Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brewing 103112


Zombie Apocalypse, polling numbers and us vs. them ...

Happy Halloween #Instablog



via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/Rc5ABLkWQ1/

Nate Silver continues to be a hot topic

Nerds ... I was one of them
This story on the AtlanticWire.com discusses the ongoing feud between math geeks and political pundits.

We talked about this Tuesday morning on Brewing, specifically  Politico columnist Dylan Byers' confusion between facts and what he felt was correct.

The AtlanticWire.com story (written by Elspeth Reeve) seems to get to the heart of the matter thusly:

"So what seems like a debate over the value of Silver's work is really a debate over the value of Politico."

As I said Tuesday, I love Politico. But until I'm proven wrong, I will continue to trust Silver's methodology. We'll find out in less than a week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This is funny ...

And all that much funnier if you know who Joss Whedon is.


Brewing 103012


Hurricane damage in NYC and the lack thereof here in the Buffalo area. Plus I take a Politico writer to task for his failure to understand probability and statistics.

Something scary is in the air


It’s the scariest time of the year. And no, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about election time.

This is my last column prior to election day and I could tell you who to vote for but I have no intention of ever doing that. Ever.

I just hope that people will vote based on knowledge and fact instead of voting for the person they share a skin color with or the person their spouse or favorite media mogul told them to.

The real scary thing going on right now is that people DO vote based on those things. And with an election as close as some are projecting it to be, I hate to see the whole thing decided by people who don’t know what they heck they’re doing.

Whether it’s the presidential election or the race for your local congressional seat or even your state assemblyman or senator, informed decisions are crucial.

Like you, I’ve been inundated with political mailers and commercials and even water cooler talk from people who want me to vote for their candidate. Facebook has been almost unbearable with all the political banter — as if anyone’s Facebook post has ever swayed someone else’s mind. Actually, I’m sure it has and that just leads to me thinking that my being scared is warranted.

The scariest thing for me, though, is the fear. The number of people who seem to think that these United States are so fragile that any one man — be it Barack Obama or Mitt Romney — could bring about its demise in four short years is truly frightening.

There are a system of checks and balances in place to prevent that from happening. Some of those checks in balances are the electoral system itself. Others are those we elect.

While my friend and fellow columnist Bob Confer expressed some concern in his most recent writing that we are headed towards a monarchy, I have no such fear. I believe that the system put in place by our founders remains intact and completely capable of protecting us from the potential that any one man (or woman for that matter) could destroy our freedoms.

That’s not to say that everything is hunky-dory. No, I think that America is sick and in need of a healing. I think we’ve become far too obsessed with what government can do for us and much less interested in what we can do for ourselves … or for our country.

When we look upon government to save us, ask yourself what we need saving from. The all-too-obvious answer is ourselves. So cut out the middleman and do it yourself. Vote not for the person who’s going to help you the best but who’s going to help America the best. Maybe it’s the same person. Maybe it’s not. But this systemic greed doesn’t flow from the top down. It flows from the bottom up. And only we can change it.

As you get ready to vote next Tuesday, I ask only that you base your vote on knowledge instead of fear.

Scott Leffler is a raving lunatic whose weekly rantings are available each week in this paper and online. Shorter daily-ish rantings are available on Twitter @scottleffler

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brewing 102612


We discussed the Frankenstorm and the Frankenelection. Plus it's "Back to the Future Day" and we had an earthquake nearby.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Clinton brings his best for rally

Sitting in Nick Tahou’s on West Main Street in Rochester Friday night, I looked up at Heather and said, “If Bill Clinton had asked those people to jump off a cliff, a lot of them would have.”

She and I had just covered a rally at the Main Street Armory where the former president had stumped for Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

Congresswoman Slaughter referred to Clinton as a “national treasure.” Hochul, meanwhile, alluded to Clinton’s widely regarded stature as a “rock star.”

Whether he’s a national treasure, a rock star or just a former president, people love Bill Clinton. And really, what’s not to love? He comes across as both intelligent and compassionate. He is incredibly energetic. And somehow he manages to transfer that energy to anyone he’s talking to.

Almost everyone has seen or heard Clinton speak on television. And some of that charm comes across through the boob tube. But being there in person, I imagine, is similar to the difference between watching an NFL/NHL/NBA game on TV and watching it in the flesh. There’s something about the experience of “being there.”

For his part, Clinton mostly served in the role of an Obama surrogate. He spent the largest portion of his nearly one-hour speech talking about why people need to vote for President Obama’s re-election, trotting out facts and figures as well as personal stories and accounts.

Bill Clinton knows he’s popular. Not just in liberal Democrat circles either. Many independents look back on the 42nd president in a way that some guys look back on their high school sweetheart. There’s a feeling of longing for a bygone era and a disbelief that we ever let that era slip away.

“I hope I have some credibility with you on what’s good for the economy,” the former president said to the crowd, breaking into the portion of the speech where he derided what he referred to as Mitt Romney’s “hide-and-seek” budget.

“Nobody who ever served as president … could have brought this economy back in four year,” he said, solidifying any doubt of those in the crowd that they had to not only vote for Obama but convince others to do the same.

On Hochul, Clinton said she “has proved that she will vote with Republicans to cut spending,” — an odd thing to say to a crowd of Democrat partisans. But not so odd when you consider that Hochul’s district is overwhelmingly Republican. And for a second everyone in the crowd loved Republicans and even the concept of cutting spending. It was amazing to watch.

I was only half joking when I told Heather that people would jump off a cliff if he asked them to.
Although we had a good time covering the event, it was not all sunshine and lollipops. The disorganization was readily apparent.

I had gotten an email from the Hochul campaign about the event on Tuesday, three days ahead of the rally. I put in for press passes on Wednesday. I called the same day to no avail.

Thursday I got an email from the Slaughter campaign that they would be handling press credentials. And that they would only issue one credential per newspaper. So I re-applied, altering our credentials so that Heather would represent the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal and I would be there on behalf of the Medina Journal-Register.

I knew that this was gaming the system to a degree but I figured with a newsgroup of four papers, all of whom would run the story and photos, I was well within my rights. Plus I do work for both the Lockport and Medina papers. And the Tonawanda News. And the Niagara Gazette, too. So really, I wasn’t lying.

And to top it all off, I said if it was still possible to get only one press credential I wanted to photo credit for Heather. I have been to enough political rallies that I could cover it from the crowd with my eyes closed.

Thursday evening I had still not had a response. So I started calling people. I finally got a call from someone with the Hochul campaign saying that they got our application for credentials and that Heather’s was approved but they’d be making a decision on mine later.

Friday afternoon we show up at the rally. We have one credential. But they don’t want to allow Heather to bring her camera in. “All photos are coming from the pool,” they tell us. We wouldn’t have even gone if we had known that. The photos were the point of the trip and I had specifically stated (numerous times, in fact) that if only one credit was possible, I needed it to be Heather’s.

After much complaining and wrangling (and with some help from the AP photographer) we both got in. Thank God.

We were astonished, however, that they didn’t check our IDs. They didn’t search Heather’s camera bags. And they didn’t pat us down. Security was - in a word - lacking, especially considering President Clinton was in the house.

Once inside there were more issues of organization: No power for people with laptops; No wi-fi; and there were big honkin’ speakers where WBEN’s Dave Debo was supposed to be set up. That wouldn’t possibly affect his audio, could it?

I realize that hosting the president is a daunting task. But if these two congresswomen have any hope of doing it again in two years, they better hope their campaigns are better organized than Friday’s rally was.

Scott Leffler mostly abhors politicians but is an unapologetic Bill Clinton fan. Follow his fawning and fanning on Twitter @scottleffler.

Brewing 102212


I discussed my trip with Heather to Rochester to see Bill Clinton speak on behalf of two Democratic congresswomen from Western New York. Also, presidential polling and newspaper endorsements.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Brewing 101912


Shortened (and pre-recorded) show on account of the political rally in Rochester starring Bill Clinton.

Here's the links to the Al Smith Dinner YouTube videos I mentioned:
Mitt Romney's remarks
Barack Obama's remarks

By the way, I love that I appear to be playing peek-a-boo in the YouTube screen shot for this video ...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Brewing 101812


Thursday's episode focused on the distasteful politicking over the loss of life in the middle east. I also discussed - for some reason - my trip to Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

I have seen the enemy and it is us


Four years ago right about now I was gearing up to go to our nation’s capital for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. I had no idea who it was going to be but I knew that I had to mark “inauguration” off my life’s grand to-do list.

Truth be told, I didn’t care who won last time around. Then-Sen. Barack Obama seemed capable. And I’d always like Sen. John McCain. I thought both candidates would do a fine job of keeping America afloat for four more years.

I had such a great time that I’m considering going to the inauguration again. And again, I’m not sure I care who wins. President Obama has been less than impressive. Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, looks like a worse human being each and every time I see or hear him.

As I expected four years ago, Obama has not killed America. And I don’t think his re-election will bring about its demise either. Nor do I think that Romney’s election would be the death-knell for freedom, but as I mentioned last week, his policy ideas frighten me.

I just wish we weren’t in this constant struggle year after year to pick the person we think will do the least amount of damage possible. But until we change the system used to select the president, nothing will change.

I’m not proposing doing away with the primary system. Nor am I suggesting that the electoral college is fundamentally flawed. The system put in place by the Founding Fathers is solid. No, the real problem with the electoral process is our involvement in it. The problem with the system is the outside influence in it. And specifically my involvement in it. Not me as in Scott Leffler, but me as in the media.

We the media are to blame with the apathy in this country. And we’re to blame for the ignorance. Or something like that.

The real problem, in my opinion, is that we feed people what they want rather than what they need. The real problem with the media industry is the word “industry.” The free press isn’t free. It comes at a cost. And that cost demands a profit. And the need for profit means that the masses must be entertained — just like bread and circus for the Romans.

So once again, it would appear, the real problem with America is that the people are getting what they want rather than what they need. In short, the problem is us.

Look, I’m no rocket scientist. I don’t know how to fix the problem. But maybe knowing the problem is the first step to a solution.

On a personal note, Monday marked the 38th anniversary of my birth, which my mother tells me was a very funny day. The story of my birth involves my father delivering a pig in a cargo van. Or something like that. My mom tells it much better. And my dad told it even better than her.

Not all of my 38 years has been as I’d hope, but it’s been interesting. And I look forward to 38 more. Or something like that.

Scott Leffler is 38 years of sweetness wrapped in a bitter candy coating. He shares his mundane life experiences on Twitter @scottleffler.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Brewing 100812


Today's episode focused on things that irritate me: David Blaine, bad moms and Big Bird. I also discussed Mitt Romney's foreign policy push. For more on that topic, check out this week's column.

Romney's foreign policy statement is scary

I was just sitting at home the other day thinking to myself, “We don’t have enough wars right now. We should get out there and shake some trees — see if we can’t rile up our enemies.”

OK, no, I wasn’t really thinking that. But apparently Mitt Romney was.

Seeing an opportunity to score points with the people in this country that think we’re supposed to be the master of the rest of the world, Romney delivered what he called a “major” speech on foreign policy on Monday, basically calling the Obama administration weak and suggesting that the real problem we have in America is that we’re not out there enough fighting for freedom in other parts of the world.

Romney suggested Monday that Obama has arbitrarily cut military spending in dangerous ways, giving “the enemy” an opportunity to strike at the heart of America — specifically our American outposts in Muslim-majority countries around the world. Essentially Romney is say that because we don’t spend enough to defend our embassies, our nation may fall.

I’m not a fan of the “military industrial complex” and would prefer that “national defense” actually had something to do with defense and wasn’t a code word for creating “freedom colonies” throughout the Mid-East.

I’ve always found it odd that in the time of the Founding Fathers, we had a secretary of war, but pretty much kept to ourselves, while we now have a secretary of defense while pretty much always playing offense.

We have miniature wars all over the world on an ongoing basis, but we don’t even refer to them as wars. Hell, we we in Vietnam for the better part of two decades and we call that a “police action.”

Ironically, when compared side-by-side, Romney and Obama have almost identical foreign policy plans. And they’re both too confrontational for my liking. Me? I would prefer we take a more neutral stance on the rest of the world’s problems.

My big concern is that Romney is a figure on the world stage. And although his opinion matters very little until the election, to large parts of the rest of the world he is America — or at least half of America. As such, to large parts of the rest of the world, his “major” foreign policy statement served as a shot across the bow that “America is coming to get them.”

I think sabre rattling and tough rhetoric does very little to help us and in fact puts lives at greater risk than cuts to military spending ever could. When that sabre rattling is little more than politicking, that’s downright dangerous and is no better than creating an anti-Muslim movie knowing the effect it would have on the world — and on our place in it.

I’m not saying that Romney isn’t entitled to his freedom of speech. But he should speak carefully.

Scott Leffler doesn’t tell you what to do you your house. And asks that you not tell him what to do in his. If you want to know what he does, though, you can follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Brewing 100412


Debate reaction, pop culture and more.

Squirrel!!!

Often while doing show prep, I peruse some funny websites just to "build the right mood." This morning while prepping for today's episode of Brewing — which will focus on last night's debate — I ran across this on themetapicture.com. And there was much laughing.

Enjoy.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Debate drinking game rules ...

Every four years we have an opportunity to turn something incredibly boring into something really fun by adding mass quantities of alcohol. Tonight during the debate when the candidates say the following, you drink.

Obama
• Sasha and Malia
• Any mention of George W. Bush
• "Millionaires and/or billionaires"
• "Let me be clear"
• ”I think governor Romney put it best,” … I win.


Romney 

• “My wife, Ann"
• Any mention of Jimmy Carter
• "Job creators"
• Unemployment
• “private enterprise, small business, etc”


• If you agree with everything a particular candidate says, check to make sure you were drinking alcohol and not kool aid.

• More more options, check http://www.debatedrinking.com/ or follow @debatedrinking on Twitter.

PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY
I refuse liability if you get drunk and fall out of your barn ... or whatever

This is why the Internet was invented


Brewing 100312


Presidential debate drinking game rules and the "game changing" Obama that was a complete non-factor.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Reset!

I find that every so often, my phone needs to be factory refreshed. I feel like installing and uninstalling apps must leave bits and pieces that never get erased because over time, I have less and less memory.

I decided that tonight would be a good night to refresh my phone. And in doing so, I made a list of all the apps I'll have to reinstall from the Play Store after the reset finished.

Just for kicks, I thought I'd share that list.

Angry Birds
Craigslist
Cut the Rope
Dish
Draw Some
Drippler
Drive
eBay
Get Glue
Goggles
Goodreads
Google Sky Map
Google Tasks Organizer
Google TV Remote
Google+
IMDb
imo
Instagram
JustPictures
Kik Messenger
Pandora
Paper Camera
PayPal
Pixlr-o-matic
Play Music
Reader
Redbox
Roller (Life)
Scope
SD Move
Skype
SwiftKey3
Ustream
World of Goo

Brewing 100212


Not really a show. Just an apology, really, for the fact that it's NOT really a show. And for yesterday's failure to record. Check back tomorrow.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Child abuse can take rare forms

I was incredibly fortunate growing up. I lived in one house from birth until I left for college. My parents were always married. I had two loving sisters in whose presence I always felt comfortable and safe. I was never made to feel ashamed at any choices I made and I never questioned my family’s support.

Now grown up, I have two beautiful daughters. I love them exactly as they are. And if they were the exact opposite of themselves, I’d still love them precisely as they are. I’m not always thrilled with the decisions they make but our occasional differences of opinion don’t cause me to love them any less. And I don’t feel the need to “fix them.”

That’s in stark contrast to some parents who feel the need to mold their children in their own image — to the point of forcing their religious and social views on them. To be sure, I’ve shared by religious and social views with my girls, but I don’t expect them to grow up to be me. In fact, I hope they don’t.

In sunny California, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed off on legislation banning so-called “conversion therapy,” which takes perfectly happy, healthy children and attempts to alter their “defect” so it better aligns with their parents’ morality. This “defect,” it should be known up front is the kids’ sexuality.

Yes, in California — and likely other places — it is apparently common practice to bring your gay kids to a shrink so the psychologist can “scare the gay out of them.” It’s literally “scared straight,” a program that shows troubled youth the inside of a jail in hopes that they’ll never want to live there. It is, if you will, fat camp for gay kids.

While I have no doubt believing that gay kids have more difficulties in dealing with the cruelty that is adolescence, the parental attempts to “straighten” their kids out in order to avoid that situation is misguided at best. And bringing their kids to a licensed therapist (although really would anyone who wasn’t a complete quack do this “therapy”?) only serves to further strengthen in these children the belief that there is something wrong with them.

Given that sexuality is not a choice, forcing children to endure “conversion therapy” is basically telling them that they’re broken. God made them wong. And they need to be fixed.

Statistics that I found online say that there is a 50 percent “success rate” for the therapy. The other side says that conversion therapy patients are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide. I have a feeling the first stat is overstated by about 50 percent. And the second stat is likely overstated as well, although not by as much.

To quote Mark Twain: “There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Of course, I dropped my statistics class on my very first day when the professor said it had nothing to do with baseball.

I got sidetracked. Sorry. Back to my point.

In California, Gov. Brown has signed legislation outlawing this quackery. And the radical right is all up in arms about it, claiming that it is usurping the rights of parents on how best to raise their kids.

What a crock! Parents of teenage children have every right to tell their kids what they can and can’t do. And they have similar rights to expect that their children should listen to them. They can’t, however, tell their kids what they can and can’t think. Brainwashing is child abuse. And standing up for it makes the radical right look just as out of touch with reality as they are.

Not only does it potentially harm their relationship with their child, it potentially harms the psyche of that child. And without exaggerating, it could lead to death.

Maybe these wackos should stop trying to hard to raise perfect children and start loving the ones they have.

Scott Leffler finds the push to theocracy by the radical right to be not only annoying, but a threat to his liberty. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.