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... GM upshifting

Also in Opinion:

- GM shifts gears - Buffalo News Editorial
   First, General Motors paid us our money back.
   Now, with the company actually reporting a quarterly profit for the first time in nearly three years, we have hope that General Motors can pay us our money back. ...
   For that to happen, GM will have to engineer its initial public offering, which may take place by the end of this year, in a way that the stock is an attractive investment.
   If that happens, the United States of America can sell, rather than dump, its 61 percent ownership of GM, not only making back its original investment, plus a little, but finding something happening on Wall Street that benefits the taxpayers instead of bleeding them.

   Related:

- GM may be worth $67 billion. Really. - CNN
   What's GM worth? The answer will help determine if taxpayers are able to make a profit from the automaker's bailout.
-
Lube job - Phildelphia Inquirer Editorial
   The Obama administration was also quick to trumpet this success. Vice President Biden said last week that GM's paying back "its TARP loan in full, in full, is a huge accomplishment."
   Sort of.
- GM has plenty of good news to tout; why make up stuff? - Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial
   What GM really did was repay its TARP loan by tapping another pot of federal dollars. And as for paying back its bailout, well, Washington still owns 61 percent of the company.
   Car ads have often bent the truth a little; they're selling dreams, after all. But why bother when the facts are so promising?

- GM stretching of TARP truth troubling - Appleton Post-Cresent Editorial
   As the economic recovery inches along, the government needs to be more forthcoming with the public, even if it's not necessarily what people want to hear.
- Like a crock: GM's misleading ad - Manchester Union-Leader Editorial
   What you may not have heard is that Whitacre is being more misleading than a rookie used car salesman with a lot full of lemons and one day left in his pay period.

   Here's the spot:

Here's another version:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Busted budget metaphors

   From today's Buffalo News Opinion section:

- Goodbye, parks - Buffalo News Editorial
   In Africa, they used to say, when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.
   In New York State, we now find, when the behemoths of state government and state public sector Woodlawnbeach unions are locked in a stalemate, it is the grass in the
state’s parks that will not be tended.
   And it is the people who thought they had a right to visit those parks, and the communities whose economic livelihoods that are tied to them, that bear the brunt.
   The move by Gov. David A. Paterson to
close 55 parks and state historic sites [list] to save $12 million in maintenance and seasonal payroll costs is less a money-saver — a trifle compared to the $9.2 billion state deficit — than another awkward salvo in the negotiating war with the state’s unions. And it seems unlikely to be enough to obviate the need for the only real way to balance the budget, now and in the long run, which is to take the painful step of laying off workers.
   And:
- Let’s all help state make ‘tough choices’ - Donn Esmonde/The Buffalo News
   I don’t know about you, but I would rather splash in the sporadically polluted waters of Woodlawn Beach than pay for unneeded politicians. Cut the Legislature. 
   Related:
- 'Beam me up,' groans gov over spaced-out pols - The New York Post
   Need more proof Albany’s so-called lawmakers are really space cadets? Gov. Paterson, fed up as do-nothing legislators bickered through a budget summit yesterday, groaned, “Oh, Scotty, beam me up,” a Captirk play on the classic “Star Trek” line uttered by Capt. Kirk to his engineer, Scotty.
   The governor’s lament came seven weeks into a stalemate -- the deadline for passing the spending plan was April 1 -- over how to keep the $9.2 billion budget gap from expanding further into the final frontier.
   [Careful, Dave, the last politician to favor that phrase came to a bad end.] 
- The drones drone on - The New York Daily News
   What should have been a sober attempt to finally talk about solving the fiscal crisis gripping the state devolved into a pointless session of partisan taunts and playground-level bickering.
-
In Albany, More Clamor Than Clarity - City Room/The New York Times
   He urged. He cajoled. He warned. He even put his head in his hands.
   But Gov.
David A. Paterson was unable to wring any firm promises about a budget agreement from the legislative leaders he gathered together during a contentious and frank meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday morning.
State must end delays on budget - Poughkeepsie Journal
   What a mess. New York's so-called budget process is never for the faint of heart, and this year is one of the worst.

   And:
- Voters step up to rescue state's ailing budget - The Arizona Republic
- Texas' $1.2 billion in budget cuts is only the beginning of the pain - The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- Schwarzenegger's 'ugly' budget - The Los Angeles Times
- Preventing a Missouri budget crisis in 2012 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Final budget was best of bad options - The Wichita Eagle
- With money short, budget will be cut, so let's be creative - The Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News

   Yes, let's.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  
-

No hablo ingles. Don't know much about history.

   Also in Opinion:

- School fails students - Buffalo News Editorial
   A hundred years ago, immigrant workers and their families would, over the course of time, obtain proficiency in the language of their newly adopted home country. Today, immigrant demographics have changed dramatically and so have the challenges in educating new arrivals who need to be up to speed much more quickly to qualify for higher-paying jobs that are heavy on English-language skills. 
  Buffalo schools are failing in their requirement to provide that education, according to a harshly critical report by the Council of Great City Schools. A wide gap between planning and implementation is leaving these students in the lurch. The district needs to plug those holes and, just as important, ensure that other well-conceived programs aren’t also failing at the classroom level.

- Sometimes, history hurts - Leonard Pitts/Miami Herald/Buffalo News
   History is not a Hallmark card. Sometimes, history breaks your heart. ...
   Gov. Jan Brewer just signed a law restricting ethnic studies courses in public schools. Having apparently Pitts_leonard decided she had not done enough to peeve Latino voters by signing a Draconian immigration bill a few days back, the governor went after a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson. But the prohibitions in the new law seem to say more about the mind-set of the governor than about any danger posed by ethnic studies. ...
   The problem with that reasoning is obvious: America is everyone else, a nation composed of other nations, a culture made of other cultures, a history built of other histories. And yes, sometimes, those histories will be hard to hear. But silence does not make a hard story go away. Silence only makes it fester, grow and, sometimes, explode. ...
   Granted, the challenge of incorporating those stories into the larger American story is daunting. The governor seems to fear what kind of nation we’ll be if we accept that challenge.
 I fear what kind we’ll be if we don’t.

   You knew this was coming:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Collins hiding. Termini opening. WM responding. Broder remembering.

   From today's Buffalo News Opinion page:

- Release the records - Buffalo News Editorial
   If Erie County Executive Chris Collins has nothing to hide, he has an odd way of demonstrating it. If he Collinsoffice knows anything about democratic government, he has an odd way of showing it. This is the downside of electing a non-politician to political office.
   Collins is refusing to release the financial disclosure forms that county policymakers are required by state law to file. Perhaps that's because the person seeking them is Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz, a likely opponent in next year's county executive election.
   No matter. The records are public. They are meant to be accessible to anyone.

- A ‘historic’ win for Buffalo - Buffalo News Editorial
   Developer Rocco Termini did it. He’s managed what once was considered the unmanageable.
   The old AM&A’s is now the
AM&A’s Warehouse Lofts, a mixed-use structure with 45 of 48 apartments already rented, bringing residents and their pocketbooks back downtown 24/7.
   The conversion of the once-deteriorated warehouses at
369 Washington St. into apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space took roughly a year but it also took a succession of disappointments, stops and starts, judgments and court orders against previous owners. And there’s still work to be done.
   Termini, of
Signature Development, was aided in large part by creative financing and in no small part by state historic rehabilitation tax credits via legislation pushed by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and Sen. David J. Valesky, D-Syracuse, and signed into law last year. They continue to work together on final improvements to the program.
    [Previous blog - with cool slide show.]

- Landfill import tax would harm region and state - Another Voice/Michael Mahar/Waste Management
   In response to The Buffalo News editorial “Pass landfill import tax,” some inaccuracies need clarification.
   This proposed tax is not advantageous to Western New York or New York State as a whole. It presents a disingenuous interpretation regarding revenue and could actually prove harmful to New York State’s brownfield and remediation programs. It certainly is not a “green” piece of legislation.

- The vote that redirected history - David Broder/The Washington Post
   Last Wednesday night, the John F. Kennedy Library marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant elections in U. S. history — the West Virginia Democratic primary of May 10, 1960, between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.
   With video:

   Wow. A two-and-a-half minute TV commercial. With real substance. Talk about an ancient artifact.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

All budget, all the time

   A three-fer on New York state budget woes today in the Buffalo News Opinion section:

- Next step, layoffs - Buffalo News Editorial
   State public employee unions won a restraining order halting day-a-week furloughs, and legal experts sayUnions they have a strong case when the legality of that concept is weighed against existing state worker contracts in court. So the jobs stay, for now. But so do the costs. ...
   In many unions, the rank and file would take a cut in wages rather than see their brothers and sisters laid off. There seems no such selflessness in the state's public employee unions.

- Pass education policy changes - Buffalo News Editorial
   The “race to the top” for federal education aid and toward a desperately needed $700 million may get going in New York State, if the Legislature passes a new deal.
   It should be an easy one, considering state education officials and major teachers unions agree on a key component that will add points to the system set up by the Obama administration as it set goals for the competitive “Race to the Top” grant system. There ought to be enough political coverage to go around.

- Teachers union supports raising charter cap - Mike Deely/New York State United Teachers
   The statewide Charter Schools Association leaders and many state legislators are acting in concert in a campaign of lies and misinformation. Their goal is to create the false impression that NYSUT doesn’t care about teachers or kids.

  Else-web:
- Theater of the Absurd - Syracuse Post-Standard
   We’ve finally figured it out. Our elected officials in Albany have evolved beyond simply being venal, corrupt, self-serving and incompetent. They have elevated themselves to the level of artists, striving to create the perfect parody of a well-run government. And they are nearing perfection.
- Jobs for Albany’s Do-Nothings - New York Times
   Union Leaders: They may think they got a big win this week when a court rejected Mr. Paterson’s proposal to furlough state workers one day every week to save about $30 million. But, if this drags on much longer, Governor Paterson will have no choice but to start laying off people. It is time for the unions to stop waving around lawsuits and start negotiating seriously.  
- Districts, voters have tasks cut out for them -  Poughkeepsie Journal
- Pay hike proposal undermines efforts - Glens Falls Post-Star
- Legislature won't fix the budget and won't let Paterson do it - New York Daily News

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Building downtown critical mass in Buffalo

Several days into a social experiment involving a car-less existence while living and working downtown, my travels have turned up some interesting tidbits on store hours, where they're located and what goods they carry. This research involves a lot of walking, riding the metro and, when the weather cooperates, bicycling. Yes, there's still Buffalo CarShare but that will be another experiment.

Overall, living and working downtown is a whole reach better than it was a decade ago when there were few places, if any, to rent apartments or buy condominiums.

The increase in places in which to live was driven by developers, and with it came slightly more retail. It's an impatience probably shared by not just a few that leads one hoping each day for more. More places to shop, drop off and pick up dry cleaning, buy groceries (the kind with meats, fish, vegetables and fruit).

Meanwhile, as Buffalo Place Executive Director Michael T. Schmand recently pointed out, the state's second largest city is getting there. It's going to take critical mass to drive demand and the signs there are good.

Consider the Webb Building, Elk Terminal, The Avant, the AM&A's lofts which just came on line and that's not to mention work by gubernatorial candidate and developer Carl Paladino on the Belesario and Bellasara. Buffalo has strong neighborhoods nearby in the Elmwood and West side villages, it's growing from the inside out and outside in. It's just going to take a while.

But if someone were trying to navigate downtown's core in a car-less manner and in need of a pharmacy, thinking these stores might stay open past 6 p.m., there might be disappointment. Serious disappointment. Where to go for pharmaceuticals, sundries or groceries downtown and without the advantage of a car but assisted in part by the metro or bus system?

There are signs of life building in the 500 block with a CVS, Rite Aid and year-old Downtown Food Mart. But retailers post hours of operation in line with their audience and Monday through Friday there are roughly 50,000 people working in downtown Buffalo and within walking distance. Granted, when there's a Thursday at the Square or special event those retailers remain open.

It's difficult when there's not that critical mass living downtown, yet and retailers are basing their business decisions on what they see. Who could blame them?

Still, downtown didn't die overnight and it's not going to get revived overnight. There is forward movement with adaptive reuse of buildings and people beginning to live downtown 24/7 and to create that critical mass, there needs to be more. It's a conversation that might not have taken place 10 years ago but is being discussed with increased frequency.

There was a national award-winning plan put in place called, "The Queen City Hub," that addresses the access issue in downtown Buffalo, specifically it has to be a neighborhood which requires residents and that's starting to happen. Developer Rocco Termini of Webb Building, AM&A's and Lafayette Hotel has been a constant on the scene, along with other developers. There are challenges in the downtown core whether it's the building code or pure economics. Some developers have been able to move past those challenges.

Consider there was once discussion of tearing down the Webb Building and now it's fully occupied. Some specialty retailers downtown weren't there and now there's Spot Coffee, Starbucks and Tim Hortons and The 2nd Cup, to name a few. Mom and pop entrepreneurs who know the downtown market are still the future, but with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to the north, Canalside to the south and access to Main Street with vehicular traffic it's all moving in the right direction.

What positive changes have you seen or would like to see?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Great minds run in small circles

From today's Buffalo News:

Adamcourt

From today's Washington Post:
- Barack Obama picks himself for the Supreme Court - Ezra Klein/The Washington Post
   In a very strange essay from February, Jeffrey Rosen argued -- presumably facetiously -- that Barack Obama should "nominate himself to replace John Paul Stevens." The reason? Obama's cerebral, Kagan detached style, his background, his deference to Congress and his temperament all spoke to the needs of the bench better than the needs of the White House. ...
   That was patently absurd for all the obvious reasons. But in choosing Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Obama might have done the next best thing: nominated someone exactly like himself.
-
Kagan It Is - Marc Ambinder/The Atlantic
   Kagan is part of the club. ... She tried to get Obama to become a Harvard Law prof. She and he are brilliant, detached, and of like minds. ... Like Obama, she seems to be a proponent of a vigorous constitutional system of balanced powers, in which Congress, the Courts and the Executive Branch compete transparently. Critics of her interpretation of the laws of war ought to realize that this interpretation reflects her boss's own.
-
Elena Obama - Editorial/The Wall Street Journal
   In selecting Elena Kagan to be the country's next Supreme Court Justice, President Obama has tapped the legal world's version of himself: a skillful politician whose cautious public persona belies a desire to transform the court and shape a new Constitutional liberalism.
- What the Elena Kagan pick says about President Obama - Glenn Thrush/Politico
   President Barack Obama’s decision to pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court reveals less about the nominee than the president’s own management style — a hybrid of principle and political calculation.
   It’s the audacity of caution.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

"There are certain sections of New York, Major..."

   Osama bin Laden, clearly, never saw "Casablanca."Strasser
   You know. The part where the stuffy Nazi, Major Strasser [right], [who later gets his come-uppance] is suggesting to expatriate American Rick Blaine that the Germans who have already occupied Paris may soon be in some other major cities.
   Rick replies, as only Humphrey Bogart can, "Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."
   That's the bit of American philosophy we should remember when people are panicking over one or another terror assault on The Greatest City in the World.
   Even the ones that succeed, don't succeed.
   From a column I contributed to The Buffalo News Sunday Viewpoints section:

   There is little personal distinction in claiming that, exactly three weeks -- minus two hours -- before the event, I was standing at the very spot where someone tried to blow up Times Square. ...
   The night after my family visited Times Square, we dropped in on Lower Manhattan. That's where that other terrorist attack, the one that didn't fizzle, happened.
   What is striking to this occasional visitor is how unterrorized the place feels.

   Of course, Garrison Keillor did it better:

   Saturday night, at the time the Nissan was discovered and cops started to evacuate the area, I was at a show on 43rd Street two blocks away, unaware of any threat, and I Keillor maintained unawareness for the next several hours, catching a taxi on Sixth Avenue and proceeding to a Chinese restaurant on 65th and packing away some giant prawns and fried wonton in the company of others. We ate freely and jabbered about all sorts of things, and nobody came running up to ask if we’d heard about the car bomb. People in Williston, North Dakota, probably got the news before I did. This often happens in the Communications Capital of America: Large events transpire two blocks away and you sit happily ingesting your Seven Joys of Tofu and reminiscing about your childhood in Minnesota. That’s what I love about the city, that feeling of being utterly out of touch, as if you were in the Australian outback.

   And there were some other views:
- In Times Square, Deciding When to Suspend Fear - David Carr/The New York Times
   Sticking to the plan is a very American response these days. It is said that if people retreat into fear, “the terrorists have won,” but it’s actually just practical. Life goes on in far more dangerous places, and so it will here. Even though at least one terrorist signaled that he believed that Times Square was a soft, ripe target, the place normalized in a matter of days. We were now using cognitive dissonance to keep fear in a corner, putting our fingers in our ears and humming a happy song against the cold fact that the threat of 9/11 never went away and appears to be on the move. 
- The real danger in makeshift bombs - David Ignatius/The Washington Post
   The Times Square bomb attempt is a snapshot of the future, say U.S. counterterrorism experts: It was a makeshift plot by a new generation of terrorists that was thwarted by a combination of high-tech Timessquare surveillance and vigilant citizens. This is the world we will be living in for some years, and we can only hope that other Americans will be as sensible as New York hot dog vendors.
-
They Don’t Report. You Don’t Have to Decide - Frank Rich/The New York Times
   As we venerate the heroic street vendors who gave America its reality check last weekend, we should remember that they were the first to report what was happening in Times Square and that those covering and attending the White House Correspondents Dinner were the last.
-
Lessons From Another 'Long War' - Peggy Noonan/The Wall Street Journal
   But there is no air of panic; we knew we were a target, we have absorbed this information, factored it in, included it as a fact of our lives and concluded there's little we can do about it. "If you see something, say something" as we've all memorized from buses and train stations.
- Cheney's Wrong, Jacobs Was Right, and Cameras Do Work - Fred Kaplan/Slate
- Miranda and public safety - Charles Krauthammer/Washington Post/Buffalo News
- Heroes’ Welcome for Two Times Square Vendors - The New York Times

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Car-less, seeing the world through green eyes

Suddenly I have found myself thrown into a bit of a social experiment that, as a journalist, will hopefully produce a slew of ideas and fresh perspectives. Well, calling it a social experiment goes a bit far but I am currently car-less -- without an automobile for the next couple of weeks because of this strange obsession I happen to have with my 2000 Accord EX. (see, what's with all the details?)

Anyway, I'm getting some dents knocked out of the car which means allowing the magical servicemen to keep it for a couple of weeks. No problem, right?  At least, that's what I figure for someone who lives and works downtown. We'll see.Cars on main street

I'm giving myself extra credit because I often ride a bicycle to work during warm weather and take the train when I don't want to dig my car out of the snow.  What I've found during those moments is that I'm much more observant than I otherwise would be tooling down the road in my 10-year-old automobile while listening to the radio.  It's one of those "duh" statements but all too true.

During these environmentally green moments, it's easy to take stock of changes in neighborhoods, street plans (such as when the city was able to turn Main Street between Goodell and Tupper back into a two-way street) and facade improvements. It brings the issue of cars on Main Street to the fore.

Sure, I could have tried the nonprofit Buffalo CarShare, which my colleague George Pyle (a frequent user of the transit system and one who appreciates taking in the details at eye level) has written about.  But I'm going to try to tough it out on foot and by bicycle (except for times I can bum rides, of course).

Listen, for a girl (well, a bit past that stage) who grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., during a time when the famed Metro transit system was in its infancy, this is big.  But, let's explore together and talk about issues.  I'll do my best to chronicle my short adventure and we'll see what we see.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

A gain for the Silly Party?

   Rumor has it there is an election going on in Great Britain today.

- UK election: Best bet is that history will be made - AP/Buffalo News
   "This could go down as one of the most revolutionary elections in the history of this country," said Bill Jones, a political analyst at Liverpool Hope University.

   Not more revolutionary than this, certainly:

   For the Sensible Journalism fans:
- Countdown to 5/6 - Andrew Sullivan/The Daily Dish
- Two countries, one looming political test - Jonathan Broder/The Washington Post
- Election Day on the Other Side of the Pond - The Wall Street Journal
- Ten truths about the British election - Tunku Varadarajan/The Daily Beast

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News   

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