Tag Archives: moyers

The Morning Grumpy – 6/4/12

4 Jun

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


1. After a massive decline during the last recession, corporate profits have now skyrocketed to historic levels. Somehow, it’s the fault of the government fault that those companies are not using those profits to hire people who would then use their new salaries to, ya know, buy stuff and stimulate the economy.

As a reminder, the effective corporate tax rate in America is lower than most other developed nations and U.S. corporations ARE actually hiring, they’re just doing it overseas.

2. 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

An awesome list of cool things that reminds us what a tricky thing innovation can be. I’m a big fan of the “Shut-Up Gun”

3. Are people too dumb to participate in elections? A new study says they are.

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

If you live in Western New York, you know this to be fact.

4. Bill Moyers says we should pity the poor billionaires.

You see, according to the website Politico.com, the so-called “mega-donors,” unleashed by Citizens Unitedand pouring boundless big bucks into this year’s political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates — and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

As a reminder, welcome to the plutocracy.

5. A fantastic long read, “Our French Connection“.

For some Americans, the Parisian way of life is best. Others simply prefer “freedom fries.” A two-week journey across the United States—passing through a handful of small towns named Paris—to find out what Americans really think about the French these days.

Our attitudes toward the French tell us as much about our xenophobia as it does our openness to culture. The story is a journalistic diorama of American attitudes.

Fact Of The Day: 12% of all the people ever born are walking the planet at this very moment.

Quote Of The Day: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal” – Oscar Wilde

Video Of The Day: Idea For “Canalside“! This would go really well next to the hot dog shed, deck chairs, and the solar powered whatnot they want to put down there. I’d love to see Donn Esmonde try it.

Song Of The Day: “Ain’t Good Enough For You” – Bruce Springsteen

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

The Morning Grumpy 1/19/2012

19 Jan

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

We party hard at Artvoice.

1. The Atlantic magazine asks, “Why does Buffalo pay for its teachers to have plastic surgery?

In Buffalo, New York, the heart of the American rust-belt, the public school system pays for its teachers to get plastic surgery. Hair removal. Miscrodermabrasian. Liposuction. If you can name the procedure, it’s probably covered.

There’s no co-pay, so the school district ends up footing the entire bill. It estimates the current annual cost at $5.2 million, down from $9 million in 2009.

This in a city where the average teacher makes roughly $52,000 a year. The plastic surgery tab would pay salaries for 100 extra educators.

For all the protesting liberals do about right wing union busting Governors like Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, and Andrew Cuomo, sometimes we need to recognize our own political weaknesses. Contract provisions like this one make it too easy for anti-union forces to paint public servants as the budget bogeyman and overreach for extensive givebacks in labor negotiations.

The collective bargaining system in New York State does not provide any incentive for honest give and take in public union contracts, so we continue to maintain the status quo.  A solid start in a negotiation with the BTF would include the removal of this rider in a new ten year contract ( savings of $52-60MM) in exchange for hiring new teachers and salary increases for those already on staff amounting to 50-60% of the savings. Offer, counteroffer. Give and take. Ensure union workers receive the pay and benefits they deserve while making sensible reforms to public outlays.

Instead, we get legislatively mandated bluster and stasis rather than progress.

2. The triggers of economic inequality and the results of policy changes. Click the link to play with the interactive infographic, the following is just a screenshot.

In recent years, the rich have seen their wealth grow dramatically while the poor and middle class have basically flatlined. It’s no accident, argue Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book Winner-Take-All Politics. The infographic, which draws from Hacker and Pierson’s book, explains how our politicians — on both sides of the isle — fell under the spell of corporate dollars and re-engineered our economic system to favor the wealthy.

I’m halfway through this book and it is fascinating. I highly recommend it.

3. Aaron Bartley of PUSH Buffalo wrote a sage and enlightened article for The Huffington Post titled “The Recovery Runs Through The City“.

In the absence of national direction, leaders at the neighborhood, regional and state levels have put forward innovative and scalable development initiatives with triple-bottom-line impacts, meaning that they benefit people and the planet and generate sustainable economic growth.

The imaginative solutions to systemic ills bubbling up at the regional, municipal and community-levels could jumpstart a national movement to build a new economy, one in which capital formation and developmental control are rooted in communities over the long term.

After reading that article, try and tell me there is a better candidate for Mayor of Buffalo anywhere in this city. While he has never publicly voiced a desire to run for elected office, Mr. Bartley possesses the right package of education, experience, vision and strategic thinking necessary to do big things. At the very least, I’d love to see many of these activist groups collectively assert their political power  in a more organized fashion and speak with one voice. A real “Grassroots” political club, if you will, with the power to change elections and the fortunes of a great city.

4. Imagine Buffalo’s outer harbor lined with these. They’re called windstalks and they deliver wind power without the turbines. Hey, if Mark Goldman can simply wish that a solar powered carousel be installed on the inner harbor and have it happen, I can wish for something that’s actually cool, right?

Noise from wind turbine blades, inadvertent bat and bird kills and even the way wind turbines look have made installing them anything but a breeze. New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving.

A remarkable and beautiful design.

Fact Of The Day: The taste and smell of your Tropicana or Minute Maid Orange Juice? Yeah, that’s not from oranges, it’s from chemically derived “flavor packs”. Everything sucks.

Quote Of The Day: “Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don’t talk about what democracy means — what it bestows on us — the revolutionary idea that it isn’t just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. ” – Bill Moyers

Song Of The Day: Redux from yesterday, because it’s awesome. “Tell Me A Tale” – Michael Kiwanuka

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

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

Bill Moyers On Inequality

16 Jan

Bill Moyers, also known as “America’s Conscience” , returned to the public airwaves this week with his new show, Moyers & Company.

Moyers & Company Generic Promo from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

He came back with a progressive bang; airing segments on engineered income inequality, Occupy Wall Street, and the political system that birthed both of those outcomes. It was the most intelligent and thought-provoking television I’ve watched since, well, the last time Bill Moyers was on the air.

His segment on Occupy Wall Street was the best I’ve seen since the movement began. It’s amazing what a a journalist can do when given 15 minutes to tell a story without multiple pundits arguing over the top of the content.

Moyers’s closing essay was fantastic.

Waking up is right. Waking up to the reality that inequality matters. It matters because what we’re talking about is what it takes to live a decent life. If you get sick without health coverage, inequality matters. If you’re the only breadwinner and out of work, inequality matters. If your local public library closes down and you can’t afford to buy books on your own, inequality matters. If budget cuts mean your child has to pay to play on the school basketball team or to sing in the chorus or march in the band, inequality matters. If you lose your job as you’re about to retire, inequality matters. And if the financial system collapses and knocks the props from beneath your pension, inequality matters.

I grew up in a working class family. We were among the poorest in town, but I was rich in public goods.

I went to a good public school, played sandlot ball in a good public park, had access to a good public library, drove down a good public highway to a good public college, all made possible by people I never met. There was an unwritten bargain among the generations — we didn’t all get the same deal, but we did get civilization.

That bargain is being shredded. The occupiers of Wall Street understand this. You could tell from their slogans. A fellow young enough to be my grandson wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the words: “The system’s not broken. It’s fixed.” That’s right. Rigged. And that’s why so many are so angry. Not at wealth itself, but at the crony capitalists who resorts to tricks, loopholes, and hard, cold cash for politicians to make sure insiders prosper and then pull up the ladder behind them.

Yes, Americans are waking up. To how they’re being made to pay for Wall Street’s malfeasance and Washington’s complicity. Paying with stagnant wages and lost jobs, with slashing cuts to their benefits and to their social services. And waking up to the grotesque Supreme Court decision defining a corporation as a person, although it doesn’t eat, breath, make love or sing, or take care of children and aging parents. Waking up to how campaign contributions corrupt our elections; to the fact that if speech is money, no money means no speech.

So the collective cry has gone up loud and clear: enough’s enough. We won’t, as I said, know for a while if this is just a momentary cry of pain; or whether it’s a movement that, like the Abolitionists and Suffragettes, the populists and workers of another era, or the Civil Rights movement of our time, gathers force until the powers-that-be can no longer sustain the inequality, the injustice and yes, the immorality of winner-take-all politics.

Welcome back, Mr. Moyers. Welcome back.