Tag Archives: Haiti

The Morning Grumpy – 1/9/2012

9 Jan

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

1. The Buffalo Cash Mob was held last Friday and it was an awesome success. Over the course of two hours, Chow Chocolat had about 75-80 people pass through their doors to spend between $10-$20 each. The local chocolatier also received a bevy of earned media coverage with broadcast stories on Channel 4 & 7 with Channel 4 doing a live spot during the 5 & 6PM newscasts. Channel 2 had done a story the previous night and Buffalo Business First was also on hand to cover the celebration of a local small business. Many thanks to all of those who attended this event and I’ll be incorporating some feedback into our plans for the February cash mob.

If you came, let me know what you thought. If you weren’t able to attend, let me know why. Next time, I’m going to encourage our voters to think outside Elmwood and Downtown and branch out into other areas of the city. Perhaps we’ll expand the hours or shorten them up to truly make it a flash cash mob.

Whatever we do for the next event, please continue to support Chow Chocolat and the other fine member businesses of Buffalo First. Reward their investment in our community by investing in them.

2. There has been an exceptional amount of talk by Republican Presidential candidates about pre-emptive war against Iran. Sure, we just ended a land war in Asia, why not get into another one, right? They’re a threat to Israel! They’re islamofascistshomicidebombers! I mean, they hate us for our freedoms!

So, what’s the backstory of Iranian-U.S. relations?  This video might help.

Yeah, it’s our freedoms they hate.

3. In other news from our own burgeoning theocracy in America, 24 states passed 92 restrictions on abortion rights in 2011.

The wave of elections won by Conservatives and Tea Party candidates in states across America in 2010 resulted in a rising tide of right wing theist legislation. No surprise, that.

4. Free ponies for everyone! Zombie preparedness! Time travel research! This is Vermin Supreme and he paid his $1,000 to get on the New Hampshire Presidential Primary ballot. Sure, he wears a boot on his head and seems crazy, but is fully funded time travel research all that different than Newt Gingrich’s proposal to conduct mining operations on the moon?  This is the only guy on a ballot in New Hampshire who makes Rick Santorum seems sane…well, not really.

5. Thursday will mark the second anniversary of the massive earthquake which killed over 300,000 people and nearly destroyed the entirety of Haiti. The Miami Herald reports on the current state of the nation.

While U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and others vowed that the world would help Haiti “build back better,” and $2.38 billion has been spent, Haitians have hardly seen any building at all.

At the time, grand ambitions were voiced for a Haiti rebuilt on modern lines. New housing would replace shantytowns and job-generating industry would be spread out to ease the human crush of Port-au-Prince, the sprawling capital with its 3 million people.

The inability to rebuild is almost as great a tragedy as the earthquake. An eye-opening and discouraging report.

6. Ron Paul, failed ideologue.

Of the 620 bills sponsored by Ron Paul during his long career in the House of Representatives, only four have ever made it to a vote on the House floor and only one of those became an actual law. An analysis by The Washington Post shows that Paul’s success rate of 0.2 percent falls far below that of most legislators, as Paul has chosen to stand up for his personal crusades, rather that build coalitions for more popular, but less ambitious, proposals.

His governing style as President would be a lot like the way Carl Paladino promised to govern, lots of bluster, lots of ideology, little sense of leadership and an inability to compromise and make progress. No thanks.

 7. Super-PACs will decide who becomes President of the United States in 2012. Sure, we still go out and vote, but the SuperPACs will determine the message to the voters which will inform our votes. What’s a SuperPAC, you ask? Oh, let me explain.

The 2010 election marks the rise of a new political committee, dubbed “super PACs,” and officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals. The super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions. The first was the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissionwhich held that government may not prohibit unions and corporations from making independent expenditures about politics. Soon after, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited. Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties and are required to disclose their donors, just like traditional PACs.

Mitt Romney’s SuperPAC played a very large role in his victory in Iowa and each candidate will rely heavily on the unlimited and untraceable monies these groups can spend in the primary and general election. Late last week, Billionaire Sheldon Adelson made a $5MM contribution to Newt Gingrich’s SuperPAC in order to fund the SuperPAC’s campaign activities and advertising on Newt’s behalf. Previously, Adelson would have been subjected to federal campaign contribution maximums, but that’s no longer an issue for a billionaire looking to buy a favorable election result.

Republican SuperPACs have raised a ton of money in this election cycle.

More than 80 percent of giving to Super PACs so far has come from just 58 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the latest data, which covers the first half of 2011. The Republican groups have raised $17.6 million and the Democratic groups $7.6 million. Those numbers will balloon, with American Crossroads, the main Republican Super PAC, aiming to raise $240 million.)

My favorite is the “Restore Our Future” SuperPAC which supports Mitt Romney.

Founded by former aides to Mitt Romney, this group is expected to maintain the minimum legal distance between itself and Romney’s official campaign. Romney himself even spoke at a Manhattan fundraiser for the group, though — apparently for legal reasons — he left the room before an explicit appeal for money was made, the Times reported.

America, f*ck yeah!

Fact Of The Day: In 2011, it costs 2.41 cents to make a Penny and 11.18 cents to make a Nickel.

Quote Of The Day: “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. ” – Christopher Hitchens

Song Of The Day: “Little Fat Baby” by Sparklehorse


Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com


16 Jan

My friends Mike and Erin Lancer have been working for several years to adopt an adorable three-year old Haitian orphan boy whom they’ve named Geoffrey. I’ve been tracking their progress on Facebook and before the earthquake happened he told me how Erin was running in the Disney Marathon in order to raise $60,000 to buy an ambulance for Haitian women to use for maternity runs. Of course, because I find sick humor in everything, I suggested that they were overpaying and should pick up a used one cheap in DR and drive it over.

So, Erin ran the marathon in 30 degree weather during Florida’s cold snap – the marathon was Sunday, she flew to Port au Prince on Monday, and the earthquake hit on Tuesday afternoon. When I saw that it was a magnitude 7, I knew it wouldn’t be good.

Haiti is a horribly poor, terribly dysfunctional third world place. There is no infrastructure upon which people can rely, and instead people in Port au Prince live a sort of off-the-grid life of subsistence. There was a very thin thread holding together Haitian society, government, and civilization, and the earthquake of January 12th was unbelievably devastating. The notion of building codes is nonexistent there.

Which goes to why the Lancers initially made the decision to adopt Geoffrey. He is an orphan in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and they quite clearly can’t save every kid, but they can save one. They’ve visited him eight times in the past few years, and they knew he was their son within minutes.

But bureaucracy is bad enough in a functioning society, and exponentially worse in Haiti. Paperwork has taken a terribly long time to get in order, and just before the earthquake, all they were waiting for was Geoffrey’s passport, so they could get his visa together and bring him home.

Now, with Haiti’s capitol completely destroyed, there are no government offices to grant him a passport and everything is thrown into disarray. While Erin, Geoffrey, and the other people at the orphanage were not harmed in the earthquake, Mike has been working tirelessly since Tuesday to get them out.

Erin finally made it out Friday on a military transport to a base in New Jersey, and then caught a flight to Buffalo, arriving yesterday. Here’s the channel 2 report of her return:


How bittersweet – while she is physically safe and home with Mike and their two older kids, it was utterly heartbreaking to leave their young son in chaos. In a country that will literally have to rebuild its capital from the bottom up.

In the effort to get Geoffrey out, Mike tells me that he has received incredible response from Senator Schumer’s office, Congressman Higgins’ office, and Congressman Lee’s office. Mike isn’t even a constituent of Chris Lee’s, so it’s really wonderful that his office is adding its support and help.

I can’t stress enough how much I hope the paperwork can be processed so that Geoffrey can come home. But the greater story is how our government snapped to action to help get a citizen out of there, and to help the family get their little boy out, too. You can track their progress here.

The greater story is how a Caribbean country you don’t hear a lot about or visit is suddenly thrust into our collective consciousness, and while we often turn our attention to disadvantaged places far afield, there are places closer to home that are just as bad off.

And for every story coming out of Haiti that is full of hope and promise, there are many more involving incomprehensible loss.

If you can help, help by sending money to aid agencies. This is Berlin 1945.

The Lancers have highlighted these agencies for donations:

Heartline Ministries
Worldwide Village

Other agencies accepting donations and offering aid:

American Red Cross, or text “HAITI” to 90999 to add $10 for Haitian relief to your cell phone bill.

Save the Children
Doctors Without Borders

How to Help Haitians

13 Jan

Haiti, a horribly poor country, was hit by a magnitute 7 earthquake yesterday. Needless to say, a place like Port au Prince doesn’t have earthquake-proofing building regulations, and reports are that the capital is practically demolished and thousands are dead or trapped.

List compiled by the Washington Post, ht Jack & Jill Politics:

To donate to specific relief efforts in Haiti:

Mercy Corps
Save the Children
International Red Cross
World Vision
International Medical Corps

The State Department has set up hotline for Americans to inquire about family in Haiti: 888-407-4747

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean is asking people on Twitter to donate to his organization Yele Haiti: @wyclef: Haiti is in need of immediate AID please text Yele to 510 510 and donate $5 toward earthquake relief.

You can also find updated information and general ways to help during disasters at ReliefWeb and USAID.