Tag Archives: morning grumpy

The Morning Grumpy – July 27th

27 Jul

1. Yesterday, I was asked to break down the debt ceiling debate into simple terms for someone who hadn’t been following the ongoing nonsense. I fumbled for various analogies, but settled on the final Mexican Standoff scene from Reservoir Dogs as the basis for explaining the political fight. However, the above scene fails to explain what is really going on right now. We’re mired in an epic battle for the soul of America. No, I’m not overstating it.

This is about the top 1% of our economic strata fighting for final control over our political process. It is corporatism vs. populism, it’s a defining moment for America and the populists are finding themselves severely outgunned for the fight. Why? Because the man we elected to represent us in this fight, the progressive President that we had hoped for, who promised to change the fundamental course of our politics turned out not to be the one we’ve been waiting for.

When Obama said “Change”, he meant a more intellectual discussion, filled with mutual respect for all viewpoints, a more gracious tone, a more civil debate filled with the beautiful results of continual compromise. What he didn’t expect was to find himself mired in “debate” with an opposition party which simply refuses to grant him legitimacy. He simply cannot govern when the minority party refuses to engage in the process. As Josh Marshall said yesterday,

“Yes, at some level it’s (the debt ceiling debate) a game of chicken. Something we can all understand pretty intuitively in human nature and game theory terms. But to really get what’s really going on you’ve got to understand one key point: one of the two cars doesn’t have a driver in it. Which changes everything”

Where we go from here, I really don’t know. One thing is for certain, we’re surely in uncharted waters and it doesn’t look like the Skipper knows how to navigate.

2. To that end, here is the speech the President could give to the nation which would pull us back from the brink.

Congress has not passed an increase in the statutory debt limit as the deadline approaches. Members of the House majority have informed me that they will not agree to an increase in the debt limit without imposing restrictions on the government budget that will threaten our nation’s recovery, imperil the national defense, and cause widespread suffering. I have offered to negotiate in good faith, as I did during the budget crisis, but they have shown no interest in real negotiations.

As of midnight tonight, the government’s statutory borrowing authority will be exhausted. If no measures are taken, the government must either default on its bonded indebtedness or on its obligations to seniors on Social Security, to unemployed workers dependent on federal insurance payments, and to American service personnel serving in areas of armed conflict.

The Constitution explicitly requires me, under my duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” to meet and pay all debts of the United States.

This requirement is absolute. It is contained in Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which directs, in no uncertain terms, that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

3. Alan wrote about the Mayoral Leadership vacuum that plagues our fair city. It is a topic we have visited in various ways over the years; from the lack of definition of our civic brand to our lack of a coherent planning and development strategy which hampers any efforts to make citywide or regional improvements. Every problem in WNY, no matter what you can think of, has a political cause and requires a political solution. We still lack a leader who can help get the all the wood behind one arrow and define measurable goals for the city and region.

You’ve no doubt noticed by now that I’m fascinated with the ongoing battle to save Detroit. Their problems may be similar, but their approach to solving them is radically different from our own. They have a Mayor with a vision who is setting measurable goals for success and holding everyone accountable for creating an environment in which Detroit can again prosper. Read about the Detroit Works Project and read this article about how the project is being implemented. Maybe we can learn from the failures and successes in Detroit and apply those lessons to making a Better Buffalo.

4. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo visited Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse to formally announce the membership of this much-ballyhooed Regional Economic Development Councils.  Cuomo has created ten regional councils which will be tasked with developing “economic master plans” that are specific to the local community.

Those councils will report their plans to Lt. Governor Duffy and each region will compete for a share of $1BN to implement their plan. To get a batter understanding of how the plan works, click here to read the full proposal. During his visit to Buffalo, Cuomo announced the brain trust which will make up the WNY regional council. The team will be co-chaired by local developer Howard Zemsky and UB President Satish K. Tripathi. You can find out what other local luminaries made the council by clicking here.

While it’s nice to see some new faces involved here, it’s not the most inspiring of lists. A mix of corporate welfare queens, campaign donors, heirs to spaghetti fortunes, government leaders, etc. The people chosen to serve by Cuomo were obvious choices, for the most part. But, it lacks anyone with a significant vision. These people are all practitioners, not thinkers. It lacks people who know how to “Question the question”, think differently and be innovative.

The bench for those type of people in this region is pretty short, because there is a paucity of youth, energy, entrepreneurial spirit, new ideas or fresh perspectives. That’s not a problem with Cuomo and his process for choosing, it’s THE problem which faces WNY.

5. Let’s lighten it up a bit, shall we?

6. The July 2011 FAIL Compilation

[HTML1]

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 26th

26 Jul

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

I’ll keep it short today, just two items, but I’ll be back tomorrow with your regular dose of 8-10 stories.

1. Joe Illuzzi, my favorite convicted felon, alleged blackmailer, and “journalist” decided to respond to our in-depth coverage of marriage equality with the following post on his website:

Now, I certainly won’t defend myself against an accusation that I’m gay. Why? Because I don’t feel the word “gay” is a pejorative. I will, however, defend the fact that we have written over 50 stories, posted several videos and taken to the public airwaves to advance the marriage equality agenda while small-minded religious assholes like Joe fought to deny people their human rights.

The marriage equality movement and the vote for its passage into law was one of the most important social justice and civil rights issues of our time. I am proud of every word we’ve written, every frame we’ve shot, and every syllable we’ve uttered in support of it and we will continue to fight against religious bigots like Inmate Illuzzi.

Politicians who advertise with this horrible excuse for a man should be ashamed of themselves and do not deserve your support until they re-evaluate their subsidy of his hate, bigotry, corruption, and terrible web design skills.

Pro Tip for Joe: Get a spellcheck program you ignorant fucking moron.

2. I’ll skip posting any analysis of last night’s showdown at debt ceiling corral between our weak-kneed President and the lunatic fringe of American politics and instead leave you with this. The closing editorial by Bill Moyers during the last episode of his PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal.

[HTML1]

Moyers is a hero of mine and his words provide the proper perspective on everything that is happening right now on our national political stage. Please share this video in as many places as you can.

The Morning Grumpy – July 25th

25 Jul

1. It’s been nearly 48 hours since I had the honor and privilege of witnessing the first legal same sex marriage in the State of New York and I have to say, my heterosexual marriage is stronger than ever. Congratulations not just to Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd, but to all those who believe in equality. The moment was so pure and joyful that it brought a tear to the eye of a cynical old jerk like me. Now, if we can just get 44 more states to give their citizens the same rights and we can focus on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (Thank you Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand), we’ll be on our way to a truly equal and liberated nation.

 

2. Marv Levy insists his new novel about rigged Super Bowls is totally a work of fiction.

Got it? No, really. This isn’t the football version of “If I Did It“.

This is kind of crazy, but Levy has written a work of ‘‘complete fiction’’ — his words — calledBetween the Lies, in which, among other things, the Super Bowl is rigged.

The novel won’t be out for a month, and by that time Levy will have assured questioners a thousand times that none of the Super Bowls he coached in was rigged, juiced, undermined, stolen or swiped in any way. He’s pretty sure about that.

‘‘It’s exaggerated,’’ he insists, looking for all the world like that lawyer or history professor he probably was meant to be.

‘‘I never have suspected or sensed a whiff of cheating in any of our Super Bowls,’’ he says.

Come on, Marv. It would make poetic sense if it turned out the Bills were jobbed by the league in at least one of those frigging games. It would do wonders for oue collective self-esteem if you would just give us a wink and a nod the next time you answer the question. Then, we can all finally move on. Don’t be an over-officious jerk about it.

 

3. I’ll just leave this here…

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/SenatorSanders/status/95153492418760704″%5D

 

4. So, the Norwegian Tim McVeigh turns out to not be an IslamofascistHomicide CommuSocialismBomber as first reported by various parts of the NewsCorp empire, but a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Islamophobe extremist.

He sought to establish a right wing tea party in Norway, hated multiculturalism and left a manifesto and Internet Comment Trail that paints a picture of an angry man, distrustful of government and looking for payback against a world gone soft. The difference in his comments about Muslims and much of what was said by many Americans during the 2010 brouhaha about the Park 51 Muslim/Interfaith Community Center in Manhattan are negligible. Think about that…

 

5. Would you like to know what it’s like being a progressive voter in the age of Obama the weak-kneed compromiser-in-chief? This article will do nicely. It starts with something pragmatic pundits have been saying all along…This rise in the debt ceiling is for spending THIS CONGRESS has already approved. The President is so focused on what “independents” want, that he has left his base and the majority of the country at the altar.

A vote to raise the debt limit simply validates spending decisions that had already been approved by Congress, and it is usually automatic. It does nothing to curb spending.

It ends with an unsettling conclusion,

The President began the year with the unfortunate slogan “Win the Future”—which emphatically meant growth and investment. He ended up in Republican territory, at least rhetorically accepting the highly flawed conception equating the federal government with a household: he and Goolsbee repeated the sampler-stitched maxim “We must live within our means,” ignoring that at times the government simply must borrow in order to meet the people’s needs, as is the case now, with high unemployment. It’s no time for austerity. Instead, the government is borrowing in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy and pay for at least two wars.

As Ari Melber wrote in The Nation,

This President is not responsible for most of the actual deficit –two thirds of it is from Bush administration policies and the business cycle. Nor is he to blame for the accompanying political crisis manufactured by Republicans, who, like gauche dining companions, are complaining about a bill for food they’ve already eaten.

All that, you might think, would leave Obama with very little patience for obstinate BS. Instead, the President has shown the opposite instincts on both temperament and policy.  Why? Drew reports damning allegations from “someone familiar” with Obama’s internal deliberations – almost certainly a White House official or senior, trusted Democrat – who argues that Obama has now traded unpopular but necessary Keynesianism for swing voter posturing.

 

6. By the way, most of those “independent voters” President Obama so lusts after? They’re the types of people either featured on this show or those who are fans of it. The entire Toddlers and Tiaras show is pretty much a spectacle of child abuse. What. The. Fuck.

[HTML1]

 

7.  Pretty much everything you need to know about the News Of The World phone hacking scandal and its effect on the entire NewsCorp empire can be found in this interview of Nick Davies by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

 

8. Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression is a new book hitting Kindles and the few bookshelves left in America. Every review I have read claims it is a work that hearkens back to the era of Walker Evans and James Agee. From a review written by Catherine Ramsdell,

Divided into six parts, the book begins in the ‘80s and moves forward to the present. In between, Maharidge discusses hobos, tent cities, Hurricane Katrina, NAFTA, Bruce Springsteen, immigration, and mill closings. He also opens parts one through four with several sets of interesting statistics, including: number of people (in the US) employed by Wal-Mart, number of people employed by General Motors, and the salaries of average CEOs and average workers.

Consider—in 1979 “Wal-Mart employed 21,000 workers”, “General Motors employed 618,000”, and “the average CEO…was paid 35.2 times what an average worker was paid”. Flash forward to 2008 (and draw your own conclusions): “Wal-Mart employed 1.4 million”, “General Motors employed 92,053”, and “the average CEO…was paid 275.4 times what an average worker was paid…”

This is our America.

 

9. Finally, Andrew Sullivan absolutely distills the very nature of the debt ceiling debate in a weekend blog post titled America’s Cold Civil War.

Coming from abroad, this country seems as if it is beyond dysfunctional. It looks like a banana republic on the verge of economic collapse. Now that Nixon’s dream has come true and the GOP is fundamentally the party of the Confederacy, it was perhaps naive to think they could ever accept the legitimacy of this president, or treat him with respect or act as adults in the governing process.

But this is who they are. I longed for Obama to bridge this gulf in ideology. But he cannot bridge it alone, especially when the GOP is determined to burn the bridge entirely, even when presented with a deal so tilted to the right only true fanatics could possibly walk away from it. And so the very republic is being plunged into crisis and possible depression by a single, implacable, fanatical faction. Until they are defeated, the country remains in more peril than we know.

Man, I can’t close on that kind of downer…let’s see what Grandpa’s got in his pocket for the kiddies…

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 22nd

22 Jul

1. Later this morning, Alan Bedenko will publish a story about what Mayor Byron Brown has been doing instead of coming up with unique strategies to make Buffalo a better place to live. While I know it’s important for Byron to buddy up with County Executive Chris Collins and other small-minded public sector crumb hoarders, there are some really cool programs and ideas we should be embracing here to generate private wealth. Programs that would help create a desperately needed entrepreneurial class of young people in our urban core.

Programs like Venture For America, for instance.

Venture for America will connect recent college graduates with start-ups and early-stage companies in economically challenged U.S. cities. Job creation is the ultimate purpose of the program, which launched today and announced Providence, Detroit and New Orleans as initial target cities. “Our concrete goal is to generate 100,000 U.S. jobs by 2025,” founder and president Andrew Yang said.

The program just launched in Detroit, Providence and New Orleans. A request for comment from the Mayor’s office went unanswered. By the way, one of the board members of this awesome organization, Medha Vedaprakash, is a University at Buffalo graduate and is a pioneer in VoIP technology as well as a venture capitalist.

2. What will I be doing this Sunday morning? Making Bacon Wrapped Eggs, son. Oh, you fancy, huh?  Fuck yeah.

[HTML1]

 

3. Grover on the flute, Bert & Ernie on the drums, and everyone else bringing the swag…the perfect mashup. Sesame Street does Sure Shot.

[HTML2]

 

4. The Capo di tutti capi of internet blogging, Anil Dash, gives us content providers a stern talking-to. I’m digesting the information and working on a new comment strategy that Alan alluded to earlier this week. From the article titled “If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault”:

How many times have you seen a website say “We’re not responsible for the content of our comments.”? I know that when you webmasters put that up on your sites, you’re trying to address your legal obligation. Well, let me tell you about your moral obligation: Hell yes, you are responsible. You absolutely are. When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100% your fault. If you aren’t willing to be a grown-up about that, then that’s okay, but you’re not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

5. Cenk Uygur will no longer be hosting the 6PM hour on MSNBC, and that makes me tremendously sad. Cenk was one of us, an internet writer, blogger and show host who rose through the ranks by building an audience and a following. He was direct, combative, critical, and entertaining. He will now be replaced by Rev. Al Sharpton and that is a terrible outcome. Why is Cenk no longer at MSNBC, you know, the “liberal” network? Turns out, he was a bit too combative and critical while delivering a younger audience to the network.

Uygur often refused to treat members of the political and media establishment with deference and respect. He didn’t politely imply with disguised subtleties when he thought a politician or media figure was lying or corrupt, but instead said it outright. In interviews, he was sometimes unusually aggressive with leading Washington figures, subjecting them to civil though hostile treatment to which they were plainly unaccustomed. As Uygur put it in explaining last night why he rejected MSNBC’s offer to stay on, “I said on the air that most politicians are corrupt. And I remember, my guest was like: “What – how can you say that? These are honorable gentlemen” [laughter] I am not going to do a show where I pretend that most of the politicians in Washington are honorable gentlemen. Hell no.”

We have a similar problem here in Buffalo, albeit at a much lower scale. Bloggers are a threat to the political status quo.

6. Here’s how Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature decided to run the sex education program in Texas public schools.

Texas lawmakers cut sex ed from two six-month courses to a single unit of “abstinence only” education

By 2009, 94 percent of Texas schools, which at the time were educating more than 3.7 million students, were giving no sex ed whatsoever beyond “abstinence only,” a curriculum that includes emphasizing that birth control doesn’t work. Instead of providing fact-based information, the programs use fear and Jesus — over-emphasizing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases leading to cervical cancer, radical hysterectomy and death, together with Christian morality.

One Texas public school district’s sex ed handout is entitled “Things to Look for in a Mate:”

A. How they relate to God
B. Is Jesus their first love?
C. Trying to impress people or serve God?

Fuck me running with this crap. Predictably, teen pregnancy rates shot through the roof. Higher than before abstinence only curriculum and 50% higher than the national average. When presented with the outcomes of the program, Gov. Perry said “It works.” And his response sums up Tea Party politics in a nutshell.

7. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released their findings from its comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve. The report is not pretty.

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression  between Dec. 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, VT)

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

Wow. As a reminder, the gross domestic product of the entire U.S. economy was $14.5 trillion last year.

8. This seems like a good spot to post the 100 greatest movie threats of all time, salty language ahead. List of movies in the video can be found here.

[HTML3]

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 21st

21 Jul

1. I sat down to write a post yesterday morning about America’s inability to take on big challenges. While researching and reading to prepare it, I came across the perfect distillation of what I intended to write about. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll simply post an excerpt and link to the rest.

Fifty years ago, John Kennedy laid out what was expected of an American in 1961: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship.”

We were going to go to the moon, eliminate poverty and make the world a fit place for every person.

Living now in a country where politicians urge us to be more concerned with buying a bigger TV than coming to grips with the needs of a better America, it’s hard to imagine those words coming out of Washington, D.C. — or St. Paul or Madison, for that matter.

Now, we’re told that good roads, good schools, decent medical care — basic stuff, really — will all cost too much, that we can’t afford them, that insisting they are important to our future is just so much “socialist talk.”

Thanks a lot baby boomers, you really fucked things up.

2. Is government too “big”? How does one measure “too big” or “just right”? It’s not just an economic discussion and we should think about it in different ways, says James Kwak of The Atlantic.

The idea that there is one thing called “government”–and that you can measure it by looking at total spending–makes no sense.

If there’s a program that the American people, through our democratic system, agree will provide benefits greater than its costs, we should do it, independently of the existing spending level. And if there’s a program that isn’t covering its costs, we should kill it. This is obvious, but instead Washington seems locked in a debate about the total spending level and the total tax bill. And that’s a recipe for bad decisions.

If only the American people as a collective were capable of reason and nuance…

3. How would Fox News treat the NewsCorp phone hacking scandal if NewsCorp were a liberal outlet? Would our intrepid Fair & Balanced reporters still be claiming the scandal was nothing more than a tempest in a teapot? Of course, Jon Stewart takes a look at the situation…

[HTML1]

4. Yesterday would have been international superstar pitchman Billy Mays‘ 53rd birthday. To celebrate his life, I’m not going to link to his beautifully obnoxious commercials, I’m going to link to beautifully obnoxious dubbed versions of his commercials.  Salty language ahead.

[HTML2]

[HTML3]

5. Former Presidential Candidate John Edwards might be one of the most horrible persons to ever run for national office, but he was right when he said there were “Two Americas“. The evidence is all around us, even in the minor data points.

A large majority—92%—of children whose families make more than $75,000 a year live with two parents (including step-parents). At the bottom of the income scale—families earning less than $15,000—only 20% of children live with two parents.

6. Your chart of the day. Do you think the Obama Administration, which supposedly hates business while simultaneously cupping the testicles of the Wall Street community, is killing the private sector? Making it so corporations can’t add jobs due to all the “uncertainty” in our economic climate, rising deficit, and KENYAN MUSLIM SOSHALIZM?!? Well, the data tell a different tale. You see, the private sector economy is growing at a rate of 5% after diving into the shitter at the end of the Bush Administration.

Pity those poor corporations with their $2 Trillion in cash reserves and 5% growth rate. How will they ever emerge from the nightmare of Obama’s Maoist economic policies?

7. Chris Christie, first term Governor of New Jersey, tea party hero, bully, blowhard and helicopter/limousine afficianado is oft-mentioned as a sleeper pick to take down President Obama in 2012. But, how is he polling in his own state? PPP polled people around the state to find some pretty surprising results.

Chris Christie’s popularity has declined significantly over the first half of 2011 and he would have a very difficult time winning reelection if voters in New Jersey went to the polls today.

We also- at the request of our blog readers and just for fun- looked to see how Bruce Springsteen would fare in a run against Christie. Each would start out at 42%, but there’s a lot more room for growth for the Boss because while only 4% of Republicans are undecided, 23% of Democrats say they’re not sure who they would vote for. If Springsteen ran and came across as a credible candidate he’d likely see a large increase in that Democratic support.

8. Where do you stand in the rankings of the richest people in the world?

 

The Morning Grumpy – July 20th

20 Jul

I think it’s about time that we caught up with Erie County Executive race…

1. The latest campaign finance reports came out last week for both County Executive Chris Collins and his opponent, County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz. Collins currently has an election war chest of $1.6Million while Poloncarz has raised about $150,000. However, the analysis should not stop there.

Collins has been raising money for this race since 2007 and has brought in an average of $2,500 per day so far this year while Poloncarz has brought in an average of $2,400 since he announced his campaign two months ago. Mark still has a steep climb on fundraising, but he’s just getting started. Since Kathy Hochul was outspent nearly 6-1 in the NY-26 special election, it’s clear that money can’t always buy an election.

2. Collins has shaken up his campaign staff and “demoted” adviser and noted election loser Chris Grant and brought on former WGRZ red coat Stefan Mychajliw to handle public relations and act as the campaign spokesman. Mychajliw is a competent and ethical guy, which will immediately separate him from the rest of the Collins team. We’ll have fun with Stefan throughout this election season, you can be certain of that.

3. Earlier this month, Mark published a comprehensive study on our library system, “Libraries: An Economic Engine for Our Future”. In the report, he writes,

Collins created a funding crisis by specifically targeting the county’s library system for drastic cuts at the same time he refused to spend tens of millions of dollars of federal stimulus assistance and increased the salaries of some of the county’s highest paid employees. For the 2011 budget, Collins cut $4 million from the Buffalo and Erie County Library System. After public outcry and hard work by our legislators, $3 million was restored to the 2011 budget.

Later today, Mark Poloncarz will be releasing his plan to manage Erie County’s Medicaid program and we should expect a similar level of detail about his plan. Mark is taking a rare step for a local candidate, he is specifically detailing his proposals and offering insight into what a Poloncarz administration would look like. No nebulous promises or catchphrases like “running government (like a poorly run and inefficient) business”. It’s pretty refreshing.

4. At a public cabinet meeting yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plans for the remainder of the year.

Cuomo said the long-awaited regional economic development councils will be unveiled this week. The 10 councils will compete for $130 million in grant money, with money going to the organization with the best plan for spurring job growth.

The governor also said he plans to launch a new advertising campaign called New York Is Open For Business, designed to attract companies to the state.

I’m interested to see what the Buffalo Niagara Partnership will propose as their plan for spurring job growth. In the past, they have demanded drastically less government regulation and massive government spending for public projects while completely ignoring the cognitive dissonance of those positions.

5. In a newly released Pew Research poll, 71% of Evangelical Christians say the greatest threat to their religion is secularism. In other news, the sky is blue and 100% of atheists think evangelical christians are batshit crazy.

6. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I’m braced for months of retrospectives, memorials, and analysis about what the tragedy meant to America. I’m hopeful that this anniversary will force America to take stock of where we are, the freedoms we have surrendered for “security”, our foreign policy, our attitudes towards one another, our legacy of torture, and the country we have become.

One of the most interesting pieces of comprehensive social, political, and economic analysis should come from the RAND Corporation and is scheduled to be released on July 26th. I’m interested because the RAND report will influence Washington in a very real way and will serve as foundational research for other think tanks and analysts.

7. The tenuous balance of leadership between non-profit foundations and urban leadership is rearing an ugly head in Detroit. Can foundations be the basis for a city-wide recovery plan? A fascinating analysis featuring many similarities to the struggles that Buffalo faces.

Can foundations and local government work together in a public-private partnership aimed at reversing the downward trajectory of one of the nation’s most troubled cities without ending up at loggerheads? Can private foundations, accustomed to operating often with a large measure of immunity from the public (and the press), participate in a process requiring accommodation of the pressures and dynamics of local politics?

We face these same questions in Buffalo.

The history of urban renewal in Detroit still embitters much of the city’s population, for whom memories of entire neighborhoods being displaced to make room for highways, automobile plants, office developments, and more, linger. The goal of the Detroit Works project is to create livable neighborhoods with a critical mass of residents, as opposed to the structure of many of the neighborhoods right now, which are a mix of scattered occupied buildings, multiple vacant buildings, and rubble-strewn lots left over from demolition.

Sound familiar? The ongoing struggle for recovery in Detroit mirrors our own in many ways. We should be collaborating on solutions for our common problems and exporting them to each Rust Belt city. A collective effort which utilizes the distinct advantages and resources of each city and region to create a coordinated response to urban planning challenges. How about it Mayor Brown?

8. Apropos of nothing, here is a picture of Grimace eating a child.

9. I’m a podcast fiend, especially podcasts from comedians. I’ve been a longtime fan of Marc Maron’s WTFpod, Sklarboro Country, and others. But, my new love is Mohr Stories from Jay Mohr and produced by the good people at SModcast. Jay Mohr NEVER shuts up and this podcast is a window into his empty, yet hilarious, soul. Give it a listen.

10. This trailer is the first glimpse of One Day on Earth, a movie shot by thousands of filmmakers in every country in the world on a single day: October 10, 2010. The trailer alone includes footage from 90 individuals and organizations.

[HTML1]

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 19th

19 Jul

1. Just about every Buffalo lover will be sharing this article today in an effort to reaffirm to themselves and their friends that they made the right decision to live right here in Buffalo, NY. It seems that many of us love the validation of our choice by outsiders (especially if that validation is about our architecture) and The Atlantic Monthly has dropped by to give it to us. This following on the heels of other validation from the financial website “The Street“, on which we were labeled as one of the most underrated cities in America. Yay.

2. Kent Gardner of Rochester’s Center for Government Research makes the point that good policy requires good politics.

Vision and ideas aside for the moment, (Andrew Cuomo) has demonstrated the power of a New York governor and wielded that power with skill that is, in recent years, unprecedented.

But if ideas are ever going to win, policy wonks need political leaders who can drive a vision to action. That makes it possible for us to think big thoughts and urge new policy directions. To turn good ideas into good policies, we need elected officials who can get the job done.

This, even more than the racist, sexist, and bestiality emails was the primary case against the candidacy of Carl Paladino for Governor. He didn’t have the political skill to build consensus and sell ideas to the public. He was a bully with a baseball bat and a propensity for dropping turds in various punchbowls.

3. Hey, good news for you Republican voters who don’t think any of your party’s candidates for President is secessionist, Christian, or crazy enough…Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is stepping into the void. He feels he is “being called” to run for President. Great, another Texan who talks to god each night and thinks men rode on dinosaurs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he is feeling “called” to run for President and will announce his official decision in two to three weeks.

“I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in,” Perry said during interview with the Des Moines Register on Saturday.

“But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.”

Aside from his secessionist talk during the health care reform and stimulus debates, Perry just wasn’t very good at that whole governing thing. He’s also one of those “ideological” movement conservatives who hold principled stances against federal spending and bailouts. Well, at least until he needs them.

Gov. Rick Perry used federal stimulus money to pay 97 percent of Texas’s budget shortfall in fiscal 2010–which is funny, because Perry spent a lot of time talking about just how terrible the stimulus was.  In fact, Texas was the state that relied most heavily on stimulus funds, CNN’s Tami Luhby reports.

“Even as Perry requested the Recovery Act money, he railed against it,” Luhby writes. “On the very same day he asked for the funds, he set up a petition titled ‘No Government Bailouts.'” It called on Americans to express their anger at irresponsible spending.

Ooof, the stupid, I can barely stand it.

4. Wanna know how I’m feeling today? Well, I did have a Nutrigrain bar this morning. I FEEL GREAAAAT!

[HTML1]

Yes, this was an actual commercial that aired on television. Clearly, it was the greatest commercial in history.

5. The previous video seems like a good segue into this…Is America becoming a nation of psychotics? You’d think so based on the medications we’re taking.

In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

The kicker is, the drugs aren’t working.

There is an apparent “raging epidemic of mental illness” among Americans. The use of psychoactive drugs—including both antidepressants and antipsychotics—has exploded, and if the new drugs are so effective, Angell points out, we should “expect the prevalence of mental illness to be declining, not rising.” Instead, “the tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007 – from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling – a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children.

6. Martin’s Fantasy Island is offering special discounts to kids who “excelled” in school this past year.

Report Card Days
On Tuesdays in July, admission for students in 8th Grade or lower with a “C” average or better is just $13.95. Must bring and show report card.

Now, I’m not your typical complainer about our emerging “everyone gets a trophy” culture, but this is ridiculous. A “C” report card, the academic equivalent of mediocrity, gets you a reward? Come on. Just for giggles, here’s a few photos from our family’s first (and last) trip to Fantasy Island last summer.

7. We’ve been doing these “morning grumpy” posts for a few weeks and it’s high time I present the first link that references the spirit of this daily post, “stuff you can read/watch during your morning grumpy”. I present to you, Pooping 2.0

[HTML2]

From the YouTube comment section: “This video changed my life. since i started pooping properly, i’ve gotten through college and now have a successful small business and a hot wife.” ‘Nuff said.

8. An excellent long form television piece on the ghost cities and malls of China. Also known as the “China Bubble”. Fascinating.

[HTML3]

9. Those pinko socialists over at The Economist have put together yet another awesome analysis with a sweet chart. See, they think the crazy people in our Republican Party are playing Russian Roulette with the global economy, and they’re right.

Congress has acted a total of 91 times since June 1940 to either raise, extend or alter the definition of the debt limit—36 times under Democratic presidents. And they have done so with some 300 days to spare on average.

Look how conservative those Republican Presidents have been with that debt limit thing in previous years!

10. The end of America’s consumer culture?

We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making.

The notion that the United States needs to begin moving away from its consumer economy — toward more of an investment and production economy, with rising exports, expanding factories and more good-paying service jobs — has become so commonplace that it’s practically a cliché. It’s also true. And the consumer bust shows why. The old consumer economy is gone, and it’s not coming back.

The choice, then, is between starting to make the transition to a different economy and enduring years of stop-and-start economic malaise.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 18th

18 Jul

1. This weekend, tens of thousands of people met in living rooms around America to launch the “Rebuild The Dream” movement. What is this movement and why does it matter?  At its core, it is a renewal of the progressive movement that emerged in 2008 and worked to elect Barack Obama as President, only this time without an investment into a specific candidate. A left wing “tea party”, if you will, only without the armed seniors on hoverounds demanding that the government keep their hands off their Medicare.

Here’s a couple of videos describing the movement.

The Three Pillars of The American Dream

[HTML1]

The Three Big Lies and The Contract For The American Dream

[HTML2]

Join the movement, get involved and make a difference.

2. As proof that such a movement is required, see the sad story of Elizabeth Warren. A true progressive voice for consumer rights who was to be named the head of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. President Obama knew she would not clear the Senate confirmation process and instead of fighting for her, he passed. That has been a recurring theme with this President, he cowers from a fight and refuses to stand on principle. Why was Warren an unpopular choice by financial institutions and Republicans to head up this powerful new agency? Well, she intended to actually investigate the banks and financial firms which brought us to the brink of economic armageddon. Can’t have that!

However, it looks like Warren might be running to replace Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in the next election. So, we haven’t heard the last of her yet.

[HTML3]

3. Still not sure what the deal is with this whole debt ceiling thing? Read this for a pretty good explanation and timeline about what’s going on. Also, some scary warnings about failing to raise the debt ceiling from people much smarter than Congressional Republicans, here and here.

4. Interesting analysis from a Nobel Laureate in Economics.

Economic and financial commentators appear increasingly puzzled about the weak US recovery, with its modest GDP growth and meager employment gains. Growth estimates since the 2008 crisis have been revised downward several times.

But, while that might play well politically, the sensible conclusion is that this is not just a cyclical recovery, but rather the beginning of a delayed process of structural adaptation to a rapidly shifting global economy, to emerging economies’ growth and shifting comparative advantage, and to powerful technological forces. While these changes are difficult to think about with any degree of precision, that doesn’t make them unimportant.

5. Al Qaeda was forcing local affiliates (or at least its Iraqi one) to sustain themselves financially. If local groups must make their own money, governments and counterterror operatives can use Al Qaeda’s need to raise money – often using illicit means and pressure against local citizens – against the organization. That kind of counterterrorism would look less like war, and more like careful police work against what amounts to a criminal syndicate or mafia.”

6. How much would you pay for the universe? Half a penny on a dollar? An amazing speech and video about NASA from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

[HTML4]

7. Each time I watch the Bill O’Loughlin Talk Radio on TV show on Channel 2, I think of this Mr. Show classic. Only, Bill’s show isn’t funny or ironic.

[HTML5]

8. Pour a little of your mediocre double-double coffee out this morning to remember the late, great local franchise, Dickie’s Donuts. The last Dickie’s location closed yesterday, a true local institution now gone.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 14th

14 Jul

1. If you’re driving anywhere in New York State, you better not even think of using your cellphone. Literally, don’t even think about it. Anyone using a handheld electronic device while driving can be pulled over and will be subject to a three-point penalty on their license and a fine of up to $150. Previously, drivers texting or talking on the phone without a hands-free device could only be pulled if they had committed another offense.

“This bill will save lives, period,” said Governor Cuomo.

However, the Governor is silent on mopes driving around in their car whilst slamming a calzone down their gaping maw. That’s still legal.

Now that using a cell phone is a primary offense, let’s take a look at what specifically is in the law so you’ll know what not to do.

No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion. An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the “immediate proximity” of his or her ear while such vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section. The presumption established by this subdivision is “rebuttable by evidence“tending to show that the operator was not engaged in a call

The devil is in the details here. It’s not just illegal to use the phone for talking, texting, email or web; it’s illegal to have it in immediate proximity for use. The law defines “immediate proximity” as follows:

Immediate proximity shall mean that distance as permits the operator of a mobile telephone to hear telecommunications transmitted over such mobile telephone, but shall not require physical contact with such operator’s ear.

“Rebuttable by evidence” means that if the police officer who pulls you over thinks you were using or intended to use the phone while operating the vehicle, well, you’re good and screwed. If you were to claim in court that you were not using the device, it is assumed that your usage records would be subpoenaed by the court.

So, don’t even think about touching your phone in the car or you’re going to spend hours of your life arguing the definition of intent with a cop in court. However, if you’d like to continue applying your makeup while driving, please proceed. Want to suck down a Super Gulp and enjoying the latest in Go-Go Taquito technology from 7-11 while cruising the streets of Sloan? Please do! No ticket for that.

If you do get a ticket, please hire Jim Ostrowski to fight it. He’ll cite Jeffersonian principles in your traffic court defense and give us hours of amusement.

2. Much was made last night about President Obama leaving a negotiating session with GOP Leadership over the debt ceiling. He’s clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of Republicans to deal with reality and a Gallup poll released yesterday amplifies his frustrations. Republicans continue any efforts to increase tax revenues through the closing of loopholes and cuts for the most wealthy in the country. The GOP is so far out of the mainstream with their demands on spending reductions that it defies logic.

As Nate Silver of The New York Times points out,

Now consider the positions of the respective parties to the negotiation. One framework that President Obama has offered, which would reduce the debt by a reported $2 trillion, contains a mix of about 17 percent tax increases to 83 percent spending cuts. Another framework, which would aim for twice the debt reduction, has been variously reported as offering a 20-to-80 or 25-to-75 mix.

However, all but 7 Republicans in the House of Representatives, or 97 percent of them, have signed the pledge of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform stating that any net tax increases are unacceptable.

It is absolute absurdity to let this negotiating tactic by the Republicans threaten global economic stability.

3. Seriously, we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem. Next time someone tells you otherwise, show them this chart.

4. Martin Wolf is the chief economics commentator at the Financial Times of London. He’s a serious guy with a very conservative opinion about global finance. You’re probably not an FT.com subscriber, so let me excerpt his latest column.

A decision not to allow the government to borrow to finance the programmes Congress has already mandated would be insane…. Yet, astonishingly, many of the Republicans opposed to raising the US debt ceiling do not merely wish to curb federal spending: they enthusiastically desire a default. Either they have no idea how profound would be the shock to their country’s economy and society of a repudiation of debt legally contracted by their state, or they fall into the category of utopian revolutionaries, heedless of all consequences.

These are dangerous times. The US may be on the verge of making among the biggest and least-necessary financial mistakes in world history. These times require wisdom and courage among those in charge of our affairs.

Emphasis mine.

5. Tomorrow will be the 32nd anniversary of what I believe to be one of the most courageous speeches any President has ever given to the American people. It was delivered without concern for perception and was an honest and blunt assessment of the state of the nation. Neither before nor since has a speech so backfired on a politician, but Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” address to Americans was a remarkable turning point for America in several ways. Many of the points Carter made then still ring true today.

We are at a turning point of our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. … All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to the true freedom for our nation and ourselves.

This was not self loathing anti-Americanism, it was a plea for Americans to come together behind a common purpose. One which elevated the ideals of self-sacrifice, conservation, and independence while calling for a rejection of both empire and selfishness. He followed the speech with some cheap political gimmicks like calling for the resignation of his entire cabinet and the development several months later of the “Carter Doctrine” which ran counter to his stated goals in the speech. He never recovered.

Even though it was delivered by a President under attack from the left wing of his party while facing the emergence of neo-conservatism on the right, it was the last time I felt a President was being honest with the American people. It’s a shame that Carter lost his political compass, it cost him his Presidency.

[HTML1]

6. A TED Talk titled “Let’s Take Back The Internet”. In this powerful talk from TEDGlobal, Rebecca MacKinnon describes the expanding struggle for freedom and control in cyberspace, and asks: How do we design the next phase of the Internet with accountability and freedom at its core, rather than control? She believes the internet is headed for a “Magna Carta” moment when citizens around the world demand that their governments protect free speech and their right to connection.

[HTML2]

7. How much sunscreen should you wear? Check this infographic to find out.

Have a day!

The Morning Grumpy – July 13th

13 Jul

1. WECK1230-AM, we hardly knew ye. Yesterday, it was announced that our radio partner would be changing formats from local news and talk to an adult contemporary music format. No more Brad Riter and Nick Mendola believing in Buffalo and talking about the news of the day, it’s now the sultry AM sounds of “Timeless Cool” on WECK, The Breeze.

I think this is terrible news. Not that I don’t enjoy a mono channel of adult standards of yesterday and today on a low watt AM station, who doesn’t? It’s bad news because WECK was the last vestige of locally owned and operated talk radio and it’s the end of the line for a format which is important to any community.

WBEN and WWKB are corporately owned by Entercom, Town Square owns WYRK, WBLK, and WBUF and soon Cumulus will be coming into the market to wreak havoc on the 97Rock and 103.3 The Edge programming you enjoy. WECK was the only station owned by a local guy attempting to make a living doing local community radio.

Now, it’s over. The reason it didn’t work? Well, there are many, but the station owner failed to respond to a changing market, his sales team was weak and he didn’t spend much money marketing the station or acquiring talent. But, the challenges are bigger than that. Fighting the brand recognition of larger corporate stations in the quarterly ratings book is a serious uphill climb and the means for determining those ratings is antiquated with odds stacked against the little guy. So, a new approach is necessary if a company wants to provide locally controlled radio content to the public.

The business of radio is vastly different than it was in 1990, 200, or 2008. A radio station now needs to discount the value of its prime asset, the broadcast tower, and create a following on social media and invest into the online realm if its going to survive. In today’s radio market, the content and the talent are what gives the broadcast tower legitimacy, not the other way around.

Which means there is opportunity to put quality radio talent to use without the need for a building and an antenna. Which is exactly what we’ll be doing in the next few weeks. This will be a summer of evolution for WNYMedia and the type of content we offer. Podcasts will be a significant part of our new platform and we think we have a plan to take on some new challenges and explore new content. So, please, stay tuned.

2. Evidently, China clearly sees what our federal budget problem is and offers a tip on how to fix it.

“I know the U.S. is still recovering from the financial crisis,” Chen said. “Under such circumstances, it is still spending a lot of money on its military and isn’t that placing too much pressure on the taxpayers?

“If the U.S. could reduce its military spending a bit and spend more on improving the livelihood of the American people … wouldn’t that be a better scenario?” he said.

The notion put forth by the Democratic President and Republican Senate that Americans need to begin dismantling our social safety net and give away some of our economic protections to lower the deficit is patently absurd. We’re invested in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re way over-budget with our optional quasi-war with Libya and we’re attacking countries like Pakistan and Somalia with drones each week. Cut back the military spending, so says America’s creditor. Maybe we should listen.

3. Hey, here’s an idea! Let’s just check between the couch cushions of the US Tax Code and see if we can’t find a spare $100BN or so.

A bill introduced by Carl Levin of Michigan and Kent Conrad of North Dakota would tighten rules that allow hedge funds and corporations in the United States to skirt federal taxes by opening shell companies overseas.

The measure would also change the I.R.S. regulations that allow traders of credit-default swaps to avoid paying federal taxes on many transactions that begin in the United States. By closing the loopholes, the plan could bring the Treasury as much as $100 billion a year, according to various estimates cited by Mr. Levin.

4. Detroit strengthens relationship with the federal government, joins the Strong Cities, Strong Communities program which will make it easier for the city to receive assistance from federal agencies.

“We chose Detroit as a pilot city because it’s clear that stakeholders have developed a comprehensive economic development vision and that the city has the political leadership needed to move that plan forward,” noted HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Can anyone can say that about Buffalo? Might be part of the problem, don’t you think?

5. The Great Reset: Why tomorrow may not be better than today

The uncomfortable truth, in fact, is that everyone is now an entrepreneur, whether they like it or not. 1099 is the new W-2, which says something when you see how even basic services like insurance become exponentially more expensive when written as an individual policy vs. a company policy.

What type of hit does that represent to our national health, both metaphorically speaking and literally, in the pocketbook?

6. I know you guys love cool charts about horrible news, but you’ll just have to settle for a cartoon that mocks Republicans.

7. Do you have a truckload of spare time and need something cool and fun to do? Perhaps you’d like to watch Super Mario climb a vine for 10 hours?

[HTML1]

Perhaps you’d enjoy Epic Sax Guy playing for 10 hours straight?

[HTML2]

I love the Internets.

8. So what exactly happens if Congress and the White House don’t raise the debt ceiling by early next month? The Bipartisan Policy Center has generated a blow-by-blow, day-by-day account of the fallout.

9. A little pick-me-up note to get your workday off to a good start.

Have a day!