Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was in town today giving speeches. One was to the Saturn Club, and one at Canisius College on health care. The Senator collapsed at the Saturn Club speech due to a stomach virus. She was treated at the scene and not hospitalized. The Senator left under her own power, and ultimately gave a 45-minute speech at Canisius. You have to admire her for that. At the time the story broke, I was in the car listening to Rush Limbaugh. I can't stand Rush, but there's little else on during the day. The story broke that Hillary collapsed, but nothing more was known. I was waiting for Limbaugh to show a shred of decency and say that he hoped that this sitting Senator - whom he had actually met and spoken with cordially in the past - was alright. But no such class or dignity or decency sprung forth from Limbaugh's formerly nicotine-stained and more recently oxycontin-lovin' lips. He made some phony noises about whether they needed to start mourning or go to their affiliates. No class. Nothing. I hope the Senator is doing well, and I trust that her speech was well-received by open minds at Canisius.
I don't recall any local media running with this story back in October, but apparently NYCE and Canada's Interac signed an agreement whereby Canadians can make debit purchases in the US using their PINs,
I've long wondered why we couldn't buy stuff at Interac terminals in Canada, or why no local banks offered that type of service. Apparently, it now exists. I'll have to check it out.
UPDATE: I guess I'm still wondering. I was wrong. Only Canadians can use their debit cards at NYCE terminals. Americans can't use Interac.
Via Balgar, I found out that yet a third columnist, who "coincidentally" agrees with Bush Administration policies was paid by a Bush Administration Department. HHS paid $10,000 to obscure nobody Mike McManus. Even if McManus didn't actually get $10,000 to opine on Bush policies as a quid pro quo, it's still dirty and a waste of the "peoples' money." And every time I see or hear "quid pro quo", in my mind I add the word "Clarisse". But that's just me.
Click here for a funny cartoon about Spitzer. Adam Zyglis did it - I must have missed it in the Buffalo News. I don't know if Spitzer's the guy, but I hope whoever becomes our next governor is the guy to fundamentally reform Albany. I can imagine Wall Street will be contributing to his campaign, if only to get him off their backs as AG.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt was interviewed briefly by Channel 4 yesterday regarding sales-tax free week.
"Even though State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt says he'd like to see a permanent reduction in the state sales tax on clothing, a looming deficit will likely keep the savings to two weeks rather than 52."Hoyt went on to say that the problem is, when you abolish the sales tax - even a very targeted and specific tax, as the one on clothes under $110 - the state loses revenue. And the state needs to recoup that revenue somewhere. In other words, that's Albany's money, and dammit Albany needs that money. From whatever source possible, by whatever means necessary. Here's an earth-shattering notion for Assemblyman Hoyt: HOW ABOUT YOU CUT SOME SPENDING TO MAKE UP FOR THE LOST REVENUE ON SALES TAX FROM KIDS' SCHOOLCLOTHES? That thought never crossed his mind, and certainly didn't pass his lips. He is, therefore, unfit. Unfit for the Assembly. Unfit to be Mayor of Buffalo. Un - effing - fit. 'Kay?
Last night, the top local stories for the local newscasts were as follows: Channel 7 / WKBW: Voting in Iraq / Iraqis voting in the US Channel 4 / WIVB: Voting in Iraq / Iraqis voting in the US Channel 2 / WGRZ: Sales-tax free week. I'll be switching to Channel 2. I don't need local bobbleheads informing me about Iraq's election. I can get that on the national news or cable news.
These stories always bum me out. I wish people in Albany gave a crap. I wish local politicos gave a crap. I don't think they do. To every Sandy Beach caller who rhetorically asks where Senator Clinton's 200,000 jobs are, I ask them where Giambra's return of the Buffalo diaspora is.
Sorry. That's how I see it. If you pull over a bunch of Muslim American citizens because they look Muslim, and attended a Toronto conference on renewing the Islamic spirit, and you detain them without explanation or probable cause for hours, that's fascism. It's shameful. Most importantly, they are destroying America in order to, supposedly, protect her. I mentioned this several weeks ago. The News has an update.
Buffalo-area Muslims detained, interrogated and fingerprinted at the U.S.-Canada border in December still do not know why they were held for as long as six hours. About 40 Muslims, most of them American citizens with valid passports, were stopped at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and the Peace Bridge on Dec. 26 and 27 while returning from an Islamic conference in Toronto. University at Buffalo freshman Hassan Shibly, 18, recalled being led by three armed officers into a separate room for questioning and fingerprinting. In the room, he was told to stand face-first against the wall and spread his legs apart for a pat-down search. 'I was just forced to go along,' Shibly said. 'I refused, but they said legally I had no choice. We weren't treated as American citizens. We were treated as suspects.' Border agents initially told Shibly that his vehicle was being stopped as part of a random check. But when he stepped inside the Border Patrol offices, he noticed that the other people there were also Muslims who had been at the conference. Shibly's mother, Dr. Sawsan Tabbaa, an orthodontist and UB instructor, described the fingerprinting experience as humiliating. 'This was something I thought was only for criminals,' said Tabbaa, who also had her three other children - ages 14, 11 and 3 - with her at the time. Abeer Rizek, seven months' pregnant and suffering from the flu, was crossing into the United States to visit her parents in Williamsville. During a search, she said, border agents lifted her blouse to make certain that she was pregnant. 'They patted everyone down. The whole thing was embarrassing, the whole ordeal,' she said. Dawn Stefaniak and her husband, Dr. Zulkharnain, were stopped at the Peace Bridge late the night of Dec. 26, fingerprinted and held for about 90 minutes. The day before, they had returned to Buffalo from the Islamic conference without incident, she said. "This is dangerous - singling out Muslims," said Dr. Othman Shibly, husband of Tabbaa. Shibly was not with his family at the time of border incident, but he worries that such detentions could become more common if objections are not raised. "What's going to happen in the future? This is un-American," he said. Representatives of the Western New York chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council met earlier this month with Michael D'Ambrosio, U.S. Customs & Border Protection director of field operations for the Western District of New York. But the government so far has not fully explained its reasons for the detentions, said Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, president of the local chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The organization will be discussing the issue tonight during its annual meeting, on the UB North Campus in Amherst. A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs & Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, has said that agents stopped anyone who attended the three-day convention, "Reviving the Islamic Spirit," based on information that such gatherings can be a means for terrorists to promote their cause. But Qazi said the Toronto conference was open to the public and featured well-known and well-respected Muslim leaders, many of whom have had discussions with White House officials. "There wasn't anyone radical coming from overseas or anything like that," he said. "This was a very open, and I thought very constructive gathering of Muslims in Toronto." Department of Homeland Security officials were invited to attend the Muslim Public Affairs Council meeting, Qazi said.To anyone who thinks that racial, ethnic or religious profiling is a good thing, this is the slippery slope right here. What if Homeland Security started stopping blonde white boys, in response to Niagara County's own Tim McVeigh?
I have no affiliation whatsoever with Canisius College or the Catholic Church (although my family is nominally Catholic, we don't practice). My beliefs are mine alone and I don't feel the need to participate in any sort of organized prayer or worship. That's just me. Although in the past, I would go to a Catholic church to celebrate holy days such as Easter and Christmas, I won't do it anymore. I'll only go for a wedding or funeral, out of respect. Why? I can't deal with a Church that, for decades (if not centuries) has denied and refused to deal with reports of ongoing, widespread child abuse. Instead of punishing the evil, sadistic "humans" who prayed to the Virgin Mary and preyed on little boys, the church just "reassigned" them to other parishes, where the abuse would soon continue and a whole new crop of young people would be victimized. If you think about it, the church de facto sanctioned such abuse by omission. Yet a person who believes in abortion rights, or gets divorced is to be ostensibly denied communion. A priest who has consensual heterosexual sex must be defrocked, but a priest who commits homosexual rape on a boy is simply reassigned. If that's "values", then I'm not interested. Senator Hillary Clinton - she who gets the right's trousers all bunched up - has been invited to speak at Canisius by the school's student Democrats. Any institution of higher learning would be honored to host a sitting Senator. To its credit, Canisius' administration has welcomed Clinton and understands the need for open speech - especially on campus. Bishop Kmiec, however, is disappointed that this sitting Senator is coming to speak at a Catholic college, and has withdrawn Church ministry and Catholic Charities sponsorship of the event. In a chilling display of hypocrisy, however, Kmiec said he would grudgingly allow Clinton's speech to take place so that "lines of communication" could be left open with her. If I was her, I'd tell the Bishop to stick his lines of communication and never come to me for help ever in the future for any reason. By the way. Clinton was invited by pro-choice Catholic and Democratic (former) Rep., John LaFalce. Clinton is speaking at 1:15 p.m. Monday in the Montante Cultural Center as part of Canisius' "Corporal Works of Mercy" lecture series. I'm glad to see the anti-Clinton, pro-church people are maintaining their cool composure, though:
I have faith in the people of America to discern what the beast's real position is, and the more it gets out the better. I'm counting on "my eyes were blind but now I can see"...Let her roll on and expose what a marxist fast talkin' lying bitch she really is. Have faith, people.
This came up on Buffaloblogger's site,but I thought I'd post something here. How many times have you received one of those emails from a faraway land; Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Benin, e.g., claiming to be written by some heir to some African throne who's in exile, or some ex-official from a bank or oil company? They claim to have tens of millions of dollars or euros waiting in a vault or a suitcase or a bank somewhere, but they need your help to get it. They'll give you a nice, generous cut of the money for your trouble. But many people soon discover that an advance fee is required before you can claim your share. Since you're the Westerner with the contacts and freedom of movement, you're expected to put up some good faith money on the deal. You're asked to pay for "demurrage" fees, bribes, and other inexplicable, never-ending fees. You're asked to wire the money via Western Union. Ultimately, you'll discover that there's isn't any vault, there isn't any money, you're not in for a cut of anything, and the Prince you've been emailing with is some street trash hanging out in a Lagos internet cafe. This is known as the "419" scam or "advance fee fraud" scam. 419 is the section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with this. You should stay far, far away from these people, who have been known to be dangerous. You should ignore these emails at all times... ...unless you decide to turn the tables and scam the scammers. Scambaiting is a growing hobby, and one in which I've dabbled myself. You can set up an alias and string the scammers along, promising to help them, but never following through. Their frustration can be your amusement. The best "trophy" a scambaiter can expect to receive is persuading the scammer himself to send some "good faith" money. Most scambaiters, however, enjoy the cheap and hilarious thrill of getting their "mugu" "pets" to send bizarre pictures of themselves holding up oftentimes hilarious signs, to "prove" their identities. Instead, sometimes they show off their horrific photoshopping skills. For more information and some fun scambaiting stories, visit www.419eater.com. You'll be glad you did. For the best scambait I've ever read (apart from the Church of the Painted Breast), read about the p-p-powerbook. A guy was trying to sell his Powerbook on eBay. A scammer in England wanted to scam him out of the Powerbook without paying for it. (He offered to use a fake escrow service). So the guy played along, and ultimately sent the scammer this: You really do have to read the whole thing. It's hilarious.
Last year, the UK decriminalised (heh) cannabis, reclassifying it as "Class C substance" so that police could pay more attention to more harmful Class A substances. The BBC reports that the reclassification has been a stunning success. 199,000 police hours were saved leaving pot smokers alone (each arrest takes about 8 hours through processing), and even more astonishingly, pot use remained steady, and remains down from 1998 levels.
"Arrests for possession of cannabis fell by a third in the first year since it was downgraded to a Class C drug, official Home Office figures show. An estimated 199,000 police hours were saved, according to data from 26 of the 42 English and Welsh police forces. Cannabis was reclassified so that officers could target hard drugs. Minister Caroline Flint said new crime survey figures also showed that fears for a rise in cannabis use among young people were 'wholly unfounded.' "
This week, Giambra started printing out 3,000 pinkslips for county workers. Unfortunately for Giambra, at least as far as the Sheriff, DA, and Comptroller are concerned, the CE doesn't have the power to fire people on those staffs. He can only recommend firings to the legislature, which can then vote on them. DA Frank Clark, Sheriff Pat Gallivan, and Comptroller Nancy Naples are refusing to sign Giambra's layoff notices, and they are all going to court to prevent Giambra from illegally firing their staffs. I swear, we joke that Giambra is a King, but he really behaves like one. He has no consideration for the law or rules, and just wants to do whatever he wants. It's petty, childlike, and idiotic. He's bringing the whole region down. God, I hope he quits. Please. Anyway, here are some choice quotes from Naples via WIVB-TV4:
Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples said, "I don't think the County Executive has the right to tell me how many people or who and how much they should earn." Naples says she's prepared to file a lawsuit to stop pending layoffs in her department. Her office hand-delivered a letter Friday to County Executive Joel Giambra. It says she's recalling all layoff notices impacting her office. Naples says the budget crisis shouldn't be a surprise, and that both the legislature and Giambra were warned over the summer. Naples said, "[In] June, they knew that they would be facing a huge problem, and everybody turned a blind eye to it. As far as I'm concerned, everyone is to blame."Bingo. Glad to see Ms. Naples doing her job. Oh, and King Joel is unavailable for comment.
Too bad this is in the New York Daily News and not in the BUFFALO News:
"Under the new rules, lawmakers must be in their seats and push a button marked 'yea' or 'nay' to have their votes recorded. So it was that Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo had a captive audience when he spoke against extending an extra 1% sales tax in Erie County, on the grounds that his cash-strapped city would see none of the revenue. In previous years, Hoyt's plea had reverberated in a half-empty chamber, and the bill sailed through on the strength of automatic 'yes' votes. But this time, his colleagues had to pay attention. And whaddya know? They listened. And pushed the nay button. At one point, Hoyt says, there were 79 'no' votes, enough to defeat the bill - something that never happens on the Assembly floor. Silver and his deputies swung into action, twisted arms and managed to switch enough Democrats back to 'yes' to pass the tax extension by an unusually close vote of 79 to 67. Still, it was bracing to see the backbenchers, who normally clop along contentedly in harness, take the bit in their teeth even for a few minutes. 'We did a reform that has the potential to rock the boat a little bit,' Hoyt says. 'All of a sudden, the rank and file matter.' Maybe they will, maybe they won't. It depends on whether they have the courage to stand up for what they believe when they're called on to actually, physically cast a vote. "And just to be clear: the vote was on the already existing "temporary" penny; not on the Giambra penny.
I've never heard of Steven Malanga, nor of the "City Weekly", but I link to an article written by said Mr. Malanga in said "City Weekly" regarding reform in Albany, and the Spitzer campaign.
Should he win, Spitzer should take as his model Thomas Dewey, another two-fisted prosecutor who had built a national reputation for effectiveness by busting mobsters before he won the governorship in 1943. Dewey assumed an office that Governor Al Smith—in what columnist Walter Lippmann called “one of the greatest achievements in modern American politics”—had made awesomely powerful, especially in giving the governor a tight control over the budget that allowed him to set the state’s agenda, control that has lasted to this day. Dewey wielded that power fearlessly. He faced down the state’s special interests, both in his own GOP and across the aisle. He resisted demands from leaders of his party to fill his administration with patronage appointments. He forced a GOP-dominated legislature to reapportion itself to reflect population changes, a task it had shirked for 25 years, and he prevented GOP leaders from raiding a capital fund that he had set up for postwar building projects. He continued the effort, begun by Smith in the 1920s, to eliminate state agencies, boards, and commissions. When special interests tried to stymie his reform efforts, he fought implacably. Despite fierce resistance from the city’s teachers’ lobby and its Democratic allies, for instance, he reorganized management of the New York City education system, eliminating the power of the teacher-dominated board of superintendents and giving control to a single professional superintendent, to the applause of good-government groups. When legislators tried to skip out on votes for such controversial reform legislation, the sergeant at arms would round them up from the statehouse’s nooks and crannies, dragging one worried Republican assemblyman from his hiding place under his desk to vote. Little wonder that Dewey came to refer to the state senate and assembly as “my legislature.” Of course, in equally skilled and determined hands, an office as powerful as Al Smith made New York’s governorship can be an instrument for ill as well as for good—and it was just such a dynamic governor who created the mess that is now crushing the Empire State. In his 15-year reign, Nelson Rockefeller conjured into being New York’s giant welfare state—and then left it to his successors to grapple with the problems that it posed. Derided by conservatives in his own GOP as a “New Deal Democrat in Republican clothing” when he won office in 1958, Rockefeller brought to government a grandiose—and ruinously costly—vision. Over nearly four full terms, he increased spending on the State University of New York tenfold, crafted the nation’s most lavish Medicaid program, and poured billions into giant construction projects, including the pharaonic Empire State Mall in Albany. The state’s budget skyrocketed more than fourfold to $8.7 billion in 1974 from $2 billion in 1958. To pay for all this, Rockefeller raised taxes in eight of his 15 budgets, abandoned pay-as-you-go financing of capital projects, and piled up $11 billion in debt, saddling his successor with $264 million a year in debt service. He used public authorities to raise and spend money free of the state’s own ballooning budget and outside the normal state bond processes. Cajoling, bullying, and horse-trading to get his way, Rockefeller earned the title “the one-man legislature.” Barely six months after Rocky resigned to take the nation’s vice presidency, one of his authorities, the Urban Development Corporation, defaulted on its bonds, sparking a near bankruptcy in New York City, then groaning under the twin fiscal burdens of Rockefeller’s state agenda and Mayor John Lindsay’s vast expansion of social programs. Sharp cutbacks in state and city workers and services ensued, and the tough-minded governor who took office in 1975, Hugh Carey, pushed through such needed reforms as prohibiting authorities from issuing bonds not backed by a specific funding source. Still, Rockefeller’s gigantic state apparatus had a momentum of its own, and Albany Republicans and Democrats alike had a stake in keeping it growing after the 1980s national boom provided fresh tax revenues. To rein in Rockefeller’s runaway government behemoth would have required sustained effort from more than one reform-minded governor. But after Carey, New York got instead two consecutive clunkers, Mario Cuomo and George Pataki, who for the past 22 years have allowed narrow but powerful special interests to run riot, making the Albany tax-and-spend machine careen ever faster. Strange that despite his national reputation for soaring, visionary rhetoric, Mario Cuomo didn’t know how to control his own Democratic caucus in Albany and quickly found legislative leaders dictating to him, wresting control of the budget process and presenting their own free-spending budget as a fait accompli. As the state slipped into recession in the late 1980s, Cuomo stood by and watched as the legislature raised taxes by more than $1 billion in each of three consecutive budgets—while the state’s economy crumbled, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the nation’s job losses during the recession that followed. When Cuomo claimed to be too busy to get involved in a contentious transit-funding issue, an exasperated New York City mayor Edward Koch sneered: “I mean, you have to be able to do more than chew gum.” On Cuomo’s watch, the state budget rocketed from $28 billion to $60 billion. Little wonder that Republican George Pataki trounced Cuomo in 1994 on a platform of cutting taxes and spending—which in his first year he began to accomplish, after installing a supporter as head of the GOP-controlled senate and threatening upstate assembly Democrats with tough reelection fights if they didn’t support his reform agenda. But when Pataki’s political godfather, U.S. senator Alfonse D’Amato, decided to push the party to the left in a misguided and unsuccessful effort to save his own job, he left Pataki high and dry, and emboldened the Democratic-controlled assembly to resist the governor’s agenda. Deflated, Pataki thereafter mostly drifted with the tax-and-spend flow.Read & Discuss.
Via Atrios, I find photographs of Dick Cheney at yesterday's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. What would the Vice-President of the most powerful country on the face of the planet wear to such a momentous and somber event? A tasteful black coat and fur hat? How 'bout a fucking Mighty-Mac with fur hood, with a nametag on it, and a knit ski cap bearing the words "Staff 2001", as if he were a KISS roadie? And don't forget the rubber boots, Mr. Cheney! Just no class. No etiquette. No dignity. This, to me, is disgraceful. He's not attending a demonstation of weapons systems at a snowy army base in Germany. He's commemorating the millions who died in the holocaust. At Auschwitz.
Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults. Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag. It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz? His wife, Lynne, was seated next to him. Her coat has a hood, too, and it is essentially a parka. But it is black and did not appear to be functioning as either a name tag or a billboard. One wonders if at some point the vice president turned to his wife, took in her attire and asked himself why they seemed to be dressed for two entirely different events. Some might argue that Cheney was the only attendee with the smarts to dress for the cold and snowy weather. But sometimes, out of respect for the occasion, one must endure a little discomfort. Just last week, in a frigid, snow-dusted Washington, Cheney sat outside through the entire inauguration without so much as a hat and without suffering frostbite. And clearly, Cheney owns a proper overcoat. The world saw it during his swearing-in as vice president. Cheney treated that ceremony with the dignity it deserved -- not simply through his demeanor, but also through his attire. Would he have dared to take the oath of office with a ski cap on? People would have justifiably considered that an insult to the office, the day, the country. There is little doubt that intellectually Cheney approached the Auschwitz ceremony with thoughtfulness and respect. But symbolism is powerful. That's why the piercing cry of a train whistle marked the beginning of the ceremony and the glare of searchlights signaled its end. The vice president might have been warm in his parka, ski cap and hiking boots. But they had the unfortunate effect of suggesting that he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all.I am so very embarassed that people like Dick Cheney represent me (and you) at such events.
Freshman Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy will be switching his vote from "no" to "yes" on the Giambra penny, because the legislature will pass his bill establishing a "citizens budget review commission". With all due respect to the obviously politically brave Legislator Kennedy, don't we already have a "citizens budget review commission"? Isn't it called the "Erie County Legislature"? Anyway, this tidbit is interesting:
The commission proposed by Kennedy would not have the power to subpoena documents and witnesses, a change that wins support from both sides of the aisle. It would have to use the Legislature's subpoena power. The new version lets Giambra's lawyer, County Attorney Frederick A. Wolf, sit on the panel but not vote. Other ex-officio members would be Budget Director Joseph Passafiume and County Comptroller Nancy A. Naples. Giambra would appoint one of the 11 voting members, the business community would appoint two, and organized labor one. There will be 11 voting members in all, and their meetings would be subject to New York's Open Meetings Law. They won't be paid. Giambra over the weekend recommended another budget review commission, one composed of financial experts offered by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. But his spokesman said Giambra is willing to accept the citizens panel proposed by Kennedy.Thank God the commission won't be paid - but how long will that last? And won't they have to have some sort of budget, even for simple things like paper and pens? Since the Giambra penny, (which, even with Kennedy's vote, is still lacking one vote for Albany to consider it), will supposedly raise another $108 million, how much of a budget will Kennedy's commission get? And what of Giambra's patronage? Is any of that cut? In any way? We already know that Getz has been reassigned to a lower-paying job, but one with overtime potential. We also know Giambra apparently still needs a driver (as Kings do), and that this retired Sheriff will earn $30,000 plus his state-tax-free state retirement pension, meaning probably about $90,000 net per year. The leg has some nerve passing a tax hike without taking a hard look at spending and efficiencies and processes, and ensuring that every penny raised via taxation is a penny that's really needed, rather than merely convenient for our bloated government payroll. I said it before, and I'll say it again: it's time to abolish all county government and let Albany sign its own checks for its own programs.
Have you been visiting here? Your column today sounds very familiar. I'm glad to see Esmonde agrees with me, as does Brian Higgins. And Brian Higgins is a guy worth listening to when it comes to Buffalo's waterfront. After all, he managed to actually get the most dysfunctional legislature in the country to pony up some money for the most neglected waterfront in the State. That's quite a feat.
Handed a blank waterfront canvas by the NFTA, an out-of-town developer did the predictable: Planned a waterfront mini-downtown, while the downtown we have barely limps along. It wants a deal-breaking $300 million public handout in an era of red budgets and control boards. The NFTA, not surprisingly, has yet to line up a penny. "This thing will die of its own weight," said Rep. Brian Higgins, the force behind recent small but notable waterfront steps. "It's a fantasy." The plan has everything in it plus the kitchen sink: Aquarium, water park, convention center, marina, theater, high-rise condos, shops, offices, canals and hotels. All that's missing is a theme park, but I don't want to give anybody any ideas. The convention center already has been blasted as a misplaced fantasy by the mayor and county executive, the NFTA's supposed "partners" in this not-so-excellent adventure. So much for coordination.Well, I said the only thing this plan was missing was an elevator to the moon, but theme park gets the point across, too.
They're few and far-between in the States, I reckon. I used to read Asterix in Serbo-Croatian (really Serbian, because they were printed by Belgrade's daily POLITIKA) when I was a kid summering in Croatia (then Yugoslavia). Then, when they opened the Galleria in White Plains in 1980, a (coincidentally Canadian) store called "Scholar's Choice" sold Asterix in English. I bought one just about each week. The store is long gone, but I still have my softcover Asterix books with the "Scholar's Choice" $3.95 price sticker on them. They're great stories, beautifully drawn, and they can introduce kids to Roman History and what life was like around 50 BC. They're also great underdog stories, but the Gauls always win in the end.
Via Atrios, I find this post from James Wolcott. Kathryn Jean Lopez, a commentator for the National Review Online, and frequent poster to its blog, the Corner, wrote yesterday that Bush seemed quite chipper at his press conference; she noted that it seemed like he was starting to enjoy doing them. How interesting. Earlier that same day, K-Lo posted these items to the Corner:
"31 DIE [KJL] in a Marine helicopter crash in Iraq. Posted at 09:43 AM "FYI [KJL] W is holding a press conference at 10 a.m. Posted at 09:39 AM"So, just over 15 minutes before the press conference, the news broke that 31 servicemen had died in Iraq. What, precisely, was the President so goddamn fucking chipper about?
Imagine if Bill Clinton had been chirpy and chipper having just received the news of 31 soldiers dying in the theater of combat--Rush Limbaugh would have devoted three hours to it, and Fox News would have dragged Dick Morris out of the all-you-can-eat buffet for his "expert analysis." When Bush did address the soldiers' deaths, he said that we "weep and mourn" when Americans die, but as he was saying it his hand was flatly smacking downwards for emphasis, as if he were pounding the table during the business meeting, refusing to pay a lot for a muffler. The steady beat of his hand was at odds with the sentiments he was expressing--he didn't look or sound the least bit mournful or sombre. And why should he? Death doesn't seem to be a bringdown for him. There isn't the slightest evidence that he experiences the anguish LBJ did as casualties mounted in Vietnam. His record as chief executioner in Texas is of a man for whom the death of another is an administrative detail, a power exercise. As Sister Helen Prejean wrote in The New York Review of Books: "As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he...presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy [Karla Faye Tucker's], then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt. On the contrary, it seems that Bush is comfortable with using violent solutions to solve troublesome social and political realities."I've despised Bush ever since he told the world that his most influential political philosopher was Jesus Christ. (Along with complete wackjob Gary Bauer. Forbes, Hatch, McCain, and even Keyes took the question seriously and named actual philosophers (Locke) or politicians (T. Roosevelt, A. Lincoln)): Quote:
But George Bush and Gary Bauer apparently refused to treat the question seriously. Bush claimed that Jesus Christ was his favorite political thinker "because he changed my heart." When pressed for an actual answer, he continued, "when you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as a savior, it ... changes your life and that's what happened to me." Bauer at least quoted scripture and pointed to Christian obligations to unborn children and the poor.He has done nothing in 4+ years to change my mind. Nothing.
Well, reconstituted Buffalo Control Board is back. They're getting mad as heck and will only take it for a little while longer. Did you know this?
"The state law creating the control board gives it the power to impose fines on city officials, remove them from office or even file misdemeanor charges if they willfully impede a fiscal recovery plan.Good. Personal criminal and financial liability for holding the city back should act as a good incentive. And preservationists might be happy with this:
The board Wednesday imposed more rigid controls over city demolitions, voting to require inspections officials to submit every non-emergency demolition contract to the panel for approval.I haven't been following this as closely as some people, but this was interesting:
The control board also questioned the Council's rejection of a state proposal to sell the former campus of J.N. Adam Developmental Center in Perrysburg to a logging company. The city is being asked to give up its reversionary rights in exchange for receiving 90 percent of the sale price, or $333,900. Faso said that it makes no sense for lawmakers to ponder the impact of logging in Perrysburg after they recently needed to borrow money to trim city trees. Council President David A. Franczyk told Faso that the environmental impact is only one issue. He said that there have been estimates that the site might be worth as much as $4 million.Finally, foot-dragging gets addressed:
The board took aim at the continuing delays in efforts to get all Board of Education employees to agree on a single health insurer. Gary M. Crosby, the school district's chief financial officer, expects to learn next month whether unions will accept the plan. Supporters insist that the move would save millions of dollars annually without reducing benefits. Some union leaders have contended that the control board's decision to impose a wage freeze undermined insurance negotiations. Faso said he is frustrated by the "intransigence" of those who "pretend to care about children and taxpayers." All city employees were put under one health insurer last year, and Lipke said the same should occur in the school district. "This is a pure business issue," he said. "No one loses anything in this process. The city and the taxpayers gain a substantial amount."Yes, Mr. Faso, but you see, you're talking to a brick wall. Buffalo is all about turf; no one dares willingly give up an inch of turf, regardless of the public good and complete lack of private harm.
I have GOT to stop listening to Sandy Beach on my way home from work. It's too infuriating sometimes. I actually called in on Tuesday when they were discussing a private business that was banning its employees from smoking - on the job or off. Yesterday the topics included "is Joel Giambra finished" (paraphrasing). Of course he is. Everyone knows it, and unfortunately we're stuck for 3 more years with this technicolor albatross around our necks. But then some callers started in, criticizing the criticism that some had expressed against the Lakefront Development Group's downtown proposal. The theme? "It's only out a day, and they're already coming down on it." (paraphrasing). Well, geniuses, it hasn't been out a "day." It's been out a MONTH. And there was a commenting period through January 10th. And a lot of people (me included) expressed reservations about the "winning" proposal for many weeks. The problem is that the NFTA selected the most ambitious, costly and most tax-money-laden plan over two competing, more moderate proposals. We have no idea whatsoever which plan the majority of public comments supported. I honestly thought the Lakefront Development plan had no chance of approval because it was so massive and costly. Anyway, I'm so infuriated when I hear people whining about...well, whining. They go on the air to whine about people who don't knee-jerkedly agree with and support every crazy, idiotic, e-zone-esque pipe-dream, taxpayer-costly proposal that some subsidy-hungry developer or monarchical politician dreams up.
Craig blogs that he likes the Opus Group plan for the waterfront, but that they killed it by including a massive convention center in the plans. I don't like the Opus Group plan, and I agree that the most idiotic thing in it is the Javitz-like convo-center-sur-lac. The owner of downtown's somewhat faded Hyatt is trying to sell to an out-of-town developer, which intends to renovate the hotel and convert it into a 4-star Marriott property. But if they move the convo center to the waterfront, the deal's off. The Hyatt gets a lot of its business from the current convention center, flawed as it is. The waterfront development needs to complement what already exists downtown; not replace it. That's why I've been so supportive of the more moderately-scaled WestEnd project, which is more neighborhoody. You'll note that the NFTA's website has conveniently scrubbed links to the still-existing webpages of the two competing plans for the waterfront. I don't know what the NFTA is thinking with this process, but transparency doesn't seem to be paramount.
Today is the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. Marty Biniasz has some chilling photos of what Auschwitz & Birkenau look like today. I then found this quote:
From the statement of Hans Stark, registrar of new arrivals, Auschwitz (Klee, 255): At another, later gassing -- also in autumn 1941 -- Grabner ordered me to pour Zyklon B into the opening because only one medical orderly had shown up. During a gassing Zyklon B had to be poured through both openings of the gas-chamber room at the same time. This gassing was also a transport of 200-250 Jews, once again men, women and children. As the Zyklon B -- as already mentioned -- was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them. I did not look through the opening because it had to be closed as soon as the Zyklon B had been poured in. After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten to fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggedly all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.Never forget.
Mark "Balgar" Golden comments regarding my post on spending & taxation in New York State. 1. Tolls on the Thruway should be gone. They should have been gone in, like, 1986, but I'll take now. 2. A sales tax doesn't reflexively get my goat, but the counties should be forbidden from adding to the state's sales tax in any way. I can live with Albany's 4.25%. Hell, raise it to 5%. But I think the counties should not be permitted to DOUBLE that rate. 3. Sales tax should be abolished on food, OTC meds, and clothes under $150 or so. That would protect the poorest from the most insidious regressive taxation. 4. You can't be punitive about property taxes. Sales taxes should be at least capped at their current levels, and government should figure out a way to spend within its means. Maybe we don't need a Rolls Royce Medicaid system when a Chevy drives just as well. New Yorkers already pay state taxes and fees that are 72% higher than the national average. 5. Income taxes should also be limited. A flat 5-6% should do just fine. 6. I agree that we need fundamental health care reform, and some sort of universal coverage. Whether that is done privately or through a single-payer plan is for people with more time on their hands to figure out. I despise the idea of hospitals or health insurance-for-profit, because I think it shunts patient care to job #2. I also don't think a Canadian system would work in the US. I don't want to replace one flawed system for another. I don't, however, think that the government should pay for one's education unless one really deserves it - either by need or talent. The power to tax is the power to destroy. The State of New York is cold, hard evidence of that truth.
...but he's jumping the gun a bit, IMHO. Esmonde is obviously quite fed up with Tony, and writes
"The farewell is overdue, both on merit and circumstance. Many suspected he was beatable four years ago, which prompted Gaughan's try for the Republican endorsement. But Joel Giambra stepped in, sideswiped Gaughan and delivered the Republican line to Masiello. Denying voters a choice that November is another reason for folks to shout a loud, insincere, 'Thank you, Joel.' The county executive since learned a lesson about counting on Masiello. The mayor who Giambra thought he could control did an about-face on a police merger and, now, a 180-degree spin on Giambra's push for a city-county government. The good news is that this year, we get what we should have had four years ago: A choice. And, unless Masiello pulls the biggest upset since David nailed Goliath, we'll get a change. Change isn't always for the better. In this case, it's hard to see how we can do worse. "Yeah, but can we do BETTER? I think we can with Gaughan or Calvaneso. I don't think we can with political hacks Brown and Hoyt. The last thing I want is a state legislator - from the most dysfuncational state legislature in the Country (if not the world) as the chief executive of Buffalo. But Esmonde is dead-on about Giambra. It's a reminder that Giambra working against the interests of the people of Buffalo and Erie County goes back a long way. He's a hack. He's a clown. He must be defeated in his next election; whether by primary or general election. Joel Giambra is not a reformer. Joel Giambra is not a fiscal conservative, much less fiscaly responsible. Joel Giambra is a hack, surrounded by cronies and yes-men. He makes Tony Masiello look like Disraeli.
There's a reason that the Voice of America isn't broadcast domestically. It's been a given that it's at best bad form, and at worst Orwellian, for the government to propagandize to a domestic audience. Domestic government propaganda was the province of fascists and communists. Democracies didn't do that sort of thing. Under totalitarian regimes, after all, there was no free press; all press was either wholly owned or wholly controlled by the country's propaganda ministry. The VOA and Radio/TV Marti are controlled by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is made up of dems and repubs, with the chairman being of the President's party. It is an autonomous and independent government agency. It is nominally under the watch of the State Department; the Sec of State is an ex officio member of the board. The Bush Administration has pretty egregiously broken the longstanding ban on domestic propagandizing. It's yet another thing that the Right would have excoriated Clinton for, yet defends almost irrationally because it's Bush. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: This conservative commentator (featured on Townhall.com), was paid $240,000 cash money via contract with the Federal Department of Education to promote "No Child Left Behind." If the law is so great, why'd he have to go on the payroll to promote it? He ultimately apologized, citing the obvious-to-a-cretin conflict of interest. Yet the right merely cited to Kos and MyDD, which were paid by the Dean campaign way-back-when, and also promoted Dean on their blogs. (The "what's good for the goose" argument). Except that MyDD and Kos both disclosed their connections with Dean prominently on their sites; they both expressed support for Dean before getting paid; and Dean's money is far different from the taxpayers' money - you and I didn't pay to promote Dean on Kos & MyDD, but we did pay to promote NCLB on Armstrong Williams' apparently invisible TV show and column. Well, it's now become a pattern. From today's WaPo:
In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families. "The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children." But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.So not only is the Bush Administration paying conservative commentators to commentate conservatively (I'll bet we're just scratching the surface, BTW), but they're even paying pundits to ghost-write for administration officials. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer were also predictably very impressed with the President's Inaugural Speech; they were positively glowing. Probably because they both helped write the bloody thing. As Atrios said, "That speech I helped write was great!"
The planning of Bush's second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about "freedom" and "liberty." That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them. One meeting, arranged by Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, included military historian Victor Davis Hanson, columnist Charles Krauthammer and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis, according to one Republican close to the White House.Someone want to explain why these people had to be paid to promote administration policies? Someone want to explain why it's horrible evidence of liberal bias for CBS to have Dan Rather anchor its news, but it's ok for FNC Anchor Tony Snow to sit in for Rush Limbaugh? Someone want to explain why it's ok for the government to propagandize and proselytize to us by paying off pundits? Why is it ok that these pundits not disclose their payola? You know - Bush is a uniter. He's convinced both the right and the left that the country's going to hell in a very rapidly moving handbasket.
Buffalog Craig says it's all well and good that I think taxes are too high, but he asks, what would I do to control costs? Well, I don't know enough about what we pay for to really know what's worth cutting. I think that there needs to be a fundamental, sweeping evaluation of who does what in County government, and that it needs to be transformed into the most efficient organization it can be. I think that essential services include those relating to public safety; police, sheriff, plowing, infrastructure maintenance and repair, for instance. I think that the counties should get out of the Medicaid business altogether. It's a federal program, and it should be administered by the state. The cost would be more widely and fairly spread across the state, and Albany would have an interest in keeping costs in check. I think all patronage jobs; i.e., jobs doled out to supporters, friends, and contributors (for those reasons only) should be outlawed. It should be a shameful thing; Giambra is all too proud of them. He protects them.
Julia in Jamestown posts about music. I'm in. 1. What’s the total size of music files on your computer? About 5GB. On my iMac and my iPod. 2. What is the last CD you bought? U2- How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (to coincide with purchase of iPod. What can I say, cross-marketing works). 3. What is the last song you listened to before you read this post? "Godspeed" - Dixie Chicks. I started my iPod on shuffle mode, and this randomly came up first. Of course, I bought the Dixie Chicks' "Home" the moment they became a winger target and object of Clear Channel embargoes. Julia blogged that she was listening to "Drop it Like It's Hot." I love Snoop & I love that song. 4. Name four songs that you listen to a lot or that mean a lot to you. That MEAN a lot to me? I sort of got over that in College, to a degree. Now I just cycle through music that I enjoy. To that end: a. Outkast "Prototype": On Andre 3000's "Love Below", I love the bassline. b. Outkast "Bowtie": On Big Boi's "Speakerboxx"; catchy as hell. c. Black Eyed Peas: Tie between "Hands Up" and "Shut Up." Great music by a great group. Latter-day Fugees. d. Evanescence: "Bring me to Life". I don't know why this aging, agnostic Deadhead likes Evanescence, but I do. So sue me. If I might break the rules and add a fifth entry, anything on the first 4 albums or so by Madness (One Step Beyond through and including Rise and Fall) is ok by me. 5. Which three people are you passing the baton on to and why? Whomever wants to.
Via NYCO's blog, we learn that the State Senate just doesn't get it. It doesn't get the idea that people are clamoring for reform; it doesn't get that the people are sick and tired of woefully dysfunctional government in Albany; it doesn't get the idea that a real democracy includes such radical ideas as "debate" and "persuasion." The RINO Senate majority in Albany talked a big game about reform, but when it came down to it, they resorted to the same old, same old way of doing business. Here are some choice quotes from Joe Bruno - who Doesn't Get It.:
Senate Republicans learned Monday just how painful opening the chamber's operations would be as they were scolded by Democrats for creating a reform package that minority members said won't cure legislative dysfunction. Even though the package passed 33-24, with members voting almost entirely along party lines, the Republicans had to suffer through close to four hours of debate as Democrats alleged all manner of slights and unfairness.*GASP* You mean the Republicans in the Senate actually had to SUFFER through DEBATE in their own legislative body? Perish the thought!
The Democrats put up eight amendments to the package; the Republicans who control the chamber shot them all down before they even made it to the floor for a full vote. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said, "Reform is in the eye of the beholder." "We're talking about ... a process that works and has worked," Bruno said. "It doesn't necessarily suit every individual, but governing is governing."So, we learn that the vote as strictly along party lines. The RINOs backed their fearful leader, while the Dems opposed the non-reform reform. All the Dems...except one.
"Sen. Byron Brown, D-Buffalo, was the only Democrat to vote 'yes' on the Republicans' reform package. 'I didn't want anyone to think I'm not for reform,' said Brown, who is all-but-certain to run in the Buffalo mayor's race this year and can't afford to be labeled as anti-reform."Holy crap, I mean - this should be splashed across the pages of the SNews, but won't be. This is pathetic. This is selling out. This is the sort of thing that breeds cynicism about government in general, and dysfunctional Albany in particular. Senator Brown has thrown his lot in with a guy who thinks that running the Senate like a personal fiefdom is good, right and "governing." And to top it all off, he does it for the cheap political payoff of being able to say he voted for "reform". As if the voters in Buffalo are too dim-witted and impatient to find out that he didn't vote for Bruno's reform because it didn't go far enough.
Via Illuzzi's letter, I find a press release from Senator Dale Voker on the various and sundry penny sales taxes on the table. Right now, EC Sales tax is 8.25%. 1% of that is "temporary" and has been for many years. Kind of like the "temporary" tolls on the Thruway. So, practically, we're only supposed to be paying 7.25%, but because of fiscal malfeasance and nonmanagement, the State Legislature has to approve that extra, "temporary" penny every single year. They just did it again. What's still pending is Giambra's additional penny request. Volker says Albany won't consider it unless there's a 2/3 vote in the EC Leg for this "homerule message." The 2/3 isn't there. We should just make that the theme of every EC Executive campaign from here on in - a new County Executive, a new penny tax!
Brent Bozell's Parent's Television Council (for the record, I'm a parent, but I'm not a member) made myriad complaints to the FCC about such shows as "Friends" and the "Simpsons." We all know how indecent those are. To be clear - the FCC prohibits indecent material from airing between 6am and 10pm; indecent material being defined as patently offensive (in context) descriptions of sexual and excretory organs or functions. Basically, the FCC's indecency definition was meant to be a clean way of prohibiting George Carlin's 7 dirty words, all of which (shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits). all of which are/were patently offensive descriptions of sexual or excretory functions or organs. Well, the religious right and its tools, including such imbeciles as Brent Bozell, have taken a somewhat...more liberal interpretation of the "indecency" definition. The issue becomes - why can Oprah discuss "Tossed Salad" at 4pm and not be fined, yet Howard Stern is fined for the same discussion at 9am? (And I've heard both - don't think Oprah was using the word in a clinical context.) Finally, the FCC has denied certain complaints by Bozell's flunkies. Here are some examples:
"One complaint involved an episode of NBC's 'Friends' that aired in May 2003. In it, a female character, her husband and the husband's ex-girlfriend talk about a fertility treatment at a medical office. A complaint over 'The Simpsons,' which airs on Fox, included a scene from a November 2003 episode in which students carried picket signs with the phrases 'What would Jesus glue?' and 'Don't cut off my pianissimo.' "Such groups, when pandered to by a reactionary FCC, will ensure that all television and radio entertainment and information that airs will be held to the standard of a hyper-sensitive complainant. All adult-themed and oriented shows (Desperate Houswives, Friends, South Park, etc.) will have to be scrubbed clean so that an unmonitored 7-year-old will be able to watch it. The right likes to complain about creeping totalitarianism and government control, yet when idiocy like this hits, they have nothing to say.
The NFTA says that it's officially selected the massive Lakefront Devlopment Group's proposal as its preferred project, and has authorized the NFTA to negotiate a Memorandum of Intent. As I've posted before, I think that the NFTA is making a mistake by going with this massive project that is heavily laden with public money, and which might do more harm than good to downtown itself. What's even more glaring is that nowhere in the NFTA's press release (or on its website, for that matter), is there any indication that plans are afoot to extend Metro Rail to whatever new project goes up on the Outer Waterfront. Let me be blunt - any project for the Outer Harbor that is completely reliant on car and bus traffic, and does not include a Metro Rail extension, is doomed to failure. It just is. If I lived in that new community and commuted to downtown, I don't want to have to DRIVE and jockey for parking downtown (or, much less, pay for a monthly spot). And since the NFTA is taking the lead on this, you'd think that our local mass transit authority would recognize the desireability and importance of extending our Metro Rail to the Outer Harbor. Instead, we get nary a peep. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope that the NFTA and the developers know exactly what they're doing. But I'm afraid they're trying to build a horrible mix of Amherst and the Toronto Waterfront downtown. In other words - they want all the massive, towering construction of the Toronto Waterfront with all the suburban sprawl and generic feel of Amherst. (Amherst - the town without a downtown). What I'm afraid of is that the Outer Harbor will become like the Inner Harbor/Erie Basin Marina: an insulated and insular cluster of high-priced condos with no neighborhood whatsoever. They call it Waterfront Village. When's the last time you saw a village without so much as a coffee shop or convenience store?
Ho Van Nguyen's Pho 99 stands in the shadow of City Hall. On that very spot, the Federal Government is slated to build a massive Courthouse. Since New York is a blue state, however, Bush Administration largesse for such things as courthouses is being directed...elsewhere. IN the meantime, Ho - who was told to vacate by last Spring - is stuck in a quandary. He's still paying the mortgage for his current location, which he bought for $250,000. He also then sunk another $80,000 to make it work. When told he'd have to vacate (which is now put off indefinitely), he bought a property up Niagara Street at auction. He pays $10,000 in property tax to the city on that property every year. It lies empty. The Feds are offering him $175,000 in eminent domain money. This guy risked his life to come to this country after escaping Communism. One of his children died in the crossing. And he gets dicked around by some faceless Washington bureaucrats.
"Ho Van Nguyen knew about the freedom in America. Nobody told him about the bureaucracy."Go get some food over there. It's very good and I frequent it a lot. He's also got a location on Bailey near UB South.
A Zogby poll shows Masiello to be in trouble. The frontrunners are Byron Brown and Sam Hoyt. Jesus, what a choice. I like Calvaneso and Gaughan - smart guys who aren't politicians and have managed to get things done around here. For all of Sam Hoyt's grandstanding and showboating over eminent domain on the West Side, it was Chuck Schumer who actually got that taken care of. Byron Brown is a democrat in the NYS Senate. That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee. Buffalo needs fresh faces and new ideas. Not the same old, same old. Until Byron Brown lays out a fresh, progressive (dictionary definition) vision for Buffalo, I'll withhold judgment. And to those who say I shouldn't care because I'm not a city resident, tough shit. I work in the city every day. I care because the city is the center of this community/region. As the city goes, so go the suburbs.
The sycophantic monopolistic Buffalo News cheerleads for its own boss today. Kind of pathetic, innit?
Apparently, Giambra is trying to rehabilitate himself and compromise (SHOCK! HORROR!) with DiBenedetti and Kennedy. A 75 cent increase in the sales tax would still lead to layoffs, but the benefit would be some sort of reform of the whole budget process, hopefully preventing any such shenanigans from ever happening again. Basically, Giambra will agree to the creation of a commission to prevent him from pulling this kind of bullshit ever again.
"Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra on Saturday proposed a compromise needed to raise the county sales tax and avoid drastic government cuts. Giambra said he wants to form an independent panel of financial experts offered by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to recommend ways to pull the county out of deficit spending. 'I'm trying to be helpful, to get this thing behind us,' he said of the continuing budget quagmire, which he again blamed on rising mandated state Medicaid and pension costs.Giambra - it's never him.
I notice that the Buffalo News (Joseph Giambra's official organ) is actively trying to help Giambra by assassinating DiBenedetti's character. Yes, the guy's supposed to pay his taxes and fees on time but the timing seems...suspicious, n'est-ce pas? Also - notice these self-evident truths: 1. Giambra does not think that giving jobs to minimally-if-at-all qualified buddies of his is a bad thing or something to be ashamed of. 2. Giambra makes no apologies whatsoever for his patronage-laden County Government. 3. Giambra's biggest critic on patronage is his old friend DiBenedetti. 4. When challenged by the increasingly-less-sycophantic-local-press about patronage, Giambra almost immediately launches an irrelevant attack on DiBenedetti, accusing him of having been in charge of patronage under Gorski. You know what, Joel? Gorski left County Hall with a surplus. Gorski happened a million years ago, in political terms. If DiBenedetti has changed his mind, and he now opposes patronage jobs, he's already way ahead of you. Way ahead. And let this be a wakeup call to the Donn Esmondes of the world and everyone else who thinks Giambra's going to be this region's savior. Or that he really has vision. He doesn't. He isn't. He has a vision, alright - he envisions keeping his buddies on the payroll while firing 3,000 competent, experienced workers. He'll be a savior, alright - to the extended Giambra and Getz families. Everyone else, as far as Joel is concerned, can go to hell.
So, we went up to the ole T.O. on Friday morning. The temp reading in my car reached -1. Fahrenheit. As we used to say in Boston, wicked cold. So, we got off the 401 at Yonge and grabbed some lunch in a charming little place called Shatzi's Trattoria. Very good butternut squash soup, and a great personal pizza. They were very friendly to my cool kid, too. Walked up a block to a great little kitchen store and a kids' shoe store called Olly. Hopped back in the car and checked into the hotel. Finally got the room we originally requested, and headed up to the Eaton Centre because - did I mention it was wicked cold out - we felt like browsing and walking. A massive branch of Swedish chain H&M opened on the corner of Yonge & Dundas. Great kids' clothes. Best socks on the planet. Other than that, it's clothes for clubbing. I don't go clubbing. Bought a Toronto Life best restaurants mag at Indigo and went to a place called Utopia at the corner of College & Clinton, in Little Italy. The book said the place was tiny, but the burgers were great. The place was miniscule, but the burgers were awesome. The waitstaff was unbelievably competent, friendly and efficient. A few lagers and a massive burger later, we went back to the hotel. Woke up to it, as I called it in college, snowing like a banshee. We walked in the blistering cold and painful wind a few blocks to St. Lawrence market to load up on provisions. Grabbed a quick and suprisingly excellent breakfast at Golden Griddle, and then off to the market. Two new Kozlik mustards - Clobbered Cranberry and some sort of chunky, mild dijon mustard. At North Market, got 12 sausages for $10. Awesome. We were going to do the AGO, but the snow was really coming down hard, so we checked out and went straight home. It took about 3 hours in some really nasty whiteout conditions. Rented Elf and vegged the rest of the day. I needed that.
Thursday was this blog's biggest day yet for visitors. Thanks for popping by. This blog was set up in September 2003 as the local website for our Wes Clark for President 2004 effort. It's evolved a lot since then, and the previous record for most visitors was set on the day in late September 2003 when Wes Clark threw his hat in the ring. Welcome and hi to all my new B-lo blogosphere buds.
Joel Giambra's bluff has been called. The only losers will be the people and workers of Erie County. And perhaps the region's credibility and marketability. No big whoop on the 16th floor of the Rath Building, I suppose. Even though we all thought the EC Budget mess was behind us as of December 8th, think again. For reasons that I'm too busy to discover, yet another vote was taken earlier today on the penny sales tax increase. It's a home rule petition to Albany, which wanted 10 votes - a supermajority - requesting the sales tax increase. Back on December 8th, 10 legislators voted for the penny sales tax increase (making Erie County's regressive sales tax the second-highest in the USA). DiBenedetti and newcomer Tim Kennedy were the two legislators who changed the vote. (Kennedy replaced Schroeder, who voted for the penny). So, the County is $109 million in the hole. Bye, bye libraries. Bye, bye plowing. Bye, bye quality of life things. And don't let Giambra (a RINO if ever I saw one) fool you into thinking this is all about Medicaid. It's mostly about Medicaid, but a lot of it is Giambra's overreaching and mismanagement. And by the way - DiBenedetti and Kennedy both said that they'd reconsider their votes if Giambra agreed to cut some patronage and perks. THAT Giambra's not willing to do. He's willing to let the whole fucking goddamn county go to hell before he'll permit the Getz family to lose their myriad county jobs. And another thing: this is a huge story, yet WKBW doesn't have anything about it up online. Can you believe that? What kind of news operation are they running? Remember: GIAMBRA TOOK AWAY YOUR LIBRARIES AND FIRED 3000 PEOPLE SO THAT VICTOR GETZ AND OTHER PATRONAGE HACKS SUCKING AT THE PUBLIC'S TEAT CAN KEEP THEIRS. DISGUSTING.
Goin' to Toronto for a couple of days. We don't go nearly as often as we should, seeing as how it's just about my favorite city. If you haven't checked it out, you must go to the St. Lawrence Market (closed Sundays). I like to stay at the Novotel on Esplanade, which is a couple of blocks from the market. Rolling out of bed and checking out the market with coffee in hand gives me a sort of "I live here in this big city" feeling, that I miss from time to time. Although you probably can't bring back any beef, they have great cheese, bread, non-beef-meat, and poultry there. I wouldn't trust bringing fish back, though, since it would have to sit in the car or a cooler for a while. The best is Anton Kozlik's mustard. They have a sick number of varieties, and you can try them all. My favorite involves maple syrup. There's also a great balsamic & fig mustard. Try that with some grilled bratwurst. Downstairs at the market, you can get this odd Toronto specialty - the veal sandwich. It's basically a huge slab of deep-fried, breaded veal on a roll - with sauce and optional cheese. It's awesome. There's a sushi guy, a coffee shop, a Russian food stall, and a coffee roaster downstairs, too. Across Front Street is the North Market, which features a lot of homemade sausages, some vegetables, baked goods, etc. Then head West on Front Street over to the Dominion Supermarket a few doors down. If you've bought provisions for a picnic, for instance, you can get the extras you missed at this really nice supermarket. We also like to go up to the Bloor-Yonge area; particularly Yorkville, which features a lot of fun boutiques and shops, as well as a massive Roots store, Holt Renfrew, Indigo, Chapters, and I think there might now be a Restoration Hardware around there (nope - it's way up near Eglington). I know, it's mostly shopping, but so what? The ROM I haven't yet been to. The AGO is fantastic. Especially with kids. Let me also plug: Linda Penwarden Custom Jewellery. Very nice. On the way up or back, we're bound to stop at Ikea for meatballs and browsing. Anyway, posting will probably be light the next few days.
Not content with having excoriated the vile, hedonistic, anti-family Teletubbies, the religious right is now gunning for Spongebob Squarepants. That's right. Spongebob Squarepants is dangerous, according to the apparently marginally intelligent "Dr." James C. Dobson, head of "Focus on the Family." Why must Christians hate Spongebob, you ask?
SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."Heaven forfend someone promote tolerance for homosexuals. Better yet, Dobson is (as is typical for religous wingnuts) wrong.
The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.You know, these groups are nothing if not emboldened and feel legitimized by Bush's reelection. So if you conservatives out there wonder why more moderate and liberal people are so disappointed about Bush's reelection and the rising influence of "values" and the religious right, waging war on Tinky-Winky and Spongebob gives you a good example why we feel that way. Hating on Spongebob & the Teletubbies is idiotic. These people should be marginalized, but instead they're legitimized.
Via "Road to Surfdom", I find that departing Deputy Sec of State Richard Armitage gives an exit interview to Greg Sheridan of the Australian. If more Bush folks talked straight like this, maybe the country would be in better shape than it is today. I know our foreign policy would be better off, for sure.
"'I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process.' Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: 'The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot.' "So do I, Mr. Armitage. So do I.
I've heard these in the last few months. I have only heard them in WNY: ASFIXIATE: fixate EX-PECIALLY: especially SUPPOSUBLY: supposedly FLUSTRATED: flustered / frustrated ASHPHALT: asphalt Also, I have never seen such widespread misuse of apostrophes and other punctuation as I have here. It is as if punctuation was taught - throughout WNY - to be optional.
On his blog, Balgar laments the fact that, as a Williamsville resident, the first elected official who reflects his views (is a democrat) is Clinton/Schumer. He also criticizes Kevin Gaughan's city-county consolidation plan because it reduces the legislature to 11 members. Balgar argues that fewer legislators equals worse representation; or at least more diluted representation. Perhaps, but it's impossible for us to expect our elected reps to always agree with every constituent. I don't think a smaller, consolidated legislature of 11 people is automatically better or automatically worse than what we have now. Let's face it, for the most part it'll be populated by the same old faces. Balgar says that efficiency is not government's purpose; representation is. I disagree. The legislature's only purpose is to make laws. The executive's only purpose is to carry out those laws. The laws that the legislature makes should be for the public good. But ultimately, every legislature's major power is to levy taxes. The President can't raise or lower your taxes; only Congress can. Ditto the Governor/State Legislature. Ditto Giambra/County legislature. Ditto Masiello/City Council. At this point, streamlined government is something that this area desperately needs. New York has too many governments, each layer of which is all to happy to tax you. New York is woefully uncompetitive versus the other 49 states. This place isn't going to improve until that changes. That sort of fundamental change has to happen not only locally, but also in Albany. Will an 11-member Greater Buffalo legislature be any better than the current City Council/County Legislature we have? Who knows. But I think it's more expensive and worse for the region to keep things the way they are than it is to try something new.
Via FixBuffalo, I found this site, run by one Marty Biniasz. He's got a whole section of his website devoted to "Lost Buffalo". I'm a relative newcomer to town, so it's really cool to finally see visual representations of stuff I'd heard about for years. Like a busy downtown Main Street: It's a great website for history buffs - especially East Siders.
Bush's buddy Pooty-poot is rehabilitating mass murderer and maniac Josef Stalin. How nice. I wonder if there would be an outcry if a German town decided to erect a Hitler statue?
Moscow plans to erect a new statue of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, returning his once-ubiquitous image to its streets after an absence of four decades, a top city official said Wednesday.... ...In another sign of Stalin's growing appeal, state television channels have shown a number of prime-time television shows in recent months depicting him in a positive light.If anyone has some Stalin nostalgia, they should travel to North Korea.
Uniland released its plan for the AM&A site. As you know, I think that the facade should be preserved (gasworks-style), while the building itself be demolished and rebuilt. I think the facade is beautiful, and is a very cool deco-style modernist design. That would also be a reasonable compromise between preservationists who want the whole building to stay, and Uniland, which claims it must demolish the whole thing. (Typical Buffalo - no middle ground, only extremes).
Uniland Development's updated plans for the former AM&A's department store site in downtown Buffalo envision a smaller office tower than first proposed, with a reworked facade that pays homage to the existing structure.Oh, great news. It wants to "pay homage" to AM&A. How, prithee?
The updated rendering of the building, still labeled as a conceptual design, depicts a row of balconies around the entire top floor. That feature is reminiscent of the front of the existing building.Oh. So - replace the cool deco structure with something new that has an upper level balcony. I guess that's what passes for architectural preservation 'round here. *sigh*. But...they're going to buy AM&A, and that gives them the right to do with it what they will, right? I mean, they're going to invest their own money into buying the property, right?
As was the case with its original plan for the 377 Main St. site, Uniland is requesting a significant public inducement - $8 million in state funds, sources said. While that amount is less than the $11 million aid package Uniland originally sought, it assumes additional public funding will be tapped for acquisition of the property, which has a nearly $3 million price tag. In 2004, Uniland had included the purchase cost, along with demolition and site cleanup expenses, which are expected to be as much as $7 million, as part of the $40 million project tab.So, Uniland wants to use tax money - $3 million of the "peoples' money" - to purchase the building from Taylor, and then another $5 million to, among other things, forever and irrevocably demolish the entire AM&A building. Why? Why does my money have to go into this project at all? If Uniland feels strongly enough not to compromise on the preservation of so much as a stone of the current AM&As, let them fund the project their damn selves. I'll bet there's lots better things we could spend $8 million on in Buffalo. If you really want to rip something down, why not start with the Main Place Mall?
Kelly, the dean of Buffalo Bloggers, engages today in an interesting exercize. Here's a list of the 50 worst songs of all time. You have to highlight the ones you actually LIKE. 1. We Built This City ... Starship 2. Achy Breaky Heart ... Billy Ray Cyrus 3. Everybody Have Fun Tonight ... Wang Chung 4. Rollin' ... Limp Bizkit 5. Ice Ice Baby ... Vanilla Ice 6. The Heart of Rock & Roll ... Huey Lewis and the News 7. Don't Worry, Be Happy ... Bobby McFerrin 8. Party All the Time ... Eddie Murphy (It's so bad, it's good.) 9. American Life ... Madonna 10. Ebony and Ivory ... Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder 11. Invisible ... Clay Aiken (Not that bad. Catchy pop product) 12. Kokomo ... The Beach Boys (It's catchy and has a good provenance) 13. Illegal Alien ... Genesis 14. From a Distance ... Bette Midler 15. I'll Be There for You ... The Rembrandts 16. What's Up? ... 4 Non Blondes 17. Pumps and a Bump ... Hammer 18. You're the Inspiration ... Chicago 19. Broken Wings ... Mr. Mister 20. Dancing on the Ceiling ... Lionel Richie 21. Two Princes ... Spin Doctors (I liked this band back in 1992-3) 22. Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American) ... Toby Keith 23. Sunglasses at Night ... Corey Hart 24. Superman ... Five for Fighting 25. I'll Be Missing You ... Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112 26. The End ... The Doors 27. The Final Countdown ... Europe 28. Your Body Is a Wonderland ... John Mayer 29. Breakfast at Tiffany's ... Deep Blue Something 30. Greatest Love of All ... Whitney Houston 31. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm ... Crash Test Dummies (See entry 21, supra) 32. Will 2K ... Will Smith 33. Barbie Girl ... Aqua (You like it. Admit it. C'mon Barbie, let's go party) 34. Longer ... Dan Fogelberg 35. Shiny Happy People ... R.E.M. (Featuring the chick from the B-52s). 36. Make Em Say Uhh! ... Master P featuring Silkk, Fiend, Mia-X and Mystikal 37. Rico Suave ... Gerardo 38. Cotton Eyed Joe ... Rednex 39. She Bangs ... Ricky Martin 40. I Wanna Sex You Up ... Color Me Badd 41. We Didn't Start the Fire ... Billy Joel 42. The Sound of Silence ... Simon & Garfunkel 43. Follow Me ... Uncle Kracker 44. I'll Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) ... Meat Loaf 45. Mesmerize ... Ja Rule featuring Ashanti 46. Hangin' Tough ... New Kids on the Block 47. The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You ... Bryan Adams 48. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ... The Beatles (C'mon. The only bad Beatles song is Revolution #9.) 49. I'm Too Sexy ... Right Said Fred 50. My Heart Will Go On ... Celine Dion Let me just say that I cannot tolerate - not for one single, solitary second - John Mayer. But I agree with #1 wholeheartedly.
I thought, as did most people, that the EC budget was resolved in the wee hours of December 8th. Not so, according to the local news this morning. Al DiBenedetti was interviewed and he said that he no longer supported the penny sales tax increase. He wants bigger spending cuts and wants patronage addressed. Sounds good, you say? He'll only support a sales tax increase of .75 of one penny, raising the local sales tax to a flat 9%. Oooh, boy. I guess NOW I shouldn't feel ripped off anymore. Pathetic.
The elevator-to-the-moon plan for the city's waterfront, as proposed by the Lakefront Devlopment Group, gets a well-deserved smack in today's Buffalo News.
A 3,500-room convention hotel. The largest hotel in Erie County now has fewer than 500 rooms. The proposed behemoth will be about 10 times larger than the Marriott, Hyatt, Adam's Mark or Sheraton. Pray tell: Who is going to stay here? What effect will the glut of rooms have on the existing market? A 300,000-square-foot convention center. Yes, our existing center is outdated and too small (110,000 square feet). But funding 300,000 square feet of convention space requires many more conventioneers than we are likely to attract. Consider that conventions live and die on attendance; more attendees equal more revenue for the sponsoring organizationThe author goes on to explain why Buffalo has a hard time booking conventions.
500,000-square-foot "festival pavilion." Can you say Millennium Dome? London's boondoggle, built to celebrate the year 2000, is already being dismantled due to lack of funds for upkeep and lack of ideas for its possible use. How often will Buffalo's "festival pavilion" (the size of 10 football fields) be used? How much will it cost to build? Who will pay for the upkeep? 200,000 square feet of Class A office space. If this is not tax-subsidized, fine and dandy. If it is, then why would we undermine downtown development, especially now that downtown is once again beginning to register a pulse? I don't know what the 215,000-square-foot sports center is, but do we need it? We couldn't figure out what to do with Memorial Auditorium, but we need this? The Pepsi Center in Amherst loses money. How will this center make it?The author likes the Norstar development proposal. I like the WestEnd proposal. Either one is doable. The escalator-to-the-moon proposal isn't.
Pataki announced his plan to rein in New York counties' crippling Medicaid bills.
"Groups representing hospitals, nursing homes and health care worker unions were already promising a bitter fight to halt the Republican governor's plan. The opposition's impact on the Legislature could have huge sway on the overall plan this time, though; the governor has threatened he won't move to help the counties cut Medicaid spending unless the Legislature backs his ideas. "While normally, I'd cynically say that Union opposition probably means it's a good idea, Giambra thinks Pataki's plan is good, so that must mean it's bad. (Follow?) What's Pataki's plan to cap county Medicaid contributions at 2005 levels? Why, tax the hospitals, of course! Along with some requisite cuts in services (which, quite frankly, NYS can afford to do.) I just love that he's just shifting most of the money to another group. So New York. So back-ass-wards. So business-as-usual. Counting the days till Pataki's gone.