Tuesday, December 30, 2003

E-voting firm reports computer break-in. My favorite quote in the story is, “We feel that it may have been politically motivated." - Gee, ya think? The hackers weren't just trying to order a pizza? And this is supposed to be the wave of the future. Start worrying.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bush’s Campaign Finds Platform on Local Radio. Funny. He's afraid of Chris Matthews, but he'll call crazy right-wing radio show hosts.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

t r u t h o u t
Here's a column about Howard Dean, his "electability," and the chances he has against W. It's a good column ... especially for a Dean fan like myself.
Howard Dean Gets It Right Again. Here's a political commentary in a Russian newspaper about my favorite presidential candidate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Urban Legends Reference Pages (Snopes.com)
Claim: Miserable failure links to Bush ...
Status: True!
Check this out. It is hillarious. And it works.
Urban Legends Reference Pages (Snopes.com)
Misheard Christmas Lyrics. Some of these are FUNNY!!!
The Beast
Bills Offense Beaten Up by Group of Small Children. Okay, this is parody, but, man, it isn't far from the truth. Ya know? I don't always like the Beast. Sometimes its a little ... juvenile ... but sometimes it just rocks. Here's a rocker. The Beast, by the way, is a product of Paul Fallon, Tom Reynolds' Democratic opponent for 2004.

Today's topic - holiday bonuses
Many news organizations (CNN for example) are declaring the holiday bonus dead. Of course, some companies (example 1) (example 2) give great bonuses. Other's, not so much. What's the best holiday bonus you've ever gotten? The worst (other than nothing?) Let's have fun with this.
The Top 10 jokes from the campaign trail.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Sunday, December 21, 2003

U.S. government raises terrorism threat level to orange, saying indicators 'perhaps greater now than at any point' since 9/11. Anyone else get the feeling they're just guessing?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

MSNBC - Newsweek
Poll: The Bush Bounce. Apparently, now that we found Saddam, W's a good guy. Interesting. Fellow Niagara Buzzer, Avie Townsend has a great column on this topic ... and I concur completely with it.
Dialog Page
Sorry I'd been lax about updating the web site. I did some updating today ... including noting that State Sen. George Maziarz will be my guest on Monday ... and announcing that Tuesday and Wednesday will be themed shows (not OPEN Dialog). Tuesday, we'll talk about holiday bonuses and Wednesday's all about last minute gift ideas.
Also, I've returned to polling. There's a new poll at the bottom left part of the page about the new state income tax line calling for us to pay taxes to New York for things we buy out of state. Let your voice be heard.
NY Times
1,776-Foot Design Is Unveiled for World Trade Center Tower. Gov. George E. Pataki said. "This is not just a building. This is a symbol of New York. This is a symbol of America. This is a symbol of freedom." He later said, "And to Al Qaeda, start gassing up your planes now ... we just gave you a new target." ... okay, he really didn't say that last part, but he might as well have. We'll talk to George Maziarz about this on Monday.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Go Ask Alice! Home Page
It took a while for me to find this, but here it is. Look, it's a shame that teachers and public officials feel the need to teach kids about the birds, bees, and God-knows-what-else. I wish it weren't so ... BUT, too many parents these days refuse to raise their kids ... and apparently, someone has to. HOWEVER, this web site goes too far. This isn't birds and bees. Its more like Jack and Dianne. WARNING!!! Site contains questionable material.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

NY Times
Dean’s Manager: Inside Savvy and Outsider Edge. Anyone familiar with Howard Dean's campaign will be familiar with the name Joe Trippi. Here's an interesting bio on him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Limbaugh Attorney Blames Politics in Probe. Funny ... political talk show hosts can probe into people's sex lives, but police can't probe into political talk show hosts crimes. And who's being political here?
Cheney faces heat for ‘canned hunt.’ Well, at least we know he's still alive.
Hillary Clinton: No to cabinet, won't speculate on VP. Wow! Now there's a ticket I'd love to see ... Howard and Hillary.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Gore to Endorse Howard Dean for ’04 Presidential Nomination
Here's two versions of the same story.
NY Times
Associated Press

Gingrich disarees with strategy in Iraq. This is an interesting read. Especially for Gingrich fans.
Comedy Central
Comedy Central Presents the Commies. These self-serving shows weren't worth the two hours I invested in them. Okay - and hour and a half. But it felt like four.
Poor Britney. Hated even more than Saddam ... and vegetables.

Monday, December 01, 2003

IRS to visit Dialog
Laurie Ruffino and Greg Gerfin will be on Dialog on Wednesday to discuss last-minute tax moves you can make. For some information on the topics, click here, here, and here.
Thanks Mike, Bill
Just wanted to thank Mike Walker and Bill Schultz for coming on Dialog Monday and discussing their plans to refurbish the Veterans Monument. It was a shame that it had to get political there at the end, but such is life, I suppose. Anyway, I'll be sure to keep you updated about their fundraising efforts.
The Voice
Well whaddya know. Roy-Hart's little underground paper has it's own web site. Good for them. And some people say youth is apathetic. Sign the guest book and let them know that you're proud of them for not letting the First Amendment go to waste.
Rumsfeld wins ‘Foot in Mouth’ prize. This is funny. I actually like the Arnold quote better.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Dialog Page
Finally got this up and running. I'll try my best to keep it updated.
New column
I hate Thanksgiving. Now whatcha gonna do? I transcribed my monolog from the other day and made a column out of it. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Column: I'm a jerk and you are, too
I've sort of made a name for myself as an ingrate. Just read here.

I hate Thanksgiving ...

Go ahead. Call me a jerk. You wouldn't be the first. Or say that I'm stupid. I've heard that before. Oh, and don't forget to lay the Commie label on thick, too. I can take it.

I hate thanksgiving. Despise it. If there were a day I could wipe from the calendar, it would be
Thanksgiving. Or Turkey day, as some like to call it.

17 people just dropped what they were holding. And another 8 just drove into a ditch.

But it's true. I hate it. Can't stand it. What a waste of a day.

It's not that I'm not thankful – ou contrair. I'm a very thankful person. I have everything I need and most things I want and I appreciate that fact. At the Leffler household, we have a thankful tree on our fridge. Beginning November 1st, at my wifes suggestion, we put a construction paper
tree trunk on the fridge and every day since, the four of us – my wife, my two daughters and i – have added a leaf each ... saying what we were thankful for ... which we will continue until the
end of the month.

It's not that difficult, believe it or not, to come up with things you're thankful for. And my daughters, god bless their hearts, have come up with some AWESOME things to be
thankful for. It's not all toys and sugar cereal. Callie – my three year old – said one day that she was thankful for her friend Amber. Emily – my six year old – proclaimed thanks that girls in Afghanistan can go to school again. My thanks have ranged from my car – to my wife – to having a job that gives me the flexibility to spend with my family.

I think both my daughters on one day or another have said that they're thankful for Thanksgiving. Yeah. That's not on my list. Again, I despise it.

I was talking with my mother last night about it. I'm thankful for her, too, BTW. Anyway, I was talking to mom about my reason for not being a big Turkey Day fan and she said she didn't understand why any man would not like Thanksgiving.

“I mean, you get to sit around and watch football while the women do all the work,” she said.

First of all, my house isn't like that. My wife – who I'm also thankful for – isn't a housewife.
She works for a living and we share the duties at home. Now to be fair, she probably does more work at home, but it's not like I sit on the couch and she serves me. Trust me. It's nothing like that.

Secondly, while I enjoy football – and typically partake in the pigskin madness on the Fourth Thursday in November, I could certainly do without it. I'm happy watching the Bills once a week – and could easily skip the rest.

And third, I hate to watch people work. I especially hate to watch people – or to be part of –
spending all morning and part of the afternoon to make dinner. Spending an hour eating it – and spending the rest of the night cleaning up.

And then their's the menu itself. I love beef. Steak. Burgers. You name it. I also like pork. Pork chops. Pork loin. Ham. I even go crazy over hot dogs. All kinds of fish, too. And I'm a big fan of chicken breast. Especially marinated in italian dressing and then grilled. Note that I didn't proclaim my love for Turkey.

Sure it's okay on a sandwich. But to just cook it up, slice it up, and eat it – not so much. For one
thing, carving the bird is a pain in the ... okay, I can't say that word. This is family radio, after all.

And then there's the fact that it makes you sleepy. Tryptophan – that's the ingrediant that makes you tired. Why would you want to eat something that sucks the energy out of you? I just don't get it.

Mix all this with family members that you only see once a year at most ... and that's too often. And who would like this terrible “holiday?”

I have a theory. I was discussing this theory with morning show host Paul Oates the other day. I think that EVERYONE hates thanksgiving ... but they're afraid to say it because they'll be cast off the island like some paraih – some leper.

So, I'll be the fall guy. I said it. I hate thanksgiving. Now, it's your turn. Join me. Thanksgiving haters unite.

Or, maybe you think I'm a jerk. I'm stupid. I'm a Commie. If that's your bag, let me know.

Makers of 'The Reagans' Bash CBS Editing. Original version to run on Showtime on Sunday.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Flash animation about the dead soldiers ... and what they really died for. Poignant, but may take a while to load ... especially on dial-up.
The Doctor Is In - Howard Dean Song. This isn't half bad. And I surely like the message. I think I'll play this on Friday when - in my absense - WLVL airs, "The best of Dialog" feature some of my favorite clips from the past year.
Critics: Patriot Act Warnings Come to Fruition. I suggest an immediate repeal of the Big Brother Act, as I have decided to call it from now on. And I'm definately opposed to the Big Brother Act's cousin, the Patriot Act II.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Opponents block energy bill, leaving passage in doubt. I'm glad to see this die. To be honest, I don't know enough about it to know if it's really bad ... I just know it was concocted in secret ... by the energy companies. So the odds that it's good for the consumers is slim-to-none. Go filibuster, go.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Senate holds all-night talkathon on judges; Bush pushes a vote. As people die of starvation and lose their jobs from sea to shining sea, the Republican Party and Resident Bush whine about three judges. Yeah. These people are in touch with reality.
Senate holds all-night talkathon on judges; Bush pushes a vote. As people die of starvation and lose their jobs from sea to shining sea, the Republican Party and Resident Bush whine about three judges. Yeah. These people are in touch with reality.
Ala. chief justice ousted over 10 Commandments. Can't say I'm disappointed about this. Unfortunately, I'm not really going to get a chance to talk about it, though - not with the great string of guests coming up ... more on that later.
Dean surges as turmoil trips Kerry. Go Dean Go!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Next stop: Syria! A bill that has already passed the US House, passed the US Senate yesterday, allowing "sanctions" against Syria. Sen. Robert Byrd said he thinks the bill could be used as a method to invade Syria in the future.
Senators holding all-night talkathon on federal judges.
Kerry Train Wreck Easy to Predict. Says Howard Fineman: "The problem, perhaps the fatal problem, with John Kerry’s presidential campaign is that, from the start, it’s had two of everything: two sets of handlers, two centers of power and a candidate who often can’t resist having two positions on an issue. Laser-like clarity and focus are crucial in a presidential campaign. To inspire voters, it must be a crusade, not a committee; a battle flag, not a position paper. Kerry’s is all clutter."
Unions push Dean closer to triumph. The endorsements had been widely expected since last week but they mark Dean’s most significant strategic victory of the campaign so far, giving him the power of thousands of union members who can canvass voters for him in the key early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and elsewhere.
Rush Limbaugh Returning to Airwaves Next Week. Five weeks after he left the airwaves to undergo treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh will return to the microphone as host of his daily radio show, it was announced on Wednesday.

Business First of Buffalo
Delphi reorganization eliminates Harrison name. Of course, it's more than the name. The company headquarters are moving to Michigan, taking about 150 or so jobs with it. The rank and file will still be here ... or at least however ever many are left these days. You know, when Gov. Pataki gave Delphi $19 Million (just four years ago), that was to save 6,100 jobs. Last I knew, Delphi stood around the 4,500 range. (a couple months ago) Now this Business First story has them at 4,300. This isn't devastating, but it sure as heck isn't good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Bickering plagues Capitol Hill. This is what happens when people think too highly of themselves ...
Politician or telemarketer? Majority Leader DeLay uses offer of honor in pitch for funds. Hmm. Very interesting story. Just read it.
Secret Service Hides Cheney as Plane Enters Restricted Area. Why is it any time anything happens in this country, Cheney gets swept away to some "secure location?"

Monday, November 10, 2003

New Yorkers pay highest local taxes. Gee, ya think? Wonder what Sen. George Maziarz will have to say about this ... let me guess, it's all Sheldon Silver's fault, right? Please note the last sentence in the story: "A spokesperson for Gov. George Pataki was not immediately available for comment." Of course, it's not ALL Pataki's fault ... and Silver is HARDLY without blame. But you'd think that a state has a Republican governor and a Republican senate would have lower taxes. That is a Republican principle, isn't it? Or is this all Mario Cuomo's fault?

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Poll: Majority of voters would not re-elect Bush. Good news, right? Well, unfortunately, when any specific candidate was named as an opponent, Bush was ahead in the poll. We'll keep trying ... and eventually, the people will re-gain the White House.
scottleffler.com - columns
The columns page is back up. Next will be the Dialog page ... along with a new poll. Slowly but surely, the turtle wins the race. :)
scottleffler.com conspiracy-o-matic
While re-inventing my web site, I ran into this fun little thing that I created when I first started scottleffler.com. Thought there would be enough people that hadn't tried it that it would be fun to bring back. Slowly, but surely, by the way, scottleffler.com is getting going again. The links page is back up (with new links) and more will follow.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Thursday, November 06, 2003


Live discussions with Dean, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt, Kucinich, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton.
NPR receives record donation from widow of McDonald's founder. I knew there was a reason I've always liked McDonalds. Now I know why ... it's Joan Krok. Interesting story. Watch, now I'll be hearing about "left-wing restaurants" or "the liberal food industry." Hah!
Huge SEIU union to endorse Dean. This is a huge boost for Dean, turning him from a "fringe candidate" to "the contender." I'm really unsure what made him "the fringe candidate" anyway. He's been on top of most polls since the middle of the summer.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Niagara Buzz
Buzzheads Make Second Appearance On WLVL. Here's a nice piece by Avis Townsend about her appearance on Dialog last Thursday.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Dean on verge of big labor victory
Service Employees International Union looks like it may endorse Howard Dean for president next week. If it doesn't, it will likely endorse no one for president. This is a huge step for Dean.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Bush in 30 Seconds
Okay, this is super cool. A web site asking people to create their own anti-Bush 30 second commercials as a contest. We should do something similar on Dialog. How about "30 second follies," a contest asking for 30 second spoof commercials of local issues? No, really. Let's talk about it. It'll be cool.
Starting over
Well, since the geniuses at Verizon nixed my web site, I have to start from scratch. Unfortunately, I didn't back up a lot of stuff ... one being the blog ... so, we'll just start from scratch. Welcome to the new blog at scottleffler.com - now with more lefflerol.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Comical Council says one thing - does another ...

I can't stand hypocrites.

People that say one thing and do another.

When you interpret something one way in March and the same thing completely opposite in October, I call you a hypocrite.

The Lockport Common Council's stance on the proposal to house juvenile sex offenders at Wyndham Lawn is hypocritical in my opinion.

Wednesday evening, David Warsocki, president of the Tollgate Hill Citizens Association, showed up at City Hall with a petition of 700 names opposing the installation of juvenile sex offender at the Wyndham Lawn campus.

Suddenly, Alderman David Blackley drew up a late resolution opposing the plan – not that the city council has any say-so over Wyndham Lawn (which sits at the corner of Lake Avenue and Old Niagara Road – in the TOWN of Lockport) – and his five colleagues on the Common Council unanimously supported the resolution.

Now, some of you may see this as representational government at its best: The people asked, the council responded.

But I have a problem with it ... not because I think that Warsocki is over-reacting, over-reaching, and generally nervous-without-a-cause (although I do) ... but because back in March, I asked the Common Council to show their opposition to another cause which the effectually had no control over ... and I was told, “we don't do that.”

On March 4, I wrote “Voice of a Million Tongues” and asked the Common Council and the County Legislature to show their opposition to the War on Iraq.

I even drafted a resolution for each body to adopt, taking into account their required legelese.

And the next day, March 5, Pat Schrader, president of the Common Council appeared on my talk show, Dialog. I asked him what he thought of my proposal. I assumed that him being a good Democrat, he would have seen the War on Iraq for what it was – an attempt by W to get even with the evil Saddam for making his daddy look stupid.

I was wrong. My friend Pat told me, “We don't do that.”

Don't do what, Pat?

Apparently, the Common Council doesn't take up positions that are outside the guise of their direct control.

Hmm, I thought for sure I had recalled them taking sides on issues that didn't “directly affect” them before, but maybe I was wrong.

Okay, Pat. Thanks anyway.

But then, seven months later, on Oct. 1, the Council adopts this Warsocki resolution opposing Wyndham Lawn. Unanimously, I might add.

What does all this mean?

It means that our friends on the Lockport Common Council change their minds with the political winds. I'm sure that had I had a petition of 700 people back in March opposing the war, they would have been more than happy to support my resolution.

It means that they have no convictions and no leadership.

You could say that voting with the public is what they're supposed to do. I say that's hogwash.

The majority of the public in this country supported the War on Iraq because they were brainwashed by our president to believe that if we bombed Iraq, it would halt terrorism.

The majority of the country NOW knows that just wasn't the case.

We elect these people to make decisions and have opinions. If we wanted to make the decisions ourselves on a one-by-one – as-needed basis, we wouldn't need them.

Come to think of it, we don't.

But back to Wyndham.

True there are 700 signatures on that petition, stating their opposition to the plan. But do you really think those 700 people ALL know exactly what is and isn't going to happen at Wyndham?

I got an email from an anonymous writer stating that someone named “Donna” had misled her into signing the petition. And had she known then what she knows now, it would have been 699 signatures. How many others were misled?

This is why we pay people to represent our best interests ... because we don't all have the time to sift through every little detail.

Worth noting: The Common Council doesn't have time to sift through every little detail either.

Joe Gallagher, communication director for Wyndham, told me no one from the city has asked for an official account of what it is Wyndham wants to do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Explaining the process ...

I find myself in an interesting position.

Due to this column, my web site, NiagaraBuzz.com, and – of course, my role at WLVL as host of the morning show Dialog, I am blessed with a voice that not many people in the area have.

And with great power comes great responsibility ... Spiderman taught me that.

So I'm trying to use caution and due diligence when it comes to the upcoming election.

See, here's the thing: You all know my stance on things. You should, at least. I'm a people person – and by that, I don't mean that I do well at parties. I mean, I want what's best for “the people.” The most people possible. I'm a populist, you couuld say.

And I want to see the people that I support get elected in November. I want the people that I think are going to do a good job to represent me and you ...

And I could – very easily – tell you who you should vote for. I could make endorsements ... much like local newspapers do.

In fact, when I worked for Greater Niagara Newspapers, I was an on-again / off-again member of the editorial board, the little group that decides the newspapers official opinion on matter. Now, it may be worth noting that, more often than not, I was the voice of dissent, but that's another column for another day.

Anyway, it's not that I don't have experience in recommending to people what they should do ... or who they should vote for.

But I'm not going to do that this year. Not in my column. Not on my radio program. Not in person. I am throwing my endorsement to the process. I want you all to familiarize yourself with the issues and make up your own mind on who you should empower. You may elect all the people I want. You may vote for all those I disagree with. Odds are, it'll be a split bill. We'll agree in spots and not in others.

Another way I'm trying to NOT effect the election is by bringing political candidates onto Dialog in pairs. In other words, if a candidate for seat A wants the opportunity to talk with Dialog listeners and callers, the other candidate for seat A must come along as well.

This strategy will be interesting, I must say. If you want to keep your opponent from being on Dialog, all you have to do is not go on yourself.


Now, some people have said that I'm not being fair if one person wants to go on and the other refuses.

“That's not how J.R. Reid did it,” I've heard.

Okay, first of all ... I'm not J.R. Reid. I thought that had been duly cleared up.

In fact, my policy is – in-part – due to J.R. and the last election. I recall people griping that so-and-so got a better day that what's his name. Or Billy Bob was on closer to the election that Billy Rae.

I'm not having that. All or nothing, folks.

However, in an attempt at fairness, I'll be sure to note who wanted to come on and who didn't want to take questions from Dialog callers ... or from myself.

I'm not going to make a HUGE deal out of it, but I am going to start a list on my web page saying who offered, who declined, and who just couldn't figure out how to call me back.

And you can take that list with you to the polls and it will tell you who doesn't endorse Dialog. And maybe that will help you to make up your mind.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Welcome to the light ...

I must admit, I find myself in an unusual situation.

Most often, I'm the “token liberal” or the most liberal person within a group. I look around and compared to the rest of the crowd, I'm ultra-left wing.

Now, I've spoken of this fallacy before. I'm not left-wing. I'm a centrist. A moderate. (of course, don't we all think we're moderate and everyone else is crazy?)

Anyway, based on the people who call my show and some of the comments I get from them, you'd think I was so far left I was Communist (of course, some people actually think I am).

So a few months ago when Chuck Richardson approached me about a progressive web site he was hoping to put together with the help of another friend of ours, Pat Lowther, I thought it sounded like a good idea and I offered to help with logistics if it would be possible.

When a few days later, I was released from my duties with Greater Niagara Newspapers, I told Chuck I'd be able to help more than I thought – and as such, I joined the pair of trouble makers – miscreants – whathaveyou – in their endeavor to build the perfect web site.

To be fair, the amount of help I've so far given could be measured as slim to none, but I'm into the concept of telling news in a more telling fashion – if that makes sense.

Too often, I think the news business is constrained by rules which prevents them from really telling the story. A reporter for most news agencies can't say in a story whether or not they believed their subject in the course of an interview – they can only prevent facts and allow the reader to “pick up” on whether the subject is telling the truth.

Unfortunately this method is far from fool proof. First of all, the reader isn't really “there” and the best writer in the world can only make them fell like they're there. They can't actually put them there – so tone, inflection, body movement – is for the most part lost. These things are key in “reading” people.

You'll notice that NiagaraBuzz.com articles have some of these details in them .. and whether or not we buy into what the subjects are saying.

But, hey, I'm getting off track here.

So Chuck and Pat looked around and found some other interested people in putting together NiagaraBuzz.com. And they're a fine group of people. But looking at them, I realize that I'm the (gasp) conservative in this group.

Ack. That's crazy. Me being the conservative in any group is both scary and ... no, I guess it's just scary.

Now, I've had a page on MY web site for a while now specially reserved for Chuck. I called it Left of Leffler – because, well, because he is. In fact, sometimes Chuck scares me too, but that's another column for another day.

No, here's what you should get out of this today: Diversity is good and NiagaraBuzz.com is abound in it. From my pro-business POV to Chuck's “down with the corporation” standpoint ... Bob's environmentalism ... Jared's poetry ... Avis' flair ... Alex's web savvy, and C. Roberts Abel's sheer ability to take a complex subject and break it down to an understandable level, you're in for a treat.

We're not your grandmother's web site – and we're not a typical news source – no, we're better on both accounts, and I'm sure you'll agree in the end. And while we make take some getting used to, once you do – you won't want to log off.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Now Hiring! Office of shortsightedness ...

I've often said lately that the office of short-sightedness is the most heavily staffed and funded office in government.

A couple weeks ago the Niagara County Department of Short-Sightedness added to its ranks.

While Town of Niagara turn coat ... er, Democrat who votes Republican ... Danny Sklarski wanted to make school shopping easier, his colleagues decided against it.

On July 15, our politicrats defeated a motion that would have given people shopping for clothing and shoes in Niagara County two one-week reprieves on local sales tax.

The "tax holidays" would have fallen on Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 (just in time for school) and from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

The state already has declared a moratorium on those dates and its share of sales tax revenue. Our neighboring county of Erie did, as well.

And local business owners fear that with Niagara County charging tax those two weeks and Erie County NOT, our shoppers will simply take a trip across the county line to do their shopping there.

I don't blame them. I'd fear the same thing.

But county pols don't carry about local business owners. They care about tax revenue.

Oh, they pretend to care about local businesses ... by claiming that local businesses aren't local.

Take as an example this quote from Legislator Lee Simonson from the legislature floor: "The businesses Mr. Sklarski is trying to help are not local. The factory outlet ... the stores there are owned by out of town people who hire overseas workers to manufacture clothing and shoes."

And the employees that work in the Outlet Mall, Mr. Simonson? Are they fuzzy foreigners, too?

But you and I know that what it really is is that the county thinks they'd lose money if they gave up the sales tax for those two weeks.

It seems that according to the county treasurer, we would lose $256,000 in revenue if we gave up the sales tax on clothes and shoes for a week. The loss would be over half a million dollars for the two weeks.

Now I have several different points of contention here.

First: if we make $256,000 a week on sales tax on CLOTHES AND SHOES ALONE, that's $13.3 million in sales tax annually ... just from shoes and clothes. Seems a bit far-fetched to me.

Second: Not having the tax free week may give us a few dollars in the coffers that we wouldn't have otherwise, but it could also back fire miserably as disenfranchised shoppers could realize that they like shopping in Erie County once they give it a try.

And Third: How greedy can these people get? I mean, they just raised the sales tax by a percent - for the whole year, I might point out - they can't do without that sales tax for two weeks?

The 19 civil servants that run county government aren't too civil ... and I'm not sure who they're serving, but it's not you or me.

Maybe I'm too hard on our politicians.

No I'm not - and everyone but them would likely agree.

As an aside on this topic, I asked Mayor Sullivan if the city couldn't implore the county to act on tax free week ... and he basically said that advocacy wasn't government's role. If it's not, then what is?

Also, can I point out that this is an election year? If they treat us this poorly while asking for our votes, how bad are they going to treat us once (and if) they get (re)elected?

I have half a mind to tell you all to vote with your wallets and do your shopping in Erie County ... but then that would hurt the business owners - the same people I'm trying to help by pointing out the county's shortcomings.

And finally, even if county pols don't get it, it seems that state politicians understand that the ever increasing sales tax burden hurts the economy - otherwise, why would they eliminate it for two weeks?

So if they know that high taxes are killing the state, why do they keep raising them?

Chalk up another victory to short-sightedness.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Big brother and the vandals

I heard this funny joke the other day.

Guy walks into a beer store ... and wants to get a keg for a party he's holding.

Stop me if you've heard this before ...

And he has to pay a $75 fee for the privilege of having his name tattooed to the keg of beer.

Why aren't you laughing?

Oh yeah, because this isn't a joke. It's real. It's law. And it will happen to you if you go to buy a keg of beer on November 1.

But where did this law come from? Why do we need it? And why didn't we hear about it before now?

All good questions. No good answers.

The acting superintendent of the New York State Police, Wayne Bennett, said the measure will give law enforcement officers the tools to be able to hold people responsible for buying beer for under age drinkers.

Let me set the scenario. Cops bust a party. Find a drunk 19-year-old ... we'll call him Tom. All they have to do is find the keg, which has YOUR name on it. And you get arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Excellent police work, I must say ... Too bad it was done by Consumer's Beverage ... not the police.

Oh, and of course, there is the possibility that Tom got his alcohol "legally" in Canada and came home to pass out ... just when 5-0 rolled up.

You got busted for a crime you didn't commit ... AND a local business helped point the finger ... whether or not they wanted to.

Of course, you could rip the tag off the keg so the cops don't know it's yours.

Unfortunately, if you do that, you won't get your $75 registration fee back ... and your local alcohol purveyor will also have to fine you $250 to $450 when you return the keg ... or if you don't.

In the end, folks this is Big Brother at its worst ... AND they're using business to do their dirty work.

Not that business is without blame, of course.

Just ask the folks over at UnbrandAmerica.org - a service brought to you by AdBusters. They'll tell you that Ronald McDonald founded Fascism, I'm sure of it.

These geniuses have started a "boycott" campaign asking people to put big black dots on corporate logos far and wide ... to show our disgust for said logos and the companies they represent.

There's a black dot that you can download from their web site - print out on paper - and then tape to your logo ... as a statement.

They even have a gallery of dotted logos - to show you how it's done.

Unfortunately (or maybe by design) many of the artifacts in the gallery don't seem to use the print and tape method of dotting. They use spray paint (visible here).

I'm sorry, that's not counter culture. That's vandalism.

And vandalism just isn't cool.

Then, let's look at the dirty dozen - the 12 worst companies ... in the eyes of those who frequent AdBusters.

McDonald's. Exxon. Nike. Wal*Mart. Disney. Coca Cola. Microsoft. The Gap. AOL Time-Warner. Starbucks. Clear Channel. Altria.

For the most part, these companies are guilty of A) Making money and B) Letting people know about it.

I always love the fact that McDonald's has become the poster child of all that is wrong with the world.

Many of you know that I worked for McDonald's for about three years.

I'm proud that I did. Best job I've ever had. And they're the best company I've ever worked for.

But some people - a little more radical than I - believe that the golden arches are the gateway to hell.

And they want to vandalize those arches.

Because somehow - for some reason - people feel bigger when they topple a giant.

What sad little vandals.

Go home and get drunk.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Fun with want ads ...

I think most of you know this by now, but for those who don't ...

I'm no longer employed by Greater Niagara Newspapers and the Lockport Journal.

And as such, I'm out trying to find myself a job - a daunting task for someone with a degree in Journalism and Political Science, and for the most part ... no real talent.

And while I'd like to stay in the media business, it's not like newspapers are drug stores and they're building new ones on every corner. So, it's a bit difficult.

In the mean time, I'm considering other ventures that I'm qualified for. Or at least think I can do.

Some of my skills or abilities include public relations, marketing, management, and other general duties.

And I've often considered a job in public relations ... something more normal than that of a news boy.

So when I found an ad in WNYJobs.com looking for someone to do marketing and public relations in an Amherst firm, I was rather pleased.

But I've seen job ads for "marketing" before and know that it often means "sales," something I'll be the first to admit, I'm none-too-good at.

That's why I called and made sure that it really was a marketing job ... not sales ... before I sent my resume in.

"Well, sir, we do have sales jobs, but we're really looking for someone for marketing and public relations right now," said the woman on the phone. Stephanie was her name.

Excellent - resume went out with the next batch of email.

Next day I got a phone call from Stephanie and scheduled an interview. Went in for the interview and met ... I think his name was Anthony.

  • "Hi William, I'm Anthony. How are you today?"
  • "Good, yourself?"
  • "Excellent. Now, I've been looking at your resume, William. And I notice that it's very journalism heavy. Why, all the sudden do you want to go into sales?"
  • (ARGHHHHH!)"No, not sales. Public relations and marketing. Definitely not sales."
  • "Well that's a shame, William. Because the job we have is in sales."
  • "Then I'm in the wrong interview. Have a good day."

And that was it. Three minutes tops. Shortest interview of my life.

I got a great offer from a national company ... whose name I won't say, but their logo is a bullseye. They wanted me to stock shelves ... for less than I made in high school. Don't think so.

And that company's application process was kind of a pain - all on computer right in the store. Funny questions, too. I highly recommend the experience.

Oh, but my new favorite was the application I put in at a local grocery store ... not one in Lockport, though. (that almost narrows it down, doesn't it?).

Anyway, there was a question on the job application that said, "Type of job desired."

What the heck does that mean? I put "Fun and exciting," although I don't think that's the answer they wanted. Who designs these things?

And why do these job applications want to know what elementary school you went to? And they always ask if you graduated. Who didn't graduate elementary school?

I tell you, it's a truly frustrating process.

I have one VERY good lead (I think) and a few other positive notes on some jobs that I wouldn't hate doing.

So for those of you pulling for me (I have gotten some emails from people who want to see me do well), thank you.

I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Oh, and would you like fries with that?

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Why can't we just be ourselves?

du·plic·i·ty 'Audio ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-pls-t, dy-)

n. pl. du·plic·i·ties

  1. The quality or state of being twofold or double.

  2. Acting one way while being, in actuality, another.

  3. Having two distinct - and opposite - personalities.

I believe it was William Shakespeare who coined, "To thine own self be true."

Wllly's a pretty bright guy and I have oft relied on his wit and wisdom.

He would have loved the saga of Harry Potter, I'm sure.

But that's neither here nor there ... I have to refute Willy's aforementioned statement.

Cause, see, here's the thing: Which self?

I have recently had a major shakeup in my life. For those who don't know, I'm now job hunting ... but more on that later.

As a reporter, a job that I've had for the past three years, I must admit that the job takes on a life of its own and it becomes more of a lifestyle than a job, per se.

I'm sure that other people in other professions would concur - your title becomes a part of you. Simon and Simon, for example, wouldn't have been the same people were they not private investigators.

And I'm not the same person now that I'm not, "Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal."

But with all the free time that I've had, I've reviewed my life as a whole ... and concluded that I was only "Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal" sometimes ... and to some people.

For others, I was "Scott Leffler, crazy liberal guy." Then of course, at home I was "Scott Leffler, husband extraordinaire," and "Scott Leffler, daddy." Still for others, I'm sure I was even more people.

I feel like Sybil.

Oh, don't go judging me on this one. We all do it. And of course, most of us do it on purpose to an extent.

Some people conclude that you're "that happy guy," and so you feel like every time those people are around, you need to be happy.

Some people remember that you were really crazy at the Bernstein Christmas party, so you feel like you have to be crazy when they're around.

And some people think of you in another manner ... or know something that the first two groups of people don't - so you're another person altogether.

And after a while, you forget which one of them is really you.

So you wonder which own self you're trying to be true to.

There comes a few times in one's life when they can step back and redefine life. And redefine themselves.

Like when you move ... or change schools ... or jobs.

I'm fortunate enough to have been given that opportunity.

Remind me of that once in a while if I start to get out of line.

Cause I assure you, it can be a frustrating opportunity.

Thought process continued next week ... Column 47

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Can you hear me now?

Some topics seem to stir debate no matter what.

Religion. Abortion. Flag burning. Language.


Yes, language.

Monday I got a phone call during my show from Joe in Tonawanda. Joe is an avid listener who unfortunately is moving from Western New York. He has but a few more days left to participate in Dialog and he will be missed.

But Monday, Joe and I were in disagreement.

You see, he thinks we should have a national language declared and it should, of course, be English.

Joe is certainly not alone, check www.us-english.org for instance.

But as happens now and again, I disagreed with my caller, thanked him for his time, and bid him a good day.

And the flood gates opened.

I got several more phone calls on the topic and have received a handful of emails in the few hours since I signed off from the radio.

A few people understood my point of view. Most called me names.

I talked with one gentleman for several minutes trying to simply explain myself to him - not even necessarily trying to get him to agree with me - just to understand where I was coming from.

A lot of problems in life come from people not understanding where other people are coming from. The ability to agree to disagree begins with understanding of what it is you're disagreeing about.

We could not see eye-to-eye on our disagreement.

After a brief commercial break, I joked that we were both speaking English and still didn't understand one another.

Then the emails ...

I think this one sums it up:

  • "I don't understand how you fail to see the importance of an official language for this country ... Common sense dictates that should you or I permanently relocate to another country, we learn the language of that country ... I think most Americans feel that it is grossly unfair that millions upon millions of tax dollars be used for expensive interpreters and extra printed materials for immigrants that simply refuse to learn the "common language" of this country."

    I don't disagree with this person's two points, but don't understand how that means we should have an official language.

    Common sense also dictates, for example, that we should neither drink alcohol nor smoke tobacco products as they are bad for us. But we rail when government tries to impose rules on us to prevent us from doing so.

    And at no point did I say we should require interpreters or create extra printed materials. I just didn't say it.

    See, there's a leap of assumption that because I don't want an "official" language that I want to allow special privilege for those who don't speak English. But I didn't say that. Sorry.

    The big problem in the end here is that it doesn't matter what language we're speaking in, if we don't listen to one another, it just doesn't matter.

    My main objection to designating an "official" language is that it does nothing but alienate those of us who do not speak English.

    I also think that language is a scapegoat for some people. They can't say what they really want, so they use language as an excuse.

    What many people really mean is that they want people to be like them - white, Anglo-Saxon, Christians - but they can't say that, so they say, "learn the language."

    I say, laissez faire.

  • Tuesday, July 01, 2003

    Out with the kings ...

    Ah, July 4. Independence Day.

    The time of year we Americans celebrate our ever-dwindling freedoms.

    You know the ones:

  • Freedom of speech, as long as it is in line with the administration.

  • Freedom of religion — but Muslims may be subject to search, seizure, deportation, and general harassment until they can prove they’re not terrorists.

  • Freedom of assembly — but just so you know, Rush Limbaugh and Ari Fleischer will say you’re a communist if your assembly doesn’t promote a hard-right agenda.

  • And freedom of the press, which will soon all be owned by Rupert Murdoch and his partner Michael Powell.

    I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    It’s been 227 years since we declared these truths to be self-evident. And in those 227 years, we’ve even made improvements upon those inalienable rights, with other rights and priveledges granted to us.

    But, oh, what a slippery slope we’ve been on these past couple years.

    Time and again, we’re exchanging freedoms for “safety,” or we’re signing off on having our rights trampled because we’re afraid to stand up to those “in charge.” Or we’re afraid that Rush, Ari and The Boys will call us “unpatriotic.”

    The Boys; John (Ashcroft), Paul (Wolfewicz), George (Bush) and Ringo (nevermind) are intent on giving Iraqi’s freedom — so long as they appreciate it, and securing our freedom — so long as we’re willing to trade our liberties for it.

    Look, folks, 227 years ago, we kissed King George goodbye, because we felt he ruled over us without our authority and was, generally, a bad guy.

    And now, 227 years later, we have three King Georges.

    There’s King “Just One Man” George of North Tonawanda, who is omnipresent but hardly-handy.

    There’s King “Where’s My Map” George of Albany, who shifted the tax burden from the state to the schools, then had his authority hijacked and had the tax burden added back to the state (but not removed from the schools).

    And finally, there’s King “Where’s Osama” George of Washington-by-way-of-Texas, who took out a loan on our future so his affluent friends could afford to bankrupt a few more businesses at stockholder expense.

    This, folks, is the leadership that we have.

    This is what we’re celebrating?

    I suggest that we celebrate our independence by telling the three kings that their days are numbered.

    Now, unfortunately King “Where’s My Map?” was just re-elected, thanks in part to his ability to pretend that the economy is A-OK and our willingness to believe him.

    And we’ll be lucky if anyone even runs against King “Just One Man.”

    But King “Where’s Osama?” can be voted out of office as early as next year. Of course, we could try to impeach his behind for the high crimes and misdemeanors of lying to us to get us into war with Iraq to avenge his daddy and create business opportunities for Republicans.

    Ah, yes, July 4th. Let the fireworks begin.

  • Thursday, June 26, 2003

    HP Revisited Stick to what you know ...

    Some things never cease to amaze me.

    Take as an example that a "children's book" sold 5 million copies on Saturday alone. Amazing.

    Another example is that kids age 3 and up love Harry Potter and what he represents. Astounding.

    Then there's the fact that a former destitute transformed her life while using a character she created in her mind as a bridge to help kids love to read.

    Oh, and then there's the fact that some zealots want to tear down that bridge.

    "Harry Potter is a tool of the devil," they say. "Those books push children into the occult (or satanism or witchcraft - whatever. take your pick)."

    Anyone that listened to my show on Monday heard a conversation that I had - first with a woman who basically stated the above - then with a man who agreed and asked if I'd read the Bible.

    For those who missed Monday's show, let me explain:

    I mentioned the Potter phenomenon and asked callers opinions of it. I think it's awesome that there would be so much interest in a BOOK (see previous column).

    Well as goes so often, my callers aren't interested in what I want to talk about. They've got their own things going on.

    But then about half way through - a little more really - a woman called and explained her point (that Potter was an intro to witchcraft). She and I disagreed and had an amicable divorce. She went her way. I mine.

    Next caller (paraphrased): "I agree. There's good and there's evil. You ever read the Bible?"

    Me (again paraphrased): "Yeah. I've read the Bible. It doesn't mention Harry Potter."

    Caller: "Well he's evil."

    As with the previous caller, I asked if he had ever read any of the five exquisite books put out by author J.K. Rowling. In a word: No.

    And here's the crux. How can you make a judgment on something that you admittedly know nothing about?

    A better question: How can you bear witness to an event you have not seen?

    Some people are so quick to tear down that they don't even watch to see what's being built.

    It's like when it's not their turn to talk, just turn around, put their hands over their ears an hum.

    Then when it is their turn, they shout as loud as they can.

    Look, I could understand if a parent read one of the five books in the Potter series and said, "No, this isn't for my kids. It's too (dark, violent, whatever)."

    But to not read it and say the same in unconscionable.

    And while we're at it, I'm sorry, but the whole notion that HP would turn kids into witches or sorcerers.

    A parallel argument would be that anyone who went to see Hulk over the weekend could decide to become a big green monster with a bad temper.

    And I must admit - from the previews that looked like a bad movie - but I'm not going to tell people not to go see it just because I think it looks bad from the outside.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2003

    Harry Potter: The literary Giant ...

    Some people seem to be under the impression that "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a mere book.

    They're wrong.

    HP5, as many people are calling the fifth installment of the saga, is proof that the lowly art of novel writing can compete against the glamour and glory of movie making or sports.

    It's evidence, in my opinion, that kids still have imaginations. Furthermore, it stands as a testimonial that parents and children alike can enjoy things together.

    I came late to this whole Potter phenomenon - didn't even recognize his existence until about four years ago, when the third book was coming out.

    A colleague of mine at the time (I was working at an ultra-small newspaper in Shelby, Ohio) was all jazzed up about getting this book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

    I couldn't understand her enthusiasm. I mean, it was JUST A BOOK. A children's book, nonetheless. And she was all in a tizzy - going to get it the day it came out or something silly. A book, I tell you.

    Now there was one cool thing about Harry Potter at the time. He sparked great discussions because some people said he was inspiring children to be evil pagan witches or something. And I recall thinking at the time that even it was was JUST A BOOK, it was nice to see that it was creating debate.

    My love for debate is nothing new, you see.

    So she got the book. She read the book. And she said Harry Potter didn't turn anyone into witches or wizards.

    A year later, a fourth Potter book came out. And a year after that the movie of the first Harry Potter book - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - was made.

    Now movies, those are more my speed.

    I had heard a lot of good things about the whole Potter phenomenon and thought that maybe I'd like to take my daughter Emily to see it. Emily was about 4 1/2 at the time.

    I had heard from some people that it was kind of scary and might not be really appropriate for Emily, which kind of bummed me out.

    So I decided to test it. I'd read the book to see if it would be too much for Emily.

    And if the book wasn't too scary, we'd go see the movie.

    I got the book shortly before the movie came out in theaters, hoping to have it read before the movie came out.

    I got it read before the movie came out, alright.

    And I got the second book - which I flew through, straight to book three ... and four.

    I read in public a lot, and people would politely ask was I was reading. I was always very receptive to telling them.

    "Oh, I'm reading the third Harry Potter book. It's phenomenal," I would gush.

    Some people would light up immediately. They understood my excitement.

    Other would sort of roll their eyes or snicker: "Isn't that a children's book?"

    Even my wife didn't understand at first. She was all trapped in her high-brow Oprah-approved novels. And here was me reading what could have been the equivalent of "Cat in the Hat" for all she cared.

    But I got her to read one. And like me, she read all four lickety split.

    Now, my wife likes to read anyway. I don't know if it's a woman thing or if she's trying to escape the boredom that I offer her or what. But she's always at the library getting something new.

    Me? I write for a living so reading for pleasure isn't something that I tended to do.

    But after I got done reading the fourth book I was into a cycle. I finished a book so that meant time to start another. And although it wasn't quite as interesting as

    Harry Potter, I've basically been reading since I began reading that first Potter book nearly two years ago.

    Harry Potter changed my life.

    Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but it got me reading more. And that's nothing to scoff at.

    So don't tell me that "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a mere book.

    Especially if you haven't read it.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2003

    Truth in numbers ...

    A conservative talk show host rips into a tree-hugger on live TV. Meanwhile, half a world away, innocent children are ripped into shreds by a bomb made in Littleton, Colo., the town where two disturbed children gunned down their classmates and trees were later planted in the children’s honor.

    Coincidence? Or ...

    (Cue music)

    I have no idea what that little fantasy opening does, but it seemed fitting when I wrote it.

    Today we’re going to take some random facts and the numbers associated with them — mainly because there’s some irony to be found.

    * 3,248 — Domestic violence reports filed in Niagara County in 2002. Considering the county has a population of about 220,000, that’s a really disturbing number. About 1.5 percent of Niagarans filed a domestic violence report. So if you’re in a store with 66 other people, it’s likely one of them called the police last year on a member of the family.

    * 3,240 — Number of civilians killed in Iraq, according to a recent report by The Associated Press.

    * 3,240 — Total of Israelis and Palestinians (civilians and soldiers) killed in fighting since September 2000, according to news.com.au.

    Yes, I realize those two numbers are exactly the same. It’s ironic if nothing else. What do you make of it?

    * 46 — American soldiers killed since President George W. Bush declared an end to the major fighting in Iraq on May 1. That’s one a day.

    * $64 billion — Cost of the war as of this morning (to the nearest billion).

    * $40 million — Approximate amount of the preceding number that’s coming from the Western New York area. We could have given health coverage to 17,000 kids this year for the same price.

    * $4.8 billion — Worth of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    * $127 million — Buffalo’s anticipated budget deficit in the year 2007.

    * $800,000 — Amount of money U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has spent trying to get Gov. Gray Davis recalled.

    * 5,553 — Height of the soon-to-be Mount Reagan in New Hampshire.

    * 5 — Number of years a person is supposed to be dead before a mountain is named after them, according to the federal process.

    * 1984 — What America’s starting to look like, thanks in large part to Attorney General John Ashcroft and the PATRIOT Act USA.

    * 57 — Percent of people who think W is doing a good job, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

    * 1 — Number of people who wrote me an e-mail last week complaining about my referring to the president as “W,” which I thought was relatively universal.

    * 43 — Another nickname for our president. (He’s our 43rd president. Most people who call him 43, also refer to his father as 41. The Presidents Bush gave themselves these nicknames).

    * 43 — Number of columns I’ve written for this publication if you include my first column about Cappy, the happy mannequin in the boat on the Tri-Way Bridge.

    * 36 — New York Gov. George Pataki’s approval rating, according to a recent poll by the Siena Research Institute.

    * 100 million — Number of people who voted in 2000 (rounded to the nearest million).

    * 5 — Real number of votes George W. Bush needed to propel himself into the White House.

    * 4 — Number of months it has been since MSNBC announced it would employ Jesse “The Body” Ventura as a talk show host — a job he has yet to begin.

    * 3 — Number of people who made the decision to further erode the barrier between your media and big business when the Federal Communications Commission voted to allow further media consolidation.

    * Zero — Weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq as of the writing of this column.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2003

    Shock and awe ... for a cause ...

    Recently a rapper who goes by the name Paris unveiled new album. The record, entitled "Sonic Jihad," shows a picture of a jet liner flying into the White House.

    On Paris' Web site, GuerrillaFunk.com, he has a note which reads, "Upset by the cover? You should be, but for the right reasons. Read about the Bush Administration's involvement and the real motives behind the Attacks on America here."

    The link goes on to claim that the president was not only aware, but involved, in the Sept. 11 attacks because he needed the United States to have an enemy in the middle east so we could go harvest opium and oil and so the White House could inflict war-time rules upon the American people to allow them to get away with dirty deeds.

    While I may not be a fan of W., I must admit Paris' concept of reality sounds somewhat far fetched to me.

    But it's worth noting that while nothing on his Web site states as much, I'm sure that Paris drew up his album cover in hopes of shocking and aweing people into digesting his message.

    Apparently, it worked. I took note and I passed his message on to you.

    But do you think the tactic of shocking - or even angering - people in order to get your message across is OK? Or do you think it's wrong to do such a thing?

    There are two types of people that shock us, I believe: Those who shock us to get across their message, like Paris, for example; and those who shock us because the like the effect. It excites them to see other people get upset, offended or what have you.

    I have no use for the shock-gratia-shockis types (shock for the sake of shock in bastardized Latin).

    Examples galore of this type of propaganda permeates our society. Can you say Madonna? How about Howard Stern? How about 6,604 other "artists" or "talk show hosts?"

    The quotation marks are meant to illustrate a point.

    Welcome to the Spin Zone, Bill O'Reilly style.

    O'Reilly, a self-proclaimed talk show host and purveyor of the "truth," lives to see his own ugly face on the news.

    Take for example a spat that O'Reilly got into with Al Franken - at the recent Book-Expo America convention of all places.

    Franken, author of "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," (Which feature's O'Reilly's mug on the cover, I might note), dared to challenge O'Reilly's claim that he's a centrist.

    Well, you don't speak ill of Bill O'Reilly unless you want to be the subject of his show for the next week or two (ask Michael Moore).

    O'Reilly calls Franken an idiot and pretends to be upset, all-the-while loving the attention, which one could clearly see he loves for the sake of attention. Or shock for the sake of shock, if you would.

    But shock-for-a-cause is just fine by me.

    Someone who makes a ruckus to point out a society ill is justified in doing so, in my opinion.

    Drawing attention to what you percieve to be the world's evils in hopes of curing those evils is simply being a good citizen.

    It's unfortunate, though, that we don't reward our good citizens.

    In the post 9/11 era, we aren't free to have open dialog on a variety of topics, first and foremost, the ongoings at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    Rather than thank those with differing opinions for allowing us to have a look from another angle, we burn their books and demonstrate outside their concerts.

    Ironicly, the heat from those book burnings and concert demonstrations are likely to start a fire up under someone who will continue to carry out their cause.

    Some people shout to make sure you know they're talking.

    Some people shout to make sure you can't hear anyone else talking.

    And some people shout to make sure you can get their message - whether or not you want to.

    That's Sonic Jihad.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2003

    Spend your money wisely or you may not live to regret it

    Last week the president signed a bill that will reduce taxes by $350 billion over 10 years.

    That signature triggered a process that will result in a check for $800 — $400 for each of my beautiful daughters — landing in my mailbox over the next couple months.

    That’s great!


    I didn’t support the monstrous $726 billion tax cut that W. had wanted. I also didn’t support the $550 billion that the House of Representatives had approved. Nor did I support the $350 billion figure that the Senate came to, the one that ended up being the landing pad.

    The fact of the matter is, this country is in dire financial straits, and while I tend to think that the less of our money the federal government has to waste, the better, the $350 billion that’s coming back to us could be better used.

    I’m not wealthy. Not even close. The $800 that I’ll be getting back represents nearly 3 percent of my salary (between two jobs). It’s like a week and a half’s pay.

    But I don’t need it.

    So, why don’t you send the money back, Scott?

    Because I no longer trust our extreme right-wing government to spend it either. If I give it back, they’ll just sign it over to Haliburton or Ken Lay — and they need it less than I do.

    Or worse yet, they’ll use the money to build bombs so we can destroy the lives of good people on the other side of the world.

    You know who needs the money?

    The 6 percent of our nation (that’s 9 million people, folks) that are unemployed.

    Three years ago, our unemployment was only 4 percent.

    Now the president says that we’ll take this money that he’s sending us (with a likeness of his pretzel-eating self, I’m sure) and we’ll spend it, bolstering the economy and adding jobs — thus reducing unemployment.

    Cause that’s what happened last time, right?

    When I get my $800, I’m not going to fly to New York and buy hard-to-find American-made trinkets. I’m going to reduce my debt since I know that this $800 is more like a loan than anything.

    In essence, this tax cut put a lien on our future and it will take years to pay the mortgage.

    Just like the great Reagan tax-cut did in 1981, this tax cut will necessitate a reduction in corresponding social programs. In order to pay for the tax cut, we’ll have to give up something.

    Thirteen years later, Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution followed up Reagan’s tax cuts by claiming that we couldn’t afford all the niceties that we had been enjoying — Big Bird for example.

    So in 2016, what right-wing zealots might we have running the country? And what “unnecessary program” will they want to kill? Medicaid? Medicare? Social Security?

    And we’ll all wish that we had never gotten our $800 checks.

    So if you — like me — are getting a “refund check” in the near future, be careful with it. It may represent your future.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2003

    I'm sorry, Mr. Powell, but less isn't more ...

    Michael Powell think’s he knows what’s best for you.

    The son of Secretery of State Colin Powell seems to have mastered a core Republican philosophy: We’re safer without safeguards.

    The junior Powell heads up a little organization called the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

    That government entity wants to do away with rules dating back 60 years that state the your local media can’t be wholly owned by one company.

    Rupert Murdoch also wants to do away with those rules and I must admit, I’m bound to dislike anything that brings News Corp. or Fox News Channel (unofficial motto: We distort. We deride) joy. And if Murdoch and a group of Republicans all like something, then it must be evil.

    Anyway, back to the FCC rules.

    They seperated my two current employers several years ago.

    WLVL, of course, used to be WUSJ and was owned by the Corson family, the same family that owned this paper at the time.

    The thought back then was that if there were too few owners in a media market, it would stifle the potential diversity of opinion.

    Now the FCC is trying to redefine “media market.”

    They — under Mikey Powell’s leadership — want to say that since the advent of the internet and satellite, there is plenty of diversity to go around. And if there are less owners of “traditional” media companies, you and I wouldn’t even notice.

    Many lawmakers, mainly Republicans, also support easing the rules, believing they are outdated and limit the ability of companies to grow and stay competitive.

    Apparently, it’s easier to be competitive if there’s no competition.

    Recently the FCC softened rules for radio ownerships. That softening lead to three companies gobbling up half the radio stations in the entire country.

    Locally, just look at the Buffalo radio market. Are there any stations left that Entercom doesn’t own?

    But Powell and the Republicans on the FCC board think that if they ease the restrictions your life will get better.

    Here’s their line of thinking: Allowing companies to own several radio stations, television stations, newspapers, or a combination of the three, will give those companies greater flexability and empower them to get you better programming.

    It follows, like I said, with the basic Republican philosophy that safeguards prevent safety — kind of like the EPA cleaning up the environment by allowing more carcinogens in that environment.

    If you think that buying cigarettes for kids is a good way to keep them from smoking, then this Republican-controlled FCC plan is for you. If not, call your congressman or senator and ask them to pass your opinion on to the commission. Both Democrats on the commission oppose it and one of the three Republicans — Kevin Martin — I’ve heard is on the fence.

    They’re expected to make a decision on this matter on June 2, and while you may noticed that the government hasn’t asked for your opinion on the matter, I think it’s vital that you give it.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2003

    Fighting chaos at all costs

    As I put together Monday's Union-Sun & Journal, it struck me what I was doing.

    If you'll take a look at page A8 of that publication, you'll notice a theme: Complete and utter chaos.

    I even joked to a colleague of mine that I was putting together an "All (the man won't let me use this word) breaks loose" page.

    See, we try to put like-themed stories together on a page so that once a person starts reading it, they're likely to want to read the next story and the next, etc.

    In the past couple years, we've had elections pages, state budget pages, war pages, terrorism pages, you name it.

    But Monday's page A8 was deeply disturbing for me.

    To recap, there was a story about the syncronized bombing in Riyadh, below it was a story about the same in Morocco, and to the right was a happy little number about nuclear proliferation in North Korea.

    Now keep in mind that my job is to bring you the news. Good or bad, that's what I do.

    So Sunday, the purpose of my getting out of bed was to let you know about suicide bombings and an ongoing nuclear program.

    Mildly depressing to say the least.

    Now I could go into a diatribe here that when we had a good president you didn't read these stories because the world was a more peaceful place.

    Then you'd tell me that we didn't read these stories because we were too busy hearing about Mr. Clinton's sex life and then I'd tell you that we had to talk about the president's sex life because the rest of the world was calm and rational thanks to his watchful eye.

    But I won't go there.

    No, today we're talking about chaos and what we can do about it.

    First and foremost, stay away from places like Saudi Arabia, Morocco and North Korea.

    Avoiding Israel, the entire Middle East, and the majority of Eastern Europe wouldn't hurt, either.

    And apparently Florida at election time is downright pandemonium.

    So from the comfort of your porch or living room, call Sally Struthers and send food to sick and needy kids. For less then a cup of Tim Hortons coffee a day, you can feed whole villages.

    Ask Sally to connect you with Billie Mays when you're done talking to here. I'm sure they're friends. He'll hook you up with the power of orange so you can clean the furniture that - against all odds - you can still afford to keep after paying your federal, state and local taxes.

    Then jump on a plane and take off to New York City or Los Angeles. We'll show those terrorists that we're not scared by attending Broadway plays and overpaying for stuff at Saks Fifth Avenue that celebrities like Winona Ryder get for free.

    Oh, and also start boycotting all things French, Canadian, French-Canadian, and Canadian-French. Those two-bit nations didn't support our effort to free the Iraqi oil ... er, people ... and we'll never forgive them.

    We'll show them by getting screwed by good American companies like Honda. No more LeCars around here.

    Finally, you can help subdue chaos by buying your cigarettes from your local NOCO station instead of the reservation. Pay higher taxes like the rest of us. It's only fair.

    Or, of course, you could just go back to bed until this all blows over. Save me some covers.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2003

    When politics and truth colide

    Political machines are figuring out which cogs they want to endorse for this November's elections - specifically county-wide elections.

    Perusing some of the endorsements, I was surprised - or dismayed might be a better word - at the criteria the endorsements were based on.

    The recent IDA shake up seems to be the primary sticking point for the Republican party and how its members voted on that shake up made up the party faithfuls' minds who would get the GOP nod for November.

    Case in point: Former Democratic Legislator - and my old high school VP - Bill Ross didn't side with the Republican caucus and the two Democrat turn-coats in their bid to remake the county's Industrial Development Agency.

    When it came time for the party of Lincoln to annoint this year's class of candidates, they told Mr. Ross they would deny them access to their line.

    Ross, a registered conservative, needs the party's say-so to run as a Republican according to the archaic election system that the state of New York has.

    As a Democrat-turned-conservative, Ross isn't likely to get the donkey seal of approval, leaving him standing alone as a conservative.

    Now allow me to point out, first of all, that Bill Ross was my vice principal. Secondly, he helped me get an internship at the legislature my senior year of high school. And finally, I was very good friends with his step-daughter.

    I just wanted to wear my bias on my sleeve so you would see my POV.

    Ross said he's running full bore and if he gets the GOP nod, he'll take it. If not, he'll just run as a conservative.

    And knowing Bill, he'll find a way to win.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch - or in Wilson, at least - Democratic Legislator Kyle Andrews got the pubbie endorsement.

    More than one person had told me weeks ago that Kyle had been gauranteed no opposition if he voted for the IDA shakeup.

    Andrews was one of the previously mentioned turn-coats.

    The other - Brad Erck - didn't get endorsed, but rather faces some serious competition from attorney Rick Updegrove.

    But back to Andrews.

    On April 4, Kyle was my guest on my talk show. At that time I told him that I had heard this little rumor about his exchanging a vote for Shirley Hamilton's ouster from the IDA for a free ride in November.

    Kyle flatly denied it and said he just did it because it was time for a change.

    A call to Kyle yesterday wasn't returned, but both Henry Wojtasczek, chairman of the county Republican Party; and Frank Soda, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said there was no trade made.

    Wojtasczek said the IDA vote helped them decide to endorse Kyle, but also helping was the party's inability to find a candidate to run against him.

    Soda pointed out the same.

    "I think given his performance, they have a tough time finding a credible opponent," Soda said.

    So let me see if I can get this straight: The GOP can't find a Republican in Wilson? Um, yeah.

    "Why would one person (Andrews) get a pass and the other person (Erck) get an opponent?" Soda asked.

    I don't know, Frank ... coincidence?

    I asked Wojtasczek, "The moral of today's story is no quid-pro-quo on Kyle Andrews?"

    "Absolutely not," he said.

    Maybe my sources were right and there was a trade. Maybe they just made it up completely. Or maybe it really was just a coincidence.

    It's in the coincidences of the world, by the way, that we often find the truth.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2003

    A little of this and a little of that ..'

    I don't usually like the hodge-podge columns. I normally like to pick a topic and stick with it.

    But this week, there's a bunch of things that I want to touch on - none more so than any other, so forgive me if I ramble.

    First off, did anyone find it ironic that our draft dodger in chief (yeah, I'm talking about W here, not Clinton) co-piloted (read as sat in the co-pilot's seat) a jet onto the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln to give his speech about the war being over.

    Those of you who have made yourself familiar with our (s)elected president may already know about his service (or lack thereof) in the National Guard.

    Mr. Bush, it seems, was fortunate enough to get into the Guard (which kept him on US soil instead of in Vietnam), but then failed to show up for a large amount of his duties.

    Sound like a certain former president who went to school in Oxford to do essentially the same thing?

    Remember all the people crying about Draft Dodger Clinton?

    Where's the crying now?

    Had Clinton sat in the co-pilot's seat while that plane landed, every TV station and newspaper in the world would have pointed out his failure to serve.

    But when W does it, it's a national event.

    In fact, they actually positioned the aircraft carrier just right so cameras would get the right angle of Bush getting out of the plane.

    On a similar note, now that W has announced that the war is over but we didn't win (or was it that we won, but the war isn't over), is it OK to go back to criticizing him?

    Some of you may know that I took some flak for criticizing a standing president in a time of war (I hadn't read the addendum that said you couldn't do that).

    Now that the war is over, I can call him all the things that the Clinton bashers called our former president (who was actually elected - twice - I might add).

    But I'll be civil. More than many people have been to me.

    And how soon until we go back to war? 41 got us out of Iraq too soon (politically speaking), too. His ratings slipped and he was unable to do anything with our tanking economy. In rode Bill Clinton to save us (thank God).

    Is 43 going to have the same fate? Is a Democratic candidate going to sweep into the White House and irradicate the scourge that resides there currently?

    A group of nine debated this weekend to see who would get the chance to topple our president.

    Vice President - or I mean Senator - Joe Lieberman was declared the victor.

    His victory was a huge loss for the party.

    Lieberman sounds as much like George Bush as anyone can, in my opinion, and if I have to pick between Bush and Bush, I certainly lose.

    I'd prefer to see someone representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party - a former governor from Vermont, perhaps - win the Donkey nod.

    Locally, I'm sure you'll notice that we're supposed to hire a figurehead - er, county manager - tonight. I can only hope that Mr. Greg Lewis has the fortitute to stand up to the gang of 19 and use his bully pulpit to enact the change that this county needs.

    First thing he should do is call for a change in the number of bosses he has - say from 19 to 9. Then stand up to them when they complain about it.

    Also locally, Olcott's cruise season started this past weekend. The canal's open again, and Lockport's cruises start Monday.

    Lot's to do this summer. Let's get out and spend our money (if you have any left after paying your taxes).

    And lastly, Free Jake Kern!

    Tuesday, April 29, 2003

    Don't count your chickens before they hatch

    Our local school districts are hoping that their representatives in the Assembly and Senate come up with some more money for them to run their school districts.

    The state aid is needed, school officials say, in order to prevent local property taxes from skyrocketing.

    In a mathematical feat not seen since last year, schools have curbed spending increases to levels like .98 percent, which will result in tax increases in the 7 percent range (Lockport School District), thanks to Gov. George Pataki’s refusal to institute “job killing taxes” at the state level.

    Roy-Hart actually cut spending by .3 percent, but will still see a tax levy increase of 5.5 percent.

    In Wilson, a 5.3 percent spending increase means a 7.6 tax increase. In Starpoint, 4.9 is 5.9. In Barker, 2.9 becomes 6.4.

    Newfane’s budget to budget increase — a whopping 9 percent — would be difficult to swallow on its own. Unfortunately, though, for those fine folks below the escarpment, it translates to a 26 percent tax hike.

    Around the state other budget increases equate to much larger tax increases. For example, the proposed budget for schools in Troy, Bruno’s own home base, would increase taxes almost 37 percent. The rural Whitney Point district on the Southern Tier is calling for a 52 percent increase in the tax levy.

    Yeah, that’s 52 percent. No typos here.

    Legislative leaders are saying that they’ll have a budget together that will give schools more money than that stingy-old Pataki was offering.

    It’s unknown, however, how much more they’ll present, when it will be available, and if Pataki would sign off on it or if they’d have the votes to override his impending veto.

    Meanwhile, a state aid payment of $1.6 billion to local schools that was expected to arrive on Thursday has been lost in the mail — make that red tape.

    That means many school districts will be forced to borrow to make up for the state aid they were expecting but won’t receive on time.

    And still local school officials keep their fingers crossed hoping for money from Saint Maziarz and Saint Wirth.

    Uncross your fingers and pick up a shovel so we can dig ourselves out of this mess.

    Now some officials have been afraid to criticize the previously mentioned saints Maziarz and Wirth for fear that they won’t do their bidding again in the future — and with this notion that they’re still going to come through this year.


    And let’s not forget that we still have these teachers out in Starpoint that want 5 percent raises and are allergic to paying for any of their health care. “Doug Whelan doesn’t pay for his health care,” I can hear them whine now.

    Other teachers’ unions around the county are taking note, I assure you, because if the Starpointers get their demands, they might make a nickel more than somewhere else and there seems to be an unwritten law that all public union contracts have to be for the highest dollar figure ever.

    It’s like a never-ending game of poker — no calls, no showing of the cards, just constant raises — and they’re playing with your money.

    Maybe I’m alone here, but there seems to be a problem — and it is us.

    Time and again, I’ve heard school boards mention programs or projects that they wanted to cut — and I’ve seen people come out and say, “No, that’s important. Cut something else.”

    It’s all important, folks. We need to make choices. We need to determine the difference between want and need ... and then choose to hang on to the things that we need and do away with those that we don’t.

    Look, I like my satellite a whole lot, but if I have to choose between it and food, I’ll have to forego the MSNBC for a while.

    We’re in that predicament now. And we need to choose to eat and wait until we can afford to be entertained.

    Since, after all, Saint Maziarz and Saint Wirth are saving us with our own money anyway.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2003

    Scott Leffler: Party of one

    Let's start with the basics.

    I'm a white liberal Democrat male.

    Now take every pre-conceived notion that you have about the previous paragraph and toss it right out the window.

    Don't pigeon-hole me.

    Just cause some of the liberals that you met were in favor of constantly raising taxes to pay for social programs that you don't agree with, that doesn't make me "tax-and-spend Scott."

    Just cause you met some white guy one time in Kansas that thought that women and blacks were inferior, that doesn't make me ignorant and prejudiced.

    And just cause the majority of my political party prefers abortion at any time during a pregnancy to responsibility, that doesn't' make me "anti-life" (although my party calls it pro-choice).

    Someone actually said to me last week: "You're a bad Democrat."

    Um, okay. But I'd make a worse Republican.

    The problem is folks, I don't fit into a nice neat little label - And most of us don't.

    Just what is a radical Muslim?

    Point a "social liberal but fiscal conservative" out of a crowd next time you go to the mall.

    And forgive me if this offends, but to me "compassionate conservative" is an oxymoron.

    We can't all be moderates, you know.

    So why do we use this jargon to describe people to one another?

    We break free of the chains of high school and college, losing our "statuses" while we do so.

    No longer was I Scott Leffler; nerd. I was just plain Scott Leffler.

    And once we're free of those shackles, we align ourselves with people who think alike - even if we don't share ALL the same thoughts.

    And so I registered Democrat. To make it simple, I agree more with Democrats than with Republicans. While I like the "hands-off" nature of the GOP, I'm also in favor of the social kindness that is the basis of the Democratic Party. And my willingness to actually let other people speak without shouting over them told me for sure that I was a Democrat.

    Unfortunately, so is Sheldon Silver.

    So maybe I don't want to be a Democrat - after all, I sure don't want to be associated with Shelly Silver.

    But as a Republican, I'd have to be associated with George Pataki, George Bush and Ronald (George) Reagan.

    If I went Green, I'd be in "The Party of Nader."

    Ralph Nader actually believes that the Republican and Democratic parties are the same. I sure don't want to associate with anyone that can't tell the difference between Donkeys and Elephants.

    Fortunately, you can create your own party - at least for an election cycle.

    Sean Smith did it a couple years ago when he ran for alderman. The "2nd Warders'" party drew in just a handful of votes, but it was enough of an edge to push him to win.

    Smith said he "created" the party because he thought that there might be people that liked him, but whose conscious wouldn't let them vote Democrat - his preferred party.

    If I were to create a party, it would be the "None of the Above" party and I'd only let candidates who felt that the major parties didn't speak for them run as members of that party.

    Of course, then those candidates would be associated with me ... and I'm not sure they'd want to do that.

    Scott Leffler - party of one.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2003

    April 15, the day we pay for all our so-called freedoms

    Happy income tax day.

    It's also the 138th anniversary of the day Abe Lincoln died. You know, 'Honest Abe.'

    And 91 years ago today the Titanic sunk.

    What do all those things have to do with one another?

    Absolutely nothing.

    But it illustrates that April 15 isn't neccessarily the best of days.

    I mean, one of the songs topping the charts 40 years ago today was "The End of the World," by Skeeter Davis -- almost fitting if you ask me.

    I know, you didn't.

    But I digress.

    This country was founded on freedoms. And for those freedoms, we pay taxes, which pay the salaries of those men and women who protect those freedoms.

    I'm using a double tipped pen here, becuase I'm talking about our military and our politicrat at the same time. They both serve us in different ways. (Look up serve in the dictionary).

    Most of the politicrats who end up serving us forget all about the freedoms once they get to their destination, be it City Hall, the Statehouse or the White House.

    But one woman I have had the pleasure of talking with over the past few weeks hasn't forgotten the meaning of freedom. (Did you keep that dictionary handy?)

    Meet Sandra Lee Wirth, a Republican Assemblywoman from Elma.

    She is the only local representative who voted against the smoking ban which is expected to go into effect in July.

    And she told me a few weeks ago that smoking in restaurants wouldn't be the only right to be trampled.

    She jokingly said that her colleagues would next come up with a law that outlawed fatty foods -- for our own good, mind you.

    And then she saw that one of her colleagues was genuinely considering something of that nature due to a lawsuit against McDonalds in which the defendant claims that he didn't know that eating McDonalds day in and day out was bad for you.

    When she heard about the lawsuit and the potential ramifications of it, she called me to have a good laugh about it.

    "I mean, give me a break," she said. "Once you let pandora out of the box, you can bet the rest are going to follow suit. And here come the fat people now."

    The 102 pounder wasn't making fun of fat people, but rather expressing her disbelief that any group of people (smokers, those who are overweight) could have their rights trampled becuase it makes her colleagues feel good about them selves.

    Not passing a budget on time in 19 years makes you long for accomplishments to point to, I guess.

    Anyway, Wirth marveled at the fact that instead of working on that budget that we've discussed time and time again, they're out peeling back our rights.

    So I tested her.

    What about the cell phone ban?

    She voted against it.

    And where were you when we were told we had to wear seat belts for our own good?

    "I wasn't a legislator. I was nothing more than a happy little mother and wife," she said.

    But not happy about the new law.

    "I was livid," she said. "I literally cut them out of my 79 ford thunderbird."

    Now she wears it, of course, but wishes you didn't have to.

    "I think if I had the chance, I would like to let people have the right to make their own choices," she said. "If you make a bad decision, it's your fault."

    In other words, you have the right to remain stupid.

    I agree Sandra Lee.

    And thanks for sticking up for us.