Thursday Comic Relief

Maybe weather forecasts should always be like this. Jeremy Paxman does the weather on UK nightly program, Newsnight. 

https://vine.co/v/MTAWgqxj3Wh/embed/simple

Kathy Weppner poses with her campaign staff: 

OK Go with incredible optical illusions: 

 

Mick Jagger & David Bowie’s odd video for “Dancin’ in the Streets”, which aired during Live Aid in 1985, excerpts from which are now presented without music: 

Just so you know, if you’re out in public, no one needs your permission to record video of you. 

In Rally, the co-driver calls out pacenotes to the driver, advising him of what’s coming up, letting the driver go as fast as possible. But come on, Samir, you’re breaking the car!

Finally, Philosopher Football (as in soccer), from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here, Germany v. Greece. 

It’s a funny skit, but the genius of Python is this: 

The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside. 

Lord, Try to Read Between The Lines

It’s a busy time, mostly thanks to the last couple of weeks of the school year, so this’ll have to do. 

1. Sometimes, when an upstate politician spits hatred at “downstate”, it’s nothing more than a stealthy way to express anti-Semitism. 

2. Pamela Brown is gone. Now, all the excuses are gone. She was given only 2 years to try and do an almost impossible job, so it follows that Carl’s crew should be given an equal period of time to turn everything around. Never forget that Dr. James Williams, who was given 6 years to accomplish little except strife, was the hand-picked choice of the business elites – M&T Bank’s Robert Wilmers paid for the search that landed him. But yeah, they’ve got it all figured out this time

3. We cut most of the cable cord a few months ago, and in that time I’ve watched entire series such as Peep Show, That Mitchell & Webb Look, and Breaking Bad. As good as Breaking Bad was – and the last few episodes are some of the best television I’ve ever seen – I really miss the Botwin family in Weeds. For some reason, (and I’ll admit that season 7 was just farcical), I really enjoyed watching that show and following that family’s misadventures. I just started Orange is the New Black. So far, so good. 

4. If you have SiriusXM, and you’re anywhere near my age, you should check out 70s on 7 on Sundays, (and all this week, I think), because they’re re-playing Casey Kasem era American Top 40 broadcasts. 

5. Hey, remember how going into Iraq was going to stabilize the Middle East and help Israel out, too? How’s that regime-y change-y thing workin’ out for you?

1. “Liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” –  Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, Feb. 13, 2002

2. “The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. … Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally Israel.” – Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., addressing the U.S. Senate, Sept. 12, 2002

3. “If left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well, effects American security.” – Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., addressing the U.S. Senate, Oct. 10, 2002

4. “It’s a slam dunk case” – CIA Director George Tenet told President Bush about evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Dec. 21, 2002

(About two weeks before the decision to invade Iraq was made, Tenet told Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That statement played a monumental role in leading the U.S. to go to war with Iraq.)

5. “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” –Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about weapons of mass destruction in an ABC News interview, March 30, 2003

(Rumsfeld later said those locations were “suspect sites” and were not unequivocally linked to WMDs.)

6. “The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction, as the core reason.” – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, during a “Vanity Fair” interview, May 28, 2003

7. “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.” — Bush, discussing the Iraq war with Christian broadcaster Rev. Pat Robertson, after Robertson told him he should prepare the American people for casualties, March 2003

(Although this statement is disputed – Karl Rove said Bush never said that – Robertson emphatically maintained that Bush said there would be no U.S. casualties in the war. Atotal of 4,486 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2012.)

8. “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . [in] weeks rather than months.” – Vice President Dick Cheney in a “Meet the Press” interview, Sept. 14, 2003

9. “We expected, I expected to find actual usable, chemical or biological weapons after we entered Iraq. But I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.” – British Prime Minister Tony Blair, July 14, 2004

10. “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” – Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

(Withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq did not begin until June 2009.)

11. “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” –President Bush, standing under a “Mission Accomplished” banner duriong a speech on the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier, May 2, 2003

(By May 2007, with U.S. troops still very much involved in Iraq, 55 percent of Americans said they thought the war in Iraq was a mistake.)

12. “Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. To deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think does a great disservice…the progress has been immense.”  – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in an interview with CBS July 22, 2008

13. “The capacity of Iraq’s security forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have made strides toward political accommodation” – President Barack Obama in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 27, 2009

14. “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations and we are ending a war not with a final battle but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement,” – President Barack Obama in a speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dec. 14, 2011

What we did was expel all Sunnis, who had been the dominant political force under Saddam’s Ba’athist regime, from governing, and hand power over to a Shia majority that wasn’t at all inclusive, transparent, or ready to govern all of Iraq. When the Sunni ISIS/ISIL forces overran several cities, the Sunni locals whom the Shia government had oppressed for years greeted them as liberators. The Iraqi forces ran away, the government is unable to maintain control of its territory, and what we left is an unstable country boiling over with sectarian resentment and violence. 

It is as if we killed Tito and let one of the 6 constituent ethnicities or religions in the ex-Yugoslavia be a victor and oppress the other 5, and expect a good result. We all know what happened organically in Yugoslavia between Tito’s 1980 death and the 1990s. 

The Iraq war cost America about $1 trillion, when all is said & done. Just think of what we could have bought here at home for that sum of money. Fund health care? Better schools? Student loan relief? Tax rebate to everyone? It’s mind-boggling what we’ll willingly pay for with very little argument. Over 3,500 lives lost to set up a dysfunctional Shia government about to be overthrown by a ruthless hipster Taliban. 

Too many Americans have already died to “liberate” a country under false pretenses. Too much American treasure has been squandered to accomplish the same thing. Let the Iranians go after ISIS. Say what you want about Iran, but they have a functioning government that is interested in self-preservation, and is therefore someone with whom we can deal, as compared with the feckless Iraqi “government” or the Sunni jihadists overrunning Iraq and Syria in a power vacuum left after a Ba’athist dictatorship was overrun or weakened.  Heckuva job, ‘mrrka. 

June 6, 1944: Souviens-Toi

US GIs Marching to the Docks June 1944

70 years ago today, thousands of Allied men crossed the English Channel to land on the beaches of Normandy to help defeat European fascism. 

Anyone with a passing general knowledge of history knows about D-Day and its significance – the war was over less than a year later. This montage of then-and-now images published by the Guardian is simply incredible

Less well-known in the US is the fate of the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10, 1944, the town was under the control of Vichy France.  That day, a German Panzer division massacred 642 men, women, and children – most of them shot and then burned alive in the town church – for no known reason. It’s suspected that the massacre was in retaliation for the killing of some German soldiers in the area (possibly in another town also named “Oradour”) by the French resistance. 

The French government left the town as it stood on that day. It is a monument to the relentlessly brutal German occupation, and to the innocent victims of Naziism. 

A Peugeot allegedly belonging to the town doctor stands where it was parked as the doctor arrived back to town from a house call just as the round-up of villagers began. 

Via Wikipedia

Here, two visitors walk through the ruins of the village, where time stood still. 

Via Wikipedia

 

Via Oradour.info

Everything from the Outer Harbor to #BringBackOurGirls

Remember last year, when I began a semi-weekly excoriation of Donn Esmonde and posted things about the Clarence schools budget crisis/vote? I’m sparing you the ugly details this year because I’m putting on my dusty activist hat and making sure the perfectly reasonable budget that the school board passed unanimously is passed next Tuesday, and also campaigning for a school-friendly slate of candidates. This is why posting here has been lighter in recent days. That, and the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun.

For instance, it was late 2004 when my blog transitioned from one that focused on national politics into one that looks more closely at local matters. Since that time, local political blogs of all partisan stripes have come and gone, but I’m still here.  The first local thing that really got me going on a roll a decade ago were three competing plans for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that the NFTA was pimping. They ranged from bucolic park-like setting to mid-density brownstone to what I called “elevator to the moon“. Of course, nothing came of any of them and in 10 years we’ve seen the Outer Harbor be the focus of patented Buffalo inertia and hand-wringing.

The best we’ve done has been to improve access to the area, and even that was met with false yelling about  how Route 5 was a “wall” that separated downtown from her waterfront, never mind the river and grain elevators you had to get past before you ever reached the road.

So, if I wasn’t currently concentrating on schoolkids and their futures, I’d be writing about this:

1. The Outer Harbor: it’s a state park! It’s a sports complex! It’s the location of the Bills’ new stadium! It goes to show you that there’s nothing new under the sun. 10 years down the line, we’re still arguing over what to do with a patch of dreadfully contaminated real estate on a chilly lake.

A few weeks ago, Pat Freeman, the sports director for WUFO was on Twitter and Facebook urging people to contact  Governor Cuomo and urge him to back the museum/stadium on the Outer Harbor. Someone even got a hold of my cell phone number and the same message was – unsolicited – texted to my phone on two occasions.  And Facebook messaging.

Freeman blocked me after I asked him how and why he got my number. Suffice it to say that it’d be swell if the city or Erie County Harbor Development Corporation would put whatever property won’t be a park on the market and sell it, complete with a comprehensive plan and mandated architectural standards.  Government’s job should be to pave the streets, wire the electric, put in the plumbing, and extend the light rail.

2. David Torke is one of the bloggers who’s still at it 10 years later. He’s morphed into a preservationist activist, so he’s totally in with that local clique. I recall some years ago, he would take people on tours of the East Side, where he lives, and show them how owners of properties – the city in particular – would let them become uninhabitable solely through neglect. He’s revived the “tour de neglect”, and the News’ Colin Dabkowski joined one this past weekend.  On on the one hand, it’s good to open people’s eyes to the problems plaguing a huge swath of the city that’s seen little of the incremental good news we have on the West Side. On the other hand,

Most of the conversation focused on buildings; there was very little talk about the East Side’s current residents, many of whom could be negatively impacted by the kinds of development strategies now being enacted or proposed.

You help the East Side of Buffalo get better by addressing the pervasive socioeconomic difficulties present there. The East Side isn’t a crisis of architecture, but of poverty. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be concerned with the potential we see in buildings until we address the potential in people. It will be people, after all, who will ultimately help to change the East Side, and it’s addressing poverty and violence that need to be in the forefront. Like the annual invasion of the relatively affluent to a poor neighborhood to get drunk on Dyngus Day or shop at the market in someone’s grandparents’ neighborhood, a group of affluent, privileged white faces biking through a neighborhood should be focused first on people, not on cornices. This, to me, is the fundamental flaw in all the planning and preservation activism in Buffalo.

3. A local bar owner is planning on bringing a branch of the iconic Bavarian Hofbräuhaus to downtown Buffalo. Seeing as how Buffalo likes beer, sausage, and boiled cabbage, this has some potential. You’ll just have to learn to pronounce “dirndl“, now. No word yet on how a German chain might affect our sense of place or authenticity.

4. Camille Brandon is apparently one of the Democrats who is planning to run for the Assembly seat most recently kept warm by creep Dennis Gabryszak. In the News’ article, our own local political Snidely Whiplash, Steve Pigeon, just can’t help but to suggest that he might bring in his acolyte, Kristy Mazurek,  to run as well. But if you pay close attention, note that both Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner and his chief rival, Frank Max, are backing Brandon. Any effort by Pigeon to insert Mazurek into the race – and the brutally defamatory race that would ensue – would go a long way towards maintaining the Democratic infighting on which Pigeon thrives.

Make no mistake, Pigeon’s insertion of Mazurek has more to do with preserving Tim Kennedy’s Senate seat than the useless Assembly.

5. Much of the natural gas located in the part of the Marcellus Shale that’s in New York isn’t as marketable as what Pennsylvania has. Because of the fracking boom that’s scarred, among other places,  the Pennsylvania countryside, the price of natural gas has plummeted. There are too many unknowns, and the people shilling for drilling are likely overstating the potential economic benefits for New Yorkers. I think that fracking in New York is inevitable, but I hope they regulate how it’s done and ensure that people know what chemicals are being injected into the rock in order to extract the gas. It’s not worth it, e.g., to sacrifice clean drinking water for a short-term boomlet of natural gas.  Although it has to do with coal, not natural gas, use West Virginia’s Elk River disaster as a cautionary tale.

6. A Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria kidnapped 276 schoolgirls and is supposedly selling them off into slavery. Nigeria doesn’t have an especially competent government, so there haven’t been any credible attempts to do something about this. People are trying to bring attention to this tragedy through social media, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.  Even Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the message on it.

Of course, because Mrs. Obama got involved, the right wing is politicizing it. They mock the notion of hashtags and efforts to inform people about something horrible that happened.

But it wasn’t Michelle Obama’s idea. It’s not her thing. It was started by a Nigerian lawyer.

It’s thanks in large part to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists that the girls’ disappearance didn’t continue to fly under the radar at major news providers. The campaign began on April 23 with a single tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, the first to use the now viral #BringBackOurGirls tag, amid what he calls “complete dissatisfaction” with his government’s response to the incident.

As Abdullahi watched a live address on that date by former Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili, he tweeted a phrase she used as follows: “Yes #BringBackOurDaughters #BringBackOurGirls declared by @obyezeks and all people at Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014.”

The lawyer and activist tells DW it is a “great joy” and “heartwarming to know that [the campaign] has gone so global,” as #BringBackOurGirls today nears three million uses on Twitter since April 23. In the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Abdullahi says a group of around 20 campaign volunteers has expanded into more than 100 individuals. They meet daily to monitor progress on finding the girls and follow how the viral campaign is developing.

I don’t get what’s so wrong about this. Suddenly, people are talking about it. British Conservative PM David Cameron even joined in. The point is that the online effort has brought much needed attention to what happened in a part of the world that Americans especially tend to ignore completely. Conservative mocking of #bringbackourgirls is, in effect, saying that we shouldn’t raise awareness about horrible things that are taking place. With this crowd, no matter what Michelle Obama does, she’s just the President’s fat wife who is micromanaging kids’ lunches or whatever. At least #bringbackourgirls brings attention to something worthwhile. #tcot is just a typical conservative circle-jerk of hatred. I suspect that conservatives on Twitter won’t be abandoning #tcot, though.

The Oligarchy of Complacency

We pat ourselves on our collective civic backs for our social, economic, and political “one step forward, two steps back” way of life. We – all of us – swallow and regurgitate a party line about the virtues of this region’s supposedly exceptional good neighborliness and unique qualities. That’s great.

What we have is a dearth of busy people doing busy things. I don’t mean work to exhaustion and ignore your family and friends type busy things, as depicted in that horrible Cadillac commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.  I mean that old-fashioned notion that if you work hard, you’ll earn decent money, and that your kids will be better off than you.

It’s tough here in Buffalo. This article from a recent ex-pat explains it pretty well, albeit anecdotally.

A Princeton scholar declared that the US is no longer a representative democracy, but a straight-up oligarchy. When the Supreme Court declares that there’s no more racial discrimination, that the wealthy and corporate interests can spend unlimited sums to influence elections and government under the pretext of money being “speech”, and when our broadcast “news” sources either broadcast inane shouting matches that resolve nothing, or else devolve into PLANEWATCH ’14, we keep ourselves complacent and ignorant.

I’ve spent the last couple of days attending the funeral of a great man who changed the country more times than the average American bothers to vote. He did it quietly, without seeking the spotlight, but he maintained a basic integrity – are you doing something because you want to, or because it’s convenient?

Buffalo isn’t really much of an oligarchy. It’s just a mess. Sure, it matters if you’re well-connected and you belong to the right club and you flit around in the right circles – it’s how Larry Quinn can raise $34k overnight to run for a thankless position with a feckless Board of Education so he can align himself with his friend – a malevolent right-wing lunatic. We need more worker-drones to make collection calls, do sales at Geico, and otherwise to support a cyclical low-rent service economy. Add in a dash of parochialism and tablespoons of resentment politics, and now you’re cooking up a Rust Belt stew of mediocrity and low expectations.

You do have your bread and circuses going for you, which is nice.

The area sort of needs a revolution, but both Occupy and the Tea Party have it wrong. We don’t need everyone to carry a gun, nor do we need someone to nationalize the means of production. The startup movement in Buffalo has it right – we need people to create things and ideas. Most will fail, but the few that succeed can lay the groundwork for a brighter civic, socio-economic future that isn’t mired in back-handed nostalgia or stasis. We need a revolution of higher expectations and achievement; a revolution where Donald Trump and Carl Paladino are seen for the malignant thugs they are, and not as deep-pocketed, straight-talking heroes who are going to put those poor in their place. We need a revolution where three or four tower cranes aren’t a point of discussion, and where we create a new batch of good old days for which future generations can someday feel nostalgic.

A Farewell to Mr. Burke

The timing was somewhat tragically apropos.

On Saturday, my best friend from middle school and college called to tell us that his dad had died. When we got the call, we had just reached the 6th floor of the Newseum in Washington. My friend’s dad had been, at one time, the Vice President of ABC News and the President of CBS News. My love for politics and journalism is due, in large part, to David Burke. He led an incredible life and welcomed some sarcastic, obnoxious fat little Republican Croat into his home as if he was a member of the family. 

Mr. Burke was brilliant and inspiring. He attended Tufts University, and later received an MBA from the University of Chicago. He came from a blue collar background, and had a great passion for labor issues. He worked with later Secretary of State and of Labor, George Schultz, to produce “The Public Interest in a National Labor Policy” for the Committee for Economic Development. This report laid the foundation for national labor relations policy. His work on these matters led to Mr. Burke being named to President John Kennedy’s Labor Advisory Council in 1960. 

He led a life that could fill volumes of memoirs. After working for the White House, Mr. Burke became Chief of Staff to Senator Edward Kennedy.  Interviews that Mr. Burke gave in the 1970s about his time working with President Kennedy and with Robert F. Kennedy are available here and here

He spent time at the Dreyfus Corporation in New York before becoming Chief of Staff to Governor Hugh Carey, and was instrumental in saving New York City from an imminent bankruptcy in the late 70s. In the 90s, President Clinton appointed Mr. Burke to be the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing the Voice of America, and he was named to the New York Daily News’ Board of Directors during the paper’s bankruptcy, and helped save it. 

The Broadcasting Board of Governors gives an award in journalism in Mr. Burke’s honor every year, and Tufts’ Tisch School has a Media and Public Service internship named after him. 

Mr. Burke helped to spark my interest in news and journalism. My friend, Terence’s birthday party in December 1980 involved us kids sitting silently on the floor next to Sam Donaldson doing the nightly news – the top story was John Lennon’s murder a week earlier. I was staying with the Burkes on the Cape when ABC correspondent Charlie Glass was about to be released from captivity in Lebanon. Mr. Burke arranged for me to meet with the executive producer of World News Tonight when I was considering a career in broadcast journalism. He was a big believer in the importance and power of journalism in a free society. When CBS started to cheap out on its news division, he left. When Senator Kennedy faced a tough re-election campaign in the mid-90s against some Romney fella, he arranged for me to meet the Senator, and I watched a barn-burner of a speech in a Waltham IBEW hall. 

Mr. Burke was most recently a member of the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library, where he was also a member of the Profiles in Courage Award committee. 

Mr. Burke led a life that was intimately intertwined with his roots and the turbulent times.  He was talented and fortunate enough to have intimate involvement with the political and social upheaval of the 60s, the economic stagnation of the 70s, the international turmoil of the 80s, and was an elder statesman by the 90s. He was the behind-the-scenes negotiator, leader, and fixer.

My family and I send all our love to the Burkes as they say good-bye to this giant of a man.

Good Riddance, Fred Phelps

A busy week with late nights, so posting has been regrettably light. So, with the weekend approaching, I leave you with these thoughts: 

1. While Mark Croce may have a right to charge up to $75 for a day’s worth of parking at the corner of Blight and Squalor, Buffalo is not a $75-per-day parking city. We don’t have a parking shortage, nor do we have any particular need to restrict access to our downtown, so something like Uber’s “surge pricing” – something else we don’t have in Buffalo –  is a ridiculous notion.

The barrage of counterarguments from people upholding the right to cheat tourists was astonishing.  Airline fares! Hotel rates! Well, sure. But Croce’s lot was charging 1500% more than a regular Thursday, and double to triple its usual “event” rate. “They could just drive around” is the method suggested for tourists unfamiliar with downtown Buffalo to find something else. True, I guess – that’s should maybe be our local tourism slogan to replace “For Real” or “Sense of Place”.  “Just Drive Around a Bit” that doesn’t make an outrageous markup any less so. Most of the lots – including the FN Center’s own directly across the street from the arena – were $20 for the day. If you were willing to walk a bit, they were less. But part of that “choice” is predicated on you being somewhat familiar with where you are and how to get around. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay $60 to park outside in the Buffalo snow, and the law might not consider it to be gouging under the law, but I think it’s someone taking unfair advantage of visitors who simply don’t know that $60 is an outrage to park around here. Or that we have plenty of other choices. Or that we have a Metro Rail. I argued about this with people on Twitter, and was truly surprised by the number of people defending Croce’s right to charge whatever he wants. Well, sure, I guess. But does that make it right? Or does your humanity, good neighborliness, and sense of fairness demand that visitors not be gouged by a greedy millionaire? Welcome to Buffalo! If the government doesn’t rob you, our business oligarchs will. 

But seriously, if it costs less to eat the ticket you get from parking in a “No Parking” zone than in one of Croce’s lots, the rules of “basic economics” are out the damn window. 

2. Last night the Blue Bash to celebrate the 2014 Undy 5000 and the Colon Cancer Alliance was held at Artisan Kitchen & Baths. While colon cancer is the 2nd deadliest cancer in America, affecting thousands of people every year, there’s such a phobia and stigma attached to it that people are dying needlessly. Early detection is the difference between life and death; survivor and victim. My wife is a cancer survivor and we are raising money for the CCA to help its mission, part of which is to provide free colonoscopies to people who cannot otherwise afford them. Please consider donating anything you can at this link. 

3. Looks like a lot of local school districts – Orchard Park, Ken-Ton, Depew, Cheektowaga, Sweet Home, and Buffalo, to name a few – are undergoing the same gut-wrenching budget crisis this year that Clarence underwent last year, and there’s more on the horizon.  When Clarence’s budget was in trouble last year, the board tried to pass a 9% increase to maintain the status quo. The vote failed, and the curriculum was gutted and electives were eliminated. Some in WNY pointed and laughed. Sprawly, tax-averse Clarence kids got what they deserved, some argued. Well, the hurt is getting spread around while Clarence’s crisis appears to be over. If we can’t adequately fund our schools and instead prioritize things like handouts to businesses and pothole repairs, then our priorities are beyond screwed up.

Reversion

Two things for your Friday reading: 

The South Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

1. 8 interesting factoids about the American South and Southwest, which reveal how stubbornly poor it is, and how people continuously vote against their own self-interests. Are taxes lower there? Probably. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  If you like poverty, crappy schools, and bad healthcare, the South might be for you!

Vaccinate

2. There is a dangerous trend among some parents to withhold from their children disease-preventing, life-saving vaccinations. It’s a weird intersection of pseudoscientific holistic natural gobbledygook with the completely discredited mythology that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they’re designed to prevent. (For instance, a lie was spread for years linking the MMR vaccine with autism. It wasn’t true.)

The anti-vaccine crowd may think they’re only making a decision for their own family. In fact, they’re threatening to make the rest of us sick. Refusing to vaccinate your children means you are contributing to a worsening public health crisis. There is no denying it, and there is no point in sugar-coating it.

I hope the anti-vaccine movement somehow loses steam. Perhaps America will take note of the return of long-gone illnesses and will stop treating vaccine denialism as a viewpoint worth considering. Perhaps vaccine-refusing parents will consider whether it’s worth the anxiety of knowing that a person who coughed in their grocery store two hours earlier could infect their kids as they do the week’s shopping together, and will reconsider their choices.

The point of vaccines isn’t just to protect your kid from unnecessary disease – it’s a public health matter designed to rid society of these diseases altogether. Some of these vaccines lose their potency over time, but it didn’t matter so long as the diseases themselves weren’t reintroduced into society thanks to 100% vaccination. 

If you think your kid isn’t strong enough to overcome the non-existent effects of a vaccine, what makes you think your kid is strong enough to overcome mumps, measles, or some other 19th century disease? 

Friday Things

1. If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel

Just keep scrolling to the right. 

2. I think this is – hands down – the coolest building in Buffalo. 

I stumbled upon it Thursday morning – every highway into town was a mess, so I took Walden to Sycamore and happened upon this gem. 

3. The Libel of “Appeasement”

While American media view the crisis in the Ukraine through a WW2/appeasement/Chamberlain/cold war lens, German media are more cautious, and harkening back to WW1 and postwar Germany

The Germans find much frightening in Putin, and in particular they see in his dealings unpleasant echoes of the predatory practices of the Hitler regime. But they are also sharply critical of the US, of the hyperventilation coming out of the Beltway, and even of Kerry’s desire to push promptly to isolate Russia, when they sense that post-Putin Russia is more likely to be a responsible part of Europe and relaunching a Cold War would only tend to strengthen the reactionary elements in Russian society.

They favor a response that is more incremental, cautious, measured, and one that avoids absolutely demonizing Russia. They prefer one that will bolster over time the more positive elements in Russian society. They are focused on extending a strong helping hand to Ukraine.

Lots of places are former autocratic kleptocracies. Maybe Russia could be someday, too. I might write more about this when I have more time. I think history treats Chamberlain unfairly.

4.  Language – This Finnish woman uses nonsense words to mimic what certain languages sound like. It’s quite brilliant.  

5. If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to, why don’t you go where fashion sits, 

6. Manufacturing a copycat, self-enclosed mini-Manhattan out of an HSBC tower we couldn’t keep filled with actual people doing some form of business seems a bit of a stretch. WNY doesn’t have the wealth to support million-dollar condos and high-end shopping on the scale suggested in this week’s story. Not by a long shot. We could try to attract Canadians, but the exchange rate is slipping in favor of the US dollar, making New York a worse value proposition, and frankly if you want to shop at Tiffany’s, you’re probably not sweating the extra 7% sales tax you pay on Bloor St. W. If they wanted to fill HSBC tower with mixed uses, then give people tax incentives to fill it, and fill it with condominiums that average people can afford. The hotel doesn’t have to be a Ritz or a Waldorf. Make it affordable, and if things start to turn around in Buffalo and wealth gets spread around some more, then the market will turn them into million-dollar homes, and maybe Nordstrom or Bloomingdales will come here of its own volition. 

74 Years Later

Apropos of nothing, here is a picture I found of Nazi-occupied Colmar, in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region. It had been a province of Imperial Germany from 1871 until 1918, and Hitler re-took it in 1940 and integrated it into the state of Baden. It reverted to France after the war. Here is the corner of Rue Kleber and Boulevard du Champ de Mars in Colmar in 1940, soon after the German annexation: 

 

Here is what it looks like today: 

 

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