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The Morning Grumpy – 1/23/2012

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Flo Rida, “Low

1. The Buffalo News story about 97 Rock’s morning show left me asking a few questions.

Since late 2008 — Norton has been broadcasting most of his morning show — announcing school closings, celebrating Bills victories and bashing local leaders — from Florida.

“We were hesitant to talk about this story because I don’t want to offend listeners who think that somehow I’ve given up on Buffalo,” Norton, 55, said over the phone from his home in southwest Florida. “That’s not the case at all. I came down here for good reason.”

What’s his reason for being in Florida?

For years, Norton’s father Wallace “Wally” Norton lived in Cape Haze, Fla., where he had moved after losing his wife, Bertha, to cancer in 1995.

“[Barb and I] had been going down here almost every month checking on him, getting him to the doctor. He asked if we could take care of him, because he didn’t want to go into a nursing home,” Norton said. “It’s what I had to do. He was my father.”

Well, I know I would do the same thing if I were in Larry’s shoes. Family always comes first with me as I’m sure it does with you, but that isn’t the issue.

Larry’s father passed away nearly two years ago, but Larry is still in Florida. Noting the emphasis I put on Larry’s quote at the beginning of this story, why didn’t the reporter ask him why he is still there? Why has Larry not moved back to the city “he hasn’t given up on”?

Norton may very well have a good reason and I suppose he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation about his residency. However, if a reporter is going to do this story, asking why he isn’t back here full time seems like the logical followup, doesn’t it?  Since Larry tried to assuage concerns of his listeners who might be upset that he doesn’t live here anymore, the reporter should ask why he doesn’t. Half-assed reporting annoys me, even when it’s a silly little story like this.

2. The intellectual dishonesty by the executives featured in this story is simply breathtaking. In short, why does Apple make the iPhone overseas?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Really, I wonder what they mean when they say “flexibility, diligence and industrial skills”? Oh, here it is!

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Ah, yes, the lament of America’s wilting middle class. If only we were willing to live in tiny dormitories, working in hostile conditions, exposed to unregulated and dangerous chemicals, paid less than $17 per day, forced to work 16-18 hour shifts six days per week and forced to sign a pledge to not commit suicide due to the live/work conditions…we’d all have jobs from our benevolent corporate masters.

I guess we’re just not “flexible” or “diligent” or “industrious” enough. America’s new motto should be “Maximizing Shareholder Value”.

3. Next time you hear Newt Gingrich talking about Barack Obama being the “food stamp President” or hear other Republican candidates imply that the unemployed are lazy, maybe watch one of these videos. People waiting on lines for hours on end for the chance to apply for a job. This is America. People with real problems, living lives of quiet desperation in search of their piece of the American Dream. Yes, Newt is running for President on a platform of ridiculing a program which kept people from starving during a recession they had little part in causing. GOP 2012!

4. The fruits of abstinence-only sex education in schools.

A new government study suggests a lot of teenage girls are clueless about their chances of getting pregnant. In a survey of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies, about a third said they didn’t use birth control because they didn’t believe they could pregnant.

Nationally, teen pregnancy rates have been falling, but they are up significantly in the south and southwest regions of the country. Broadly speaking and due largely to religious influences on school curriculum, these regions are leaders in the promotion of abstinence-only sex education in schools. Where kids are taught about birth control and STDs, pregnancy rates are lower. Big shock.

5. Respected journalism professor and media critic, Jay Rosen, linked to a story the other day which highlighted the polarized media that now influences elections and politics.

With just hours remaining before South Carolina’s Republican primary, it’s clear to campaign strategists and voters alike that the revolution in how Americans get their news has dramatically altered the political process. There’s more campaign news and commentary out there than ever before, but more and more citizens are tucking themselves inside information silos where they see mainly what they already agree with. The result, according to voters, campaign strategists and a raft of studies that track users’ news choices, is an electorate in which conservatives and liberals often have not only their own opinions but also their own sets of facts, making it harder than ever to approach common ground.

The reporter rarely, if ever, asks the $64,000 question. What role did we play in this and why? Did we drive them away? Until editors ask themselves that question rather than blaming the audience, newspapers will grow increasingly irrelevant. If Marc ever puts my WNYMedia archives back online, I’ll link to the dozens of articles I’ve written about his issue over the years. It merits serious discussion in this one newspaper town.

Fact of The Day: Keep buying that cheap shit at Wal-Mart, if you hate America. The world’s biggest retailer, U.S.-based Wal-Mart was responsible for $27 billion in U.S. imports from China in 2006 and 11% of the growth of the total U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period.

Quote Of The Day: “The business of government is justice” – Millicent Fenwick

Song Of The Day: “Girls In The Backroom” – Ike Reilly

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com


  • Jesse

    On #4: Gotta makes us some mores republi-can-do voters!

    On #5: Solutions? Media (particularly sports media, but it’s interesting to read the same stuff regarding politics) always blames everyone but themselves.

  • money out the window

    Why don’t you comment on the new hires for the county double dipping with retirement paychecks and now 6 figure salaries?
    Oh that’s right, you don’t want to say bad things about Prince Polo, if was Collins putting his people in you would be all over it.
    You should come up with a banner like “AV Fair and Balanced!”

    • Alan Bedenko

      What does Poloncarz have to do with whether his hires are double-dipping with retirement and salary? What power does he have over that?

  • money out the window

    Really, they are the only people to hire? You don’t think he tells them what he will pay them to do the job? You think it is a set salary, what are you a union guy?
    He could have paid 1/2 salaries, if they are already pulling in more than 1/2 of what the county would pay.
    This is working the system and it costs all of us a lot of money.

    • Alan Bedenko

      Is there a prohibition on hiring people who are receiving retirement benefits? I’d be willing to bet it’s illegal for a prospective employer to ask, or take that into consideration.

      • Why didn’t I write about a couple of guys making extra money? Because I don’t really care. I think you’ll really struggle to find anywhere that I have ever written about these small amounts of money and salary about any elected official unless tied directly to corruption, incompetence, or graft.

        The constant obsession in county politics over small amounts of money is really quite tedious. People care about thousands because they can conceptualize the amount and these types of issues are easy political targets. The right question is, are these people the best available for the job? In the eyes of this administration, they are. Mark has been a hard working representative for the people of Erie County and I trust his judgment that they indeed are the right people for the job. If proven wrong, I’ll change my opinion. Until then, it’s trivial.

  • Eisenbart

    Do Republicans ever double dip? It’s one of those things that is perfectly legal but rubs you the wrong way. Kind of like slave labor in Asia and a guy who had obviously given up on Buffalo but won’t admit it.

  • money out the window

    Alan its all public info. are you just not in the loop on this stuff, how people are paid and how it is reported in your in public work, its all out there guy.

    And to Smith – yeah right, it is tedious unless it is the other guy than you guys are all over it.

    “Mark has been a hard working representative for the people of Erie County and I trust his judgment that they indeed are the right people for the job.”

    Nice, so anything he does is okay with you? Why write for a paper? You just completly discounted anything you have to write or say about any issue that comes up invovling these matters. Are you in any way shape or form associated with journalism?

    “AV Fair and Balanced” or how about “AV all the opinion that is fit to publish”

    • Actually, if it’s the other guys, I’m not all over it. As I said in the original comment, I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find one time where I’ve written something about this as it pertains to Republicans. I tend to focus on bigger picture issues than whether or not a few guys are making more than whatever arbitrary salary level a subjective person has set, based on the perceived value of the position. I think politicians should be paid more. I think county legislators are underpaid, I think the County Executive is paid too little, I think most management positions in government pay less than they should…if the goal is to attract qualified people from the private sector. I’d run for office, but I can’t afford the pay cut. I’d sign up to work on modernizing information technology assets for the county or city if the job didn’t require me to take a significant pay cut. I think that goes for a lot of mid-level executives and experienced professionals in our community.

      I honestly don’t give a shit if Rich Tobe is making an extra $10K per year after spending large chunks of his life in public service. I really don’t. Nor do I care about any of the other guys or what they’re making.

      As for Mark, he has been in office for three weeks. I voted for him. I thought he was smart, experienced, professional, and I trusted his judgment. So, logically, I trust his judgment on this issue that I don’t find to be all that fucking important. Aside from cheap partisan point-scoring by commenters looking for the first opportunity to undercut the guy, does this REALLY matter? Make the case for why you would prefer the County Executive employ people at sub-market rates for executive positions in a “billion dollar company”, as I assume you’re one of the “run government as a business” types.

      Will I disagree with Mark during the course of his administration? Absolutely. Mark and I have disagreed on many things in the time I’ve known him and he’ll certainly receive criticism from me and this outlet when we think he’s wrong. But, on this? Not so much.

  • money out the window

    Hey Chris, there is a little soup dribbled on your chin, clean it up. Come out of your daze and take a look around, how much more do you need to pay politicians in an area where the average muni income is on par if not higher than the private sector?
    If you don’t think that a top level political job in WNY is the brass ring than I can’t even try to explain to you the grab for these jobs, and the lucrative pensions for WNY.

    And you wonder why it is big news around here.

  • Alan Bedenko

    Maybe it is big news. But Poloncarz is blameless for hiring the people he thought most qualified for the job.

  • money out the window

    and by the way I am not run government like a business, it makes no profit , how can you? that is just silly. But run it like it is not a bottomless pit of money to be taken from everyone else in the community to provide jobs for “the guy who won the last election” buddies. Career politicians like these guys are a huge part of the problem, and if you met most of them they are not the brightest or he best, otherwise they would be in the private sector making a lot more money, and likely not in WNY!
    I think this paper suffers greatly from a very regional view of the world, it would suit you folks well to take a class trip to other areas of the country, where you are right, no one spends all day talking about local politics, because there are other things to talk about.
    and finally, as I am done with you, all you do above is rant endlessly about one of two parties, and then question why people get their media from single sources, what the shit dude, just want to build the fire and deny your basking in the glow of your own making, you are as guilty as anyone, too friggin’ much

  • money out the window

    Alan the short bus is leaving get a move on or you’ll hold everyone up.

  • Why is it big news? Because the newspaper told you it was.

    Is $80K in salary for three guys out of a billion dollar budget big news? I don’t think it is, but you do. Good for you.

    I don’t think you put any value on the job of managing public works for a county with 900,000 people in it along with an enormous budget. I do.

    I expect the people who run public works (one of the the primary purposes of county government) to be experienced professionals who know how to get the job done. This guy has a solid track record and I’m glad he’s on staff. Tobe has made a lot of money in the private sector and I’ve worked with him in that capacity. I find him to be incredibly bright and qualified for his current position.

    As for taking a class trip, I’ve seen the world and lived in many parts of the country. The problem with this region isn’t Rich Tobe, it’s mildly informed toolbags demanding we save the equivalent of a few bucks on toilet paper in our county budget rather than worrying about the bigger picture. It’s a big county with a lot of people to serve, it’s an expensive region to maintain with a deteriorating infrastructure. Get over it.

  • BFIAT

    You are missing the point how do you retire pull a pension from an entity and then go back and work for another entity but still the same system and get paid and still pull the pension?
    It is a big deal they should have the pension shut off until they “retire”. It’s really a no brainer. It is fair and every little bit helps.
    You clearly have a personal tie to these guys so you opinion is ver clouded.

  • BFIAT

    Additionally for those of us keeping score more or higher paid public employees doesn’t seem to be an immediate need nor has it proven a fix to a community that has lost business and population for about the last 30 years.
    Come on Chris you can do better than this for a reason to spend tax dollars.

  • Leo Wilson

    This discussion about “double-dipping” sure does sound a lot like China’s labor practices, as discussed re: apple.

    Retirement isn’t a social safety net, it’s an earned compensation that’s included in an employment arrangement, should you be so shrewd as to close that deal. If the person fulfilled his part of the contract, she’s entitled to all the payment the employment arrangement included. If the person earns the retirement and finds additional employment, it’s just not the business of the person or organization that made the previous deal. There are even laws that guarantee that a previous employer cannot prevent a worker from getting another job.

    This is one of the sillier debates I’ve seen re: employment, right up there with drug testing that allows an employer that pays for 40 hours of work per week to dictate behavior for 168 hours per week. Succumbing to this populist nonsense will put us well on our way to becoming that cloistered bunch of Chinese drones with no rights at all.

  • joe schmidbauer

    Folks

    Double dipping is the political pay off- Ask former-AD Frank Clark, almost all the investigators in the DA office were retired BP or retired local law enforcement folks, 60,000 retirement + benies plus 70,000 for the position (life is good.) It is common as a head cold. Look through any local government you will find dozens of double dippers. (Friends and Family plan)

    Guys please don’t try to sell hiring the brightness and the best, Richard Tobe, Mr. Rubin, please!

    Mark is just playing the game. That does not make him less of a honorable man. (Blame the game not the players.)