Tag Archives: News

Flabbergasted Whilst Ignoring the Bleeding Obvious

11 Jul

In Sunday’s Buffalo News Bob McCarthy metaphorically sticks his head in the sand about the Detestable Independence Party’s endorsement of Tim Kennedy over Bill Stachowski in the SD-58 Democratic Primary.

That minor party founded in New York by Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano is essentially controlled upstate by Democratic operative Steve Pigeon. Why? Because state Independence Chairman Frank MacKay said so, that’s why.

Rosenswie begs to differ. But she works in the same County Legislature where Pigeon helped assemble a majority friendly to County Executive Chris Collins. Legislator Christina Wleklinski Bove, a Rosenswie ally, is part of that majority. So is Kennedy.

Pigeon is also the $150,000 counsel to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, one of two New York City members who threw the Senate into a tizzy last year when they joined a coup orchestrated by Pigeon and his political patron—Golisano.

So political insiders everywhere were flabbergasted last week when Pigeon-controlled Independence bypassed a Senate stalwart — Stachowski—for Kennedy. Did the move by a top Senate staffer amount to the Democratic leadership throwing a vulnerable member under the bus? Especially because the Stachowski seat is crucial to continued Democratic control?

Pigeon won’t talk, but a source familiar with his thinking said the Independence move signals the belief Stachowski can’t win.

Other Senate sources, however, say Pigeon’s move reflects uncertainity surrounding Espada, who was basically read out of the Democratic Party last week by Chairman Jay Jacobs.

“Steve Pigeon’s only alliance in the Senate is with Pedro Espada, and Espada’s days are numbered,” said one top Albany source. “Steve knows he has to have another horse in the game.”

Back here on earth, it’s pretty easy to sniff out the blatantly obvious quid pro quo. Kennedy signed on to Pigeon’s “reform coalition” in the leg with the understanding that Pigeon could deliver the Detestable IP (hereafter DIP) line. And when Espada loses / does his perp walk, perhaps Kennedy will help Pigeon retain a position with the needless State Senate.

Everybody wins!

Anonymity Alone?

6 Jul

The Batavian’s Howard Owens submitted this comment, disagreeing with my assessment of the Buffalo News’ comment policy revision:

Alan writes, “In other words, the Buffalo News is doing it wrong”

No actually, they’re getting it all right. It is simply unethical for news sites to allow unvetted anonymous comments.

Here’s more I’ve written along those lines.

“Anonymity, pseudonyms, noms de plume – they’re all longstanding traditions in internet discussions, going way back to the free-wheeling days of usenet newsgroups. It moved on to blogs where writers assumed online identities like “Atrios”, “Calpundit”, “Kos”, “Allahpundit”, and reader/commenters did the same. ”
None of those sites are news sites, who’s primary purpose is to provide credible original reporting. It’s a false comparison.

Further, a particular news site going to a real names policy in no way diminishes a persons ability to be anonymous in any other forum that allows anonymity. There’s nothing prohibiting a reader from setting up a blog on Word Press and anonymous bashing whatever and whomever he or she chooses. The Buffalo News going to a real names policy in no way is a threat to online anonymity.

“The Buffalo News presumably has no prohibition against its journalists providing anonymity to sources for stories. In fact, it does so quite routinely, as do all responsible journalists.”

What you fail to note is that when a reporter grants anonymity, a process has taken place (at least, ideally), where a reporter and editor have discussed the legitimacy of granting anonymity, weighing the probative value of the information provided, the motivation of the source, the credibility of the source and whether the information can be obtained by any other means, and verifying the accuracy of the information as best as possible (if not completely). No such vetting process takes place with anonymous comments.

So, again, it’s a false comparison.

And I’m completely flummoxed your argument that “nobody asked for” and there’s “no need” for comments on certain stories. If nobody asked for them, then why is it an issue? Nobody will comment on them. And the idea that there shouldn’t be comments on this or that story runs entirely counter to the whole notion of freedom. Why deny somebody the ability to comment on even the most mundane news item. You never know what information might come out. It could be quite worthwhile. On The Batavian, some of the most interesting conversations occur on some of the most seemingly minor stories.

If you’re going to moderate comments before they appear, you might as well not even have comments. It’s a conversation killer.

Nobody has a good reason to post anonymously. If you can’t say it with your name on it, you probably shouldn’t say it. However, if it’s legitimate news that you want to tip the paper to it, then there are innumerable ways with most news organizations to provide anonymous tips.

At The Batavian, we get anonymous tips on a routine basis.

In a later post, you quote some comments and imply that if the poster hadn’t been able to post anonymously, the information might not have come out. I’m simply going to call bull shit on that. I’ve enough experience on requiring real name comments to know that people post just about anything (including hateful crap) with their real names attached. And the fact of the matter is, such information as you cite gains in credibility when a real person with a real name takes responsibility for it.

I realize that there has been a certain spin to the Buffalo News going to real names that it will clean up the comments. That’s not the real reason news orgs need to adopt real name policies — it’s simply a matter of ethics. A real name policy in and of itself will not clean up comments. There is simply no substitute for involved, active moderators monitoring in and participating in the comments. Running a successful online community is not a “set it and forget it” process. It takes time, intelligence and effort.

Alan, you’re familiar enough with The Batavian to know — we require real names, we have a robust and diverse community of contributors, with a largely civil exchange, and plenty of people not scarred off by attaching their real names to say what’s really on their minds.

There is simply no logical, reasonable argument I’ve come across yet that would excuse a news organization such as the Buffalo News allowing anonymous comments.

My one-liner about the Buffalo News “doing it wrong” isn’t directed towards the revision of its policy, but to any commenting policy it has ever had. We can all agree that the Buffalo News’ comments section was an unreadable thread of trash. It was quite clear that pure anonymity had emboldened some hateful commenters to spew hate-filled things.

The Buffalo News isn’t the Batavian and it isn’t WNYMedia.net. It’s the sole local paper in town, and it has always treated its online presence as a confusing appendage rather than a tool. The Batavian is mostly a straight news source, but it’s set up like a blog. Comments are a blog creation, and you made the decision from practically day one to require real names. I’ve praised you before many times for that.

But I won’t just automatically criticize a site solely for permitting anonymous comments or noms de plume. While the process for granting anonymity to a site commenter versus a confidential source may be different, the reason for that request and desire for anonymity may be the same. An elected official’s staffer may choose to post a comment on my site for the same reason he may choose to request anonymity to a reporter – he has strong opinions and background knowledge, but is not authorized to speak to the issue. There is value in permitting that person to shield his identity.

We don’t get a lot of racist commenters here, and when we do we generally keep the comment up because (a) the commenter looks like an idiot; and (b) the rest of the commenting community here can call the idiot out. Just because someone wants to say something stupid doesn’t mean I have to delete it. The difference at the News is the sheer volume of comments, and in turn racist idiocy, which required some sort of reaction.

You say that pre-moderation is a discussion-killer. But any movement to remove anonymity will chill commentary to some degree. You’re coming at this from a newspaperman’s perspective, while blogs and their comments are really a contemporary version of usenet newsgroups, where anything goes. That sort of free-wheeling discussion is an internet thing, not a newspaper thing.

Yes, the Batavian gets robust comments going even on routine stories. So, I gather, might the Buffalo News. But my criticism had to do with the fact that the News didn’t do anything to police its comments section, which it appended to each and every story. Remember – the Batavian uses a blog platform. The Buffalo News doesn’t. I can’t imagine there was a big clamor for people to be able to post a comment to every single story the News does.

But the core of our disagreement is that you oppose anonymity, while I can see its value. You even acknowledge that people will say dumb and racist things even when using their real names, so anonymity itself isn’t the problem – it’s anonymity paired with ignorant hatred.

So, we can agree that the Buffalo News’ “set it and forget it” method of “policing” its comments section is the real culprit. Because of the volume of traffic the News gets, it had a duty to implement a commenting system that would encourage discussion and discourage/ban hate speech. It failed to do so, and here we are debating it.

Erie County: An Orgy of Transactional Politics

5 Jul

Steve Pigeon is de facto dictator of the Independence Party, and its endorsements in Erie County.

Steve Pigeon is Pedro Espada’s employee, earning receiving $150,000 in taxpayer dollars per year.

Steve Pigeon, working with Senate candidate Tim Kennedy, longtime associate Christina Bove, and sole Grassroots-connected legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, orchestrated an alliance between them and the Republican minority, thus effectively obliterating the Democratic legislative majority that was hard-fought during the 2009 elections.

In order for Pigeon to retain his Senate position, he is dependent on the continuation of a Democratic Senate majority. He calculated early on that Kennedy may be a better Democratic Senate candidate than Bill Stachowski.

Sandy Rosenswie is the nominal chair of the Erie County Independence Party (IP).

Sandy Rosenswie was hired by the Erie County Legislature’s “reform coalition” majority.

Tim Kennedy, who is a member of that “reform coalition”, is reportedly going to receive the IP endorsement.

It’s an orgy of transactional politics that ensures exactly one thing only: that Steve Pigeon retains his highly paid position suckling at the public teat. It’s also a scenario that never could have occurred in quite that way without the existence of electoral fusion, the root of many electoral evils in New York State.

Also see (NSFW):

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This Just In!

17 Jun

Wonkette on Obama’s Oval Office speech:

The reviews are in for the president’s big Oval Office speech last night, and the consensus is “Meh, this is stupid, why did I watch this stupid thing, this is stupid.” If the pundit class is bored of his speeches, can Obama really continue to be president? Probably not.

News – especially cable news – is just awful.

Assigning Blame, Missing the Cause

16 Jun


Chris has a pair of BP-related posts up, one of which speaks to the roots of the problem itself – why we’re drilling where we are, and why the government is essentially impotent to do anything meaningful about it. The other post reacts to Obama’s speech last night.

To be frank, I couldn’t bear to watch Obama’s speech last night because I didn’t think he’d have the balls to really tell it like it is. Chris’ recap indicates that he ended with a prayer. Give me a fucking break. That’s just ridiculous – as ridiculous as a semi-talented Grammy winner thanking God for the wild success of a synthesized shit dance tune that happened to be voted “best song”.

God didn’t cause the spill, and He isn’t going to fix it. Any more than the government caused the spill or is equipped to fix it.

The Gulf disaster is so unfathomable to me because our system of “do whatever you want” short-term-vision laissez-faire deregulation is the root cause of this.

An acoustic valve could have been fitted, and may have very well prevented this sort of blowout. But it wasn’t there. It’s a $500,000 device that could have prevented an unprecedented, epic environmental disaster.

The impotence and corruption of federal regulators such as, in this case, the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has also come to light, and our recent penchant to deregulate things that by their very nature ought to be regulated has come back to haunt us.

Government may have contributed to this blowout, but not in the way partisans suggest.

The Deepwater Horizon was permitted to be built in a place and in a way that would specifically contribute to this catastrophe.

Apparently, the technology to safely drill at that depth is either inadequate, or simple methods to prevent this sort of catastrophe were eschewed because (1) they weren’t mandated; and (2) they cost a few bucks.

So to assail Obama on hope and change is beyond being beside the point. I mean, if, as depicted in your last sentence, Obama can’t solve the problem, how exactly is he supposed to be effective and not suck?

There’s a corollary story that Chris doesn’t touch on because he doesn’t try to politicize his post beyond talking about corporate America’s control over our lives, as well as the power that oil consumption needs have on our economy. That has to do with the clamor from many who detest Obama and his supposed communism who all of a sudden have a burning need for the government to solve their problems.

I know that anti-Obama partisans are trying very hard to gain momentum for the “Obama’s Katrina” meme, but the problem there is that it is a man-made disaster. How many times has the right beat the drum that government is never the solution to our problems – it is the problem. It’s the entire foundation of modern Reaganist conservatism, such as it still exists (which I don’t think it has since Bush 1 left office, but that’s a different story). The corollary to that is that every one of our problems can be solved by private business, private entrepreneurship, free market initiative, so long as government would just get out of the way.

How fascinating to have the anti-Obama right clamor for a governmental response to an environmental disaster. It’s practically the bizarro world in that contemporary Palinist Republicans suddenly give a shit about the environment! About ecological disaster! They want – nay demand governmental action and swift response!

That rank hypocrisy is so very telling, and every time a Republican starts demanding that Obama – that the government – do more, that needs to be thrown directly back in their face because it fundamentally rebuts their entire contemporary ethos.
Well, for the same reasons we protected New Orleans from flooding with ancient levee technology, the US isn’t good on the whole long-run planning thing, and we never have been.

That’s why it’s beyond critical to start finding other sources of energy to power this country. Renewable sources, cleaner sources, sources that don’t make us dependent on foreign corporations or foreign states.

So to blame Obama is just idiotic.

We ourselves are to blame. And so, frankly, is Dick Cheney.

TED Talks Worth Watching

10 Jun

The annual TED conference is an event where people from various disciplines get together to share knowledge and ideas.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

Last month it was announced that local event planner and overall awesome person Susan Cope had successfully applied to host a TEDx (Independently Organized) event in Buffalo this fall.  As the planning continues and we get closer to the actual event, I’ll post some of my favorite TED presentations and help you get in the mood for an awesome event.

At a point in our national and global history where we face transformational economic and cultural challenges, we need to fundamentally change our consumption patterns, the way we interact and launch a foundational change in our practical wisdom.  These talks tell us why and how.

Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.  If you don’t know what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is, here ya go:

It is roughly the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash.  Shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count are only part of what can be found in this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco.

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Good Evening

7 Jun

Two must-reads:

1. If you haven’t been following the sickening Arizonan imbroglio over the skin tones of kids depicted on a school mural, then read Roger Ebert’s take on racism, anyway.

2. What if political scientists reported the news?

Chief among the criticisms of Obama was his response to the spill. Pundits argued that he needed to show more emotion. Their analysis, however, should be viewed in light of the economic pressures on the journalism industry combined with a 24-hour news environment and a lack of new information about the spill itself.

Republicans, meanwhile, complained that the administration has not been sufficiently involved in the day-to-day cleanup. Their analysis, of course, is colored by their minority status in America’s two-party system, which creates a strong structural incentive to criticize the party in power, whatever the merits.

and

Looking ahead to 2012, Republicans need a candidate who can shake up the electoral map, which currently consists of “red states” and “blue states,” even though there’s not much difference.

The GOP—a stupid acronym we use only so we don’t have to keep repeating the word Republican—will have to decide between a moderate “establishment” pick and a more conservative Tea Party favorite. In reality, both candidates would embrace similar policies in the general election.

That candidate will then face off against Obama, whose charisma, compelling personal story, and professional political operation will prove formidable. Actually, Obama will probably win because he’s the incumbent. And because voters always go with the guy who’s taller.

Lewis Black is My Hero

13 May

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Contemporary Nullification

10 May

There’s a bill floating around the do-nothing, pointless state senate that has everything to do with nonsense and nothing to do with good government. Local sponsors include Maziarz and Ranzenhofer.

These are just contemporary revisions to the state sovereignty nullification movement that took place in the mid 19th century.

When George Bush sought to take money out of people’s paychecks and deposit them in private retirement accounts, that was fine. Only when a Democrat takes office can the majority of actions of the federal government be seen as not only misguided, but actually in violation of the Constitution. Because conservatives consider it against the natural order of things for them not to control the government and distribute its Treasury to their favored corporate interests, a circumstance with them out of control must be criminal in nature.

This is an outgrowth of the right-wing populism we’ve seen in reaction to a recession and the uneasiness people feel with job insecurity and an uncertain economic future.

Economic crisis always brings out the crazy. Just imagine the utopia – a world where the government can’t govern and corporate business interests can act without regulation, with impunity. Hooray!

Hey, What’s Up?

7 May

Hung Parliament

After a grueling, days-long campaign that managed to do in a few weeks what takes America a few years, the United Kingdom held a general election yesterday. According to the BBC as of this morning, Labour had lost 87 seats in Parliament whilst the Tories have gained 92. The Lib Dems have lost 5 seats. The end result is a hung Parliament – 326 seats are needed for an outright majority, enabling a party to form a government. If Labour or the Tories are able to convince the Lib Dems to join a coalition, the majority will be there.

And lest anyone think that the Tory victory is some sort of anti-socialist, anti-seekritmuslimkenyan Obama backlash, the Conservative manifesto is here, and maybe you read it and whatnot.

Obama to Buffalo

President Barack Obama will be in Buffalo next Thursday as part of his “White House to Main Street” listening tour. He’ll be here to discuss the economy and jobs – issues far yet dear to the Buffalonian heart. His visit was arranged at the urging of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the agenda hasn’t yet been solidified. George W. Bush came to Buffalo in 2004 to tout the Patriot Act, and Bill Clinton came to town in 1999, because this was friendly territory for an embattled, impeached President. One hopes it amounts to more than just a few photo opportunities. The thing is, the federal government didn’t economically devastate Buffalo, but it can help to shock it back to life.

Rentboy enters the Lexicon

One day you’re one of the most virulent homophobes in Christendom, the next day you’re caught hiring out a rentboy to provide you with a massage called the “longstroke” on your 2-week European vacation.

As an aside, thanks to George Rekers, the term “rentboy” has now entered mainstream American English.

Also, he claims that he was just ministering to his young traveling companion. His rentboy, “Lucien”, begs to differ, and has independent corroboration to prove it.

Wheeee!

When a typographical error can cause a market panic, the market’s broken and the way the big boys play the market isn’t transparent, and could ruin the economy.

Deep Thoughts

The Republicans really, really dislike the way that Democrats have ruined New York State and whatnot (ignoring their own culpable conduct, pretending that everything went to shit after Pataki left). Why don’t they instead tap into the palpable anger that Paladino is clumsily exploiting, and propose real, genuine reforms rather than playing partisan games?

Conservatives really, really hate the interference of the federal government. Then BP’s oil platform explodes and leaks in the Gulf, and suddenly they beg for the interference of the federal government to clean it all up. Privatize the profit, socialize the risk. It’s the (new) American way!

The Greek financial crisis is clearly the fault of Barack Obamadopolous.