Vote Your Ass Off, Kevin

County Legislator and Canisius Political Science Professor Kevin Hardwick told the Buffalo News that being a Republican voter and waiting for primary day is like being in line for concert tickets, and the window closes just as you reach the front.

The Daily Show got a hold of that line and recruited Hardwick to help them do this great piece (the “next logical conclusion” line is fantastic):

Slow Jam the News

President Barack Obama, Jimmy Fallon, and the Roots take on student loan interest rates.

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1398195

Artvoice Primary Day Coverage

Today is Primary Day here in New York! 

This post represents our wall-to-wall coverage of New York Republicans get to stay home in the bad weather or cast their protest votes for Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. 

With 0% of precincts reporting, Artvoice is projecting that Willard Mitt Romney (R-Severe) will win the New York primary. 

If Romney receives over 50% of the vote statewide, it’s a winner-take-all proposition for him. If he receives less than a statewide majority, it’s a proportional system, and the delegates are split among the four candidates on the ballot (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Paul). The delegate breakdown for New York is 10 at-large delegates, 3 delegates for each of the 27 Congressional Districts (district-by-district, it’s winner-take-all), and one “bonus” delegate.  To earn a proportional share of delegates, a candidate must break through a 20% threshold of votes. 

Artvoice also predicts that the sole Democrat on the primary ballot – President Barack Obama – will win that party’s primary. 

Right to Know

The attorney representing accused child murderer asked city court Judge Diane Wray to close yesterday’s felony hearing to the public. It was an unusual move that I’d suspect more and more criminal defendants may seek out. Up to the judge’s discretion, the defendant “must demonstrate to the court a strong likelihood that evidence relevant and admissible would prejudice the defendant’s trial if it were disclosed to potential jurors”. 

I can’t imagine that any of the facts already known and released – how the boy, Abdifatah Mohamud, was seen running from the stepfather just hours before his killing; how the killer tied the boy up to a chair, gagged him with a cloth, duct taped his mouth, and beat him repeatedly with a blunt, wooden instrument until dead; and how the homicide was because Abdifatah was supposedly a little behind in his homework. All of those facts are relevant, admissible, and would prejudice a jury against the accused. 

Some judges have been permitting reporters to record the audio and/or video of court proceedings, and some also allow live Tweeting and other forms of electronic insta-reporting. Perhaps this was an effort by the defendant to prevent any of these from happening. 

This is a solid First Amendment issue – as is, quite frankly, the default prohibition against cameras in the courtroom – that should be resolved in favor of the public’s right to know. 

Postmodern Politics

It’s likely to snow today, so I expect most local news to center around this fact. It’ll be all anyone talks about, and by this afternoon you’ll be sick of it and the accumulation is likely to be less and less destructive than you’re fearing this morning.

So, no news. Not even Wal*Mart bribing Mexican “authorities”.

I spent much of the weekend finishing the Steve Jobs biography. He was equal parts visionary leader and horrible person, and he was a master at combining great technology with better design. Much of the book discusses Jobs’ “reality distortion field” and his binary way of looking at things – everything was either brilliant or crap. He seldom settled for mediocre (MobileMe and the ROKR being notable exceptions).

But near his death, he dabbled in politics and advised President Obama on business matters and education. He had great ideas for expanding school hours, and dumping existing curricula for something more up-to-date, dynamic, and personally tailored for each individual learner. But one thing stuck out politically.

Jobs was critical of President Obama and friendly with Rupert Murdoch. He was critical of Obama’s inability to get things accomplished with the Republicans in Congress, and thought that we were rapidly falling behind other countries for no reason. Jobs explained to Obama that when Apple manufactures in China, he can easily retain 30,000 engineers to help run the factories. Not brilliant engineers with incredible vision, but just regularly trained engineers – guys who can run plants and can easily be trained in vocational programs and community colleges.

Likewise, Jobs went out of his way to criticize Murdoch’s Fox News Channel as being uniquely destructive in our society. Jobs said our political system had stopped being about liberal vs. conservative; instead, it was about constructive vs. destructive politics. And in a way, I think he was right. We’re at a point where liberals lurch rightwards in order to try to please conservatives, often to no avail. Thanks to the Senate filibuster – the use of which has become routine (it never used to be so) – governments must govern by supermajority. That is an unconstitutional result from a constitutional rule. 

But on that point of constructive vs. destructive, the Democrats have become the party that tries to develop solutions to deep socioeconomic problems. The Republicans, on the other hand, have become the party that wants to undo the last 100 years’ worth of societal solutions to socioeconomic problems – basic things like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. 

We should have long ago expanded Medicare to the entire population. The Ryan budget would turn America’s most popular single-payer government medical insurance plan (VA is another) into a semi-private, underfunded voucher program. 

Now I have to consider how that destructive vs. constructive quip applies to Buffalo’s multigenerational political and economic malaise. 

Buffalo: Arbor Day 2012

On St. Patrick’s Day, they say, everyone’s Irish. 

On Dyngus Day, they say, everyone’s Polish. 

It, therefore, follows that on Arbor Day, everyone’s a tree-hugger. 

In the wake of Anderson Cooper’s fit of giggles over the Dyngus Day traditions, Ted Shredd and Tom Ragan discussed on their morning radio show on 103.3 WEDG-FM how Buffalo had a unique knack of taking B-list “holidays” like Dyngus Day and turning them into a veritable fiesta.  

Really, all you need to do is add beer and make it fun. 

In turning to secondary and tertiary holidays, the boys settled on Arbor Day. The mission of Arbor Day and the Arbor Day Foundation is: “We inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.”

Really, it’s perfect. First of all, you don’t have to belong to any faith to love trees; it’s a thing that transcends race, gender, ethnicity, national boundaries, and body image. Trees use carbon dioxide to give us the oxygen we need to breathe. We use trees make cool stuff like high-end dashboards in foreign luxury cars, baseball bats, desks, rulers, bookshelves, houses, etc., ad infinitum. When we don’t want to jinx something, we knock on wood. But above all, trees give us shade and just overall pretty up the joint. 

And another thing – it’s better to be #1 at a second-rate holiday than #2 or 3 at celebrating a top-tier holiday, AMIRITE?

Arbor Day is next Friday – April 27th, and Shredd & Ragan will be hosting Buffalo’s first-ever Arbor Day festivities, complete with food, beer, games, prizes, and a parade – all taking place in Buffalo’s Historic Arbor District near Franklin Street and the site of the oldest tree in Buffalo. 

The parade begins at 8am next Friday morning from Fat Bob’s, which is the headquarters for the event.

It’s not just an excuse to take a B-list holiday and make Buffalo’s celebration of it the biggest in the country. It’s also an opportunity to highlight some of the people, businesses, and groups who work to improve Buffalo’s environment. There will be tree-themed bar games: Show your shrub (take a cell phone picture of the shrub in front of your house, “best” wins a prize), a leaf eating contest, tree races, moment of silence for the October Storm, and even the tree man of Buffalo might make an appearance.Green Options Buffalo, the Clean Air Coalition, and other local environmental groups  have been invited. The proceeds from the bar and sales of souvenirs will go to benefit the Olmsted Conservancy. 

For more information, check out Shredd & Ragan’s website, their Facebook page, or follow #ArborDayBuffalo on Twitter. 

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Newt Gingrich: Incredibly Disliked

Today, Carl Paladino will host a campaign rally for all-but-dropped-out Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is the preferred choice of the right wing of the Republican Party who can no longer vote for theocratic lunatic Rick Santorum. 

A recent poll shows this about Gingrich

That’s a close match with George W. Bush’s final favorability rating of 25%. In other words, about the same number of people who like Gingrich still liked Bush as the world financial meltdown of 2008 was underway. True believer right-wing Obama-hating people who probably forward loads of false “N0bama” chain emails that they didn’t first run through Snopes. 

This sounds less like a campaign stop – because really, there’s no campaign left – and much more like a paid personal appearance. And no one ever voted for Newt Gingrich ever again. The end. 

Food for Thought

Two additional items I came across this morning: 

1. Rod Watson’s column in the Buffalo News is fantastic. It succinctly breaks down our civic outrage, and how we prioritize nonsense and largely ignore really important stuff. 

2. This story from the BBC details how Jewish composers imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II wrote music in cabaret style – music that has been largely forgotten, until now. A show in Tel Aviv features that music, which was recovered almost archeologically through interviews and demonstrations the organizers conducted with about 20 survivors from that camp. The survivors say that the finished product faithfully recreates what the music sounded like at the time. It’s a testament to the human spirit even at its most hopeless. 

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