Foodspotting

A tip of the hat to the Buffalo News’ Colin Dabkowski, who Tweeted this: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/colindabkowski/status/168714052506357760″]

Foodspotting is a social photography network where people share pictures of restaurant food. It’s useful to help you decide where you want to eat, and what you might be interested in ordering. Indeed, the top “noms” on Foodspotting for Toronto are “Xiao Long Bao” and “Chicken Karaage”. The top “noms” in Buffalo are chicken wings. Apart from a couple of dishes from Seabar, Blue Monk, and Sweetness 7, almost all of the Buffalo bests are wings and pizza. 

If you want to find out more about the use of social media in the local food scene, the Buffalo “Social Media Club” is hosting a panel discussion tonight at Artisan Kitchens & Baths at 200 Amherst Street from 6 – 8:30.  The Whole Hog and Roaming Buffalo food trucks will cater the event, which will feature discussions from:

  • Christa Seychew – Food editor at Buffalo Spree, Producer of Nickel City Chef series, and overall expert on local Buffalo food scene.
  • Donnie Burtless – Creator of BuffaloEats, one of the area’s premier restaurant review websites.
  • Beth Manos Brickey – Creator of Tasty-Yummies, a popular blog featuring mouth-watering recipes and beautiful food photography.
  • Deborah Clark – Owner of Delish Cooking School and Pasty shop, and advocate for social media use.

Valenti's: The North Tonawanda FOIL

When Terry Valenti called in to the Shredd & Ragan show some weeks ago, he downplayed the police involvement at his now-defunct restaurant as being no big deal. Here are the police reports on Valenti’s dating back to October last year. Is this any way to run a business or conduct oneself?  

On 11/1/11, Valenti threw Brocuglio and Janiszewski off the property, and purported to fire them.

On 11/18/11, Brocuglio claimed that she was being harassed by an ex-employee, and applied for a restraining order.

On 11/26/11, Brocuglio argued with fired employee William Ripley over a “company car”. Brocuglio accused Ripley’s girlfriend of striking her.

On 12/31/11 at 11pm, a black Ford F-250 backed into the east door of the restaurant. Valenti claims he didn’t know whose truck it was, and that he didn’t get the plate number. It was, of course, the truck driven by Lori Brocuglio, but he did not admit this to the police until the following day.  Brocuglio told a police officer that she rammed the truck into the restaurant because, “we were fighting and he went to hit me so I tried backing away but I put it in gear moving forward and hitting the window”. 

On 1/1/12, Valenti and Brocuglio were in an altercation, and Brocuglio’s son was present for it.

On 1/10/12, Budwey made his complaint to the police about the bad $3,000 rent check. 

On 1/11/12, Budwey blocked the doors and told patrons to leave. A Valenti’s employee, Debbie Reining claimed Budwey pushed her out of the store, and pled out a harassment complaint against him. 

On 1/27/12, Budwey returned to the restaurant to curse Brocuglio out using some colorful language. 

Valenti’s: The North Tonawanda FOIL

Friday Videos

Here are some videos I favorited recently on YouTube.  

Last week, I had this song in my head for no reason whatsoever. I thought this rendition from 1994 – just a year before Jerry Garcia’s death – was particularly good. 

 

Check out this French guy “EKLIPS” beat boxing:

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot. Watch this incredible compilation video done by a pilot for a Brazilian airline. I love how the newer Airbus aircraft have a joystick controller, and the panoramas of Rio de Janeiro are breathtaking.

This man witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and went on a game show in 1956 to talk about it. This is the sort of real-life time travel described in this article.

I’m not a huge fan of Bob Dylan as a performer, but he is a great songwriter. Here’s another video from the Dead performing “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. It’s a favorite of mine.

Slaughter's STOCK Act Passes

Congratulations to Louise Slaughter, who has championed the STOCK act for years, most of them in the wilderness, until 60 Minutes shed light on the fact that members of Congress were not barred from insider trading, and getting quite rich as a result. It passed the House yesterday, which is a great thing but also a shocking indictment on our entire political system – that it took this long to identify and solve this rank corruption. What follows is a press release from Slaughter:

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, today scored a major victory having language she first authored that would end insider trading in Congress pass by a vote of 417 to 2. While elements of her original bill the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, were not included in the legislation passed today by the House, today’s vote is a testament to Slaughter’s tenacity on an issue that received little attention until three months ago.

Today Slaughter spoke on the House floor saying, “At its heart, the STOCK Act is a statement of how we in Congress view ourselves, and our relationship to those we serve. No matter how powerful our position, nor how hallowed the halls we walk, no one should be above the law.  With the passage of the STOCK Act, we can move one step closer to living up to the faith and trust bestowed upon us by the American people- the citizens for whom we serve.”

Video of Slaughter’s floor statement is included here.

The journey to today’s passage has been a long one and Slaughter made clear today it is not yet complete.

Slaughter has been pushing Majority Leader Eric Cantor for months to bring the STOCK Act to the floor and the version he brought forth has raised eyebrows from Slaughter and other good government stalwarts when it removed a provision that would bring the shadowy political intelligence industry under the same regulations as the lobbyists they work beside.

Political intelligence is the latest effort by Wall Street and K Street to gain market moving information from Members of Congress and their staffs for the sake of selling it to hedge funds and other financial clients. Because political intelligence operatives don’t currently have to register the way lobbyists do, staffers and Members of Congress often don’t know that information they share is being passed along to the highest bidder. The political intelligence industry has become a $402 million a year endeavor lurking in the shadows of Congress.

Slaughter is now pushing strongly for a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate to work together rectifying the differences between the Senate and House-passed bills. During the conference committee process, she will fight hard to retain her political intelligence provision which is a part of the bipartisan Senate-passed bill. Slaughter’s house bill that included the provision included the support of 99 Republicans.

Today on the House floor, Slaughter said, “When it comes to K Street, it appears that Republican Leadership couldn’t stomach the pressure from the political intelligence community.  After working behind closed doors, the Majority removed a major provision that would have held political intelligence operatives to the same standards as lobbyists who come before this Congress.  Fortunately, Democrats and Republicans alike are fighting to keep political intelligence as part of the final bill.”

Earlier this week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor released a statement praising Slaughter’s years of work to end insider trading in Congress saying, “Members from both sides of the aisle have worked hard on this issue, specifically Representatives Tim Walz and Louise Slaughter, and they deserve credit for their efforts to increase transparency and accountability as we take a step to restore the public’s trust in the federal government. After years of work, it’s about time their efforts resulted in a law.”

A timeline of Slaughter’s years of work leading to today’s vote is included below.

Timeline

March 28, 2006 – Slaughter along with Rep. Brian Baird (WA-3) first introduced the STOCK Act. In that 109th Congress, the bill received 13 co-sponsors. Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tony Rudy, Chief of Staff to then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, “bought and sold hundreds of stocks from his computer in the U.S. Capitol in 1999 and 2000, according to financial-disclosure forms and other DeLay aides.” The STOCK Act was reintroduced by Baird and Slaughter again in 2007 and 2009 never gaining more than 9 co-sponsors.

March 17, 2011 – Slaughter reintroduces the STOCK Act into the 112th Congress with Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01). It is supported by good government groups Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and US PIRG.

November 13, 2011 – 60 Minutes ran a story pointing out the problem of insider trading in Congress. Prior to the piece, the bill had 9 co-sponsors. The next day, the STOCK Act began an explosion of support. Slaughter said recently, “In my 20 years here, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

November 15, 2011 – a Senate counterpart to the STOCK Act is introduced for the first time by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). Two days later, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a second version of the STOCK Act in the Senate. The bills are later combined.

December 1,  2011 – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the STOCK Act

December 6, 2011 – The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on the STOCK Act where Slaughter and Walz testify. Chairman Bachus schedules a markup of the bill for December 14.

December 7, 2011 – Politico  reports that the markup scheduled in the Financial Services Committee is postponed under pressure from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

December 8, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz’s STOCK Act receives the overwhelming support of a majority of the House of Representatives. More than 218 members (the number needed to pass the bill under regular order), co-sponsor the bill.

December 17, 2011 – With pressure mounting, Majority Leader Cantor tells CBS he will take up the STOCK Act.

December 20, 2011 – The Wall Street Journal reported on dozens of meetings set up by political intelligence firms with their clients and lawmakers, giving hedge funds and other financial institutions access to privileged information that made them untold sums of money. Slaughter and Walz say this is further evidence that transparency is needed in the political intelligence industry.

January 24, 2011 – President Obama says in his State of the Union, “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow.”

February 1, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz introduce a discharge petition that would bring their STOCK Act up for a vote on the House floor. In the first day it is signed by 115 Members of Congress. In total 171 Members signed the discharge petition.

February 2, 2011 – The Senate passes their version of the STOCK Act by a vote of 96-3. It includes an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that includes language from Slaughter’s bill regulating the political intelligence industry.

February, 6, 2011 – As Slaughter and Walz continue to pressure Cantor for a vote on the STOCK Act, it was clear that he would introduce his own version of the bill. He never consults the bill’s original authors. Meanwhile Slaughter’s bill gains the support of 286 co-sponsors including 99 Republicans.

February 7, 2011 – At 10:30 pm, Cantor’s office finally releases text of his changes to be voted on by the House and makes clear that he will bring it a vote using a procedure that does not allow for amendments or changes. Slaughter says repeatedly that this version of the bill is weakened. It does not include her provision to regulate the $402 million a year political intelligence industry.

February 8, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz react to the weakened version of the House bill. Slaughter tells reporters in the Capitol, “Our job here is never done. That’s the beauty of a legislature, you’re never truly defeated until you stop trying and I don’t give up so easily.” Meanwhile Cantor releases a statement praising Slaughter’s years of work on this issue.

February 9, 2011 – The STOCK Act passes the House by an overwhelming vote of 417-2. Slaughter vows to fight for a conference committee to make the bill that will be sent to President Obama even stronger.

Slaughter’s STOCK Act Passes

Congratulations to Louise Slaughter, who has championed the STOCK act for years, most of them in the wilderness, until 60 Minutes shed light on the fact that members of Congress were not barred from insider trading, and getting quite rich as a result. It passed the House yesterday, which is a great thing but also a shocking indictment on our entire political system – that it took this long to identify and solve this rank corruption. What follows is a press release from Slaughter:

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, today scored a major victory having language she first authored that would end insider trading in Congress pass by a vote of 417 to 2. While elements of her original bill the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, were not included in the legislation passed today by the House, today’s vote is a testament to Slaughter’s tenacity on an issue that received little attention until three months ago.

Today Slaughter spoke on the House floor saying, “At its heart, the STOCK Act is a statement of how we in Congress view ourselves, and our relationship to those we serve. No matter how powerful our position, nor how hallowed the halls we walk, no one should be above the law.  With the passage of the STOCK Act, we can move one step closer to living up to the faith and trust bestowed upon us by the American people- the citizens for whom we serve.”

Video of Slaughter’s floor statement is included here.

The journey to today’s passage has been a long one and Slaughter made clear today it is not yet complete.

Slaughter has been pushing Majority Leader Eric Cantor for months to bring the STOCK Act to the floor and the version he brought forth has raised eyebrows from Slaughter and other good government stalwarts when it removed a provision that would bring the shadowy political intelligence industry under the same regulations as the lobbyists they work beside.

Political intelligence is the latest effort by Wall Street and K Street to gain market moving information from Members of Congress and their staffs for the sake of selling it to hedge funds and other financial clients. Because political intelligence operatives don’t currently have to register the way lobbyists do, staffers and Members of Congress often don’t know that information they share is being passed along to the highest bidder. The political intelligence industry has become a $402 million a year endeavor lurking in the shadows of Congress.

Slaughter is now pushing strongly for a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate to work together rectifying the differences between the Senate and House-passed bills. During the conference committee process, she will fight hard to retain her political intelligence provision which is a part of the bipartisan Senate-passed bill. Slaughter’s house bill that included the provision included the support of 99 Republicans.

Today on the House floor, Slaughter said, “When it comes to K Street, it appears that Republican Leadership couldn’t stomach the pressure from the political intelligence community.  After working behind closed doors, the Majority removed a major provision that would have held political intelligence operatives to the same standards as lobbyists who come before this Congress.  Fortunately, Democrats and Republicans alike are fighting to keep political intelligence as part of the final bill.”

Earlier this week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor released a statement praising Slaughter’s years of work to end insider trading in Congress saying, “Members from both sides of the aisle have worked hard on this issue, specifically Representatives Tim Walz and Louise Slaughter, and they deserve credit for their efforts to increase transparency and accountability as we take a step to restore the public’s trust in the federal government. After years of work, it’s about time their efforts resulted in a law.”

A timeline of Slaughter’s years of work leading to today’s vote is included below.

Timeline

March 28, 2006 – Slaughter along with Rep. Brian Baird (WA-3) first introduced the STOCK Act. In that 109th Congress, the bill received 13 co-sponsors. Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tony Rudy, Chief of Staff to then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, “bought and sold hundreds of stocks from his computer in the U.S. Capitol in 1999 and 2000, according to financial-disclosure forms and other DeLay aides.” The STOCK Act was reintroduced by Baird and Slaughter again in 2007 and 2009 never gaining more than 9 co-sponsors.

March 17, 2011 – Slaughter reintroduces the STOCK Act into the 112th Congress with Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01). It is supported by good government groups Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and US PIRG.

November 13, 2011 – 60 Minutes ran a story pointing out the problem of insider trading in Congress. Prior to the piece, the bill had 9 co-sponsors. The next day, the STOCK Act began an explosion of support. Slaughter said recently, “In my 20 years here, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

November 15, 2011 – a Senate counterpart to the STOCK Act is introduced for the first time by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). Two days later, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a second version of the STOCK Act in the Senate. The bills are later combined.

December 1,  2011 – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the STOCK Act

December 6, 2011 – The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on the STOCK Act where Slaughter and Walz testify. Chairman Bachus schedules a markup of the bill for December 14.

December 7, 2011 – Politico  reports that the markup scheduled in the Financial Services Committee is postponed under pressure from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

December 8, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz’s STOCK Act receives the overwhelming support of a majority of the House of Representatives. More than 218 members (the number needed to pass the bill under regular order), co-sponsor the bill.

December 17, 2011 – With pressure mounting, Majority Leader Cantor tells CBS he will take up the STOCK Act.

December 20, 2011 – The Wall Street Journal reported on dozens of meetings set up by political intelligence firms with their clients and lawmakers, giving hedge funds and other financial institutions access to privileged information that made them untold sums of money. Slaughter and Walz say this is further evidence that transparency is needed in the political intelligence industry.

January 24, 2011 – President Obama says in his State of the Union, “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow.”

February 1, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz introduce a discharge petition that would bring their STOCK Act up for a vote on the House floor. In the first day it is signed by 115 Members of Congress. In total 171 Members signed the discharge petition.

February 2, 2011 – The Senate passes their version of the STOCK Act by a vote of 96-3. It includes an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that includes language from Slaughter’s bill regulating the political intelligence industry.

February, 6, 2011 – As Slaughter and Walz continue to pressure Cantor for a vote on the STOCK Act, it was clear that he would introduce his own version of the bill. He never consults the bill’s original authors. Meanwhile Slaughter’s bill gains the support of 286 co-sponsors including 99 Republicans.

February 7, 2011 – At 10:30 pm, Cantor’s office finally releases text of his changes to be voted on by the House and makes clear that he will bring it a vote using a procedure that does not allow for amendments or changes. Slaughter says repeatedly that this version of the bill is weakened. It does not include her provision to regulate the $402 million a year political intelligence industry.

February 8, 2011 – Slaughter and Walz react to the weakened version of the House bill. Slaughter tells reporters in the Capitol, “Our job here is never done. That’s the beauty of a legislature, you’re never truly defeated until you stop trying and I don’t give up so easily.” Meanwhile Cantor releases a statement praising Slaughter’s years of work on this issue.

February 9, 2011 – The STOCK Act passes the House by an overwhelming vote of 417-2. Slaughter vows to fight for a conference committee to make the bill that will be sent to President Obama even stronger.

We Get Mail (UPDATED)

I received the following from the Erie County Republican Party. Apparently, there isn’t a culture war the Republicans don’t like losing. Again and again. (UPDATE: A New York State mandate dating to 2002 already requires the Catholic Church to provide contraception services to their employees. The Church sued to be exempted from that mandate, and lost.)
 
Local Catholic Republicans Call Upon Hochul and Higgins to
Oppose Obama’s Big- Government Policies That Violate Religious Liberties
 

Buffalo, NY – Several Catholic Erie County Republicans Leaders have called upon the local Congressional delegation to oppose the Obama Administrations decision to require all employers, including the Catholic Church, to provide health insurance coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. By choosing not to comply with this decision that interferes with their beliefs, the move would shut off millions of dollars in funding for Catholic charitable organizations that provide help to struggling families, the sick and elderly and other needy Americans who benefit from their good works.

There’s a poignant irony at play when the Republican Party – which has for the last 20+ years aligned itself and promoted in its platform the inclusion of religion in government and civic life – complains that the government is interfering with religion. (Something about having cake & eating it, too.) A requirement that a business and employer – such as the Catholic Church – must provide the same health insurance as any other employer is not infringing on religious freedoms. After all, assuming the Catholic Church is immune from anti-discrimination statutes and only employs members of the Catholic Church (an untrue assumption), the question of whether contraception or abortion services will be used by those employees is completely moot. Right? Because we all know that Catholics don’t use birth control, don’t have abortions, don’t get divorced, and faithfully obey all of the Church’s rules.  
 

Everyone loves to be lectured by Nancy Naples!

While this topic has forced President Obama and his political machine into damage control, several local leaders have noted the silence of Congressman Brian Higgins and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul.  We have already seen Democrats who were defeated because of their government healthcare takeover vote come out and say that they “ Wouldn’t have voted for ObamaCare had I known Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic Colleges and Universities to pay for contraception…”
Interesting, since Hochul wasn’t around to vote for Obamacare.  Certainly the line between civil government and religious faith is a difficult one to walk, especially in a predominately Catholic place like Buffalo. The fundamental question, though, comes down to whether the electorate thinks that women should have access to contraception or not. This is a battle that has long been won on the side of women and I’m tickled to see the Republicans using it as so blatant a political football.
 
Remember that this regulation doesn’t force the Catholic Church, which has a longstanding and principled anti-choice stance on abortion, to do anything with respect to abortion. But if you want to make sure society has more abortions, more often, then start taking away women’s birth control. The government is not, e.g., forcing Catholic Health to perform abortions or give out the pill. It’s not compelling the Church to do anything but provide its female employees with the ability to obtain copay-free contraception, if they so desire
 
I mean, thank God we have prominent Catholic females like Emilio Colaicovo and Dennis Vacco standing up for equal rights, right?  Because this isn’t about whether Obamacare is forcing the church to hand out the pill during Communion, as this GOP release would have you think.  This is about a longstanding Republican war on female sexuality, and on sex itself – one that they lost long ago, and have now found a faith-based ally to help them try and score political points in the era of the reactionary so-called “tea party.”
 
The argument they’re trying to frame is a Constitutional one based in the freedom to practice religion freely, but there’s also a Constitutional provision called the “Equal Protection Clause” within the 14th Amendment, as well a long-established right to personal privacy in matters relating to sexuality.  A rule requiring the Catholic Church to provide health coverage for its female employees that includes contraceptive and other sex-related services doesn’t prohibit the Church from continuing its longstanding prohibition on all non-procreative sex. 
 
The truth, of course, is that Catholic institutions don’t exclusively employ Catholics. Catholic Universities, for instance, hire loads of people from all faiths and backgrounds. Why should, for instance, a Jewish female professor at Canisius be forced by her employer to have no free access to reproductive medical services and medications? Does Canisius have the right to hover over their employees and ensure that they spend their paychecks only on Church-approved items? 
 
The Erie County GOP isn’t concerned about that, though. They’re not interested in a compromise, such as the one the Obama Administration is attempting to reach with these Churches (a simple way out of this would be to give individual employees the right to opt-in for reproductive services on their own initiative – that it would be available to them, but not by default). 
“While Mrs. Hochul and Mr. Higgins can be found often in front of any camera, why haven’t we heard from them on this issue?  Why do they refuse to stand on the side of decency and our faith,” questioned Emilio Colaiacovo, Counsel to the Erie County Republican Committee.  “It would appear that Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul stand with Nancy Pelosi who favors abortion on demand and other policies that violate the conscience of Catholics across the country,” added Colaiacovo.
Well, yeah. Duh. Higgins and Hochul are pro-choice. They’re also pro-contraception. Hell, Higgins voted to expand stem cell research to cure disease.  This is a surprise requiring a quote from the Republican Party’s local lawyer? What does abortion have to do with this? What does Nancy Pelosi have to do with this (apart from the fact that, as a female Californian with an ethnic name, they misogynistically demonize her even when completely beside any reasonable point.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after first promising not to do so, have mislead  American Catholics by requiring the Church, and its institutions, to provide services that violate the conscience and the teachings of the Church.  And this is just the beginning. What’s next? What else didn’t the President and Congress tell us was in this bill?
Did you not read it? Do you need it read to you, like a very long but slightly less boring version of “Goodnight Moon”?
“This is a serious violation of the most fundamental of all rights – the freedom of religious liberty,” said Dennis Vacco, the former New York State Attorney General.  “I urge Kathy and Brian to stand with Church leaders and parishioners who find this to be an unconscionable intrusion on our first Amendment liberties,” concluded Vacco.
Not really, Mr. Vacco. The law doesn’t compel the Church to hand out the pill. It merely requires you to make contraception available to your employees through your health insurance plan.  And 98% of American women have used contraception at least once. Including Catholic women
Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul are both seeking re-election in districts that are heavily Catholic.
Yes, they are. (Hey, wasn’t the GOP all upset about how, e.g., the #Occupy movement was dividing Americans? Proposing the legislative division of Americans based on their faith would to me seem even more unfair, if not downright unconstitutional). 
“The Catholic Church provides, through its own generosity, food and shelter for the poor, medicine for the sick, education for our children, and other services for the families of our community.  It is unthinkable that Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul are more interested in party politics instead of standing up for their own faith and what is just and right,”  stated Nancy Naples, former Erie County Comptroller.  “We deserve to hear from our local Congressional delegation whether they stand with our faith community or with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Washington interests that have ignored Western New York for far too long,” concluded Naples.
What is unconscionable and unthinkable is that Nancy Naples, who as County Comptroller presided over an epic fiscal meltdown of County Finances less than a decade ago isn’t ashamed and embarrassed to poke her head up and bluster about anything at all, but especially to politicize faith and birth control.  This isn’t about Washington interests – this isn’t about whether Nancy Pelosi gets access to the pill. This is about the interests of women
Local Catholic Republicans will continue to raise this issue until Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul advise local Catholics whether they stand with them or with Washington.
That’s incorrectly written. It should read: 
 
Local Catholic women will continue to raise this issue until Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul advise local Catholics whether they stand with a Church patriarchy or with women

Critical Shortage of Global Warming Jokes

You know how your semi-informed friends and co-workers love to make facile jokes about “some global warming, eh?” when the snow falls, the wind blows, and the temperature dips into – or past – the single digits?

Click to enlarge

Not so much this year, amirite?

Of course, nine of the ten warmest years on record on Earth have taken place since 2000, with 2011 being the 9th warmest. Climate change / global warming is an empirically real thing, political agenda notwithstanding. Global warming is something you can’t learn from renowned physicists Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, and it isn’t something you measure anecdotally with our local daily forecast.


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A Big Fuss: TONIGHT

Tonight at Artisan Kitchen & Baths at 200 Amherst Street from 6 – 8:30pm, a fundraiser will be held to support a local farm that finds itself down on its luck. $30 gets you in. There will be an auction to raise money, a gaggle of chefs will prepare comestibles for your enjoyment, there’ll be music and a roomful of foodies with whom to mingle. 

Brought to you by the people behind Nickel City Chef, “A Big Fuss” is intended to be an annual event to benefit a local farm or farmer who finds himself down on his luck (or hers, as the case may be). The identity of the event’s largesse won’t be identified, as it would only do further harm to an already precarious situation. 

 

Brown Signs Food Truck Law

On Monday, Mayor Byron Brown signed Buffalo’s food truck rules into law. He waited until the last day to do so, and had he not signed it, it would have become law by default. 

The full text of the new ordinance is below. 

The law is imperfect from everyone’s point of view, but it has a built-in sunset provision, expiring in April 2013. At that time, the Common Council will review how the statute worked over the preceding 15 months and take suggestions from all sides regarding any proposed changes. 
 
The law mandates that trucks be 100′ from the exterior walls of any structure containing an open kitchen, 500′ from any special event requiring special permitting, and that the trucks pay a $1,000 annual license fee. 
 
What is different about this license from that in other cities is that there is no hidden charge – you don’t pay more for certain neighborhoods over any others (except for the CBD, which is governed by Buffalo Place). The only added charge is for parking. 
 
Furthermore, a proposal that brick & mortars were proposing would have required trucks to be limited to one truck per block face. This would have prevented events on city streets where trucks could line up in a row, due to supposed congestion issues. This was not included in the law. 
 
At some point in the near future, a Buffalo Cash Mob for the food trucks will be held at Canal Side, with ECHDC’s blessing. The date and time of that cash mob is TBD.
 
The truck owners with whom I’ve spoken are excited and relieved that this controversy is behind them, and already have potential spots scoped out. They have been waiting for this day since the middle of last year, and had been very patient. 
 
With this new statute and regulatory scheme, the food trucks are now legal, and food trucks are a fantastic way for talented people to show off the food they love – and love to make – with a much lower startup cost than a brick & mortar. Hopefully, the legalization of food trucks will lead to an even more vibrant mobile food scene in town, more innovation, and more experimentation. 
 
I’m pleased that we’ve joined the ranks of progressive, forward-looking cities that have carved out a way for food trucks to peacefully co-exist with existing restaurants, benefiting all involved. 

Buffalo Food Truck Ordinancehttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/79264224/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-217roprivh7xnikj1nhh

//

Photo courtesy Where’s Lloyd via Flickr.


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Prop 8 Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit (Federal) Court of Appeals ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which re-prohibited same sex marriage in that state, is unconstitutional.

What people forget is that a lawsuit filed in San Francisco led to the California Supreme Court ruling that the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (based on the California state constitution).

Secondly, California’s highest court determined that reserving the term “marriage” only for heterosexual couples was violative of that state’s equal protection clause.

Two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in California counties brought a federal action, a 12-day bench trial was held, and the Federal District Court ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional – that there was no rational basis or compelling state interest for the state to withhold the term “marriage” from same-sex couples.

Because Proposition 8 did nothing to substantively alter the underlying relationship or domestic partnerships into which California same-sex couples had committed themselves. Instead, it simply took from them the word “marriage”. But the court didn’t point this out to diminish the matter, but to highlight it. “A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not. The word ‘marriage’ is singular in connoting ‘ a harmony in living,’ ‘a bilateral loyalty,’ and ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.'”, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut, which declared the existence of a federal right to privacy and struck down prohibitions against contraception.

In the end, the court found that constitutional jurisprudence does not permit the people to “enact laws” that “single out a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status” thus raising “the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.” The purpose of such a law isn’t to promote some “legitimate legislative end”, but “to make them unequal to everyone else.”

In order for a law like Prop 8 to stand, with all of its “meaningful harm to gays and lesbians”, some “legitimate state interest” must justify it. More specifically, “it” isn’t whether the legal state extant post-Prop 8 was constitutional or not – the question is whether the change that Proposition 8 made in the law could be justified, in and of itself.

The U.S. Supreme Court had decided cases going back to the 60s forbidding states from a “targeted exclusion of a group of citizens from a right or benefit that they had enjoyed on equal terms with all other citizens.” A right conveyed cannot later be withdrawn without a legitimate state justification.

The court analyzed the purported “justifications” for Prop 8 and found them illegitimate. For instance, Prop 8 proponents claimed that only heterosexual marriage was good for childrearing, but the law didn’t substantively affect same-sex couples’ right to have or adopt children. The court also went out of its way to destroy the Prop 8 proponents’ arguments that taking away the use of the term “marriage” from same-sex couples will promote responsible procreation by heterosexual couples.

The court found that Prop 8 existed as “nothing more or less than a judgment about the worth and dignity of gays and lesbians as a class.” Indeed, the court found that Prop 8 was born and promoted from a fundamental disapproval of homosexuals and from homophobia – that same-sex couples are inferior, and that their relationships are undesirable. The 9th Circuit concluded saying that the people of California violated the Equal Protection Clause by using their initiative power to target a minority group and illegitimately withdrawing a right that they possessed.


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