Sep 29, 2006

Election season: hold your nose

The dreadful world of New York state politics never ceases to amaze and disgust, especially come election season. This year is no different.

First, we have Attorney General candidate Jeanine Pirro admitting that she is under federal investigation for possible wiretap crimes. It seems that she suspected her ex-con husband of philandering and wanted to catch him in the act. Ms. Pirro denies she went ahead and actually did the eavesdropping, mind you. But she DID think about it. But who did she call to pursue this train of thought? None other than disgraced former NYC Police Commissioner (and ex-con) Bernie Kerik, that's who! After all, it makes sense to call Mr Kerik -- he knows the ropes of carrying on these types of relationships, by his own admission. This tale has a ways to go before it plays out, I'm sure.

The we have incumbent NYS Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who just got caught taking a page from the Governor Pataki playbook and went about having his wife chauffered around by an individual on the state payroll. The Gov, you might recall, pulled the same prank awhile back.

Mr Hevesi did a public mea cupla yesterday in Lake George, saying he wrote a check to reimburse the state for his embarassing transgression. Questions abound about his math for determining this tab, however.

Isn't it funny how the mob that wanted Pataki's head for this abuse is suddenly quiet with the Hevesi problem -- and vice versa, of course.

And we can not let Congressman John Sweeney off the hook. Mr Sweeney is currently running television campaign commericals accusing his opponent of war profiteering. The logic? The opponent's spouse apparently owns stock in BAE Systems, a defense contractor. Get it? Defense contractors are profiting from the Iraq war, dummy! Hence all shareholders are therefore war profiteers! Now do you understand?

What Mr Sweeney forgot to mention is that BAE is a contributor to his re-election campaign. Yes, that pesky little detail didn't quite make it into the final cut.

Our favorite new blogger (and longtime TVT supporter) Albany Daze woke us up to this one -- not a big TV watcher, after all. If you need a good laugh, take a trip to his Albany Rants blog for some good chuckles -- and an interesting picture of the Congressman in action!

I can think of one small group that is thankful for all this lunacy: the writing staff of comedy troupe O.I.N.K.(Only in New York). Something tells me they won't be pulling hairs trying to come up with bits for their new season. It's all being handed to them on a silver platter.

Sep 21, 2006

Schenectady or Stalingrad?

So was the question posed by my friend 'The Llama" down at NYS Environmental today. This in response to his reading of the workings of the Schenectady Police Department as they went about reigning terror on a city family.

Armed and outfitted as if they were raiding a Taliban cave, a small army of Schenectady's finest barged through the door of a Prospect Street residence, handcuffed two children (ages: 11 and 12) and started blasting bullets at their pet dog, eventually chasing it into the bathroom where it was successfully killed.

Despite some debate over whether they even had the right address or not, the police brass are high-fiving one another on this exercise. The Times Union quotes Assistant Chief Michael Seber as saying "We had the absolute right house. We had the absolute right target."

And what's this "target thing" all about, you ask? Apparently, the PD has reason to believe that the family's teenage son had recently sold $40 worth of pot. Yeah, this was a real drug factory here, wasn't it?

I just made a decision: the TVT has officially ended its discussions with the City of Schenectady about that music festival it was looking to bring into town.

After all, knowing what we know about our crowd's recreational habits, we'd end up with a few dozen of them taking bullets. For their sake, we'll pass on Schenectady. I recommend the same to others.

Housing starts down; let's celebrate

Let's calm down about the latest data showing that housing starts are way down from a year ago. Everyone seems to think this will have a ripple effect into a doomsday - scenario recession. Widepread panic reigns.

Might I offer a contrarian view? This is actually good news.

The so-called housing industry has long been supported by government policies --- taxation, immigration, highway, energy, economic development -- that, if they were to be similarly extended to other sectors, would cause a huge "that's not fair" outcry. We often hear libertarians and some conservatives decry this type of "choosing economic winners," but never when such an argument is applied to housing. After all, the vested interests that are lined up within it are the most powerful in the land.

I would suggest that in this era of a global economic reality, to tie up this nation's private sector investment capital in a game of swapping real estate back and forth does not stregthen our international competitive hand.

The same view holds on a micro level. The day a bright, creative 27yo professional signs the dotted line mortgaging his future on a $500,000 home immediately makes him or her unlikely to ever take the plunge on starting a new entrepreneurial venture. His or her capital is tied up for thirty years, the timeframe which parallels the period in which new firms are, in fact, started. You think they're launched the day after the mortgage - burning party? Uh-uh.

Public policy, as applied to the housing industry, is out of synch with today's economic order. Letting the air of of this bubble will do us some real good. Sure, it will be rocky for some that bought at the top, but nothing is (or should be) guaranteed in market economics.

If I were king: I'd phase out the mortgage deduction over a 40-year period.

Now, what are the chances that this type of idea would ever make it into the public debate? Don't hold your breath.

Sep 19, 2006

Vanilla America, part 58

Today comes news of the closing of the the Steel Pier down in Atlantic City. In recent weeks, we've seen announcements of the pending departures of The Pavilion in Myrtle Beach and our own nearby Catskill Game Farm. Goodbye to these links to the past, of childhood memories and simpler times.

What will take their place? Need we ask? For the two southern parcels, look forward to retirement condos and themed outdoor walking malls with pleasant names like Broadway at the Beach or Barefoot Landing--- or to grown men wearing mouse ears at groundbreaking ceremonies.

For Catskill, who knows...

Some alarm bells on AMD

This week's series of feature stories on Advanced Micro Devices in the Times Union has raised some eyebrows.

Although the pieces are not particularly enlightening -- just more examples of trying to draw parallels between Albany and Austin --- it's the Luther Forest references that draw one's attention.

Characterizing the incentive agreement whereby AMD builds a fab locally as "nonbinding" and explaining "when, and ultimately if, the Luther Forest chip fab is built depends on a number of factors," one gets the impressionn that maybe this deal wasn't really as close to being of the "done" variety as we were being told. I'm not sure if this was the reporter's intention or not, but he has succeeded in ringing some alarm bells in the Capital Region.

If this deal were to fall apart and the Luther Forest plant never materializes, it will be interesting to watch the scurrying and finger pointing taking place on this one.

But let's hope it never gets to that point: whether you were a supporter or an opponent of this project, such a scenario would not do anyone any good around here.

NOTE: We will be publishing an in-depth "economic effect" analysis on the AMD project in the next few weeks.

Sep 18, 2006

Mr. Rooney calls home

Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes last night:

"In Albany, New York, the airport is called the Albany International Airport. I think it has two flights a week to Canada. I grew up in Albany. Maybe I'll offer them $1.50 to rename it the Andrew A. Rooney Not Far Afield."

I doubt that Mr. Rooney will be keynoting any local Chamber of Commerce luncheons in the near future.

Sep 8, 2006

Was that Yesterday? Five Years On

Last Summer
(Words by Sean Kelly)

There's trouble on the wing
I just can't see the floor
I don't know where to start
or what they're fighting for

We just can't fall apart
please turn this all around
I think he's got a gun
I never said goodbye

A free chance for a villain
maybe heroes or a soldier
in all my life as I would stand
United to a flag and clenching with my hands

It's really getting strange
I heard the pilots scream
we're never going down
at least that's what it seems

I'm frozen to my seat
I lost my sense of time
neglect from God above
who walks the crooked line

But still we fly it's so streamlined
flying angels to the sun
those wars are never won
I love you on this morning
where the strangest strangers curse
as the buildings tumble down

A free chance for a villain
maybe heroes or a soldier
in all my life as I would stand
United to a flag and clenching with my hands

But still we fly it's so streamlined
flying angels to the sun
those wars are never won
I love you on this morning
where the strangest strangers curse
as the buildings tumble down

When in fifty years
may just one forget
was that yesterday
or just last summer

Sep 7, 2006

Just the Facts, Please

I know that Ronald Reagan admonished his fellow Republicans from saying uncomplimentary things about one another. I'm not sure if there is a similar rule for members of the journalistic professions. Come to think of it, there can't be: just tune in Fox News some night.

I guess that allows me the opportunity to chide my friends over at the Capital District Business Review for a story they have on the front page of their current edition. It is there that we can read the disappointing news of the closure of web development firm Virtual Flow.

Sure, a fairly high profile company going out of business can be considered story-worthy; whether that makes it front page worthy, I'm not so sure. But my bone is of a different flavor:

Why is the story highlighting -- complete with a photo -- the FORMER owner of this business? She outright sold the company to one of her employees over a year and a half ago, tossed him the keys to the front door and went on to a new challenge of raising a family. Why did the reporter feel obligated to track her down with phone calls as a means of getting her into the mix of this tale?

Granted, I'm personally close to those involved here, but I don't think this effort of striving for effect does anyone justice.

Sep 5, 2006

Yes Men Strike Again

The Yes Men, those media hoaxmeisters determined to fight corporate greed through Identity Correction -- which is a nice way of saying impersonation -- are at it again.

Recently, the YM (one of whom is a sometime RPI teacher) were out spawning "false hopes among blacks" in New Orleans by pretending to be a spokeperson for HUD at a speech. Read it / see it here:

False announcement in full:
Video of false announcement:

Framing the Debate --- Playing Into Their Hands

I consider myself to be an active booster and supporter of this region's creative arts scene, believing that disciplines such as music, dance, painting and so on should all be considered a vital part of the so-called Innovation Economy mix. The art (and business) of video & film production is definitely a part of all this.

On a totally unrelated front, I am as disgusted by the hijinks of George W. Bush and his Axis of Evil (Cheney, Rumsfeld & Rice) as any other forward- thinking individual would be (or, for those rare cases: should be). After all, could anyone else have screwed up this nation's foreign policy any worse from 9/12/01 onward than this band of lunatics? Not likely.

Given these two perspctives, one might think that I would be overjoyed to witness the current buzz being directed to the three young Leatherstocking Region producers of Loose Change, a documentary that takes a "hey, this part here ain't quite right" examination of various 9/11 events. If something isn't properly and completely explained to the satisfaction of the trio, then might such a lack of proper explanation suggest such themes as coverup or conspiracy?

The problem with this type a product is that it plays right into the right wing's hands. No one has better mastered the political P/R and media manipulation game than the national GOP and its various think tank and strategic consulting partners. A product such as Loose Change is a free gift to them, one which provides a very convenient BRANDING OPPORTUNITY for framing the opposition as "left wing wackos" and then handing it off to their cohorts in the mainstream media for delivery to the masses.

In other words, those that question the administration's international crusade can now be framed as "crazy conspiracy theorists," with these Loose Change kids' names being tossed around in the same sentence as Professor Churchill and Cindy Sheehan by the Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannitys of the airwaves. Grab the image of someone that you know will generate an unfavorable reaction, put that image up their on the screen and say "here's what the Democrats and the left are all about."

As good as these young men's intentions might be, they're playing right into the hands of the Masters of Manipulation.