech is that we’re too reliant on dopey ads and sound bites, and this sort of debate-by-one-liner exacerbates the situation. No one watched that and learned anything. It treated us like dumb assholes, and yet again we’ll get the Albany government we’ll deserve. 

Take my wife, please. 

Republican Rob Astorino came out swinging at Andrew Cuomo, and didn’t get an opportunity to tell us very much about what he’d do. Cuomo gave as good as he got. It was a good time, but not at all a substantive one. 

Where did you get your haircut, the pet shop?

Here’s how it went, as it went along. 

Horses and Bayonets on the Morrow

23 Oct

In debate the first, Alpha Romney showed up and stylistically, if not factually, defeated a sleepy Obama. In debate two, electric boogaloo, Romney and Obama both came to the knife fight with guns a-blazing. 

Last night, in debate number three, Alpha Obama went on offense against a stammering, sweaty Romney who, at times, seemed as if Sarah Palin had helped with debate prep. When Obama criticized Romney’s incoherence on various foreign policy matters, Romney whined, “attacking me is not a plan”. It was repeated at least twice, and sounded weak, sorrowful, and pathetic. Obama’s cross-examination of Romney on his prior inconsistent statements was effective and decidedly well-hinged.

For instance, at the first debate, Romney had complained that the 2014 deadline to leave Afghanistan was something he agreed with, except insofar as it telegraphs to our enemy that all bets are off after that. It’s a disingenuous weasel answer, and one that Romney completely abandoned last night, instead claiming to back the 2014 date. From TPM, Obama

You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends. Which means not only were you wrong, but you were confused and sending mixed messages to our troops and allies.

In 2008, Romney said we shouldn’t move “heaven and earth” to get Osama bin Laden, and that we should first ask Pakistan for permission.  Obama recounted meeting the daughter of a 9/11 victim, which reaffirmed to him that moving heaven and earth was exactly the right thing to do; “worth it”, 

“[Y]ou said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” Obama said. “If we would have asked Pakistan for permission, we wouldn’t have got him.”

On Russia: 

“I’m glad that you recognize al Qaeda is a threat. Because a few months ago when you were asked the biggest threat facing America, you said Russia,” Obama said. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

Later Obama said directly to Romney, “You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it.”

Romney repeatedly claimed to be the candidate of peace – he rebutted the elimination of Osama bin Laden with “we can’t kill our way out of this mess“. Romney tried to attack Obama from the left on this, and everything about it reeked of phoniness. The guy who has John Bolton on his foreign policy team isn’t the McGovernesque peace candidate.  On Iran, Romney actually suggested that some unnamed “world court” indict Ahmadinejad for genocide. That’s nice, but the United States has nothing whatsoever to do with the International Criminal Tribunal. And how does that jibe with the Republican anti-world-government, anti-UN, US must do everything mantras? It’s a desperate ploy by a desperate candidate. 

If, at the foreign policy debate, Romney can get no traction on his Libya attacks, he’s lost. 

Throughout the night, Alpha Obama was the calm, rational, factual counterpoint to Romney’s rushed stream of consciousness. He also gave Romney nary an inch to repeat falsehoods or reinvent history. Obama pre-empted Romney’s predictable attacks about Israel with yet another “Libya moment”. One of Romney’s clumsiest attacks was to accuse Obama of weakening our military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer “ships” now than it did in 1916(!). Obama snarkily obliterated that argument, and it was a highlight of the night – a “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment. 

Funny aside – someone on Facebook mentioned that Fox News “fact-checked” the assertion that the military doesn’t use bayonets anymore by pointing out that Marines have them. Except for the fact that the President said “fewer”, not “none”. Now we’re fact-checking deliberately false fact-checking. 

But except when they veered to domestic policy issues that are swing-state friendly, it was astonishing just how much Romney agreed with every foreign policy thing Obama’s doing, or has done. He liked everything! Romney was reduced to using long strings of words to say he’d do exactly the same thing, only perhaps louder or faster. 

In their closing arguments, Obama pivoted back to hope and staying on a path to move forward, rather than back. Romney did his best Reagan impression, but ended up sounding and looking more like a more WASPy Billy Fucillo, who really wants to see you in this purple Hyundai with low miles and EZ-terms. 

Some highlights: 

In response to Romney’s accusation about an “apology tour” where Obama purportedly ignored Israel. This was quite the Libya moment. Please proceed, Governor:

Closing with hope :

Debate Night in America

16 Oct

Tonight at 7pm, Kathy Hochul and Chris Collins will engage in their first head-to-head debate, presented by WNED-TV, in partnership with WGRZ-TV, The Buffalo News, The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara and WXXI-AM, WXXI-TV and WHEC-TV in Rochester.

The hour-long debate will be simulcast on WNED, WGRZ and WBFO-FM 88.7/WNED-AM 970 radio. Questions will be posed by three panelists: Bob McCarthy, Buffalo News political reporter; Julie Philipp, WXXI news director; and Claudine Ewing, WGRZ reporter. WBFO/WNED News Director Jim Ranney will moderate.

Political junkies will then be able to switch over to the Romney/Obama debate at 9pm. This will be a tightly controlled “town hall meeting” held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, and moderated by CNN correspondent Candy Crowley. 

Enter: Chicken

12 Jun

Michael R. Caputo is an advisor to David Bellavia and his campaign for Congress from NY-27. Many months ago, they proposed a series of debates with primary opponent Chris Collins, and as of this writing Collins has agreed only to two – one with YNN, and one with some Republican women voter organization in Clarence that supports Collins  UPDATE: Collins has agreed to exactly zero debates. Firstly, Collins has not agreed to participate in a YNN televised debate on June 18th.  Collins’ people suggested one, singular debate to take place in Clarence and be hosted by something called the “Erie County Republican Women’s Federation.”  However, the League of Women Voters advised that ECRWF would not have hosted a debate, but instead an ambush – a supposed “debate” on Collins’ home turf, a curated crowd packed with Collins loyalists, and recruiting former “Reform Coalution” Collins loyalist Lynne Dixon to “moderate” it. Collins’ people refused to negotiate changes to make the ECRWF “debate” a fair event. Indeed, the ECRWF is a wholly new creation. It has no online presence, it has no transparency regarding its membership, funding, officers, or directors.  The woman who is sending out press releases on its behalf is an Erie County GOP loyalist and has given thousands to the county committee, local committees, as well as to Dixon and Collins

During Paladino’s primary campaign against Rick Lazio, when the Long Island Republican refused to debate Carl, Caputo sent out a guy in a chicken suit to graphically tease the candidate about his reluctance to debate. If I’m not mistaken, there was also a duck suit utilized against Cuomo regarding “ducking” issues. 

And so it is that a volunteer in a chicken suit set up a roost at the Main Street entrance to the tony, exclusive Spaulding Lake development in Clarence that’s home to doctors, sports figures, and the Collins and Corwin families, to name a few. The chicken taunted Collins for his unwillingness to debate Bellavia – an unwillingness that’s reminiscent of every recent race Collins had run; negotiating debate terms with his campaigns appears sometimes less difficult and circuitous than negotiating a cessation of nuclear activity for food aid with North Korea. 

I don’t get why that is. Collins doesn’t do poorly in debates. After all, he merely has to parrot his campaign themes and generic, crony capitalist, nouveau riche noblesse oblige talking points and denigrate his opponent. Easy peasy. But given Collins’ reluctance to debate, meet, or glad-hand, it could come down to one thing: Collins doesn’t feel comfortable asking for votes to which he thinks he is already entitled. 

Why shouldn’t you vote for – or pay attention to – Collins’ campaign to attain the only type of nobility America offers

Collins is nothing more than an old-fashioned tax & spend liberal. Although Collins likes to say he’s looking out for the taxpayers, he’s raised taxes on us, and gone to court to prevent the legislature from keeping those hikes lower. Although he says he’s careful with our money, he’s spent millions on hisfriends and cronies, without regard to results or merit. Although Collins likes to seem as if he’s a good government type, he’s in ongoing violation of the county charter in terms of providing monthly budget monitoring reports. Although Collins says he’s trying to create a brighter future, he maintains the tired, failed status-quo when it comes to attracting and keeping businesses in western New York; he eschews the notion of IDA consolidation, and hasn’t set up a one-stop-shop for businesses to use when considering a move to our region.

For someone who promised to run the county like a business, why has he behaved like that?

The chicken? Naturally, it has its own Twitter account, and last night it taunted Collins with this (click on the link to see the picture): 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ChickenCollins/status/212322054526091265″%5D

 Bellavia’s campaign released this Tuesday morning: 

Two leading Republican County Chairmen in New York’s 27th Congressional District today called upon GOP candidates David Bellavia and Chris Collins to accept a debate invitation from Time Warner Cable’s news affiliate, YNN, for June 18.

Bellavia accepted the YNN debate on June 5 – the same day it was offered. Since he was invited, Collins has ignored e-mails, letters, and telephone calls from YNN executives.

“I think it’s important for both candidates to give Republicans across the entire district an opportunity to hear where they stand on the issues – face to face, in a fair debate, on television,” Orleans County Republican Committee Chairman Ed Morgan said. “David Bellavia and Chris Collins must expose Primary voters to their views under those circumstances or the election will see record low turnout and the 27th District will be poorly served. The only opportunity to accomplish this is the YNN debate on June 18.”

“The Republican voters of the 27th District deserve a televised debate to see the candidates and understand their positions on important issues,” Wyoming County Republican Chairman Gordon Brown said. “I personally call on David and Chris to commit to a televised debate in which the entire district can be reached – including the more than 60 percent of voters living outside Erie County. Mailers and signs are not enough. I have had the opportunity to speak with both candidates on several occasions – let’s afford all Republican voters a similar opportunity to hear from them.”

On May 24, the Erie County Republican Women’s Federation (ECRWF) invited both Mr. Collins and Bellavia to debate in Clarence on June 19. Subsequently, the Bellavia campaign was advised by the League of Women Voters of Buffalo-Niagara that the ECRWF debate was by no mans fair and no candidate should agree to the wholly one-sided terms. Since then, the Bellavia campaign reached out to the Collins campaign to negotiate fair changes in the ECRWF event. The Collins campaign refused this opportunity, choosing instead to insist upon the rules they dictated.

“Seventy seven days ago, I called for a series of eight debates in the eight counties of the 27th District. But Mr. Collins has run out the clock,” Bellavia said.

“The televised YNN debate would allow both of us the opportunity to show Republicans across the entire district what we stand for and what we believe in just one debate. I don’t control it; Mr. Collins doesn’t control it. It’s 100 percent neutral and that’s what the voters deserve,” Bellavia said.

The #ECDebate between Collins & Poloncarz

13 Oct

I don’t really feel like liveblogging tonight’s debate, nor do I feel like commenting on and moderating the commentary on a Cover It Live blog. So instead, I’m just going to embed the Twitter discussion via the #ECDebate hashtag. Follow along here, or at Twitter. An account is free.

Then again, I might change my mind.



Poloncarz to Collins: Y U No Want a Debate?

24 Aug

Yesterday, the Poloncarz campaign (full disclosure: I never get/got a dime from them for writing about this) released this press release:

Poloncarz Once Again Calls for Series of Debates with Collins

ERIE COUNTY, NY — “Three weeks ago, I sent Chris Collins a letter challenging him to a series of debates so that we can begin to discuss the issues that are important to Erie County’s families. As of today, I have received no response. 

“The taxpayers want to hear about the issues that affect their daily lives. I have challenged Chris Collins to a series of three debates with an unbiased moderator, but he is too preoccupied with sending out his campaign spokesman to attack me with petty insults to even acknowledge my offer.

“Chris Collins has clearly decided to hide behind his misleading campaign commercials rather than talking about the real issues of our county, including the unsightly condition of our parks, which was highlighted yesterday in a WIVB story*. I’d like to know what parks are ‘in the best shape ever,’ as Collins’ commercial claims. Not Ellicott Creek Park, not Como Park, not many county parks and beaches, unfortunately. 

“As County Executive, I will be available to the people of Erie County. I want to hear their questions and concerns directly, and that begins here on the campaign trail with this series of debates. I am looking forward to an honest discourse with my opponent instead of cheap political shots.”

* “Shabby park shelter leaves renter irate,” WIVB, August 22, 2011, http://www.wivb.com/dpp/news/erie/Shabby-park-shelter-leaves-renter-irate

Good question.  There was a televised Collins/Keane debate and another on WBEN, but that was about it. Keane was an epically horrible and disappointing candidate who never stood a chance (neither, by the way, did Paul Clark). Collins came across in 2007 as earnest, apolitical, and interested in making a difference. His tenure as county executive has been, unfortunately, hyperpolitical, transactional, and replete with patronage, payback, and politically calculated decisions that “got the county out of” some service or another, while creating new six-figure positions out of whole cloth. Collins has a visceral hatred of Poloncarz, and the latter can (and does) exploit that to his advantage.

Having them debate facts and policy for the benefit of the electorate is important and inevitable. There’s no primary, so we already know that these two are their respective parties’ nominees. Let’s start talking about their records, their vision, and their plans for Erie County and her people.

Tom Ragan vs. Rus Thompson

28 Jun

The video speaks for itself:


Cheap, Poor, and Desperate (UPDATED)

8 Jun

So there’s an outfit in town that bills itself as “nxtArrow“, which purports to be a business incubator that wants to attract, support, and mentor entrepreneurs to start a business in – or move a business to – Buffalo. Great, right? We need more of that in this town, especially since the chambers of commerce and IDAs are fractured.  The name evokes Pierce Arrow – a luxury car marque that was based in Buffalo between 1901 – 1928. (Between 1928 – 1938, Pierce-Arrow struggled after having been bought out by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, IN.) To my mind, not exactly a fantastic or realistic model to emulate.  Not only is the idea of a new Pierce-Arrow stupid, but a Swiss consortium is actually trying to resurrect the brand as an automotive manufacturer. In Switzerland. About 4,000 miles from Buffalo.

NxtArrow’s incubation model basically guarantees participant companies a free first year in Buffalo. Free space, free services as part of a network run under the auspices of nxtArrow, which is registered as a private, for-profit corporation, but says on its website is currently a d/b/a of a hitherto-unfunded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entity that was created by the founder of the local advertising and PR house, SKM.  NxtArrow is remunerated for its network organization, although the details are not fully disclosed on its website.  The man behind nxtArrow has a background in insurance sales, mental health services, libertarian punditry, and theology.  There’s not much there to my mind about being a startup mentor/guru, but I’m just a negative naysayer.

About a week or so ago, nxtArrow’s President retweeted something from a new design house called Queen City Studio, indicating that it had joined nxtArrow’s network and was offering free design services for a year to companies participating in nxtArrow’s incubation scheme.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70911671190831104″%5D

From my experience with Hero Design Studio, I knew that this was something that they frowned upon because it not only drives down the prices Hero can charge locally for its work, but it presupposes that design services are free; valueless. A debate ensued, and in the end I expressed that I don’t like the idea of one for-profit entity being recruited to provide free services to another for-profit entity, while a nominally not-for-profit middleman takes a cut. The whole thing is fraught with potential and real legal issues, and to my mind defeats the very purpose of building business in Buffalo.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70953586250612736″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70948829154910208″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70948234046091264″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70916193619423232″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70947441540739072″%5D

This one enraged me:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/70955357505204224″%5D

So, I went on a multi-tweet rant:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957148737257473″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957337615155200″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957493907501058″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957637323333633″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957748170391552″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957900654329856″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70957980526448640″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/70958242993422336″%5D

You don’t build and promote business by giving people’s goods, services, or labor away for free; you promote and build business in Buffalo by engaging in the local economy and buying, paying for those goods, those services, and that labor. The economic engine runs on that exchange.  To my mind, we have enough non-profits, governmental and quasi-governmental agencies, and foundations subsidizing what passes for economic activity in this town, and we need to move away from that.

I don’t have a problem with barter agreements. I don’t have a problem with people or companies giving things away for charitable purposes. If Nickel City Studios wants to do a free website design or logo for the Diabetes Walk, then go for it.

But nxtArrow doesn’t work that way, and frankly there’s no guarantee that these businesses will stay in town. Assuming there’s a contract with a in-Buffalo clause, how do you chase down a company that’s breached it? That’s pretty costly and time-consuming, even if all it entails is enforcement of a venue and choice-of-law provision. How do you chase down a company that’s gone belly-up? That has no assets? That’s bankrupt? And what, exactly, does Queen City Studios get in exchange for giving its work away for free? A mention? Its logo on a website? An unenforceable prospective promise of more business down the road?

Finally, the whole concept reeks of desperation. It’s pathetic – it stinks like a last-ditch effort to save something that’s dying. Implicit in the very concept of the free year is that Buffalo is such an awful and horrible backwater of a hellhole, that we can only attract people and businesses if we give it away for free. I don’t think the Crazy Eddie or Ron Popeil model works for lifting up a region and attracting businesses to it. In fact, I think it has – consciously or subconsciously – the exact opposite effect.

The guys at SmallBusinessBuffalo took an interest, (website here), and I participated in a three-part video with them last week at WNYMedia.net offices. I touch on the nxtArrow issues I outline above, but also generally talk about the need for regionalism and a one-stop-shop – a coordinated effort – to attract and retain businesses and people in the greater Buffalo area.




UPDATE: Howell responds to my comments in these videos here this morning.  A few interesting tidbits emerge therefrom:

1. Howell says I don’t understand his policies. They aren’t exactly plastered all over nxtArrow’s website, so no – I don’t understand what isn’t disclosed.

2. Howell says there are “two kinds of ‘free'”. The first one is a “buy four, get one free year” type “agreement”, and the second is essentially net 365 – you obtain goods & services for the first year, and pay for them all in a lump sum at the commencement of your second year.  The first “kind of free” isn’t an enforceable contract, because there’s no consideration for whatever is being given for free in that first year. A promise to enter into a long term future contract is illusory, because there’s no consideration for the present value received. As to the second “kind of free”, it’s a bait & switch. Nowhere on nxtArrow’s information, website, or in his lengthy Twitter retorts to me or Chris does he mention that it’s really just a delay in payment of one year. Whether or not it’s made-up, it’s silliness.

3. He equates what he’s doing with giving a discount or offering a sale. “Free” isn’t a sale – and all of his promotional writings say “free” everywhere. First he defends the idea of giving stuff away for free, now he says it’s not free at all. I don’t know which it is, but it seems weird.

4. Initiation fee? How does that factor into a “free year”? In his own literature, Howell writes,

Who Says There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

In fact, you won’t mind paying for lunch. It will be just about the only thing you’ll have to pay for in your first year in Buffalo Niagara.

Well – yeah. Lunch, plus the initiation fee, plus the delayed payment or illusory promise to enter into a future contract with vendors. Otherwise, TOTALLY FREE ZOMG.

5. When asked about companies that breach the contract by leaving, or cannot fulfill its terms by going under, Howell replies, “that’s the risk we all take”.  Well, no. It should be the risk that you take. I don’t see what the benefit is for a small local company in a depressed area in a down economy should be taking your risk for you. Once the initiation fee is paid to nxtArrow, it’s all set.  After that, the burden rests with the members of the vendor “network” to fulfill some sort of unclear contractual obligation to provide free services with no real, enforceable way to get paid for that?  Frankly, nxtArrow has no skin in the game – the risk appears completely to be borne by the providers of these “free” services like Queen City Studio.

6. Howell refers to Chris Smith as my “boss”. Okaaaaay.

7. He argues that his scheme does not devalue Buffalo – that it gets people here and lets them see the secret strengths of this region. So far, it hasn’t gotten anyone here, the few companies that have been announced are laughable and palpably unvetted, and it indeed treats this place as being worthy of residency and business-opening only if it’s all free. I disagree. We have value. We have lots of impediments to opening a business and succeeding at it.  Since Howell has no entrepreneurial experience in this area, I fail to see how he can help a newcomer navigate complicated rules and regulations, or point them in the direction of local VC and other sources of capital or incentives. This isn’t rocket science, but the way Buffalo is, it’s pretty damned close and I’d trust someone who’s done it and can act as a pilot, helping to bring a business to port safely.

There’s a huge need for those types of red-tape navigating assistance, mentoring, and access to good, inexpensive services. Unfortunately, nxtArrow doesn’t meet that need, and seems unclear on what it is offering.

Carl Paladino Loses At Everything #NYGOV

20 Oct

Paladino, who has turned into a serial whiner, is now toddler-tantruming about the crowded debate format from Monday – a debate format that he repeatedly demanded.

Remember that 3 minute video / ad buy from a week or so ago, when Paladino challenged Cuomo to debate him “like a man”?  Paladino’s showing was more mouse than man on Monday, and he’s now bitching and moaning about it.


Carl seems to forget that it is precisely the format he demanded – it’s right there in the video. The Cuomo camp acknowledged that it had been pushing for a two-man debate, explaining why it took so long for them to agree to debate Paladino, who insisted on all seven candidates being on the stage.

But Carl’s performance ranged from halting to good, and he’s now butthurt that he couldn’t speak for more than a minute at a time, max.  Now, he’s pressuring Cuomo to agree to a two-man debate.

Carl Paladino: seriously like every bully you knew in grade school. Tough talk, but whines like a baby when outmaneuvered.

But it really is time for Cuomo and Paladino to actually agree to a one-on-one debate.  I want to watch Carl’s final crumble.