Tag Archives: morning grumpy

The Morning Grumpy – August 22nd

22 Aug

1. Last week, Former Utah Governor and current GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman went rogue. How so? He said some exceedingly sane things, which says a lot about the current sad state of GOP politics. Huntsman knows that the tea party controls this election for the Republicans and he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning, so he is working to set himself up for 2016 as the sensible “I told you so” candidate. As you might imagine, the right wing nutjobs are a little upset. To wit, incredible asshole and Republican spin-meister Frank Luntz had this to say on the Sunday Morning ABC show, “This Week”.

Remember — and I say this to Governor Huntsman — he is mainstream America in what he says, but he’s not mainstream Republican. And this, after all, is a Republican primary.

And that, my friends, is everything that is wrong with American politics in two sentences.

2. Song for Monday, “Vulkan Alarm” by ZZT – Love the visual

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3. Why the mainstream media are clueless about the religious right.

From the attitudes shown by media toward the religious right, you’d never know that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population identify as evangelicals, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and among white self-identified evangelicals, 62 percent told Pew in 2006 that they believe the Bible to be the literal word of God.

These, by and large, are the people who determine the outcome of the Republican presidential primary, thanks to the early stacking of states heavily populated by evangelicals, and the propensity of most evangelicals to align with the Republican Party. And yet, we who cover these races often know very little about the voters whose person-on-the-street interviews they’re recording, except to know that these people are very different from us in their view of the world. So as everyday doctrines come to light in one or another campaign incident, the media either find themselves aghast at the implications, or simply choose to ignore them.

I honestly don’t believe that the media, progressive activists, Democratic politicians or regular blue state residents understand this portion of the populace. Evangelical Christians aren’t just a group of people who disagree with our current societal structures, they fundamentally seek to replace those structures with their own literal christianism. Which, as you know by now, is batshit insane. There are those of us who operate in a knowledge-based and world and 75 million people who don’t.

4. Want to learn a little something about each GOP Presidential candidate? Take the time to read through longform.org’s guide to the field of candidates.

Perry’s in. Bachmann’s everywhere. Herman Cain is … still running. With the GOP primary race finally in full swing, it’s time to get to know the candidates a little better. Here are our all-time favorite profiles of the contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination. Oh, and one on Chris Christie, too.

5. Looking forward to the day when America pulls its troops from Afghanistan? Don’t hold your breath.

America and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact which would allow thousands of United States troops to remain in the country until at least 2024, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Empire never sleeps.

6. How do we sober up Washington, D.C.? Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig has an idea

Washington is hopelessly addicted to money and thus to the status quo; drunk with power and incapable of getting sober and fixing itself. It’s time for an intervention—by the states.

Politically, we two disagree on just about everything. But the one thing we do agree on is that the institutions of government in Washington have become corrupt, held hostage by well-funded special interests. It’s no wonder that only 17 percent of the American public in a recent Gallup survey said they had a favorable opinion of Congress.

Voters are disillusioned and discouraged because they don’t believe Washington represents the will of the people. And the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C.—which permits unlimited independent corporate campaign expenditures—will only make this worse.

We, the People, can take back the power we gave to Congress. We can take it back through the states.The framers left open a path to amendment that doesn’t require the approval of Congress: a convention.

Have a day!

As an addendum to this column, I’d like to let you know that this will most likely be my last post on WNYMedia. I figured if you made it all the way to the end of this article, you’re the person I wanted to tell. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it with a separate column or some big to-do, but I think I owe a goodbye to those who read my columns every day.

It has been a lot of fun writing here for the past six years, but the time has come to move on. I wish nothing but the best for those who remain, especially for Marc Odien who has been a great friend and partner while we tried to create an online alternative media outlet that mattered. And fucking hell, we pulled it off.

We’ve gone through a lot of changes, but it was always fun and always interesting. I’m proud of everything that I’ve ever written here and I’m proud to have been associated with my fellow writers. The platform this website offered and the ability to bring thousands of people out to support causes and efforts I believed in was incredible.

Mostly, I wanted to thank you, the reader. I’ve always been astonished that tens of thousands of people are interested in what I write and I am grateful for your time and support.

I may write somewhere else in the future, I really don’t know. I just know that it’s time for me to explore new options and take on new challenges.

Again, thank you very much for being advocates for new media.

Comments are closed, but feel free to send me an email/tweet if you’d like to stay in touch. chris [at] wnymedia dot net or @buffalogeek on Twitter

The Morning Grumpy – August 17th

17 Aug

1. The Buffalo News is about to lose the senior core of their newsroom staff. Jim Heaney, Donn Esmonde, Brian Meyer, and seven others have accepted a buyout offer from the newspaper. Losing the chief enterprise/investigative reporter, lead columnist, and their best beat reporter will certainly have a chilling effect on the quality of the product, but The Buffalo News saved some money, so it’s all good.

Since we started this little experiment of a website, Jim Heaney has been an ardent supporter and believer in new media. He has graciously offered advice and nudged us along as we learned to walk. For that, we are in his debt. The work product that comes from his dogged pursuit of the facts will not soon be replaced and corrupt assholes in WNY sleep a little better tonight knowing that Jim is no longer on the beat.

While we don’t always agree with Donn Esmonde, he’s an important voice in this community and has often rallied community attention to an issue by simply putting his fingers to keyboard. It is rumored that he may stay on with the newspaper in a part time capacity, but his days as the lead columnist for our local paper of record are coming to a close.

Brian Meyer is a feisty son of a bitch who had deep and trusted connections throughout Buffalo City Hall. After nearly thirty years in broadcast and print journalism, Brian hangs up his notebook and leaves massive shoes to fill. The learning curve for his replacement will be steep and whomever replaces him will struggle to maintain Meyer’s prolific publication pace.

Best wishes to all as they explore new opportunities and leave behind a company that still doesn’t understand that journalism is the product, not the paper it’s printed on.

2. Song for Wednesday, Part 1: “C’mon Talk” by Bernhoft

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3. A reader named Ben Duda sent me this link which he thought played well off my last two columns about economic development. Kiva has spent a decade offering microfinance loans ($234,519,225 and counting) in emerging markets and now they are turning their focus to stateside microfinance efforts with their new project, Kiva City.

Kiva City extends microfinance to small businesses across America. With Kiva City, credit unions or other financial institutions partner at a local level to facilitate the loans, while community groups and civic leaders build awareness among small business owners and refer them to the program.

Each Kiva City requires three partners:

  • Civic Leaders: Mayors & elected officials can demonstrate the power of community engagement by committing to bring Kiva to your city
  • Community Organizations: Work with small business networks, nonprofits, churches, and other community associations to post local businesses to Kiva.
  • Financial Institutions: Partner directly with Kiva or get trained on the small business referral process.

Of course, the first city in line to take advantage of this exciting program is Detroit. Is this on the radar for anyone in Buffalo? Calls to the Mayor’s office for comment were not returned. I’d be interested to hear if any other civic organizations might already be working on this project, but early investigation has turned up empty. I’ll keep checking and update as I go.

4. It appears that one of our readers has decided to open a WNYMedia parody channel on YouTube. The first few videos were pretty lame, but the one about my rift with Bob McCarthy is exceptionally horrible in the most awesome way possible. It is poorly produced and repetitive, but its got a beat I can dance to. Also, I’m glad to learn I now have a theme song.

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5. I CAN HAZ IDIOCRACY?!? Results from a seriously disturbing study.

44 percent of Social Security recipients, 41 percent of military veterans, 43 percent of unemployment recipients, 40 percent of Medicare recipients, 43 percent of college Pell Grant recipients and 27 percent of welfare recipients all said they had never used a government social program.

6. Something you need to know about Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry as we enter the interminably long Presidential election season…they are not normal Christians. In fact, they’re way crazier than your standard issue evangelical nutcase.

Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.

Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult.

7. Song for Wednesday, Part 2: “Fuck Shit Stack” by Reggie Watts – Might as well stick with the loop pedal theme from Part 1

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8. America’s consumption economy is dying, let it die.

With the stock market plunging, we’ve heard plenty of warnings that a “pullback” in consumer spending could trigger another recession. Let me suggest an alternative. The last thing this economy needs is more debt-fueled consumer spending which mainly creates jobs overseas. Instead, we should be focused on boosting investment in physical, human, and knowledge capital.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 15th

15 Aug

Welcome to the silent scream edition of the morning grumpy. Here’s the latest links, news, music and other shit you need to get your day started…

1. Local food truck favorite Lloyd Tacos, is in the running for “America’s Favorite Food Truck“, a contest by Food Network. If they win, they get $10,000 and a chance to compete in the show “The Great Food Truck Race“. Show Lloyd some love, they’re currently in 4th place and Buffalo should turn out the vote for an awesome little truck. You can cast 10 votes per day, show up and vote each day. It’ll only take a minute of your time. Click here and click often!

2. Warren Buffett (you know, the guy who underwrites Bob McCarthy’s paycheck) begs Congress to stop coddling the rich.

We mega-rich should not continue to get extraordinary tax breaks while most Americans struggle to make ends meet. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

3. Song for Monday, Part 1: “Come To The City” by War On Drugs

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4. Even though Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll this Saturday, the new leader in the clubhouse for the GOP Presidential nomination is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Here’s ten things he doesn’t want you to know about him.

You might also be interested in the blistering takedown of Perry’s economic record that Rachel Maddow put together a month ago.

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5. My new favorite YouTube Series, Henry’s Kitchen.

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6. A fantastic takedown of the “businesses need certainty” canard as a reason why corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash and not spending or lending to get the economy up and on its feet.

The problem is that the “certainty” language reveals what the real game is, which is certainty in top executive pay at the expense of the health of the enterprise, and ultimately, the economy as a whole. Cutting costs is as easy way to produce profits, since the certainty of a good return on your “investment” is high.

Indeed, the bigger problem they face is that they have played their cost-focused business paradigm out. You can’t grow an economy on cost cutting unless you have offsetting factors in play, such as an export led growth strategy, or an ever rising fiscal deficit, or a falling household saving rate that has not yet reached zero, or some basis for an investment spending boom. But if you go down the list, and check off each item for the US, you will see they have exhausted the possibilities.

7. Song for Monday, Part 2: “I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea” by Elvis Costello

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8. The editorial board at The Economist has some harsh words for America.

The poisonous politics of the past few weeks have created new sorts of uncertainty. Now that the tea-partiers have used default successfully as a political weapon, it will surely be used again. The refusal to compromise, rapidly becoming a point of honour for both parties, is wreaking damage elsewhere, partially shutting down the Federal Aviation Administration (see article) and postponing trade bills. At best, the politicians will have slowed a sputtering expansion; at worst they will have killed off the recovery and inflicted lasting harm on the world’s most impressive prosperity machine.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 12th

12 Aug

1. After watching last night’s Republican Presidential debate on Fox, I’m more certain than ever that we are but a few years away from total Idiocracy. Aside from Jon Huntsman, there wasn’t a single sensible person on that stage. The illogical political conclusions based on misinformation and anti-intellectualism that make up the basis of right wing politics were on full display throughout the night.

As progressive writer Cliff Schecter noted in a column yesterday,’

The Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, or even Reagan – the GOP in its current form is nothing more than the party of Ted Nugent – hopefully with somewhat better hair.

2. Why do young people generally not give a shit about politics in America? The youthful energy of the 1960’s has now become the ambivalence of the new millennium.  A clinical psychologist lists a few reasons why

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

EXAMPLE: In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

A very interesting article, please give it a read.

3. Song for Friday, Part 1: “Come On Over” by Veronica Falls

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4. Here’s an innovative idea, how about an aptitude test for Congressional candidates and incumbents? No pass? No seat!

Universities, private organizations, and various other professions require rigorous testing of their candidates before positions are allotted to them. Sure, most (if not all) people in Congress have been to college, some have a laundry list of professional experience, and others, like our president, are actually lawyers from some of the most highly esteemed institutions of higher education in the world.

This is not enough, especially when public politics in a capitalist republic are concerned.

The ugly truth is, some of our leadership gets elected simply because they’re master orators catering to the lowest common denominator of public intelligence, and that is extremely dangerous.

An unlikely idea and one which would be dismissed out of hand in the halls of power, but it makes a lot of sense and I like to write about things that make sense. If nothing else, it would rid us of mouthbreathers like this guy.

5. Here’s a good example of the headline not matching the story.

Headline: “HSBC sale of credit card unit won’t lead to local job cuts”

Pretty definitive, right? “Won’t” as defined by Merriam Webster means “Will Not”; As in “won’t happen”. Well, the actual story tells a different tale.

Just 10 days after agreeing to sell its upstate New York branches, HSBC Holdings Plc agreed Wednesday to unload the bulk of its U.S. credit card business, selling $29.6 billion in loans to Capital One Financial Corp.

HSBC’s national card business employs about 140 in the Buffalo area, mostly in card fraud prevention and investigations, said bank spokesman Robert Sherman. But under the agreement with Capital One, all employees of the card business, known as HSBC Card and Retail Services, will be given an opportunity to join Capital One. It’s unclear where those jobs will be located.

Just so we’re clear for the people in Akron, “won’t” or “will not” ≠ “unclear”.

It seems that The Buffalo News is working overtime to disabuse people of the notion that this massive HSBC disinvestment in the American retail banking market and, in turn, the WNY business community is a problem. Here’s what’s happening folks, the writing is on the wall.

HSBC has divested its retail banking and consumer credit card holdings which were primarily run out of Buffalo and WNY. The entire HSBC information technology infrastructure has been moved to Chicago. The bank has floated the trial balloon that One HSBC Center will soon be vacated and that operations will move to the Atrium building down the street. The mortgage operations (since the purchase of Household Financial Corporation in 2004) has been a sucking chestwound of red ink for the bank also has operation centers in Tampa, Vancouver and Chicago.  HSBC has been coy about their intention for their mortgage service center in Cheektowaga, but the business has been demising for five years and the future is not bright.

HSBC will have but a minor presence in Buffalo within 24 months. The tower will be empty, the Walden/Dick center in Cheektowaga will be empty and thousands of people will be out of work. Get used to it. Wrap your head around it. Plan for it. Expect it. Know it. Oh and by the way? It would be nice if The Buffalo News would stop throating the hog of the First Niagara CEO.

He is simply plumping up his bank to be an acquisition target for a larger player. No more, no less. The fact that he absorbed so much debt as part of the HSBC retail bank acquisition will actually slow down that process for a few years. But, when one of the big boys comes calling to acquire First Niagara, it’ll be an unemployment bloodbath.

Happy Friday!

6. Song for Friday, Part 2: “Some Children (ft. Michael McDonald) by Holy Ghost!

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7. If U.S. is serious about debt, there’s a single-payer solution

If America truly is serious about dealing with its deficit problems, there’s a fairly simple solution. But you’re probably not going to like it: Enact a single-payer health care plan.

See, we told you weren’t going to like it.

But the fact is that everyone who has studied the deficit problem has agreed that it’s actually a health care problem – more specifically, the cost of providing Medicare benefits to an aging and longer-living population. The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform reported last December: “The Congressional Budget Office projects if we continue on our current course, deficits will remain high throughout the rest of this decade and beyond, and debt will spiral ever higher, reaching 90 percent of GDP in 2020.

“Over the long run, as the baby boomers retire and health-care costs continue to grow, the situation will become far worse. By 2025 revenue will be able to finance only interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Every other federal government activity – from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy – will have to be paid for with borrowed money.”

8. Corporate cash holdings are up 59% since 2008, so where are the jobs from the “job creators”?

The Wall Street Journal noted today that “non-financial companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index were holding $1.12 trillion in cash and short-term investments in their most recent reports, up 59% from $703 billion in the third quarter of 2008.”

9. Rebuild the dream, a new contract for America. 125,000 people put together this list of ten priorities for America, I was part of that group and I support the platform. Sign on and support the effort, let’s make America great again.

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Have a day! Have a weekend!

The Morning Grumpy – August 10th

10 Aug

It’s going to be a short grumpy this morning.

1. In case you missed it during the whole debt ceiling fiasco, the United States Government has set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks. The increase to a 54MPG CAFE standard brings us closer in line with European and Asian nations and will begin to slowly reduce our dependence on carbon fuels, or at least maximize available resources.

Yesterday, the President announced new fuel standards for commercial vehicles as well.

2. Song for Wednesday, Part 1: “Market Diktat” by Jean-Philippe Goude

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3. Song for Wednesday, Part 2: “Strawberry Letter #23” by Shuggie Otis

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4. Dylan Ratigan, LIKE A BOSS! A little unhinged, but an epic 5 minute rant on the root of all evil in the political system. For a few fleeting moments on American television, we heard some real truth and honest talk.

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Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 9th

9 Aug

London is on fire, the Asian markets are in the shitter, the US market is in a near panic, 30 American soldiers just died in a horrible helicopter crash in Afghanistan, famine grows in Somalia, 45,000 Verizon employees are on strike, and Bank of America teeters on the edge of extinction…welcome to Tuesday! Let’s get to the morning grumpy!

1. Last month, Tim Graham resigned his position with ESPN.com and returned home to write for The Buffalo News. His return to a print outlet from a booming web outlet was a rare story of reverse migration in the journalism industry. Many consider Tim to be one of the best sports journalists in the business, but he came home to broaden his horizons and sink his teeth into feature reporting. This past weekend, his tragic story about the life and death of a bizarre family in Niagara County was absolutely captivating.

Howard Baney was surprised to find a reporter at the side door of the house he’d been working on. Baney heard a knock and yelled for him to enter, thinking the visitor was someone else.

Four months earlier, Baney had discovered his elderly cousin’s mummified remains in the basement. Teddy Wroblewski had been missing for two years, lost in his own home.

Really great work, we’re lucky to have Tim back in town.

2. Chart of The Day:

Since August 2008, state and local governments have cut some 611,000 employees, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In case you didn’t notice, this economy is one shaped by the Republican agenda.

The underlying Republican pitch in response to economic anxiety and recession fears is, “See? It’s time to try things our way.”

What goes largely overlooked is the fact that we already are trying things their way. Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, the economy is advancing exactly as they want it to. The private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs and scrapping investments; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt reduction.

3. Song for Tuesday, Part 1: “Barely Legal (The Strokes Cover)” by Real Estate

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4. A report by Dave Weigel from Right Wing Cloud Cuckoo Land.’

When Michele Bachmann arrived, she devoted half of her opening statement to the (S&P) downgrade. The message: She could have stopped it.

“For the last two weeks, I led the fight against raising the debt limit,” Bachmann said. Increasing the limit “pushed the rating agency over the edge.” It was a “$2.4 trillion blank check that caused the downgrade.”

Make no mistake: The downgrade was Barack Obama’s fault. “We were somehow able to get through the Great Depression without a credit downgrade,” she said.

Wow, it must be nice living in fantasy land, deprived of facts. It is breathtaking that a candidate for President of the United States could be this incredibly foolish. Seriously, it was the raising of the debt ceiling itself that caused the S&P downgrade?!? In fact, it was the approach her Tea Party caucus took that caused the downgrade. Don’t believe me? Read the report. If you do, it’ll put you one step ahead of Ol’ Crazy Eyes.

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

5. Yet another chapter in the “Rich Get Richer and The Workers Get Bupkus” saga of America since 1980.

These are the worst of times for workers, and the best of times for companies.

New figures from the Commerce Department indicate that corporate profits accounted for 14 percent of the total national income in 2010, the highest proportion ever recorded.

Employees have always received more than half the total national income, until now. In 2010, the percentage of national income devoted to wages and salaries fell to 49.9 percent, and it slipped a little more to 49.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. That continued decline may help explain the economic worries of many Americans who have jobs but still fear they are falling behind.

6. Song for Tuesday, Part 2, “Winter Beats” by I Break Horses

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Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 8th

8 Aug

Welcome to the Monday Edition of the morning grumpy, recently downgraded from its AAA bullshit rating.

1. The US stock market is going to take a shit today after Standard & Poor’s lowered America’s credit rating late on Friday. By and large, most sane economists think the decision to lower the credit rating was a political one. In 2009, S&P maintained our AAA credit rating and projected maintaining it as such even though they projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90%. Now, in 2011 with a projected debt-to-GDP ratio of 75%, they lower our credit rating?

Of the other countries with a AAA credit rating from S&P, what are their debt-to-GDP ratios? Australia 95% Austria 200% Denmark 180% Finland 155% France 182% Germany 142% Hong Kong 334% Luxembourg 3443% Netherlands 471% Norway 538% Sweden 187% Switzerland 229% United Kingdom 400%

The media seems to have taken a “pox on both houses” narrative for this story, even though the history as described above and the S&P credit report tell a different story. S&P changed their rating based on our extreme long term debt, yes. However, until this past 60 days, the United States always demonstrated an ability to raise money at will to pay debts due to our stable political system and willingness to raise and collect taxes to secure the debt.  Not so much anymore.

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

With several members of the GOP leadership openly welcoming default, it’s not a shock that the credit rating agencies have taken them seriously. Heckuva job, tea party.

2. Ladies and Gentlemen, your GOP frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential nomination, Gov. Rick “Pray For Rain” Perry!

This weekend, he capitalized on the political and economic uncertainty in America with a good ol’ fashioned prayer revival in Houston.

“This is the first time a governor, one of the highest-ranking officials in the government, made a stand and said: We need this,” says Finn. “It says in 1 Peter that we should submit to governors. As true believers, as Christians, when the governor wants us to be here, we’re really required to be here.”

Fucking hell, his plan is to hand it all over to god? Pity this poor nation…

3. Ever heard of the New Apostolic Reformation? Their plans for “spiritual warfare” in America? They make up Rick Perry’s base of support and several other leading Republicans are either part of the movement or court their support, including Palin, Bachmann, etc. They are a force to be reckoned with in this country so, get to know them.

4. A song for Monday, Part 1. “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey

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5. Here’s a cool map that illustrates how much the United States owes to foreign countries and to whom. For example, placing your mouse over the large dot on China shows that Chinese lending to the United States has gone from $59 billion ten years ago to more than $1.15 trillion today, or one quarter of the total foreign owned debt of $4.45 trillion

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6.  Many major U.S. companies are making big plans to expand overseas even as some of them announce new layoffs at home, and there’s a chilling reason why: They’re beginning to give up on the American consumer as a source of future growth.

Major layoff announcements by big corporations already have begun to rise again in the U.S., hitting a 16-month high of 66,414 jobs to be shed in coming months, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Strikingly, the largest layoff actions last month were accompanied by disclosures that the same companies planned to ramp up their operations — including hiring — in emerging economies.

An ambitious jobs plan from President Obama would be to offer a tax amnesty for overseas earnings if those companies were to reinvest a significant portion of that money into expanding their workforce and onshore manufacturing facilities. A corporate friendly way to solve our demand problem in this country…

7. Grover Norquist, Soul of the New Right Wing Machine.

Norquist calls it the “Leave-Us-Alone Coalition,” a grouping of gun owners, the Christian right, homeschoolers, libertarians, and business leaders that he has almost single-handedly managed to unite. The common vision: an America in which the rich will be taxed at the same rates as the poor, where capital is freed from government constraints, where government services are turned over to the free market, where the minimum wage is repealed, unions are made irrelevant, and law-abiding citizens can pack handguns in every state and town.

8. A song for Monday, Part 2, “The Pursuit of Happiness” by Lissie – A favorite of mine on Mondays.

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9. Finally, a piece in the NY TImes which is being debated all over the web, “What happened to Obama?”

THE real conundrum is why the president seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right.

The article does feel a little like an indictment of the hostage rather than the extremist right hostage takers, but I generally agree with the sentiment of the article. Obama doesn’t know how to handle bullies, sees every issue as an opportunity for negotiation and sees himself as the “legislator in chief” rather than the President. If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve voted for Hillary. She knows how to deal with the insane right.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 5th

5 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2001-2008: Republicans run economy into ditch.

2008: Obama elected.

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

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

2012: Republican candidate wins presidency (maybe).

Yup, pretty much sums it up.

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

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

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

Looking for a silver lining? Here ya go.

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

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

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

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

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And, then there’s this:

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Heh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – August 4th

4 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantastic access…

7. The Conservative Nanny State is coming to get you

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe Pepitone up in this motherfucker.

Have a day!

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!