Debate Format Wars’s Sarah Lai Stirland summerizes the changes happening in the world of “Town Hall Meetings” and electoral debates with the advent of more constituent-centered, web-savvy debates. Her take: the MySpace/MTV style of openness is much preferred:

MySpace-MTV Town Hall Wins Presidential Debate Format Wars

Republican presidential candidate John McCain performed well in an internet-enabled national town-hall event Monday. But the real winner was MTV’s and MySpace’s vibrant web-savvy format, which managed to hotlink the candidate to a national audience of voting youth, while making CNN’s YouTube collaboration look about as wired as the rabbit ears on your grandfather’s old Magnavox.

Of course the problem, as she alludes to in her report, is less to do with technology and more to do with more journalistic egoism. The journalistic community seems incapable of accepting that people are smart enough to ask their own intelligent questions without screeners. MTV, by contrast, has always had the freedom to try something different. Sometimes, that becomes vapid beach party V.J.s and scantily clad co-ed buttocks; sometimes, its penetrating questions by an informed and active electorate. So it goes.

Considering the fact that CNN’s debates really just allowed poorly-photographed private citizens ask the questions that some journo-bot CNN anchor with a ear-piece would have asked anyway, the YouTube CNN debates really don’t offer much in the way of newness.  Considering the fact that modern debates have turned into primp-and-preen showcases, high school “ooh, snap!” dramas and one minute answers to over simplified questions covering vastly complex subjects, there’s not really much reason to think that this standard format hasn’t played itself out to death.


Facebook’s Beacon: Privacy and Social Advertising

Here’s the really dangerous part about social networking sites: when they mess up, they tend to mess up huge. Facebook recently began a new advertising service called Beacon, which allows your online purchases to be added into your news feed when they happen. Those familiar with Facebook know that many of the things they do while on Facebook get added to their news feeds and broadcast to all their friends. It’s a neat way to be able to know what’s going on in your little Facebook community without having to constantly check other user’s profiles and can be tailored by both the broadcasting and receiving users to limit the amount of information included.

However, the Beacon advertising campaign was automatically turned on for all users without announcements, and then it required users to “Opt Out” of the service if they didn’t want it. The very real problem with that scenario – in addition to at least giving the impression of sneakiness – is that most users never see their own news feeds and so don’t know what’s happening until someone tells them.

This Christmas season, that “someone” often turned out to be the recipient, as the below story discusses:

Feeling Betrayed, Facebook Users Force Site to Honor Their Privacy –

Within two hours after he bought the ring on, he received an instant message from his wife, Shannon: Who is this ring for? What ring, he messaged back, from his laptop at work in Waltham, Mass. She said that Facebook had just put an item on his page saying he bought a ring. It included a link to Overstock, which noted that the 51 percent discount on the ring.

Cuomo Makes Negligent Landlords Responsible for Crime

Andrew Cuomo is cracking down on neighborhood crime by targeting landlords who allow persistently troublesome tenants stay at their properties.  This plan has a lot of points for it, and a lot of points against it, but the coalitions of landlords across the state are just complaining as usual about the harsh treatment of their constituencies irrespective of the plan’s merits.  I suppose that is their role:

Cuomo plan makes landlords responsible for crime at their properties || Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

Paul Palmieri, president of the Long Island-based Coalition of Landlords, Homeowners and Merchants, said government should focus on helping landlords keep properties safe, not taking punitive action against them.

“We believe in responsible ownership,” he said, adding that “we don’t believe the government is always true in their motives. We believe they are trying to shut down landlords because they don’t like the people landlords are renting to.”

The curious difficultly here is that, of course, New York has spent decades and even centuries fighting against discriminatory landlords who refused people homes based on arbitrary and prejudiced opinions.  Hence, evicting a tenant is an exceedingly difficult, expensive and time-consuming process in which the tenant arguably has more rights than the landlord.  Now, the same state that makes the laws that make it difficult to evict are making it equally difficult to deal with troublesome tenants.

I’m not defending slum-lords, and I do understand that this new policy is designed to target “landlords who allow persistent illegal activity at their properties.”  But housing policy in this state needs a serious overhaul, not just another papering over with yet another set of contradictory laws.  In fact, what is most surprising about this new policy is that I’d always understood that landlords were responsible for criminal activity on their property.  Perhaps that’s just a Rochester law?

I think all of us who rent are sensitive to “that house” where all the trouble constantly happens in the neighborhood.  Invariably, the landlord in question is AWOL, allowing not just trouble tenants but leaky faucets and broken windows to persist.  It’s a good idea to pressure these people.  However, it’s not in anyone’s interest to make owning property in high-crime neighborhoods prohibitive.  That will only exacerbate the issue.

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Practice for the Tony Benefit

I spent yesterday evening practicing with The Buddhahood ahead of the upcoming Tony Cavagnaro tribute, and I’m starting to get really, really excited about the show.  Apparently, I’ll be playing Through the Veil with Nate Coffey, Peet Mugnolo, and returning BuddhaHoodlum Evan Stuckless.  There will also be an impressive coterie of percussionists with an array of instruments on hand for this, the last song of the Buddhahood set.

Apparently, I’m bringing my gong as well.  You know a show has to be good if there is to be a gong involved.

If it Wasn’t for New York Politics. . .

. . .  New York might actually be a pretty OK place to live.  Alas, we may find ourselves sporting RealID cards – a thing which I would have thought neither Right nor Left would have wanted – because Spitzer made an attempt to try to solve the dissonance between Federal immigration law and State need for highway safety.  Rottenchester at F29 does a good job of summing up the situation:

Drivers’ Licenses Will Still Be An Issue – The Fighting 29th

I didn’t have an objection to Spitzer’s earlier plan, because I don’t think that it’s the state’s business to become immigration police. But his endorsement of the intrusive and pointless RealID program now has turned me against it. Since nobody is happy with issuing illegals second-class licenses, I’ll bet that the final outcome will probably be no license for illegals, and RealIDs for the rest of us. Our highways won’t be any safer, but we’ll all be packing a big-brother identity card.

Fie and a pox on the ReadID card! An unnecessary thing for an unproven crisis of identification.  But then, the entire illegal immigration debate, the license debate, the voter registration debate, the RealID and the War on Terror are all rooted in the same garbage.  It’s the exact same xenophobia that compels housewives to buy antibacterial soap where humans have existed for hundreds of thousands of years without it.  It is the fear – and the intentional amplification of the fear – of the unknown.

Because it benefits someone, you are expected to believe that dangerous bugs crawl on your skin; that terrorists lurk in the back rooms of every 7-11; that people are driving in droves from one polling station to another, voting four and five times for the same candidate; that Mexican illegals are carting canisters of Sarin gas with them as they creep across the border.  Even if Americans are slowly waking up to the fact that they’ve been getting gamed all along, the Republicans are even up for playing the fear card on local issues as banal as driver’s licenses because they still think fear is a winning issue.

And, I fear, they’re right.

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The Buddhahood and Friends’ Tribute to Tony Cavagnaro

Please note: I’ll be updating this page as new information becomes available, so check back often!

UPDATED! Rick Whitney of the Buddhahood got back to me with a list of guests in the Buddhahood’s set, listed here for your perusal below.

The lineup is getting set and things are working themselves out: the Tribute to Tony Cavagnaro will be on Sunday, November 18th, from 2pm to midnight. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door and the proceeds of that cover, along with a host of other goodies, all goes to Tony’s wife and son, Jan and Calvin.

They’ll be releasing a double live CD which will be reviewed on this site as soon as I can get my mitts on it, along with a “Tony Made Me Cool” tee shirt which I can’t wait to own. There will also be a silent auction, raffles, vendors and Dinosaur BBQ.

The talent for the show – myself notwithstanding – is definitely the creme of the crop in Rochester groove music. If you go for no other reason, you should really stop out to experience all the incredible music Rochester has to offer but which mostly goes unknown to all but a select few people. The Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad will be there as will the Hypnotic Clambake, a band which you really must see to believe. Suzi Willpower will be jamming on stage as well, and returning to Rochester will be Rob Cullivan, a musician whose talents are sorely missed. The Peachy Neatcheese, The Filthy Funk Band and an enormous drum jam to close the show. . . .it’s going to be a great night!

The Buddhahood hasn’t yet released a list of the musicians and artists who will be joining them on stage during their segment, but as I understand it, most of their set will be with the guests they’ve invited. Certainly, Rob will be playing a bit of harmonica with the band. Former members of the band – of which there are a very large number – are also probably going to make an appearance.

It’s going to be a great show for a great cause and I’m hoping to see lots of my friends there. Maybe I’ll see you, too? If you go, I’m the guy playing the hand drum for the last song of the Buddhahood’s set. Say hello!

Tribute to Tony Cavagnaro


Order may change – times have not been completely confirmed:

Dance of universal peace – 2:40 (on floor)
Liqwid – 3:00
Filthy Funk Band – 3:30
40 Rod Lightning – 4:00
Druids – 4:30
Park Ave Band – 5:00
Peachie Neatcheese – 5:30
Mysterious Blues Band – 6:00
Redline Zydeco – 6:30
Hypnotic Calmbake – 7:00
Sleeping Giant – 7:30
The Buddhahood w/ guests – 8:00
Sweet Life/Bare Bones/Joint Chiefs – 10:00
Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad – 11:30
Giant Drum Jam – 12:15

Guests during the Buddhahood Set include:

Rob Cullivan
Jim Schwarz
Dylan Savage
Paul Brown
Ben Rossi
Paul Mastriani
Peet Mugnolo
Evan Stuckless
Suzi Willpower
Dave Mabelis
Don Anonymous
Dr Bob Regan
Kevin MacConkey
Frank Boehm
Bob Olson
Russ Roberts
Tom Jones
Nate Coffee
Thomas J Belknap
Krissy Whitman
Brenda Steffon
Kenny Kahler

Tax Intercept: Administrators Get Paid Too Much

Whilst looking up my referred visitors and other SEO stuff about the site, I happened upon an incoming link from an article on Mustard Street. I haven’t read their stuff in a while, but this article in particular is a well-written piece that deserves an answer. I was going to just comment, but then I realized that this could get wordy, and decided to make my own post.

The thrust of the article is that a report by the RBJ (which is not available online, even if you paid for it, as I discovered to my chagrin) shows that the top fifty highest-paid public officials in Monroe County are almost all school administrators. Only three slots in this field are employees of some other section of our government. Philbrick is quick to point out that we don’t know whether or not a given administrator has earned that pay, but the theory goes as follows:

Mustard Street: The Highest-Paid Local Officials

But this list helps to illustrate why, we think, Maggie Brooks has the political wind at her back for her FAIR plan, which reduces suburban school district revenues by 1 – 2 %. It explains why it resonates with the public when Brooks says, as quoted in the same RBJ article:

“…these well-paid and non-elected officials are choosing to sue Monroe County rather than finding a 2 percent savings in their total budgets.”

This theory doesn’t hold much water for me, but there are a lot of moving parts, so I’ll take a post to explain my position.

My Wife: Teacher of the Week!

My wife just called me to say that, in the midst of grading papers, she was confronted by a camera crew at the door of her classroom. It seems that one of her students from a previous year decided to take it upon themselves to nominate Mrs. Carbone (now Mrs. Carbone-Belknap, thank you!) to be Teacher of the Week, and she got the nod.

So, she’ll be on TV tonight. We’ll be running the DVR for sure. UPDATED: Doh! I’m a dolt. Forgot to mention that this will be on Channel 13 in Rochester!

UPDATED AGAIN!  I’m even more of a dolt than I originally thought.  Sarah will be on Channel 8, not Channel 13, and apparently, she’ll be on Tuesday, not tonight.

I’m so excited for her, she really deserves the praise. If my teachers cared half as much about me as Sarah cares about her students, I rarely knew it. Sometimes, that means taking her work home with her, sometimes that means she spends a little more time talking to counselors, parents and therapists about troubled students, sometimes it means a whole lot of doubt and a whole lot of burn-out anxiety and thankfully, sometimes that means being on TV to get a little recognition for her hard work.

I think these are things to think about whenever you hear people carp about the price of educating kids: the people who do this job have to care a lot more than most of us. You don’t pay half of what they do every day. You don’t see kids in nearly-hopeless situations trying to keep up with kids who have everything and appreciate nothing. You don’t get yelled at by disconnected parents that expect you to teach and raise their children. You don’t feel the pain of loss that my wife does whenever she sees more school violence on TV. I marvel at my wife’s compassion every day, and we should all be thankful that there are lots more like her.

Congratulations, Sarah Carbone-Belknap! You’re teacher of the week every week in my book and I love you!

“Blank Checks” and Town Business

I hate to be accused of kicking a man when he’s down, but I couldn’t let this comment from Jim Breese go unanswered:

No regrets for Breese || Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

(September 24, 2007) — HENRIETTA — There’s a phrase that outsiders often use around here when talking about development — “We don’t want to be another Henrietta.” The phrase sticks in Jim Breese’s craw. . . “It’s an ignorant comment,” said the ever-blunt Breese. “And that’s OK. We don’t want to be like them, either. We’re business-friendly, sure. But we don’t give businesses a blank check.”

No blank checks?  When is the last time you saw a building in Henrietta get reused?  Kohls is about the only example I can think of, yet every day I go down Jefferson (to my chagrin, I can never quite get rid of Henrietta, especially living in the Wedge), there is more construction in that most recent of monstrosities, the complex where Red Robin sits as a mocking symbol of wasted corporate energy.  Seriously, are you impressed by their “special salt,” which is just Lowery’s Seasoned Salt with a robin on the side of it?

Breese says you have to get off Jefferson to see Henrietta.  Well, not to be indelicate, but why the hell would anyone do that?  Which is precisely the problem.  There is, in fact, plenty of pastoral beauty in Henrietta.  And then there is the sprawling tribute to suburban crawl.  But there’s nothing else.  Other towns have managed to make a central township thrive, with a sense of community and buildings of historical note.  Henrietta is an ode to the automobile at the expense of community.

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And So They Cut the White Tree Down

It had stood silently for, . . oh, say eighty years or close to it. Trees don’t count, and we here in Rochester will probably never know. In eight long decades, it had provided branches on which birds might nest, nuts upon which squirrels might make their winter rations and roots that tilled the earth.

Wonder what you see when you stand in one place for that long? Countless generations of countless animals, including year after year of new children in the school that ringed ’round that old tree. Children that were there a few years, moved on, and came back a few years later with more kids.

A Message From Jan and Calvin Cavagnaro

Jan and Calvin have been receiving the kind words and support of so many people, and asked that those of us who have some sort of public outlet to repost her words of appreciation and how she’s feeling to that outlet so people could read them. I’m happy to oblige.

There are a couple of funds setup for Jan and Calvin, the particulars of which you can find at the Buddhahood’s MySpace blog, here. Those wishing to contribute donations, funny stories, audio and video can please contact ~ Ed.

Hi everyone,

It’s hard to know what to say at a time like this. Tony always had the best lines anyway, and I can hear him saying “Dude, no way!” upon hearing news like this.

He was a great man. So magical. And I’m so glad he got to live the way he wanted to live. He was an incredible dad to an amazing boy, sharing his beautiful music with more and more of the world, making the impossible things possible and fun, being a loving husband, a loyal friend, a great pet-dad. He would often report to me “I just loved up the pooches.” They’re gonna miss him, too! He taught so many more musicians how to find their voices. I am so glad that his legacy will live on through generations of bands to come. Please, everyone, make sure to pass on some Tony wisdom to the kids coming up behind you!

For Tony Cavagnaro

On Friday, September 8th 2007, Tony Cavagnaro was driving to meet bandmates ahead of an upcoming gig in Buffalo when he lost control of his van, struck a tree, and died on scene. He was the spiritual leader and one of the driving creative forces behind the local groove-rock extravaganza that is The Buddhahood. He is survived by his loving wife and son, Jan and Calvin. He was 41 years old.

I confess that, even on birthdays, I’ve never been one to either inquire after anyone else’s age nor share with them my own. It’s just not the first thing I think of. But when I read that Tony was 41, I was shocked both by the length and by the brevity of his life.