October 31, 2007
Mike Mukasey finds the idea of torture, including waterboarding, repulsive. That he won’t agree to make it illegal, should he become Attorney General, is something I find repulsive.
Mukasey says he needs to study the problem from a legal standpoint, not a personal one. What has he been doing since he was nominated a couple months ago to replace Alberto Gonzales? He must have known for a long time now that he would be asked questions about the current Administration’s stance on the use of certain interrogation techniques. Hasn’t he done his homework yet?
Nothing comes to mind that has ruined U.S. credibility more in the world’s eyes than our country’s recent and admitted use of rendition and torture. How we continue to cloak this in inveigled rhetoric astounds me.
I have become embarrassed for our country whenever the State Department condemns China or Burma or North Korea or any other country for their human rights violations, without regarding its own policies as hypocritical and antithetical to this cause. What have we become since 9/11?
There are few issues in my life that frustrate me to the point of screaming; this is one of them. I am waiting for the protest march on Washington, and will probably take a few days off to join them. I am ashamed at our country’s stance on torture.
October 31, 2007
So at church last Sunday, a little girl – handicapped with Down’s Syndrome, strode up to the altar during offertory and “helped” arrange the communion dishes while the priest and altar servers watched. I thought the priest was very kind to wait for her mother to come up and entice her off before continuing the Mass.
I am confused about the complainant’s Christian principles. I am confused about why an act of innocence should be admonished, especially in light of the attitude of the person on whom this church was built.
So to the complainant, I have only this to say: I think you’ve got the whole Christian thing wrong. I think you need to lighten up a little and realize some of the joy that that little girl shared with us on Sunday.
October 26, 2007
“Buffalo is dying that is for sure we need to be realistic.“
This is a quote from a commenter on a Buffalo Pundit blog earlier today. I see lots of people writing pretty much the same thing in the local blogs.
I think they are wrong. They are not realistic at all.
I’ve spent the past few years getting involved in the community at a number of different levels; first within my town, now within the local business community and especially the University at Buffalo and the Life Sciences initiative. This is what I’m seeing:
- An enormous growth in life sciences and other biotech-related companies. The life sciences downtown corridor, first established around 2000, has already had two major buildings erected and with the addition of the $200 million Cleveland BioLabs corporation, is so close to full that UB purchased the M. Wile and Trico buildings as part of a biotech corridor expansion. UB is also adding a brand new building to house the new Educational Opportunity Center at Goddell and Oak Streets.
- Including Southern Ontario and places as far east as Syracuse, the “Golden Horseshoe” is the fourth-largest biotech area in North America.
- Up to this point the growth in Life Sciences has centered on hiring the best and brightest researchers – which is now spilling over into product development and manufacturing as these researchers take their ideas to market. SmartPill is a great example of this, as is Empire Genomics and Cleveland BioLabs. The Bank of America recognized the need for home grown technical support in this field, and donated $250,000 to help train the technicians needed to support these rising companies, from the Buffalo labor force.
- $120 million is being pumped into The Statler renovation. The Dulski Building is going through a $60 million makeover. New Era Cap and Health Now just finished their new (gorgeous!) downtown facilities. The $100 million Federal courthouse is going up.
- Bass Pro really is going in (and it had nothing to do with either Donn Esmonde or Tim Tielman) and the Inner Harbor really is going to be built.
- Love it or hate it, the Seneca nation announced a $300+ million hotel and gaming complex in the Cobblestone district, adjacent to the Inner Harbor and Bass Pro. One needs to stop and think about how close we are to reaching critical business mass in this region.
- UB 2020, the big gorilla, is well on the way to getting the community and more importantly, every single politician behind the push for a huge increase in higher education in Western New York. The resulting impact on the community is huge. Higher education already accounts for a significant fraction of our local economy and is destined to grow substantially in the next 10 years.
- Moog is growing so fast they can’t find close to enough talented workers and have to import staff from as far away as Utah.
- Buffalo is rapidly becoming the nation’s call center capitol. Ingram Micro, Geico and HSBC are recent examples of call center companies that the community has lured into growing here.
- People in other upstate communities are looking to Buffalo (and moving to Buffalo!) as an example of how to rebuild an economy.
Too many people around here have been focusing on the losses in manufacturing, the layoffs and general economic malaise without bothering to look at the entrepreneurial growth that’s happened lately. Huge manufacturing complexes are being replaced by highly flexible small businesses. People who have ambition and vision are employed and growing their businesses. More and more programs are being established by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, UB, Canisius and other institutions to teach successful business practices to those who are willing to try.
Too many people around here have wanted instant gratification; in reality, building new business takes both nurturing and time. We are about to reach a tipping point where everything is starting to happen at once, and where the renaissance will soon become obvious, even to the most cynical.
October 25, 2007
This past week my wife, the chaplain, walked into a patient’s room at ECMC to discover him alone, dying. She held his hand and told him he would not die alone. In those next moments she watched his cardiac monitor display the signs of a failing heart, and then he was dead.
He did not die alone. We will never know if he knew she was there, but I know she was there.
My wife does so many things that I can’t possibly imagine doing myself.
October 22, 2007
Research into the history of warfare by imperialistic governments reveals that the cost to establish and maintain an expansive front line eventually imperils the imperialistic aggressor. Romans, Japanese and Germans all initially benefited from the cheap goods that resulted from their takeover of neighboring areas; but eventually it caught up with them in the form of hyperinflation, product scarcity and general economic malaise. The Soviet Union and North Korea bankrupted their own economies by feeding their armies but not their citizens.
Today, our President asked for another $46 billion to provide for the troops in Iraq, bringing the fiscal 2008 total alone to almost $200 billion. Even at $90 a barrel it’s going to take a lot of Iraqi oil exports (free to the U.S., of course) to recover from these types of outlays.
It could have been worse. The President could have signed the SCHIP legislation but instead vetoed it, wiping out health coverage for about 2.5 million eligible children but saving the federal government around $7 billion a year. His fiscal frugality will not allow improvements to domestic conditions while there’s war afoot.
Is this what compassionate conservatism is about? At what point does compassion for the impoverished on our own soil supersede the compassion to destroy terrorists on theirs?
October 21, 2007
Planktos is a for-profit company that sprays iron nanoparticles over the ocean to promote algae blooms. Algae draws carbon dioxide out of the air and replaces it with oxygen as part of the plant’s respiration process. When the algae die the sequestered carbon falls to the bottom of the ocean.
Planktos is in the business of selling carbon credits – that’s how they will make their money. They have a really slick, environmentally friendly-looking web site with reference to healing the seas. Treehugger.com is very cautiously optimistic about Planktos’ strategy of raising algae bloom levels to what they were in 1980 (based on NASA satellite observations of decreasing algae in the oceans).
I am a little less optimistic because
- Planktos is doing all this in international waters, where monitoring of the effects and regulation of the industry requires agreement from so many governments as to render enforcement all but impossible.
- It doesn’t address but merely masks the problem, which is that we are burning way too much fossil fuel. In fact, Planktos’ for-profit business may encourage energy traders to promote even more inefficient processes knowing that energy credits for its customers will be available through Planktos’ efforts.
- It relies on dispersing iron in the form of nanoparticles into the atmosphere, most but not all of which settles onto the water. Unlike natural processes, the man-made product is much smaller and can remain airborne for extremely long periods. There is still some really serious debate about how particulates this small affect biological processes once they’re lodged in the lungs (comparisons to the 20-year delay between breathing asbestos fibers and the onset of asbestosis comes to mind).
- It’s illegal.
We don’t seem to have had much success fooling with Mother Nature on such a global scale. I hope this doesn’t backfire, especially since all Planktos has to do to walk away from responsibility is declare bankruptcy and create enough obfuscation with murky science as to tie up any lawsuits for years.
October 13, 2007
Retired General Richard Sanchez gave a blistering speech at the Military Reporters and Editors Luncheon regarding the failure of the Bush Administration, the State Department and Congress to get it right, and the unwillingness of the Pentagon to stand up to the Administration. He made many strong accusations; one that stood out to me was this: “There has been a glaring, unfortunate, display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders. As a Japanese proverb says, ‘action without vision is a nightmare.’ There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.”
The Buffalo News abbreviated the Washington Post’s article on the Sanchez speech and titled it “Retired military leader slams U.S. war plan.” If you read the speech in its entirety – and you should, even though this web site has it entirely in capital letters, making it very hard to do so – you will realize that roughly half the speech singled out the media for its knee-jerk reactions, arrogance and first to get the story mentality without regard to accuracy. It was less a speech about the Bush Administration and much more a speech about our entire country’s failure to work together toward a single goal.
The conservative web sites have been on top of this and rightly so. The media’s unwillingness to admit its own failings is right up there with the Administration’s unwillingness to do the same. On the issue of war, Americans are left without anyone trying to honestly tell the whole story. The newspapers’ synopsis of Sanchez’ speech is merely typical of the overarching problem of media extremism at its worst.
Media extremism, both on the left and the right, has decimated the centrist middle and solidly reflects the political extremism in our country as well. It is hard to undo the partisan brainwashing that Fox News, CNN and others feed its listeners by slanting its news stories in such one-sided ways.
All parties need to start telling it like it is – not how we want it to be – and being held accountable when they fail to do so. Anything less gets us labeled as nothing more than propagandists, a label that will take a generation to remove.
October 13, 2007
Everyone needs to do the occasional once a season thing just to unwind, to remove the tension, to decompress.
Early this morning my wife and I stacked the four cords of wood that were delivered earlier this week; the fireplace is now keeping the house toasty, and the furnace has not – will not – go on for days to come.
For the price of the wood ($75 a face cord), the effort to stack it and the need to regularly tend the fire, we will save upwards of $700 in winter fuel bills, possibly more. I got two hours of fresh air and exercise and had a nice time with my wife to boot.
A great deal all around.
October 11, 2007
Regarding the prolonged planning, discussions, lawsuits, threats, positioning, politicking, teeth-gnashing, chest-thumping and more planning of the new Peace Bridge and truck plaza: If I were government in Buffalo I would, at this point, throw in the towel. I would have as many public and private meetings as possible to gather comment, listen intently and let the public and media know that all their concerns will be taken seriously. And then do whatever I damn well please.
Buffalo government is probably going to do this anyway. Moving that project forward is long overdue and recent history demonstrates that there is no solution that won’t incur the wrath of some group that feels it’s been wronged. So I suggest that the city ignore them all and do whatever it takes to put a shovel in the ground.
Not that a new bridge will ever help improve bridge traffic. We need a few more customs inspectors to do that, not just more traffic lanes.
October 10, 2007
I spent mid-morning listening to Governor
Pataki Spitzer speak about the City By City Economic Development Strategy that he has developed for upstate New York. I think he implied that each city will have an economic strategy geared specifically for its special circumstances. The governor spoke about this for a great while, and although he was not specific about other upstate cities (or even which cities) he did mention Uniquest’s redevelopment of the Dulski building on Delaware Avenue, Bass Pro’s newly-proposed 500,000 square foot mixed-use development where the Aud and Donovan building currently sit, land acquisition in the Outer Harbor, the rebuilding of downtown Niagara Falls, and even gave a November, 2009 date for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Peace Bridge.
The good governor then added this single caveat: “We must have [New York State] Senate cooperation for all these initiatives” which is like saying that if they don’t happen, it’s Bruno’s fault.
Observation Number 1: Spitzer reads all his words from a script, without any ad-lib. This really detracted from his time at the podium; I thought he could’ve done better to be a bit more spontaneous. It made me think that he really didn’t put much time into either the speech or the program. He came across as a newscaster rather than the CEO.
Observation Number 2: Many of our politicians are noticeably overweight. Like their constituency.
October 8, 2007
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – CS Lewis
So it is that we find ourselves neck-deep in the entrails of Iraq. In September we went past the war’s 4 ½ year mark with an ever-so-slight decrease in military and civilian mortality, still high for the average September death toll. The current Administration continues to claim we are winning the battle and that pulling our troops out now is the only way to lose the war.
Today the Iraqi government is demanding that the U.S. turn over to them the Blackwater guards who killed 17 civilians on September 16th, for committing intentional murder. I have little expectation that the U.S. will turn over the guards, citing both Iraqi laws (which the U.S. demanded be implemented) and U.S. laws protecting the guards from prosecution in either country. The ensuing backlash could mark the beginning of the end of the war, but not in the way that the Administration speaks.
This could be a spark – a rallying cry – around which both Iraqi politicians and Iraqi citizens create something the Administration thought it had eliminated in 2003: An Iraq hostile to the U.S.; an Iraq unwilling to put up any longer with the tyrant that replaced the previous tyrant. It could also easily lead to something else: A Shiite majority, friendly to Iran, taking control of the country.
Boy will we have egg on our face then. I wonder what our military will do when backed into that situation. Leave, maybe?
October 8, 2007
My wife said that the paparazzi should leave Britney Spears alone, before she ends up killing herself or being killed, much like Princess Diana.
Then the paparazzi will go into introspection mode and the media will ask: “Should we have left Britney alone? Did the paparazzi drive her to the brink of death?” And, of course, the introspective answer will be NO IT WASN’T OUR FAULT and after a few weeks of laying off celebrity problem children they will get right back on that horse.
Because our society can’t get enough dirty laundry.
October 7, 2007
Six weeks ago the hype was so thick you could not avoid it. Now that Bass Pro has decided to move off the Canalside site, there’s nary a word. Canalside got its couple of months of attention, and it’s time to move on.
Though it never was about Canalside, was it?
Was it about the $25 million in
corporate welfare subsidized housing that Bass Pro was slated to get? There were few complaints when the state spent millions renovating Walden Avenue to provide better access to the Galleria Mall, or when the Sabres and Bills got their subsidies; aren’t they private corporations? I never understood why the Bass Pro subsidy had anything to do with anything. And since Bass Pro is still slated to get a subsidy about which few are complaining anymore, it must not be that.
Was it about mis-placement of a non-historical building in a historically significant area? I think not, because the only buildings of historical significance in the Canal District were taverns and whorehouses; and it is not likely that any new businesses that actually manage to spring up on Canalside will be taverns or whorehouses.
Was it about providing pressure to perhaps take down the Skyway and replace it with more friendly access to the Outer Harbor? Maybe, but the organizers in this area have not shown themselves capable of that much organizational will, even though without a plan in place to remove the Skyway – one that will take years to execute – Canalside is destined to forever sit in its shadow.
Was it about egos and the local area’s uncanny ability to reject negotiation, mediation, cooperation and compromise?
Spot on! My way or the highway.
Now that the great weather of 2007 is almost over and the inaccessible, unfinished waterfront area called Canalside goes into hibernation for another season, I think I’ll sit back and wait until Spring for activity to pick up again; for as sure as local elections bring back the same politicians, plans for physical change at the foot of Main Street will bring back renewed acrimony and dissent.
October 7, 2007
I just got done reading David Robinson’s business article on the BNE’s last-minute snub of the Explore Buffalo Niagara 2007 September event, which was designed to corral outside businesses and Western New Yorkers into various events to foster economic growth in the area. David Roll, co-chairman of the volunteer event, was upbeat about the relative success of the event and the outlook for the next one, possibly in two years.
The BNE had its reasons (bad ones, in my opinion) for pulling out early so shame on them. However, it was the article’s last paragraph that really annoyed me: “The next time, Roll says, the BNE won’t be any part of it“.
Great. Let’s hold a grudge now and forever. This is exactly what’s wrong with this area. You snub me, I snub you. I’ll scratch your back only if you scratch mine.
It’s no wonder we remain so fragmented at all political and economic levels. Mediation, cooperation and compromise are just not part of the local economic equation yet they are essential to sustained business growth. Anything less detracts from the goal: Bringing Western New York back from the brink.
Explore Buffalo Niagara, the BNE and all the other area economic engine-wannabes need to examine how they can help each other by planning and painting a cohesive picture.
Instead Robinson’s story concludes with yet another organization planning to go it alone. Collectively, we just don’t get it.
October 4, 2007
I’m taking a management course. My first assignment was to make a list of 10 personal lifetime objectives. Here is what I came up with:
- Start exercising regularly
- Go out on a date (with my wife) at least once a week
- Get back to more volunteerism
- Finish rebuilding my bathroom
- Rebuild my kitchen
- Build a workshop
- Build a grandfather clock
- Go on a few exotic vacations
- Continue writing my blog
- Read everything and anything
I am not interested in shopping per se; I am not interested in personal wealth, so “getting more stuff” didn’t pop into my mind. So many goals were about “building” something that it’s obvious I have this need for tangible personal accomplishments. There’s probably some psychological pathology defining some inadequacy in my life that drives me to do this.
This was not at all easy to do. Maybe, when I was younger, I might have included things like “find a mate” or “get a honkin’ great stereo”; but for the past couple of decades my goals have simply been to try to learn and do as much as I can with the time I have to do them.
Neither my hands nor my brain are ever idle.
October 1, 2007
My college-age kids turned me onto Radiohead a few years ago. Radiohead’s 1997 album Ok, Computer was acclaimed as a landmark album in the decade that was the ’90s. I can never remember song names and titles anymore, but many of the band’s melodies have stuck in my head; and the accompaniments are so original as to still sound fresh, years later. Take the time signature on Paranoid Android, for example. Please. I still can’t figure it out.
Thom Yorke and his gang are now intent on turning the recording industry on its head by releasing its latest album, presumably titled In Rainbows via free download. They are popular enough to get away with this. In fact, most popular groups could get away with this and since they generally don’t make much – if any – money from album sales, they may very well threaten to do so just to get better deals with their recording studios.
Even though I think they are greedy bastards, the recording industry does use some of the obscene profits from popular bands to subsidize the up-and-coming groups. It’s bad enough for them that illegal downloads and off-shore copying has seriously impacted album sales, but without the cash cow of popular bands, the business of music recording is in for a major revamp.
It was long overdue.