Tag Archives: FeaturedPost

TEDx Buffalo: Coming Soon

12 May

Last week, I told you about the efforts of a local event planner and all around awesome person to bring the world renowned TEDx event series to Buffalo.  Susan Lynn Cope solicited feedback from the community about the event, put together a well-written proposal and submitted an application on behalf of Buffalo.

On Monday night, she received notification that her licensing application was approved and Buffalo would be host to a TEDx event.

Well the waiting is finally over. Last night, I received the long awaited email from TED. “Susan, congratulations — you are officially a TEDx licensee!” So it is official Buffalo! The license has been approved!!!!

I asked Susan what the immediate plans were and she is planning to host TEDx Buffalo later this year in the fall.  Her early preference for the venue is Babeville, as she stated in her application.

Babeville was constructed in two phases between 1871 and 1876, and designed by architect, John H. Selkirk. Originally named the Delaware Avenue Methodist Church, Babeville is the last known surviving example of Selkirk’s work and is an impeccable example of High Victorian Gothic Ecclesiastical architecture.

In 1999 Righteous Babe Records offered to buy the historic landmark from the City of Buffalo. Following the purchase of the derelict building, restoration efforts commenced. Seven years later, in 2006 the Delaware Avenue Methodist Church had been reinvented to what is now known as Babeville.

Babeville, today, houses a variety of separate entities. Along with housing the headquarters for Righteous Babe Records, the building also encompasses Asbury Hall, the screening room for Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center and a gallery.

This event can serve as a turning point for Buffalo and I don’t think I’m overselling it.  TED events are a celebration of good ideas and powerful energy.  As I said last week, Buffalo is a petri dish in which we are germinating ideas which respond to local socioeconomic problems.  These innovative responses to poverty, hunger, inequality, massive economic disinvestment and deindustrialization will become our major contribution to the national knowledge economy.

Within the region, we find hundreds of people, organizations and companies designing those very responses and struggling to find a platform from which to broadcast about them.  TEDx Buffalo can be that event and serves as a milestone on our long, dark journey towards enlightenment in this city and region.

Thanks to Susan for taking the initiative to bring this event to Buffalo.  WNYMedia has volunteered to sponsor and support the event in any and every way possible.

Until Susan gets the event website up and running, you can follow the event planning and news updates by following @TEDxBuffalo on Twitter or by joining the Facebook Group.

Happy Mother’s Day!

9 May

This is a special message from the management of WNYMedia to all of you.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Fings…Break, Dunn-ay?

7 May

The following video, starting at around 1:32, is how I might imagine a re-enactment of the story recounted here wherein two political operatives tried to get all…transactional…on Democratic state senate candidate Sean Cooney (SD-58).

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And it’s not just about the “offer” to Cooney. That entire paragraph about dealmaking between the Republicans and Pigeon types regarding manipulation of minor party lines and the water authority?

I challenge you to find a single, solitary teabagger who’ll decry that – the real down and dirty shit that ensures that the politically connected get the bennies while the taxpayers get screwed.

TEDx in Buffalo

7 May

What is TED?

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.  Since then its scope has become ever broader.  Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, this year’s TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

What is TEDx?

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

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In short, it’s kind of a big deal.  It’s an opportunity for people to come together, share inspiring ideas and grow an audience around a cause, innovation, or technology.  The TEDTalks website is filled with fantastic discussions about education, humanity, science, beauty, government, logic, religion and our environment.

Susan Lynn Cope, professional event planner and overall awesome person has decided to lead the effort to bring a TEDx event to Buffalo.  She has been asking for input on her website and she just submitted the licensing application for the TEDx event earlier this week.

Andy Warhol once said “They say that time changes things, but you have to actually change them yourself.”  Buffalo, NY was a city born from the railways, trading and industrial revolution.  During the Queen City’s golden age, historic icons such as Mark Twain, Grover Cleveland and Fredrick Law Olmsted all made their mark and have left historic legacies for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

With the passing of time and the relocation of major industries overseas, Buffalo has seen a rapid decline in population. This city now has one of the highest percentages of vacant houses among major US cities.   I was recently moved by a documentary, “Requiem for Detroit,” by director Julien Temple.  Temple tracks Detroit’s past, present and future.  His description of the urban decay within Detroit is “a slow-motion Katrina that has had many more victims.”

The parallels between Detroit and Buffalo were unnerving and shocking to me.  Both cities, once thriving metropolises, are now hemorrhaging citizens while at the same time gaining artists and social pioneers that are repurposing the abandoned urban spaces and creatively uniting together.

Buffalo is a petri dish in which we are germinating ideas which respond to local socioeconomic problems.  These innovative responses to poverty, hunger, inequality, massive economic disinvestment and deindustrialization will become our major contribution to the national knowledge economy.

Within the region, we find hundreds of people, organizations and companies designing those very responses and struggling to find a platform from which to broadcast about them.  TEDx Buffalo can be that event and serves as a milestone on our long, dark journey towards enlightenment in this city and region.

Leave a comment here or on Susan’s website and demonstrate your support for this event.  This isn’t telling America about Buffalo, this is telling ourselves that we have the skills and willingness to create solutions and implement them.

Pigeon Interview

3 May

This weekend at the New York Democratic Rural Conference, Marc Odien and I were there to shoot video of the speeches, wait for the results of the annual straw poll, work some sources for news/gossip and maybe score an interview or two.

To our surprise, in walked the white whale of political interviews, Gerald Steven Pigeon.  You might know him better as Pedro Espada’s patronage employee, former Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, current subject of a federal money laundering investigation, or the bogeyman in the closet of New York State politics.  Marc and I were eager to interview the Rasputin of local politics.

Each time scandal arises in WNY or statewide politics, you can be assured there are accusations that it is somehow tied to Pigeon.  I’ve often wondered if Pigeon didn’t simply serve as a necessary evil or foil for local politicos as they won or lost various political negotiations.  If they lost, it’s easy to blame the galloping ghost of graft, Steve Pigeon.  If they won, they overcame some conspiracy led by Pigeon which only increases the margin of their perceived victory.

However, we’ve done our homework over the years and usually only bring Pigeon into the equation when the evidence warrants his inclusion.

And when we do bring him into the discussion, its usually not been very kind.

Last month, I wrote this in a profile of Steve Pigeon during the PolitiFAIL tournament:

Pigeon is a  malignant mole on the face of this region, an unlanced boil on the ass of Buffalo.  Generally unaccountable to the public as he is an inside player, this Machiavellian prince of pomposity and backroom deals has worked to empower the Grassroots majority that is the current scourge of election law and political propriety, put together the Responsible New York Cotillion of Inside deals to overthrow a duly elected Democratic majority in the State Senate and essentially acts as unelected fixer for politicians and patronage seekers alike.

It is politics and power before policy and governance with this man.  It’s all a game in which the daily butcher’s bill details the winners and losers in the political world but cares not for the real world implications of those power games.

Pigeon, granting access to power, privilege and donor lists in exchange for the right to take it all away should you cross him politically.  Pigeon eschews sunlight and transparency and operates his politics in the darker corners of society. Concealed behind closed doors, as if in a closet.  From his tiny closet of lies, inside power and secrets he has surreptitiously changed our politics forever in this region.  Until he comes out of that closet, we’ll be subject to his underhanded shenanigans and machinations of inside baseball.  Steve, do us all a favor and come out of the closet.

I asked Steve for an interview and he agreed to discuss his role in last summer’s State Senate coup, his relationship with Pedro Espada, the current investigation of he and Espada, and his role as the bogeyman/Rasputin of local politics.  We posted the interview without our traditional snarky musical soundtrack or clever editing.  We thought we’d give Steve the opportunity to respond to the things we’ve written over the years.

Evidently, he reads the site and doesn’t think too highly of our good friend, Alan Bedenko.

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A lot of party line stuff on the coup and Espada that we’ve been hearing for over a year.  If we had more time, we would have covered more ground, but he was pretty wound up towards the end and we ran out of time to ask him about the “Reform Coalition” or get deeper into the federal investigation.  Maybe next time around…

Dale Volker Retiring

29 Apr

About three hours ago, my phone exploded with text messages from everyone sending me tips on a “major announcement by State Senator Dale Volker” tomorrow.  In one of the worst kept local secrets, Volker is set to announce that he will not be seeking re-election in the 59th Senate District. In one of the other worst kept local secrets, Erie County Republican Chairman Jim Domagalski is scheduled to announce his candidacy for the seat within a week, perhaps as early as Saturday.  Volker and his million dollar staff will be heading for greener pastures.

The polling numbers I’ve seen for Dale have not been good as the anti-incumbency fervor seems to finally be overwhelming his name recognition advantage and ability to curry votes in the rural parts of his gerrymandered district.  In recent elections, Dale has had more trouble than expected holding on to the seat.

In the 2006 Republican Primary, Volker barely beat perennial candidate and general crazy person Len Roberto in Erie County, winning by a meager 400 votes.  Roberto lacked the resources or organization to compete with Dale in the far flung district and lost by a significant margin district wide.

In the 2006 General Election, Volker (with the advantage of two minor party lines) faced Democrat Tom Casey.  Casey, who ran a limited campaign, lost by a mere thousand votes to Volker in Erie County and was overwhelmed by the minor party lines and Volker’s superior resources in the rural counties.

In 2008, Volker lost the Erie County Republican Primary to Dave DiPietro but was able to take a demonstrable victory in Wyoming, Livingston and Orleans Counties to win the race.  Again, Volker just had more resources and a better organization than DiPietro had in this sizable district.

In the 2008 General Election against Kathy Konst, Volker again lost Erie County but he won the district by 11,000 votes, due to the the Conservative and IP lines.  Konst ran what amounted to a tire fire of a campaign and she did little outreach in the outer areas of SD-59, but she did beat Dale by 2,000 votes total in Erie County, even with the votes from his two minor party lines added into the final results.

With Dale’s recent weakness in Erie County and anti-incumbency fervor spreading in the rural districts, the writing was on the wall for Volker in 2010.  Along with the looming shadow of Domagalski, he already had an announced primary candidate as Dave DiPietro is back with tea party support and Carl Paladino’s money in his pocket.

With Domagalski and DiPietro fighting it out for three lines, a split ticket is a distinct possibility.  Dale Volker’s minor party line, name recognition and fundraising advantages are now split between two Republicans.  Will a legitimate Democrat get involved in the race?

A Democrat can win in this district, specifically a Democrat with an entrepreneurial background, military experience and an organization structured for outreach into the rural counties.

Who might that Democrat be?  Stay tuned…

Carl Paladino, Sending Smiles

24 Apr

Carl Paladino just wanted to send you a smile and let you know he’s been thinking of you…according to his latest electronic missive.

In his email to undisclosed recipients (at least he’s learning), he sent some horrible parable about heaven and hell (see, he IS a religious guy, conservatives) followed up with the following explanation about why he loves forwarding emails to hundreds of people indiscriminately.

From: Carl Paladino [mailto:CPaladino@ellicottdevelopment.com]
Sent: Sat 4/24/2010 4:31 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: FW: This explains why I forward jokes, and it says it all

Soooo. Now you see, sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding stuff to us without writing a word.  Maybe this will explain it.

When you  are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do?   You forward mails.  When you have nothing to say, but still want to keep contact, you forward jokes.  When you have something to say, but don’t know what, and don’t know how…you forward stuff.  A ‘forward’ lets you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still  loved, you are still cared for.

So, next time you get a ‘forward’, don’t think that you’ve been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you’ve been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile.

I’m glad Carl has taken the liberty of making it so crystal clear!  He’s just thinking of his hundreds of acquaintances in the public sector, media and business community when he forwards jokes!  Why didn’t he just say so?  Boy, don’t we liberal media elites have a lot of egg on our face!  I guess this kind of honesty is why he’s paying Michael Caputo to poke reporters in the chest and do the worst public relations/image repair job in political history.

Let me try and put Carl’s email explanation in context for you.  Here’s how the email should have read:

From: Carl Paladino [mailto:CPaladino@ellicottdevelopment.com]
Not Actually Sent: Sat 4/24/2010 4:31 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: FW: This explains why I forward jokes, and it says it all

Soooo. Now you see, sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding stuff to us without writing a word.  Maybe this will explain it.

When you  are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do?   You forward videos of a horse performing anal sex to completion on a woman.

When you have nothing to say, but still want to keep contact, you forward racist images of black people facing death!

When you have something to say, but don’t know what, and don’t know how…you forward a racist picture of the President dressed as a pimp and the first lady dressed up like a whore.

A ‘forward’ lets you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still  loved, you are still cared for and by the way, you need to see this video of a woman deepthroating a sausage!  It’s awesome!  Hey, hope all is well with the wife and kids, here’s a video I saw on Stormfront of Obama getting ready for the inaugural ball.

So, next time you get a ‘forward’, don’t think that you’ve been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you’ve been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a horrific racist image or illegal porn video!

The Tea Party People

23 Apr

There have been several efforts made in recent weeks to figure out who exactly makes up the tea party constituency.  With all the studies and polls and demographic research happening, you’d think we stumbled across a rare species of two headed turtles or the mysterious and never-before-photographed pipsquack bird.

Previous polls have been conducted traditionally with phone banks and surveys.  However, the tea party is primarily organized online and it makes sense to measure activity online.  If for nothing else to sample the data in a new way.  And not with some easily manipulated online poll, either.

PBS has conducted an exhaustive online search of tea party directories, Facebook pages, and other social networks to measure the location of most tea party members.  The results are not scientific, but they are pretty interesting.

First, here is the map drawn from the total number of active tea party participants in the country, broken out by county.  Areas shaded in green are those with the higher concentrations of tea party members.

Next up is a sampling of tea party participants per 10,000 residents in any given county.  For every 10,000 people in Erie County, 2 people are actively involved in the tea party.  Careful, one might be right behind you!

The darkest areas indicate the “highest” level of participation with 10 in 10,000 residents being registered or active online.  If this is a movement, I think Dale Volker has had larger ones during his morning grumpy.

What is pretty clear from this sampling is that the primary centers of the tea party are in boom town counties which suffered the greatest hits during the housing crash and recession.  The other data point of note is that the areas with the highest concentration of tea party membership appear to be very solid republican counties in red states.  I know, I’m shocked as well.

Aside from all of this ongoing research and demography, there is pretty clear evidence that the tea party movement isn’t anything especially new.  It is a loose confederation of right wing citizens.  Traditional “Ron Paul” libertarians (who have been singing this song for years on the margins of American politics) make up the original core of the movement.

However, after Sarah Palin scared most of the fearful neo-cons that the Islamofascistsocialist black man was coming to take their guns and liberty, those traditional libertarians now have company.  The neo-conservative, Christian base has decided to bully their way into the Thomas Jefferson tent at oppressedwhitemanteapartypalooza.

Tea Party supporters are likely to be older, white and male. Forty percent are age 55 and over, compared with 32 percent of all poll respondents; just 22 percent are under the age of 35, 79 percent are white, and 61 percent are men. Many are also Christian fundamentalists, with 44 percent identifying themselves as “born-again,” compared with 33 percent of all respondents.

Shorter version of the above story, McCain voters make up the majority of tea party participants.  The same people who cheered on Sarah Palin at rallies in 2008, watched Sean Hannity’s nightly expose on Jermeiah Wright, and told John McCain that Obama was a muslim, etc. are all loyal members of this new “movement”.  It’s not a movement.  It’s the same old Republican base with new and improved packaging, tri-cornered hats and a crippling lack of irony.

What makes it a political force is that they have one of the world’s largest media companies promoting their agenda on America’s top cable news network, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New York Post and on the top syndicated radio programs and widely read websites like Drudge, Breitbart, Fox properties, etc..  Because they have control of such a significant stake of U.S. media, they are driving the conversation on other networks and outlets.  Fomenting the anger and fear as far and wide as possible that the black man and his merry band of half-assed socialists are coming for your freedom.

Now that anger over the healthcare reform bill is dying down, the economy is slowly improving and infighting amongst the loose libertarian/Ne0-Con tea party groups is beginning, will they be a force in November?  Can their media machine sustain the roar of last summer and this spring?

I suspect they will be…a force for Republicans to deal with in the primaries.  They’ll slice off votes from moderate Republicans, challenge long time incumbents and generally pull the larger party to the right.  See, Paladino, Carl.

When the tea party fringe is introduced to the rest of society and a wider demographic base of voters that is gradually shifting younger, more diverse and better educated…their platform will go over like Paladino’s horse porn in church.

If Democrats can play to the central themes and appeal to centrists and moderates, I suspect Officer Barbrady might have the best advice on how to deal with the tea party “movement”.

The Angry Id

19 Apr

New York State is fundamentally broken.

I believe this is a statement with which the overwhelming majority of people would agree.  The bloggers at WNYMedia.net have written several hundred thousand words about the state of government in New York, linked to hundreds of others who have done the same and we’ve attempted to propose serious solutions to those problems.

This election year, we’re coming off a series of political scandals featuring prostitutes, abuse of power, felonious woman-beating, a backroom coup in one of our legislative houses, a governor covering up domestic abuse, and a litany of other violations of the public trust.  We also face a trifecta of failure with an incredibly large state budget deficit, a scandal-ridden lame-duck Governor and an intransigent legislature which lacks the political will to make hard choices.

In short, the problems in this state are serious, and they need to be addressed by serious people with serious ideas.

We’re also dealing with a national economic recession, and a thirty year trend in the exacerbation of wealth inequality as well as stagnant middle class wages.  Many people feel powerless, economically hopeless and disconnected from power.  They blame government.

Into that void of hopelessness steps Carl Paladino and the tea party.  They are selling a remedy to the problems facing this state which amount to a promise that he will “shake things up” and “tell it like it is”.  With Carl at the front of the line, his supporters will essentially shake their fists and yell at the problem like monkeys screeching at the monolith.  This sounds a lot like the reasons so many people find Sarah Palin appealing, don’t you think?

Carl represents the collective angry id of Upstate New York and Palin serves the same purpose on a national level.  An empty vessel into which people left behind by culture and a new economy are pouring their frustrations, fear, anger and failures.  Carl has the money and resources to do what they can’t, run for Governor and fight those downstate people.   Carl will do what the powerless can’t…go to Albany, shake his fist in the face of entrenched interests and tell them “what for”.  He’ll strip the reigns of power from the three men in a room and he’ll become one man in a room and get things straightened out.

His proposals for reform?  Pablum and empty.  They read like a cribbed version of a half-assed Andrew Rudnick/Unshackle Upstate proposal.  He doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally enact Proposals 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 nor does he have the political skill to negotiate for any of them.  Not that any of this matters as I have a better shot of walking on the moon in 2010 than Carl has of being elected Governor of New York.

In comments left here, on Carl’s Facebook page and in media interviews, there is no discussion of his reform proposals or his ideas for changing the structural problems in state government (not that there are any), it’s all anger.  We’re fed up, we’ve had enough, we’re gonna drag Shelly Silver to Attica, etc.  It’s all rabble, none of it backed up with substantive discussion about proposed reforms.

I think it says a lot about the state of affairs in New York that any appreciable percentage of the voting populace sees this as a viable option.

It’s been proven in the past that anger is not a sustainable campaign strategy.  A candidate needs compelling ideas and substantive proposals while leading the citizens to achieve aspirational goals.  Especially if the candidate intends to run for statewide office in New York, where Democrats carry a 25% party affiliation advantage in recent polling and an even larger number when measuring registrations.

Anger will not carry the day on a minor party line (since the GOP Chairman has told Paladino to get lost) and he’ll be running on the Conservative line (if he’s lucky) and the yet to be formed Tea Party line (if he’s crazy).

It’s going to be a wild and crazy summer in New York State and I will enjoy watching the monkeys yell at the monolith.

Thick Skin

18 Apr

Carl Paladino’s going to go to Albany and shake things up. He’s the man to do it because:

Well, “values” have been covered. Literally ad nauseum.

But according to this report from Jim Heaney, which reveals that Paladino earns $10.1 million per year from at least 37 state leases and contracts, and has received at least $12 million in tax breaks since 2003, and this associated blog post, he’s no populist, and his skin is thinner than that of any other contemporary politician, ever.

The report is, to me, most significant in showing that the influence Mr. Paladino had with the Masiello Administration to shape Empire Zone boundaries downtown to his great benefit. Influence like that comes at a price.

“Mad as hell” populist, my ass.

Also, as for “thick skin”, just check out this email string that Heaney posted (.doc). Can you imagine Cuomo, Levy, or Lazio completely shutting out a major newspaper’s reporter because they were butthurt about his factual reporting? I can’t. Usually, campaigns roll with the good stories and bad, and maintain contacts with big media because they recognize that the press and the candidate need each other. I suspect that Mr. Caputo doesn’t have control of his client.