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Tony Stewart Killed A Guy?

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Oh, hey, I’m back in town. 

Did I miss anything


What I’m Reading Now

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Hey, it’s summertime in Buffalo, where both irony and cynicism are dead. So, I have nothing to tell you except to point you in the direction of things I’ve been reading lately: 

1. Kyiv Post: Pro-Ukraine English-language compendium of news & views about the Ukraine – Russia war.

2. Skift.com: AOL shut Gadling down, and Skift acquired it. While Gadling.com is still more or less silent, Skift has some good travel articles, despite it’s hilariously annoying pop-ups. Clicking on messages like “No I don’t want to hear about great deals” is the way you shut them down. 

3. 20 Committee: Military & foreign affairs blog written by John Schindler. Great insight into espionage, military and diplomatic tactics and strategy, and especially on-point with respect to Kremlinology. 

4. The War Room: in particular, this article about the Kremlin’s unusual panic. 

5. Reddit’s Front Page: see everything that will be in your Facebook feed two days in advance. See Buzzfeed listicles a week in advance. (Also the Buffalo Subreddit). 

6. Daily Banter: Lefty news blog that’s unusually sharp and often funny. 

7. Salon: It busts through the BS. Example. Example 2

I recently finished Robyn Doolittle’s excellent book about Rob Ford, “Crazy Town” – I’d recommend picking up the paperback, which has updated information. I have Ian Kershaw’s “The End”, which outlines the final days of Hitler’s Germany to read on vacation, and will likely grab something else. 

And Monday, I recorded this podcast with Chris Smith and Brad Riter, where we discuss society’s penchant for demanding insincere apologies and ending of careers over insults and outrages. 

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer break. 


Abu Dhabi – Buffalo

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Driving home from work yesterday, I saw a plane on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport that looked to be significantly larger than the 737s, A320s, Embraer 190s, and Dash-8s that I usually see living under the approach to runway 23. 

I couldn’t make out its markings, as it was still a few thousand feet in the air, so I cranked up FlightAware and FlightRadar. 

A bad line of thunderstorms was right over Toronto’s Pearson Airport, and I could see many flights were circling on all sides, waiting for the weather to clear. Presumably, this Etihad flight was low enough on fuel after an almost 14 hour flight that it was forced to divert to Buffalo. Etihad is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates.

I wondered how they would handle that – would they fly them on to Buffalo when the plane was fueled and the weather cleared, or would the passengers be given some sort of transit visa and a bus to Toronto? 

I got my answer a little later that evening. They flew a 20 minute flight from Buffalo to Pearson, arriving about 2 1/2 hours later than usual. 

Photo of the Etihad 777 courtesy @my2girls10 on Twitter. 


Good Government

1. The Supreme Court rendered a decision Monday affirming the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal plant emissions under the Clean Air Act. Tightened emissions rules will reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030. Only Democrats support the idea that our air be cleaner and that we not rely so heavily on 19th century technology to generate electricity. Republicans are threatening – again – to shut down the government over this issue, mostly I guess because of how well that went for them in 2013 and the 1990s. 

2. A Republican Congressional candidate in Georgia writes that Islam isn’t really a religion and doesn’t deserve “free exercise” protection under the Constitution. 

3. The Amber Alert everyone got yesterday about a 16 year-old girl from Greece, NY was all bullshit. What a waste of police resources, but at least now you know you have an “alert” function on your phone. 

4. Every politician grandstanding about lapses and misconduct at the VA should look in the goddamn mirror before they bleat on about veterans’ rights and patient care. “Support the Troops” involves more than a easy-peel magnetic yellow ribbon on the back of your Buick, and it means more than just agitating for war every time you see a headscarf. Funding for VA healthcare may have increased year over year, but the system is still woefully underfunded, and congressional Republicans have pledged an oath to not raise taxes, even if it has to do with veterans’ healthcare:  

Today’s lesson is quite simple: after conflicts are over, we need to fully fund the healthcare and medical needs of our veterans. Forever. Even if that means making the political and economic elite pay more in taxes. Even if that means taking politics out of the VA and focusing instead on the welfare of our veterans. That we have politicians and members of the media who need to be reminded of this is a disgrace.

When you go to fight two ground wars in Asia simultaneously, you should plan for the resulting medical care for veterans – especially when you don’t give them body or vehicle armor. 

Who’s more important? Grover Norquist or a sick or disabled vet? 

Stop grandstanding and fund the VA. Take responsibility, as lawmakers and as keepers of the public purse, to make sure that the men and women who fought our wars get all the care they need

5. Keep trotting out Dick Cheney, Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill Kristol to whine about Iraq. It helps to remind us how wrong they were 10 years ago, and to never listen to them again. 


Thursday Comic Relief

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

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

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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

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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.




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