Tag Archives: media

Barbrady Science

16 Nov

A BBC documentary television series called “Frozen Planet” will soon air on the Discovery Network here in the U.S.

Well, most of it will.

U.S. audiences will not be shown the last episode, which looks at the threat posed by man to the natural world.

It is feared a show that preaches global warming could upset viewers in the U.S., where around half of people do not believe in climate change.

The Daily  Mail points out that 53% of self-identify Republicans refuse to believe the science establishing that humans contribute to global climate change, and the number leaps to 70% among the so-called “tea party” ultra-right wing.

Sir David Attenborough presents and authors the series, the seventh episode of which, entitled ‘On Thin Ice’, looks at how the planet’s ice is changing and what it means not only to the animals and people at the Poles but also the rest of the planet.

How about that. Only 32% of Americans support the Tea Party movement, which is perceived favorably by 28% of Americans. Only 29% of Americans self-identify as Republicans. Most Americans (38%) self-identify as “independent”.

I don’t quite understand, then, why a small minority of Americans gets to drive the nation’s scientific bus over the cliffs of ignorance.

Shorter Wingnut Media on Rodriguez-Flamenco

2 Nov

On the alleged stabbing murder of an innocent Wal*Mart shopper in Albion the other day:

Knives don’t kill people. Visa statuses do.

Let’s be clear – the accused Honduran didn’t come to Albion in some vacuum. He came here because there’s a demand for farmhands, and astonishingly, not many people locally want to do that work. Reform the immigration laws to allow for guest workers to come here legally for temporary assignments, and you solve the visa issue.  As for crazy people stabbing women in parking lots, I’m sorry to inform you that illegal aliens don’t have the market cornered on violent crime, anywhere.

Two Stupid Twitter Arguments

18 Aug

Two of the dumbest arguments broke out in Buffalo’s Twittersphere yesterday afternoon, and it all started with this simple question:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103922579991048192″%5D

The suggestions came in fast: San Marco, Siena, Trattoria Aroma, Carmine’s – people came up with helpful ideas almost instantaneously; Twitter is all about instant gratification in 140 characters.

Then came this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103922814737846272″%5D

Twitter is also all about seeing stuff that makes you shake your head in astonishment.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103923543850487808″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103924656817442816″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103926644858826752″%5D

I think you see where this is going. It’s another 2005 vintage suburbs vs. city online argument, in this case begun by a self-described “city snob” who remains deliberately ignorant of the suburbs; someone whose business is to attract entrepreneurs to the region.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103924047670284288″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103926170134913024″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103926404403560448″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103926531218350080″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103926640035368960″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103927278907555840″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103927558369837056″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103927715274559490″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103928095920226305″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103928674981642240″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103928615326064640″%5D

It went on and on from there, and I tried to redirect the conversation with this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103929636001546240″%5D

But @nxtARROWpres kept trying to backtrack and change the subject to how sprawl “kills” and how ignorant and insensitive suburbanites are. He called for MetroRail to be expanded for the sole purpose of bringing suburbanites downtown to see all of the city’s cultural wonders, ignoring the fact that an improved Metro system would also help city dwellers reach jobs located in the ‘burbs.

So, argument #1 was a group of people rebutting some vividly ignorant views on regionalism. Thanks to @nateatsbuffalo, @buffalucci, @edwardmichael, and @speljamr for fighting the good fight. Regional cooperation trumps dumb city/suburb cleaves every day.

Ah, but I promised two dumb arguments.

In the midst of all of this, “@BuffaloRach” tweeted this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103932240349761536″%5D

Now, let me be clear – I had given @nateatsbuffalo the San Marco and Aroma suggestions. I didn’t jack the thread – @nxtARROWpres did, never giving a suggestion thanks to his deliberate ignorance of all things suburbs. Furthermore, I haven’t argued with @nxtARROWpres on Twitter for literally months, about anything. So, I thought @BuffaloRach was out of line and full of crap, so I defended myself. That’s when, for the second time in as many weeks, I got this argument:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103932500170113024″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103932695117176832″%5D

There’s this meme that’s started in town about how I react to the opinions of others. Essentially, it breaks down like this:

a. Someone writes something stupid;

b. I argue with the person, inviting them to defend their stupid statement;

c. I am accused of not respecting the opinions of others.

That’s not how it works. If you write or think something stupid, you don’t just get to do so without challenge.

Hey, Obama is a socialist! Thank you for your opinion!

Hey, the suburbs suck and the city is the greatest! Let’s agree to disagree and not discuss this at all!

No.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103935144959803392″%5D

What does that even mean?

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103935528927379456″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103935725514399744″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936118654906368″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936282853523456″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936696478998528″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103936480673665025″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103936939664748544″%5D

Again, it went on from there. Now, I was using Twitter to argue a deeply existential argument about our very region – the political, economic, and social future of Buffalo and WNY hinges, I think, on government consolidation, regional government, and the city and suburbs working together. That is extremely important to me, and here I am arguing with somebody who thinks I shouldn’t argue on Twitter because it annoys her that I don’t just instantly roll over for stupid opinions.

If the topic is “Twitter threads that annoy me”, I should go ballistic every night of every fall, winter, and spring with idiotic and facile one-word-Sabres Tweets as people watch hockey – stuff that belongs on an IRC chat, not for the public’s benefit. If the topic is “Twitter threads that annoy me”, I should call out the little PR/social media expert Twitter cliques that like to prove what great friends they are and what fantastic social lives they have as they make plans – in public, on Twitter – to meet for drinks and food after work – stuff that belongs in a text message, not for the public’s benefit.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103952753679810560″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103941811655028737″%5D

So, to recap:

1. Arguments about how the city sucks and the suburbs are great, and vice-versa, are idiotic and counterproductive. They are damaging to the region as a whole, which needs to work together to move forward;

2. When I am confronted with a stupid argument, such as the one shown in number 1, supra, please don’t tell me what I can and can’t argue about, or that I’m wrong to not just roll over and quietly accept other people’s dumb opinions; and

3. If you have a bad Twitter habit like making plans for drinks on the patio of the Mansion with your Twique every other day, and otherwise using a public platform for your private conversations, don’t hammer me for my bad Twitter habit of engaging in arguments about important political, economic, or social issues.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103950207305265152″%5D

Thanks!

WNYMedia.net Demands a Retraction from the Buffalo News

16 Aug

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

The Society of Professional Journalists posts a voluntary code of ethics on its website. Among other things, it admonishes professional journalists to:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

In connection with this story, which appeared in the Buffalo News on August 7, 2011: http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/bob-mccarthy/article514711.ece, you did no such thing. What you did was to (a) read something that Joe Illuzzi wrote; (b) double-check Illuzzi’s work-product with the Board of Elections; and (c) connect the dots, directly and unequivocally accusing Chris Smith of being paid by the Poloncarz campaign to blast your facile non-story about Jennifer Hibit’s connection with a health care worker’s union.

Upon seeing your August 7th piece, I immediately emailed you to inquire whether you had contacted Chris Smith before drawing that specific conclusion of payola. You did not deign to respond. I simultaneously contacted Chris and confirmed through him that you never tested the accuracy of Mr. Illuzzi’s conclusion by diligently seeking Chris out to give him the opportunity to respond to Illuzzi’s – and your – allegations of wrongdoing.

You were – quite rightly – blasted by most writers at WNYMedia.net within the following few days for being hypocritical. The Buffalo News has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaigns for advertisements over the years, yet none of us ever accused you of payola. How dare you do the same without checking with us first?

Your hurt feelings over Chris’ specific allegations of your lazy hackery (none of which you addressed or rebutted, by the way), were enough to get you to overlook your ethics as a journalist, and instead clumsily lob an accusation of payola directly at Chris, (and indirectly at me and everyone else who writes for WNYMedia.net). Our site is a blog made up of commentary and opinion. Since this is an unpaid hobby for Chris, me, and others, we tend to stick with topics that interest us. Chris and I are both deeply in the red viz. what we’ve paid to keep that site up & running.

I’m gobsmacked that you so cavalierly accused us of payola without checking with any of us first; without even making an effort to contact Chris or me to verify whether we got any of the Poloncarz money. We’re not one guy; we’re a network of people with different roles. What you’ve done, quite frankly, is defame us. You have – with reckless disregard for its truth or accuracy – accused the bloggers at WNYMedia.net of being paid to write positive things about Mark Poloncarz. As you’re no doubt aware, that’s the legal definition of “actual malice”, which is the higher standard accorded to public figures. You have destroyed our credibility on the County Executive’s race with a lie – a lie you could have, but did not, checked with us about first.

Printing a lie in the singular local newspaper with reckless disregard for the truth or accuracy of said lie is a textbook case of libel.

In obvious recognition of that fact, the paper printed a “clarification”, a lazy attempt at damage control. It basically informed the reader that, when Bob McCarthy wrote that Chris Smith was paid off by the Poloncarz to write nice stuff about Poloncarz, this may have given people the impression that Chris Smith was paid off by Poloncarz.

Today, I wanted to write something about the campaign for County Executive. I found that I could not. I found that I am now tarnished with an image of being a paid hack for the Poloncarz campaign. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do about that, but I’m writing to you, with a cc to your boss – without seeking the pre-approval of anyone at WNYMedia.net – to demand the following:

1. As prominently as your accusation of payola was on August 7, you devote an equal amount of column space to publicly retracting and apologizing for accusing Chris Smith (and by extension the other bloggers at WNYMedia.net) of payola, and that you specifically acknowledge that you were incorrect, and had never bothered to ask Chris before accusing him of being on the Poloncarz payroll;

2. That the Buffalo News issue a proper and complete correction and retraction of McCarthy’s August 7th libel;

3. That the Buffalo News add such correction and retraction to the website containing Bob McCarthy’s column of August 7th, so that anyone who may come upon it via Google search will see the retraction and apology accompanying the original libel;

4. That the foregoing take place before September 7, 2011.

I’m going to go out on a limb and expect the courtesy of a reply – from either you, your editor(s), or the News’ legal counsel.

Alan Bedenko

(The foregoing was transmitted today via e-mail).

Clarifications and Corrections From The Buffalo News

14 Aug

Last Sunday, Buffalo News Political Columnist Bob McCarthy got on his high horse and wrote this:

A local blogger named Chris Smith has been downright giddy in recent days criticizing The Buffalo News for reporting that SEIU Local 1199 is paying employee Jennifer Hibit to manage Poloncarz’s campaign for county executive. Around here, something unusual and of interest to voters makes a good story.

But not over at WNY Media Network, where Smith toils. More important to the network, apparently, is the $3,750 Poloncarz paid to WNY Media Network for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records. In fact, the same records show WNY Media Network has handled Poloncarz’s video campaign for years.

Some local bloggers receive money from politicians. The Politics Column does not — and that says it all.

I then responded later that day with the following:

I didn’t receive any money from Mark Poloncarz nor any other politician and I never have. Not for work performed on a campaign, not for services provided to a campaign, not for content on this website, not for anything. Not once. Not a thin red cent. Neither has Alan Bedenko, Brian Castner, Chris Charvella, Tom Dolina, Gabe Armstrong, or any of our other writers. We’re simply a group of citizen journalists who add context and analysis to the evolving story of Western New York. Nothing more, nothing less.

Several other articles were written here and a bit of a firestorm developed on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. McCarthy’s column was lazy and the audience took the newspaper to task for publishing an unqualified personal attack.

On Friday, The Buffalo News published a clarification to McCarthy’s bullshit article about my being a “pay for praise” journalist.

An item in Sunday’s Politics Column may have mistakenly given the impression that blogger Chris Smith was paid by the county executive campaign of Democrat Mark Poloncarz. The article pointed out that the firm running the website to which Smith contributes blogs, WNY Media Network, was paid $3,750 by the Poloncarz campaign for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records.

While it’s well and good that The Buffalo News published a “clarification” on their never-read “Corrections” page, this is a half-assed clarification to an accusation, but not an apology for the insult.

As Alan pointed out in his column, The Buffalo News has received well in excess of $250,000 from political campaigns since 2000. There is no difference between their print outlet taking money from candidates and our company being paid for professional services. Especially when neither I nor Bob McCarthy are directly paid with the proceeds. I qualify that statement with “directly” because Bob is actually paid by his outlet for his writing services while I am not compensated in any way.

It’s not “may have been mistaken”, it’s “was mistaken” or “deliberately/willfully mistaken”.

Making an accusation that I am on the take is a direct assault on my integrity and credibility in the community and can and might be subject to legal proceedings. I did not and still do not take this allegation lightly.

The Buffalo News, at a minimum, should publish a full retraction in the same space as the accusation was published, in Bob McCarthy’s Sunday politics column. Earlier today, I sent an email requesting exactly that.

RE: Correction WNYMedia/Poloncarz
Chris Smith Sun, Aug 14, 2011 at 10:05 AM
To: msullivan@buffnews.com, rmccarthy@buffnews.com
Cc: Alan Bedenko

Ms. Sullivan,

I’d like to thank you for the clarification/correction to Bob McCarthy’s inaccurate statement regarding my alleged employment with the campaign of County Executive Candidate Mark Poloncarz which was published on 8/6/2011.

However, it has come to my attention that the correction has not been noted in the webpage of the actual column.

http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/bob-mccarthy/article514711.ece

In the age of new media, it is important to publish your clarification/correction on the offending webpage as well as in print or on the corrections page.

Mr. McCarthy’s article is still searchable on the internet in its uncorrected format and serves to misinform readers as to my role at WNYMedia and my involvement with the Mark Poloncarz campaign.

I would appreciate the clarification being published in the Internet version of the column as soon as possible. Your organization often makes changes to an online story as it develops, I do not see why it cannot also be done for acknowledged corrections.

I thank you in advance for your expected attention to this matter.

Regards,
Chris Smith

Christopher M. Smith
327 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14201
Email: chris@wnymedia.net

If action is not taken within 72 hours, I will be moving on to other tactics in order to have my name cleared. It is unacceptable that the sole political writer at The Buffalo News be allowed to prosecute a personal agenda against another local journalist with impunity.

Bob McCarthy’s Sleep Number is “Laurels”

8 Aug

When Bob McCarthy unprofessionally attacks one WNYMedia.net writer for having a pecuniary bias, he attacks us all.  I commented at the News’ site:

If the “Buffalo News” has ever received a dime that’s recorded at the BOE, McCarthy will look foolish. I know for a fact he didn’t contact Chris Smith, who received not a dime from Poloncarz, directly or through WNYMedia.net, thus rendering this second-hand non-story as lazy as it is full of implied pecuniary bias.

I won’t re-hash what Chris S., Marc, and Chris C. have already wrote. Instead, I direct you to this passage in McCarthy’s column:

But not over at WNY Media Network, where Smith toils. More important to the network, apparently, is the $3,750 Poloncarz paid to WNY Media Network for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records. In fact, the same records show WNY Media Network has handled Poloncarz’s video campaign for years.

Some local bloggers receive money from politicians. The Politics Column does not — and that says it all.

The implication is that Chris had a pecuniary interest to write about how lazy Bob McCarthy was in his reporting on the Poloncarz campaign, and that, but for the kingly ransom of $3,750, Smith would not have gone after McCarthy for his “Stefan wrote it for me” he said/she said regurgitation of Collins’ talking points.

The “Buffalo News” has been on the receiving end of $193,981.38 of various and sundry campaign expenditures between 2000 – 2011.  Another $64,289.02 was paid to “The Buffalo News”, leaving a grand total of $258,270.40.

By McCarthy’s own clumsy accusation, each time he wrote about any of the candidates who spent money to advertise with the Buffalo News; e.g., Sam Hoyt, Robin Schimminger, George Maziarz, etc., he should have disclosed the pecuniary bias he had in doing so.  Advertising bucks paid to the Buffalo News keeps Bob McCarthy in repurposed Century 21 blazers, whereas I never saw a penny of Poloncarz’s website & video payments to Marc Odien.

To be clear – I am not accusing Bob McCarthy of being on the take. There are two local websites who compete for dollars from candidates, and make promises about editorial direction that are dependent on those dollars (or lack thereof). Neither WNYMedia.net nor the Buffalo News are among those websites. To suggest that we are just like them is false and defamatory; to suggest that we are just like them without taking the time to check your facts, if you’re the sole paper’s sole political reporter/columnist, is a lazy dereliction of duty.

Bob McCarthy isn’t some blogger who writes tens of thousands of words’ worth of content for free. He is a well-paid newspaper journalist. People know we have a bias, and they read our content with that understanding. On the other hand, people assume that what Bob McCarthy runs with in the paper is fed to him by insiders, and that he then checks his facts.

In this instance, politicsny.net ran with the “Poloncarz paid WNYMedia.net” charge, and Bob McCarthy checked the BOE website and ran the story in the paper. Usually, I would agree that McCarthy wouldn’t have to double-check whether WNYMedia.net  got the money he says we did. It’s right there in the disclosure. But when he concludes with “Some local bloggers receive money from politicians” that’s something he should have checked with Chris about, first.

I’m not a supporter of Democrats and Democratic politics because someone paid me to be, but because I think that the Republicans, their policies, and their ideology are largely wrong.

Do I think Bob McCarthy or his ingeniously named “The Politics Column” is being paid by campaigns to slant his coverage? No.

Do I think Bob McCarthy is lazy, and will print whatever his handful of sources hand him on a silver platter? Hell, it’s not even that hard to figure out who his sources are. For all I know, he’s got politicsny.net on speed-dial.

I’ve had a handful of dealings with Bob in my time here. Interestingly, he never deigned to interview me when I ran for office, leaving that to Steve Watson, who was covering online goings-on. We’ve slammed him for laziness before. When Mark Grisanti voted for same-sex marriage, we were interested in how he came to change his vote. Bob McCarthy wanted to know about inside baseball “who wins, who loses” party politics.  When current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman appeared at a campaign stop last year with Mark Poloncarz, Bob asked him to comment on some BS story that the partisan New York Post had printed about him. He prints what people give him, but fails to examine whether it’s true, or whether it matters.  Over and over  and over again.

In 2008, the Davis campaign handed to Bob McCarthy a completely false story that then-congressional candidate Jon Powers had run his charity into the ground, and that he got arrested for cursing at a police officer in Ohio. McCarthy’s willingness to be a transcription service for campaigns who would give him something to write about became quite evident, and colors many people’s perception of him to this day.

We’ve even specifically discussed in the past, charges that the Buffalo News’ most mustachioed political reporter might be on the take. (We don’t think he is).

Hell, he gets invited to big-ticket Republican confabs and just uncritically transcribes what attendees tell him.

I’ve even established a law of local politics. It’s called Powers’ Law:

If you’re a political candidate, and you get a call from the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy, and he informs you that he’s going to run a story the next day that accuses you of horrible moral turpitude (e.g., you stole money from Iraqi orphans or you’re a racist), you absolutely cannot issue a limp rebuttal and pretend like it will all just blow over.

You have to address the allegation head on, strongly, to take control of the narrative as soon as possible, otherwise your silence/tepid response will be interpreted as a concession of the accusation’s truth.

Political columnists throughout New York State have must-read blogs – Jimmy VielkindLiz BenjaminAzi PaybarahCeleste Katz, to name a few. They hustle for stories, they use social media effectively, they have good sources, they vet the information they receive, and with good humor, they compete with each other for scoops.

On the other hand, Bob McCarthy is a walking metaphor for everything that’s wrong with the Buffalo News.

Obligatory Response To Bob McCarthy

7 Aug

After routinely scooping him for five years, Buffalo News Political Columnist Bob McCarthy finally decided to look down his nose and over his epic 70’s porn mustache to condescendingly write about our website. In his weekly column, Bob wrote the following:

A local blogger named Chris Smith has been downright “giddy” in recent days criticizing The Buffalo News for reporting that SEIU Local 1199 is paying employee Jennifer Hibit to manage Poloncarz’s campaign for county executive. Around here, something unusual and of interest to voters makes a good story.

But not over at WNY Media Network, where Smith toils. More important to the network, apparently, is the $3,750 Poloncarz paid to WNY Media Network for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records. In fact, the same records show WNY Media Network has handled Poloncarz’s video campaign for years.

Some local bloggers receive money from politicians. The Politics Column does not — and that says it all.

So, what was I “giddy” about? I’m not sure, I didn’t think I was “lightheartedly silly” or “joyfully elated” about anything. But, I will say that it appears the column Bob refers to and the accompanying picture, must have knocked him off his well-worn bar stool.

Essentially, Mr. McCarthy accused me of being “on the take” as an internet columnist. His evidence? WNYMedia was paid $3,750.00 earlier this year for website and video work for Mark Poloncarz, a candidate for Erie County Executive.

Well, allow me to retort. I’ll try and make this explanation so simple that even the people in Sloan will get it. Let’s use a picture!

I didn’t receive any money from Mark Poloncarz nor any other politician and I never have. Not for work performed on a campaign, not for services provided to a campaign, not for content on this website, not for anything. Not once. Not a thin red cent. Neither has Alan Bedenko, Brian Castner, Chris Charvella, Tom Dolina, Gabe Armstrong, or any of our other writers. We’re simply a group of citizen journalists who add context and analysis to the evolving story of Western New York. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the other hand, Marc Odien runs a media services company which pre-dates this website and he counts several politicians as clients. He has also provided video production and website design work for dozens of local corporations, public authorities, not-for-profit agencies and individuals. If he wishes to explain that further, I’ll let him. It’s his business, not mine.

WNYMedia is a true labor of love for those of us who have poured tens of thousands of hours into it over the past six years. Should we do a better job of making it clear that Marc operates independently of the rest of us? Absolutely. Over the course of the last three months, we have been working on new branding for the website which was intended to provide a more clear separation between Marc’s business and our website.

Of course, Bob McCarthy would have been able to include that in his column if he had simply called and asked me for a quote. Since he’s the high-horsed journalist and I’m the blogger, you’d think he’d be interested in getting the story right.

This shouldn’t be about defending myself, it should be about Bob. Every local pol I speak with on a regular basis as well as several people who work with Bob in the newsroom tell me the same thing; he’s a lazy columnist on the verge of retirement and struggling for relevance. McCarthy has a small circle of sources who provide him weekly talking points for regurgitation in print, which was what my column was all about. Notice, he did nothing to address the larger point I made in the column. He instead decided to impugn my integrity, without offering an opportunity for comment.

Some local bloggers research their stories and work to get it right. The Politics Column does not — and that says it all.

Esmonde’s Conceit Bucket

4 Aug

Donn Esmonde wrote a very nice story about how people are moving into dilapidated buildings in rough parts of the West Side and gentrifying them; they’re taking an interest in their properties, fixing them up, keeping them up, and otherwise reversing blight. This is a great thing, and there’s no need to cast aspersions against anyone, right?  No need to call anyone out, except perhaps for the formerly negligent property owners.

But Esmonde can always find a villain – he has to, because it’s easy. It’s funny because it’s usually a personal conceit, packed with poignant irony (how many typical Esmondian anti-parking screeds has he penned against the News’ fugly surface lot on Scott St.?), so he writes this:

They are not yuppies looking to gentrify. They are working-class folks eager to stabilize a multicultural neighborhood. The light of true believers is in their eyes. The energy and commitment are typical of the new-homeowner posse.

So what if they were “yuppies looking to gentrify”? People with cash who drive BMWs  installing Poggenpohl kitchens would be a bad thing in a rough, abandoned city neighborhood? If the gentrifiers were suburban folks looking to return to the city, would that be okay?

It’s like Esmonde’s writing is always just a facile bundle of conceits wrapped around a story that shouldn’t have been controversial at all.  Oh, this gentrification is okay because they’re “working-class” people.  Are they? One is a massage therapist, which is an allied health profession, and the other is a teacher, who gets great benefits and has a distinctly white-collar job. Neither of them works the third shift at Carborundum or the Tonawanda engine plant.

Did you also notice that the owners of the dilapidated homes all “fled to the suburbs”? Did he poll the neighborhood? Did he look it up at the clerk’s office? Is he sure they didn’t possibly move away from the area altogether? Or to a different part of the city? Yet another Esmonde conceit, clumsily hurled without factual basis.

I’ll tell you what – when a neighborhood is characterized as “hot” because the average home price is $80,000, then there’s still a lot of work to do.  We can start by not hurling invective at phantoms.

The Morning Grumpy – July 29th

29 Jul

After a one day sabbatical, I’m back to give you the news, video, and links that help make your morning grumpy a more pleasurable experience. Let’s get to it.

1. Here’s another cool thing I wish we had right here in Johnson City!

The Small Business Administration announced on Tuesday that it had formed a $130 million venture capital fund to invest in high-growth companies in Michigan. The fund is the first of what Karen Mills, the S.B.A. administrator, said is a $1 billion commitment over five years through what the agency calls Impact Investment funds, part of the Obama administration’s Startup America initiative announced in January.

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The Obama administration has not sought to renew the equity program, either, though the S.B.A. says it is developing a $1 billion fund for early-stage companies, set to be launched in late 2011 or early 2012.

Calls and emails to Mayor Brown’s office predictably went unanswered. If offered the opportunity to ask the Mayor about this program, it would go a little like this:

  • When you were at the White House for the Super Bowl, did you do anything other than shop around for a job?
  • Did Steve Casey eat all the dill dip at the party? Everyone hates the guy who lingers over the dip…
  • Did you think it might be appropriate to ask the President about ways in which the federal government could help us out of our 50 year economic downturn?
  • Might you have any interest in a program like this? Any plans to pursue it? If so, who would lead the effort and what would you be seeking?

2. TEDxBuffalo2: Electric Boogaloo is happening. The first TEDXBuffalo didn’t happen for several reasons, most notably, because a crazy person was leading the effort. Now, we have a team of real adults (myself included) and accomplished professionals working on the effort which is being led by completely sane person and local technology maven, Kevin Purdy. Here are the details as we know them.

  • We have a theme: “No Permission Necessary”
  • We have a place: Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College
  • We have speakers and performers (to be announced soon).
  • And we want YOU to SAVE THE DATE (Tuesday, October 11, 2011) to watch the event streaming over the internet, at a viewing party (we’ll let you know about those, too) or live in person.
  • We’ll be announcing more about the event and all the details in the coming weeks, so check back here, as well as our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

WNYMedia will be a sponsor of the event, providing the video streaming and other video services. I tell you this because I intend to talk about this event frequently and you should know why.

3. Speaking of TED, here is a video that I fell in love with and watch frequently. I wanted to share and get you hyped up for our local version of the event. Barry Schwartz tells us where we went wrong and encourages us to rediscover our practical wisdom.

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4. Has anyone else seen this bizarre item in their local frozen foods aisle?

There has to be a reason they are named “wyngz” and not “wings”, right? Why am I using so many unnecessary “quotation marks”? Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I dug into this issue like a sumo wrestler at a buffet line. It turns out something is amiss in the frozen aisle

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service allows the use of the term ‘wyngz’ to denote a product that is in the shape of a wing or a bite-size appetizer type product under the following conditions.”

The statement may only reference the term “wyngz” (no other misspellings are permitted).

AND

a statement that further clarifies that the product does not contain any wing meat or is not derived only from wing meat

The more you know…

5. Want to know why your broadcast media sucks? Might have something to do with this…

Large media outlets have been cowed into avoidance of anything resembling an opinion or judgement on the news of the day for fear of being labeled as biased. The fear of an appearance of bias or informed opinion is so strong that outlets resort to he said/she said reporting and a determination of “winners”.

It is a pointless determination which does little to inform the people about the issues of the day and frankly; it is absolute chickenshit journalism. Tell me what’s happening, who is involved, where and when it went down. Then, maybe, just maybe, give us an informed analysis of why it’s happening and tell us what you think will happen next. It doesn’t matter “who’s winning” the debate, it’s not a horse race.

6. After that weird mix of news, you might be in the same spot as Homer. Let’s take a break.

7. The problem with the American economy, summed up in three paragraphs.

Back in the U.S., companies are squeezing more productivity out of staffs thinned by layoffs during the Great Recession. They don’t need to hire. And they don’t need to be generous with pay raises; they know their employees have nowhere else to go.

Companies remain reluctant to spend the $1.9 trillion in cash they’ve accumulated, especially in the United States, which would create jobs. They’re unconvinced that consumers are ready to spend again with the vigor they showed before the recession, and they are worried about uncertainty in U.S. government policies.

For now, corporations aren’t eager to hire or hand out decent raises until they see consumers spending again. And consumers, still paying down the debts they ran up before the recession, can’t spend freely until they’re comfortable with their paychecks and secure in their jobs.

Corporate profits in Q2 of FY11 have exceeded expectations, so I’m sure all the job creators will soon take advantage of the ten years of tax breaks and start, ya know, creating some jobs!

8. While the national GOP is holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling issue, their state GOP counterparts are busily at work making sure we won’t have as many people at the voting booth in 2012 to do much about it.

In states across the country, Republican legislatures are pushing through laws that make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

There are only two explanations for such action: Either Republican governors and state legislators are genuinely trying to protect the public from rampant voter fraud, or they are trying to disenfranchise the Americans most likely to vote against them. The latter would run so egregiously counter to democratic values — to American values — that one hopes the former was the motivation.

And yet, a close examination finds that voter fraud, in truth, is essentially nonexistent.

9. A primer on raising your kids to be rational, skeptical, and curious critical thinkers.

I want my kids to see the universe as an astonishing, thrilling place to be no matter what, whether God exists or does not exist, whether we are permanent or temporary.  I want them to feel unconditional love and joy at being alive, conscious and wondering. Like the passionate love of anything, an unconditional love of reality breeds a voracious hunger to experience it directly, to embrace it, whatever form it may take.

Children with that exciting combination of love and hunger will not stand for anything that gets in the way of that clarity. Their minds become thirsty for genuine understanding, and the best we can do is stand back.

Perfect.

10. Debunking the right wing version of tax burdens which usually features some version of, “half of all Americans don’t pay taxes at all!” From those filthy pinko hippies at “The Economist“.

American society is becoming more unequal. Incomes at the bottom level are stagnant or declining, while incomes at the top are rising. This is why a large number of people at the bottom levels of the income tier don’t make enough money to pay any federal income tax. At the same time, we’re not collecting enough overall revenue to pay for our government spending. We could try to raise the money we need by repealing tax breaks for poor children and the elderly, if we were sort of mean and determined to hurt people who don’t have the political strength to resist, but I think it makes more sense to raise the taxes we need by increasing rates on relatively well-off people whose incomes have risen dramatically over the past couple of decades and can thus afford to pay them.

Have a day!

con·grat·u·bate (kənˈgraCHəˌbāt), Verb

13 Jul

A polite golf clap is in order for Donn Esmonde, who here touts the heavy lift that Mark Goldman unilaterally assumed for himself late last year in promoting a snake-oil salesman’s unscientific, unproven “lighter, faster, cheaper” model of “economic development”. His Wednesday column about Canal Side is something I’m calling “congratubation”, or self-congratulation. Let’s read Donn and Mark pat themselves firmly on their own backs.

Of course, it’s working. It worked everywhere else. There’s no secret recipe or special formula. We have sun, sky and—most importantly— water. Just add a snack shack, put out some brightly colored Adirondack chairs, set up a kids’ space, mix in activities. All of a sudden, we have a down-town waterfront that people want to go to.

Yes, of course! It’s so simple, really. The highest and best use for that property is to cobble the streets, throw in some flexible lawns, erect a shack (and invite a bunch of politicos to cut its ribbon), and all done! And think of all the activities and sand-play that’ll take place down there in, say, February! It’ll be a veritable mad house when the winds whip in off the frozen lake and the lunchtime crowd eats its shack lunch al fresco whilst developing a nasty case of frostbite.

Erie County Snack Shack
picture shack pictures

And consider all the other great and not-so-great waterfronts throughout America.

Even Yonkers has us beat.

Just like a lot of people thought we would, once we got past our magic-bullet fixation. There’s no need to overthink it. To oversubsidize it. To overbuild it.

“It’s ironic,” said Mark Goldman, the activist/entrepreneur whose brainstorm last year changed the waterfront course. “The major economic-development success story in our community this year involves $3,000 worth of Adirondack chairs.”

Apart from being a one-shot boon to Adirondack chair suppliers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, what economic benefit, exactly, is derived? Adirondack chairs are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. They let people who forgot their own chairs to use a publicly supplied chair, sit back, and watch something happen. Or relax. Or hang out. It’s all very nice, but there is no economic activity whatsoever being generated from “sitting back”. Who’s getting paid? Who’s selling something? Who’s buying something? Who’s employed? What economic transactions are taking place thanks to people loitering relaxedly in an Adirondack chair?

UPDATE: Here’s an interview we did with the ECHDC’s President, Tom Dee, on the day the snack shack opened:

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Monday afternoon, more than 100 people walked or lounged at Erie Canal Harbor. A warm breeze ruffled a line of colored banners. Boats glided by on the Buffalo River. Folks lined up for sandwiches and ice cream at Clinton’s Dish—named for the governor who, at this site in 1825, opened the canal that transformed America. (Maybe someday we’ll get a sign that commemorates the fact.)

Oh, my heavens! Over 100 people?! How will we control these throngs if they persist?

And on Clinton Dish’s opening day, I too lined up for lunch. For 20 minutes. By the time they got around to scooping out Perry’s for a whopping gaggle of 6 (SIX!1!) kids, my lunch hour was already all but over. I had time to leave with a bag of barbecue chips and a Diet Coke. But it was an authentic and real bag of chips and bottle of Coke. It was unsullied by subsidized big-box chips or car-oriented Cokes. These were hand-delivered, artisanally manufactured chips and Coke that keep Buffalo unique and real, not fake like Cleveland or Boston.

Am I laying it on too thickly?  Well, I’m sick of being pissed.

It has been nearly a year since Bass Pro, after years of arrested development, mercifully cut bait. It has been eight months since the landmark gathering at City Honors School, when Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces outlined a “lighter, quicker, cheaper” philosophy of waterfront development. The event, organized by Goldman, underlined what progressives had pleaded for years: Get over the heavy-subsidy, magic-bullet, lots-of-parking fixation. Instead, create a place where people want to go, and let human nature—and market forces— take over. Step-by-smaller-step.

Call this the Summer of Sensibility. The snack stand and mini-“beach” and Adirondack chairs and kids’ space and random activities—from yoga to Zumba classes—were spawned in focus groups and in public forums. The Erie Canal Harbor board, bereft of a plan after Bass Pro’s bailout, followed the people’s lead. Citizens committees—one includes Goldman, preservationist Tim Tielman and Buffalo Rising’s Newell Nussbaumer —guided the board’s hand. Finally, we’re getting the waterfront we deserve.

That’s funny. In my opinion, Fred Kent and the PPS are guilty of defrauding the taxpayers of New York State, and our public benefit corporation, the ECHDC of thousands of dollars. They accomplished absolutely nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished for a few hundred dollars. I can do a Google image search for “waterfront fun”, too. I can cobble together an unwieldly Powerpoint presentation, too. I can make stuff up out of thin air like, “the Power of 10”, too. I can run a meeting where people put sticky notes on blow-up renderings, too. And I would have done it for a fraction of what PPS did. What a great scam.

The last time Esmonde praised Kent’s scam, I wrote this:

That’s why Donn Esmonde giddily wrote this column a few days earlier, during one of the PPS’ “let’s talk benches” mixers.

BTW, here’s Kent’s Google Image Search, if you missed it the first time. You paid for it.

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“You can build a store anywhere,” Skulski noted. “Why would you want to stick it by the water, and take up this space? It goes against the whole point of a waterfront.”

Esmonde is being disingenuous here. No one has been talking about building a store of any kind on the grassy portion of the Central Wharf for about four years. (Click here for a post I wrote last year, which links to just about everything I’ve ever written about Bass Pro, ever.) Bass Pro was most recently supposed to go on the Aud block, which as of this writing remains a giant pile of gravel and a puddle.

Amen. Granted, nobody is yet printing money at Erie Canal Harbor. But, at little cost and with a lot of imagination, we’re creating a downtown waterfront where people want to be. Where people go, commerce will follow.

Really? How? To whom do I apply to open a business? A storefront? To park a cart of some kind? Whom do I contact for a permit? Whom must I bribe in order to grease the skids? What are the specific requirements for creating any economic activity at Canal Side? Where can I find the real estate or leasing listings for properties at Canal Side? How is commerce supposed to follow where there’s no plan in place for commerce to take place? Well, I’m sure Donn knows. But Goddamnit, NO CHAINS!

“This is creating demand,” Goldman said, “instead of using massive subsidies to create supply, and hoping that the demand follows.

What difference does it make? If an Adirondack chair and a snack shack is such a massive draw, as Esmonde and Goldman congratubate themselves about, (during about 4 months of a 12 month year), wouldn’t a Bass Pro (or other retailer – say, LL Bean) draw in even MORE people? What about a cafe? A bar? A development where businesses could execute leases and sell things, or bring people to offices, or build apartments?

“It is not just people having picnics, it is good economic-development strategy,” Goldman added. “You start small, and it snowballs. By next summer, you’ll see private businesses lining up to come down—instead of asking for big, fat subsidies.”

Lighter, quicker, cheaper. Already, it’s working

Notice the palpable absence of any discussion from either Goldman or Esmonde about what happens when the snow starts flying. Which here could be any time between October and April.

Buffalo, you’ve been punk’d.