Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
To be quite honest, I'm looking forward to the new year. And have been for a couple months now. I'm not superstitious or whatever, but something tells me that when I change calendars, everything will be different. And by different, I mean better.
Except in local politics, where things will be the same.
Last week, the Niagara County Legislature dusted off the old harebrained idea that we need a Niagara County Department of Homeland Security. The only real debate seems to be how to pay for it … and who it should be. But in principal, the vast majority of the legislators seem to agree that Niagara County, population 200,000, needs another layer of bureaucracy in our first responders community.
Take a minute and say it out loud. “The Niagara County Department of Homeland Security.”
Does it sound normal to anyone? Cause it sure doesn't sound normal to me. And for the life of me, I can't figure out the need for it, except maybe to give somebody's cousin a job.
To be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of the United States Department of Homeland Security is, except to dole money out to fire departments across the country so that members of congress can look good.
Think about the number of times you hear or read “Homeland Security” in the media. Every once in a while, it's about a guy getting hauled off a plane with a book of matches posteriorly located. Most of the time its a story about a funds coming from some congressman's office and going to some local municipality.
So it's kind of like a slush fund. With guns.
And Niagara County is hoping to get some of that slush fund money in order to create its own department of homeland security. Cause we all know government money is free.
I'll never understand these guys – the government types. Every year they complain about the budget and how they can't afford to do anything. And yet, every year they grow government at the expense of our pocketbooks. And every year, we put them back in office.
So much for out with the old and in with the new, huh?
I don't know about you, but 2010 is the year I plan to take over the world. Or at least my world. I plan to do everything right. Get a great job. A swanky new home. Be true to my school. Maybe a nice vacation in the Mediterranean. The whole shebang. Of course, I had similar plans in 2009. Let's not go there.
I plan to start my new year at the big ball drop in Lockport. They've been doing a ball drop in Lockport for a few years now, but this year my friend Gary Chapman took the gig over and has grown it exponentially. Fireworks, a petting zoo, bounce houses, tasty food. I was even promised a pair of those 2010 glasses you'll be seeing around town.
It's definitely different than I started 2009. But considering how well 2009 has gone, different can only be good.
Out with the old.
In with the new.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I put this out there to stave off any hate mail which might refer to me as a “Godless commie” or whatever. Hate mail is welcome, but don't write it under false pretenses, okay?
The “War on Christmas” is a farce. It doesn't exist. It's propaganda put out by certain nutjobs in the media – mostly radio - in order for them to have something to talk about in what is typically a slow news month.
One particular nutjob has been lamenting the war on Christmas for years, saying that retailers across the United States were forcing their workers to say “seasons greetings” or “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” in order to further the "legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage."
No, really. That's a direct quote from Bill O'Reilly, the self proclaimed culture warrior.
When I'm out shopping or whatever, I tend to say “Merry Christmas” to people I come across. It's my holiday and that's my way to share the Christmas spirit. If someone returns the favor and wishes me a Merry Christmas, I think that's great. If I get a “happy holidays” back, I think that's okay, too. Also appropriate, “Happy Hannakuh,” and “Happy Kwanzaa.”
Last week, I went to a Festivus party put on by my friends at WNYMedia.net. They wanted to have a holiday party, but wanted a twist. Festivus, for those of you who don't know is a holiday invented by the show Seinfeld. There's a pole instead of a tree, feats of strength and the airing of grievances. It's cute.
I don't assume that everyone has the same religion as me. And I don't object to religious tolerance, which is why many people say “happy holidays” over “Merry Christmas.”
A couple days ago, a friend of mine attempted to convey a similar message on Facebook. She was heralded by some and lambasted by others. The most telling comment, though was, “It's called the Christmas season,” to which my friend commented, “not if you're Jewish.”
When you order a drink for a friend, you don't just assume that they want the same thing you're drinking do you? If you're unsure of their beverage habits, you ask them … then order what it is they asked for, right? And if they're not drinking what you're drinking, you don't assume that it's some left-wing conspiracy against Coke, do you?
See, I just have problems with conspiracy theories in general. The concept that the board of directors of any major retailer sit around and come up with ideas to kill Christianity is absolutely absurd. Its much more likely that they sit around and come up with ideas to be more inclusive so they can make more money.
More inclusive means more generic. More generic means “happy holidays.”
So if you're going to lob conspiratorial accusations at the major retailers for creating “holiday” ads instead of “Christmas” ones, do so on the grounds that they're just trying to make more money.
And if you're opposed to corporations making more money, who's the commie now?
Merry Christmas to those I love. This means you.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Chills went down my spine as I wrote that. There's not really much that I fear more than the government's help.
But I don't have to worry about it yet, actually. They're not going to help until February.
That's when the “Great Appliance Swap Out” begins. It's a federal program being administered by New York State that allows people to get up to $500 in rebates for trading in their old washer, dishwasher, freezer and refrigerator for a newer energy efficient model.
The program is using as much as $17 million in stimulus dollars to encourage you to make the move.
You'll have nine days in February to trade in the fridge and get $75 … or trade in the freezer or washing machine for $50. Or trade in the dishwasher, but only if you're also trading in something else. Oh and then there's extra money available if you recycle your old appliance. And possibly a little more if you pledge your undying love to Herbert Hoover or something. I mean, really, must the government make everything so confusing?
I'll give them this, though. At least they know it's confusing. And to help put your mind at ease, they've secured a website - www.NYApplianceSwapOut.com - to answer your questions. Of course, if you actually go to the website, you're greeted with, “An online application and detailed eligibility rules will be available on this page in the near future, so please check back with us again!”
So to sum this up, if you wait three months to buy an appliance and then do so in the proper nine day period and fill out forms in triplicate proving that you bought an Energy Star rated appliance, the government will borrow money from China (or your grandchildren) to help you with that purchase. Yeah. Makes perfect sense to me.
Not to mention, have you ever wondered how something gets the Energy Star label? I have. So I looked into it.
There's an Energy Star controversy. And the label might not mean much, according to the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, the government agency that created and maintains the Energy Star program.
If you go to an appliance store and look at two refrigerators side-by-side, one with the Energy Star label and one without it, look closely at the power consumption tags. It's entirely possible that the one without the “government approved” label is actually more efficient.
And this is the government we're trusting to help us?
Speaking of labels, sometimes they do make a difference.
Recent police blotter items caught a reader's eye and that reader pointed them out to me.
In the same paper, there were listed two drug convictions. One man was found guilty of growing marijuana in his basement. The other of selling cocaine. One got two years in jail. The other got probation. Would it shock you if I told you that the cocaine dealer was the one with the probation? Would it still shock you if I said he shared a last name with a prominent politician?
I'm told that the man is actually of no relation to the politician, but sometimes a label helps, even if it is false identification.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I'll accept my "father of the year" award now.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Slavery was wrong. It was always wrong. It was just as wrong in 1801 as it was in 1865 … as it is today. Slavery didn’t become wrong. We just eventually figured it out.
Just a few short decades ago, there remained laws in many states that prohibited inter-racial marriage. Those laws were wrong. Wrong now. Wrong then. We eventually figured it out.
And in 2009, gay marriage is illegal throughout the majority of our nation, including New York state, allegedly one of the most liberal states in the union.
And, frankly, that’s wrong. And our state senate had an opportunity last week to show the world they had figured that out. But instead they chickened out, voting 38-24 in opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.
Every member of the Republican party voted against it. And every member of the Western New York contingent voted against it, save for Antoine Thompson.
I can’t recall ever being proud of Antoine Thompson before. I was last week.
Opponents will say that marriage is between a man and a woman … as God intended. I say if this is a religious issue, the state should have nothing to do with it. Let the churches decide if they wish to perform same-sex nuptials. Neither force them to, nor prohibit them from. Kind of … oh, what do they call that? Separation of church and state.
Opponents also say that same-sex marriage destroys the “sanctity” of marriage. With a greater than 50 percent divorce rate among heterosexuals, I think the “sanctity” of marriage can be questioned without the help of the gay community.
Opponents will say that if we allow homosexuals to marry, the next step will be to allow for polygamy … or for people to marry their pets. Probably exactly the same logic employed when inter-racial marriage was a hot topic. ‘Cause obviously if a black man wants to marry a white woman, he’d be equally inclined to marry a Shetland pony.
Opponents say that the majority of people don’t care about gay marriage. Never mind the fact that the reason we’re a republic instead of a democracy is to allow cooler, smarter heads to prevail and not allow the majority to trample the rights of the minority.
Most data suggests that approximately 10 percent of the population is gay. So the other 90 percent can pretend they don’t exist? I’ve also read that 10 percent of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability. Can we ignore them, too? Only 6 percent of the U.S. population — including yours truly — has red hair. Should I be shunned or ignored?
If you’re on a deserted island with nine other people and they decide that you would make a good dinner, that doesn’t make it right.
To sum it up, each and every one of us is in the minority on occasion. That doesn’t make us wrong. And it doesn’t mean our voice should be silenced.
If our good state senators oppose gay marriage for themselves, so be it. But to prevent 10 percent of the state’s population from being able to marry the one they love due to their own homophobia, lack of understanding, lack of compassion or simply kowtowing to the “majority” is just wrong.
If they were capable of being ashamed, I’d say shame on them. But we all know they’re not.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
We used to do a “thankful tree” in the Leffler house. Each day from November 1 until Thanksgiving, we'd each write something we were thankful for on a leaf and tape it to the fridge. It was a good way to remember to be thankful on more than just one day. And it reminded us that we really did have things to be thankful for.
Items included people, places we had gone to, things we had done, scenery we had seen, and anything that had made us happy, even if only for a smidgen of time.
I don't think I could do a thankful tree this year. True, 2009 has not been particular kind to this scribe. But it's not that I have nothing to be thankful for. Not by a long shot. It's that I've got so much to be thankful for, I'd have to do a “thankful forest.”
I have neither the time, nor the resources to do a thankful forest. So a thankful column will have to suffice.
I'm thankful for the people that have been in my life since my birth. My family. They've always stood by my side through each decision, right or wrong. Sometimes holding my hand. And sometimes kicking me in the rear. But one way or another, they've been there. And I thank them for that.
Particular thanks to my mom, who has been there to pick up the pieces on several occasions this year alone.
I'm thankful for the people I met in my youth, who in many ways helped to mold and shape me into the person I am today. I've reconnected recently with many people I had first met at the age of four, starting kindergarten. Truly life-long friends … even if there was a 15 year gap in the middle.
I'm thankful for many people I met in college, who – fortunately – keep the same awkward hours I do, always there eagerly awaiting my tales of that days victories. And on the days when the victories are outnumbered by the defeats, they remind me that the sun will rise soon and a new day will begin.
I'm particularly thankful for one friend from college, my best friend for the last 15 years. This has been a trying year for her as well, and yet she always seems to be willing to listen to my sorry tales and offer me the best advice she can give. I couldn't have blamed her had she disappeared this year, but she's still there every time I call. Every time I drop by. Moved on? Yes. Disappeared? No. I'm thankful I didn't lose that friendship.
I'm thankful for my children, who mean the world to me. They remind me that I was young once. And others have been my age before. They have their own trials and tribulations, similar to those I had at their ages. I thought then that I'd never get over the heartbreak of losing a friend or a loved one. But I did. And it reminds me that no loss is insurmountable. Even if you believe it is at the time.
I'm thankful for those who have come into my life recently. Or have had their roles in my life change recently. They've been bright spots in my life and I welcome the light. I'm particularly thankful for one friend who has been the central character in my life for the majority of this year. She's made me weep deeply. And smile broadly. But the highest highs were worth the lowest lows.
And I'm thankful for all the support and love I've received from people I barely know. It truly touches my heart to be looked-in on by people who's birthdays I don't know. Some of them, I don't know their ages. Some, I don't even know their names. And I was important enough to them at some point or another this year for them to call or write and ask how I was doing.
If you want to know how I'm doing, I'll tell you. I'm doing well … thanks to you.
This Thursday as you sit down for dinner with your friends, family, loved ones, or complete strangers, remember what you truly have to be thankful for. Someone loves you. And if no one else does, I do.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Fortunately, there is a lot that goes wrong in the world and I never seem to lack for a rant-worthy topic.
But sometimes things go right. Okay, things go right a lot. But sometimes things go really right … and I feel compelled to offer some kudos. For example, kudos to Niagara County Manager Greg Lewis for holding the line on the county's property tax levy. This year, the county collected $67.5 million in taxes from county residents. He's proposing to collect exactly the same amount next year.
A lot of people get confused about the difference between a tax rate and a tax levy. And I can't blame most of them. It's confusing. Put as simply as I can, the tax rate is the percentage of your home's value you have to pay in taxes each year. The tax levy is the total amount the county collects. You want to watch the tax levy. If it goes up, your taxes are most likely going up. Sometimes legislators like to tout that the tax rate is decreasing, but that's usually due to revaluation. If your $100,000 home is now allegedly worth $110,000 according to your town, you could – in theory – pay a lower tax rate … but still pay more in taxes.
Even Lewis seems confused about the issue, saying “Most people living in Niagara County will experience a reduction in taxes on their bill.”
This can only possibly be true if the minority of residents pick up the tab for that reduction. Unlikely. I'd say odds are most people's tax bills will be about the same, with a few going up and a few going down.
Mr. Lewis, be proud enough for holding the line. Don't try to make it sound like you're lowering people's taxes. No one likes a braggart. Especially when the claim is false.
Despite my kudos, there are some things to be concerned about. One of the ways in which the county was able to hold the line is because the state will be asking for $5 million less for the county’s share of the cost for Medicaid programs. Had the state not asked for less, the tax levy would be $5 million higher. As it is, county officials expect the state to ask for a more than $7 million increase next year. If everything else remains flat, that's a 10 percent increase in the levy … or to reiterate, a 10 percent increase in the average homeowners tax bill.
Another area of concern is that the county workforce is growing. The 2010 budget calls for 1,714 employees, up from a total of 1,671 in 2009. That's 43 more jobs that taxpayers are footing the bill for. Which might sound more reasonable if Niagara County were growing, but it's not. The population continues to shrink. Unemployment continues to rise. That means less people paying, but more people receiving.
Legislators are expected to meet individually to go over the spending plan. They have the final say and could, of course, increase it, but I don't see that as likely, to be honest.
I know I threw in some negative things there at the end, but all-in-all holding the line should be appreciated. Call your legislator and tell them you appreciate Mr. Lewis holding the line. And would appreciate it if they kept that line held … or better yet, do a little cutting.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I've been meaning to join some sort of health club or fitness center for MONTHS now, but never quite got off my fat (and growing) ass to actually do it.
Being single again, I seem to have a lot more free time, and decided to put some of that time to good use by joining a gym, finally.
I had requirements, though. It had to have the appropriate exercise equipment (treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes) ... And it *had to* have a pool. This was a somewhat difficult quest.
The YMCA in Lockport fit the bill, but I feel myself looking to steer clear of Lockport except when necessary. Frankly, I know too many people there ... And even more people know me. I've been enjoying a certain degree of anonymity living in Erie County and wanted to keep as much of that as possible, even though I'm back in the Town of Niagara.
The Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness center had gotten some good reviews from some people, so I checked it out. It was "okay," but was much more aquatic than fitness. I want a gym with a pool. Not the other way around.
I was fortunate to have coffee with an old friend last Friday (I seem to have a lot of coffee with a lot of old friends these days) ... and she recommended Bally's on East Robinson in Amherst. So I checked it out ... And loved it immediately. Signed up and have been going regularly.
I have been making good use of the indoor track, wearing headphones and listening to music as I walk a couple laps and then jog one ... walk a few more then jog one. After warming up on the track, I've been jumping on either an elliptical machine or a stationary bike ... again listening to tunes on my headphones.
Here's the thing: I seem to have a hard time listening to music and not singing along. I *know* this ... So I just mouth the words. I must look like a complete idiot, singing silently to myself around a bunch of total strangers. Hmmph. Oh well.
My goal in all this, by the way is to lose 15 pounds by the end of the year and then another 20 before summer. And maybe make some new friends while I'm at it. I should work on the whole "mouthing the words" thing then, huh?
I had my kids today and took them to Delaware Park for a bit. It's so peaceful and serene. And I need serenity now. We also trekked over to Massachusetts Street to see the Extreme Home Makeover crew at work. I was INCREDIBLY impressed. Word on the street is that they've had more volunteers for this job than any other in the show's history. (Way to go, Buffalo) As a result, they've got people doing bits and pieces of work at at least nine different sites in the neighborhood. And the neighbors are giddy at the prospect of cleaning up some of the blight there.
A lot of people have asked when I'm going to get another radio gig. Plain answer is: I don't know if I am. There aren't that many openings in radio in WNY and there are many talented radio professionals looking for work. But that doesn't mean I've gone away - in any way.
I'm writing a weekly column for the Tonawanda News and the Lockport Journal and (apparently only sometimes) The Niagara Gazette. It runs on Tuesdays. Read it in print or online at their websites.
Speaking of websites, you may have noticed mine was down (again) for a few days. Sorry. As you can see, its back up.
I mentioned earlier that I'm single again. This does not mean that I want you to set me up with your sister's friend or anyone else for that matter. I'm gonna stay single for a while and figure some stuff out. When I'm ready to start dating again, if I need your help finding a girlfriend, I'll let you know.
Alright I've surely shared too much. And I'll sign off now. Talk to you soon.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It was either Alexis de Tocqueville or Hunter S. Thompson who penned the preceding phrase, depending on which source you believe. Also could have been William Shakespeare or Thomas Jefferson.
It matters not who said it, I believe the principal to be true.
Note that the quote says “the people” and not just “people.” It's a collective statement. If you're the only person with any brains living on an island of idiots, you might not necessarily get the government you deserve. But your society as a whole, does.
I can't help but wonder how many of you felt I was talking about them specifically in the last paragraph. I won't ask for a show of hands, though. There was apparently plenty of hand raising last week. But that's neither here nor there.
It could be said that in this quasi-capitalist society in which we live, the people get the customer service they deserve. After all, what is capitalism but democracy with dollar bills?
Could it be said that the people get the health care they deserve? Really? Could we be so screwed up as a whole that we deserve the broken mess we have?
Cause let's face it, the health care system is broken from the top down. Or might it be from the bottom up. Really, who is to blame? The system? Or the system?
Yes, I realize I said system twice. The first system was the insurance carriers and the health care providers. The second system referred to us, the users.
Surely there is enough blame to go around. Yes, the insurance industry reeks of greed. I know of no other industry where you pay for something … and then have to pay extra if you actually use it. Anyone who's been to a hospital lately can attest to the fact that something is amiss there. You've got doctors and nurses answering to lawyers and bean-counters as if that somehow makes sense to anyone … other than the lawyers and bean-counters. It is, however, the “us” part of the equation that concerns me most. For I am not an insurance executive, nor a doctor, nor a bean counter. I am – for better or worse – part of the collective, “the people.”
So in steps government to fix things. The democratically elected government. The one we deserve.
God help us all.
Truly, one of the few things on the planet that I detest more than lawyers is politicians. Maybe it's because such a large percentage of them are actually just reformed lawyers.
I tend to believe less government is best, and as such abhor government involvement in most aspects of my life. I can only imagine what Thomas Jefferson would have thought of his government running the health care industry. I've been to President Jefferson's grave. I
imagine if I revisited it, I could hear him rolling over in it.
After all, it was definitely Jefferson who said, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.”
I tend to agree with the Democrats that the health care system is broken. I just don't tend to agree with their idea on how to fix it.
But mine is a lonely voice, drown out by the collective, getting the government – and the health care – that “the people” deserve.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
That's the question Niagara County voters have to answer for themselves as they pull the lever today on a ballot initiative to reduce the size of the Niagara County Legislature from 19 members to 15.
Proponents say the measure will save the county money by eliminating the salaries of the four legislators – a $60,300 savings per year. Opponents say it will reduce the level of representation for county residents as each legislator will have to look after a larger number of incumbents. Each legislator currently serves about 11,000 constituents. If the downsizing goes through, each will have about 14,000 constituents.
I say both arguments are hogwash.
The real savings comes not from the reduction of salaries in the legislature itself, but from the reduction of salaries of friends and loved ones who get themselves plum jobs in government. Instead of 19 people with pet projects trying to find family members and neighbors jobs, there will only be 15 people doing such. The nepotism savings alone could be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year … not to mention the potential savings from having less pet projects to worry about.
Meanwhile, the argument that a smaller legislature will be less responsive to residents needs makes an assumption that the legislature is responsive to your needs. I'm pretty sure we can agree that's a flawed argument. I mean, really, how often do you see your legislator? I'm going to guess you see them every other October when they're on your doorstep telling you what a great job they've done, right?
There's another theory that certain members of the legislature only favor the reduction because they can then reduce the number of seats allocated to Niagara Falls, thereby reducing the Falls' political power … and the number of Democrats in the legislature.
While I could see the benefit of such a power grab, it seems a bit too conspiracy theory for me and I thereby reject it. That said, I would like to see the districts redrawn by some sort of neutral third party when it's time for redistricting. I would also like to win the lottery. Odds are probably about the same. And I don't play the lottery.
Personally, I support the reduction of the legislature and think you should, too. I think the positives of potential savings far outweigh the negatives of unresponsiveness, mainly because I don't buy the argument to begin with.
I'll make it easy on you if you've yet to cast your vote. If you like to save money hold up one hand. If you only see your legislator around election time hold up another hand. If you've got both hands in the air, vote yes to downsize. If you've only got one hand in the air, vote no. And if you have no hands in the air, you've got more money than brains.
A personal side note: This is the first election in about a dozen years where I'm not working as a reporter or commentator election night. I have done so my entire time I've been back in Western New York and had also been a reporter my last two years in Ohio.
I'm not sure how this makes me feel, to be honest. It's weird, that's for sure.
But I'll still be participating in the election … by voting. Odds are, actually, that I've already voted by the time you read this. If you haven't voted yet and the polls are still open, please go vote. Men and women have died so you could.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Now imagine they didn't do it.
You'd be pretty upset, huh? I know I would.
To make matters worse, you look out your kitchen window to see the grocery store delivery van in your neighbor's driveway, unloading cold cuts, baked goods, canned food, and what looks like several years worth of prime rib and t-bones.
Oh, did I mention that you were paying $5,000 a month for this service? And that the neighbors got millions of dollars worth of groceries ... for free?
That's essentially the scenario as we found out this week that Niagara County has been left behind in a new upstate revitalization program, despite hiring a lobbying firm in May to secure funds from just such programs.
You may recall a couple stories back in May and June about Niagara County signing a $30,000 deal with a government relations firm called Capitol Public Strategies to secure money from the state and federal government for economic development projects within the county.
Of course, you might not recall it, because there has been no news from Capitol Public Strategies since their hiring. In fact, a search of Google News land precisely zero hits on the firm. None. Nothing. Nada. They've apparently done nothing newsworthy. Maybe ever. Oh, except for take our $5,000 a month for the last six months.
Meanwhile the state of New York, despite its current economic crisis, is handing out millions of dollars. Just not to us. In fact, $4.6 million was doled out to Western New York, including $500,000 for a Massachusetts manufacturer that is looking to relocate to Blasdell; $400,000 to rehabilitate an old warehouse in Buffalo; and $2.4 million for improvements at Buffalo’s Lakeside Commerce Park.
Better luck next time? That's basically the response of a spokesman for the governor, who said, “There are several projects in Niagara County that remain in consideration for round two.”
I hope you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath while we wait.
It seems to me like the Niagara County Legislature has a history of spending money with little to no return. I've yet to see any tangible results from the $50,000 annually spent on the county's membership in the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. And who can forget the $42 million tobacco settlement and how quickly that disappeared. Aside from sprinklers at the golf course, anybody remember where it went?
County Manager Greg Lewis said back in June that he expected something from the $30,000 the county is spending on Capitol Public Strategies. “We emphasized that we wanted action,” he said at the time.
Forget action. For $30,000, how about we expect results.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Last week I discussed the glee the opposition party had over the United States' losing Olympics bid. This week it's winning that has people all riled up.
You would think based on the reaction of some of my friends that winning the Nobel Peace Prize was some sort of joke.
Facebook was atwitter with commentary from the left and right about the honor. A few of my favorites are below:
- “This just in - The 2009 Pulitzer Prize has just been awarded to Barack Obama in the Fiction category. Although Obama does not plan to write the book until 2017, the prize committee felt that Obama's "intention" to write a book was sufficient enough grounds to award him the prize.” - G. A.
- “Obama gets Nobel Prize...I did just as much as he has in terms of earning that hardware.” - T. G.
- “I think Obama clearly deserves an ESPY award too. Let's face it. He threw the opening pitch in Chicago.” - N. L.
Clearly the thought was that the president had done nothing to deserve the honor bestowed upon him by the Nobel committee. And to be completely honest, I'm not so sure he has.
Let's face it, we're still at war in Iraq. Still at war in Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay has a date for pending closure of January 22, 2010d, a full year after Obama took office ... and the attorney general says there's no way we'll meet that date.
So I'm found wondering to myself: Where's the peace? I mean this is the Nobel Peace Prize, is it not?
The committee said that they were awarding Obama for giving people hope for the possibility of peace. Specifically, “"for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Honestly, I think the committee awarded him for not being George W. Bush. I mean, Hitler would have worn the prize if he were the first American president following W. Some would say he is, of course.
Whether the president deserves the honor or not, however, he has had it bestowed upon him. Along with the $1.4 million that goes along with it.
Since the president himself said he doesn't feel he deserves the award, I would hope he would take the prize money and devote it to a cause of peace.
Thanks to the woman who emailed me last week, by the way. She said she had waited her whole life to respond to a column ... and she chose mine. Of course, she hated it, but ... you win some. You lose some.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I am a 62 year old woman and this is the first time I have ever responded to a guest view in the Gazette.
Your article, The Victory of "stupidfreude", however, was so silly and biased that I just had to comment on it.
The ONLY legitimate sentence in your article was this one:
"with all that's going on in the world, a trip to Copenhagen to make a plea for the Olympics should have been very low on the list of the president's priorities".
The rest of the article was so off the mark that you should be embarrassed. The last line was especially goofy:
"Or maybe they just hate America".
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
“Stupidfruede” is a word I just made up meaning looking like a complete idiot for taking joy in misery of others when that other person's failure negatively impacts you. I believe my father would have explained it as “cutting your nose off to spite your face.”
For the entirety of the Bush administration, the leaders of the Republican party accused the Democrats of rooting against America.
“Why do you hate America?” I can't tell you the number of times I heard that question as I suggested that starting World War III would not root out terrorism, but would only drag us down to their level.
I was told that anyone who opposes anything the president wants to do is unpatriotic and should “move to Canada” or some such nonsense.
Funny how the rules change with the election of a new president. And suddenly rooting against the president is not only not treasonous, it's downright American. Which is why the GOP is taking great satisfaction in America's loss.
I'm talking about Chicago's loss in its bid for the Olympics, of course.
Seemed like within minutes of the International Olympic Committee's announcement that the 2016 games would not be in Chicago, right wing pundits and elected officials alike were sending press releases and twittering with glee over President Barack Obama's great defeat.
Apparently, they have themselves so wrapped up in the concept of the “real America” versus the blue states, that they forgot that Chicago is technically still an American city.
Personally, I thought the president's mission to bring the Olympics to Chicago was misguided at best. With all that's going on in the world, a trip to Copenhagen to make a plea for the Olympics should have been very low of the list of the president's priorities.
While the GOP piled on over Obama's loss, he spun the loss in his own direction, saying it is “always a worthwhile endeavor” to promote the United States in any way, adding “You can play a great game and still not win.”
That sounds a lot like “it's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.” Words winners never say.
True, Obama could have used some good news. The same morning we lost the Olympic bid, unemployment figures came out, showing a steep rise.
There was a very telling word in that last sentence. “We.” For it was America who lost the bid for the Olympics. Not Barack Obama.
Of course, some people seem to believe that anything that makes “the other guys” look bad is good for them. It's one of the inherent problems in the two-party system.
The whole concept of a two-party system is that anyone who isn't your friend is your enemy. If someone has a different agenda than you, they must be stopped at all costs.
Heaven forbid anyone admit that both the Democrats and the Republicans simply have different ways of doing things.
I'll admit it. Republicans and Democrats simply have different ways of hording power and paying off their base.
And the Olympics in Chicago would have been a huge payoff for Obama's base. Imagine the contracts and kickbacks that would have gone to some of the president's biggest supporters in one of the most corrupt political city's in America.
Maybe that's why the GOP opposed the Olympics in Chicago. Maybe they didn't want to see Obama's supporters get fat.
Or maybe they just hate America.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So I will.
Click here for today's column about government's idiocy over a flavored tobacco ban.
In order for government to justify its existence, it must continually take actions. Maybe it raises taxes. Maybe it makes proclamations. Usually it just creates stupid new laws. That's exactly what it did last week.
Last Sunday a new law went into effect banning cigarettes. Not all cigarettes, of course – the tobacco lobby is far too powerful for that to happen – just flavored ones.
The theory seems to be that cigarettes are bad for you ... and even worse for your kids. And there should be every effort made to prevent kids from smoking. The theory also seems to be that minors start with flavored cigarettes.
Seems logical to me.
So the government has banned the production and sale of any flavored cigarettes. Well. Um. No. Not really.
See, the ban includes cherry, grape, chocolate and the ever-enticing clove cigarettes, but not menthol.
Personally, I've smoked since the age 12. Aside from a five-year respite in the middle, that's 22 years of tobacco addiction. I never knew there were cherry flavored cigarettes. Nor grape or chocolate. And in all my years of smoking, I've only met two people who smoked clove cigarettes. Neither was a teenager.
Now, menthol cigarettes? With no effort, I can think of half a dozen teenagers who smoke them. I mean, come on! They're mint flavored. Talk about a gateway drug.
Muddying matters further is the fact that the vagueness of the law seems to exempt flavored cigars and cigarillos, such as the ever-popular Swisher Sweets, mini cherry-flavored cigars.
Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking with a teenage boy who had decided to start smoking those flavored mini-cigars because, as he put it, “it wasn't really smoking.”
I think that's probably the mindset of a lot of people who start smoking Swisher Sweets. “It's not really smoking.” But it could very potentially lead to it, which I pointed out to the boy. He acknowledged that it very-well could.
But these gateway cigars were exempt. Just like the minty cigs.
So if the real goal is to prevent teens from smoking, why not ban the cigarettes teens are most likely to smoke? Or the flavored cigars that are actually cheaper than cigarettes? That takes us back to the tobacco lobby. Phillip Morris and their like make lots of money of those minty smokes. They'd never let their bought-and-paid-for representatives in Washington pass a law that would do any significant financial damage to them.
And the politicrats in Washington know it. In fact, the FDA made no effort to ban menthol cigarettes. None whatsoever. And as stated before, wrote the law so vaguely as to essentially exempt flavored cigars.
So if the new regulations come with loopholes which basically makes the regulations themselves moot, you have to wonder why they enacted the ban at all.
Plain and simple: to justify their existence. They want you to think they're doing something. Even if the something they're doing works out to be nothing.
And I didn't even get into the very basic concept that it is not government's job to protect us from ourselves. Anyone over the age of seven knows that smoking is bad for them. We don't need to government's help on the issue.
Thank God for that, by the way. Since if we did need their help, they'd enact a law very similar to the one we got.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Click through to see the words used in tomorrow's column in a Wordle. The bigger the word, the more often it was used, so you can get a gist of what the column is about.
And then be sure to read it in it's entirety tomorrow in the Tonawanda News.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'm a fairly large proponent, in fact, of the nearly-forgotten 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
In other words, unless the Constitution specifically says it's the job of the feds, it's up to the states to make their own decisions.
See, in the rest of the world, the word “state” and “nation” are synonyms. We were designed as a group of countries with a common goal, but each being allowed to act in its own best interest by its own group of elected officials.
Sometimes, though, the elected officials are absolutely horrible. As is the case in the governor of this fair state of ours, David Paterson.
So when I learned over the weekend that President Barack Obama was pushing Paterson not to run for governor next year, I was a bit dismayed. Let the president worry about his own problems and let us worry about ours.
And then I got to thinking. I like the idea of Paterson not being elected to a full term as governor. After all, his idea of making tough decisions is raising taxes and fees. Cause it's really tough to ask people to shell out more money, right?
So while Obama may be overstepping his bounds, I like the goal – getting rid of Paterson – so I'll support the move.
After all, its not like Obama is asking him to step aside as president. He's asking him as the chief figurehead of the Democratic Party. See he wants as many Democratic governors in office as possible. And he thinks Paterson would lose the election next year, so he wants him to step aside so a stronger candidate can run.
Which, of course, then makes me think that maybe Paterson should run – and lose - allowing a Republican to take the governor's mansion, which would split up the monopoly the Democrats have on New York's government.
Not that the GOP is any better than the Democrats, frankly. Actually the Republicans taxed and spent just as heavily as the Democrats are when they were in charge of the State Senate and had George Pataki as governor.
But gridlock is good, no matter what H. Ross Perot said. Gridlock is the only thing that prevents us from more taxes, fees and regulations.
I look at it this way, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I'm friends with both the Democrats and the Republicans … but only when they're fighting each other. It's sort of like when the Red Sox play the Yankees. Or that horrible movie Jason vs. Freddy. Who do you root for? I root for injuries.
So we need a bigger Republican presence in state government. But only to keep the Democrats as bay.
In the end, I hope Paterson does run for a full term, despite the president asking him not to. And I hope he gets crushed by the GOP candidate. As long as it's not Rudy Guiliani.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
So here we are – once again – at a crossroads ... kind of.
Tuesday is primary day across the grand state of New York and there are elections galore ... kind of.
Actually, in the Niagara County Legislature, there are primary contests in less than half of the districts. The odds are higher that you don't have a legislature race to vote in Tuesday than that you do. And if you're in Erie County, your odds of voting aren't much better. Only six of 15 races have primary opponents.
And many of the races afford you the “opportunity to ballot” or right your candidate in – an arcane system designed to protect incumbency and the “party” hierarchy.
This is partly the reason so few people are willing to carry petitions and raise money and do the legwork to run for office. And then there's the people that run again and again, only to be crushed by the system and/or the electorate. It's sort of politics ... Sisyphus style. Roll the rock up the hill. Near the top. It slips and crushes you. Start over tomorrow ... or next year as the case may be for many of the perennial also-rans.
Many voters seem to sit the primary out. It's not as exciting. It's not as sexy. It's not as something. Who knows. But they wait until the November election before they decide to get out and vote. By then they have their choices between the incumbent (or a clone of that incumbent) and some person they've never heard of. And they throw their arms up in disgust, muttering something akin to, “Why do we always have to choose between the same lot of idiots?”
And they seem to forget that they had a chance to change the lot of idiots just two months prior, but took a pass.
Leonard Roberto, founder of Primary Challenge, has expressed his frustration with this process on numerous occasions. I've discussed it personally with him at a handful of chance meetings.
Primary Challenge knows that by the time you get to the general election, the die has been cast. The real opportunity for change comes in the primary itself – hence the name. And the main reason for that opportunity is the fact that fewer people get out to vote.
Simply put, if you're one of 1,000 people casting a vote, you get one one-thousandth of the decision. If you're one of 100 people voting, you get a hundredth of the vote, making your vote 10 times more powerful.
Now, the math might not be to scale. I've never been good with math. But the logic stands.
You may be to the point where you think I'm telling you to get your butt to the ballot box on Tuesday and vote. But I don't necessarily encourage that. Not unless you know what you're voting on.
Truly, the only thing worse than our apathy is our lack of knowledge on the issues before us. It doesn't matter how much you care about your community, if you don't know who stands for what, you're just voting for the sake of some misguided civic pride. It's kind of like driving with a blindfold on. You'll get somewhere, but the odds are you won't like it.
Fortunately, there are tools out there which you can inform yourself with. For example, your daily paper. Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge. But your time is running short. Do some reading. Figure out what you want. And pull the lever. Assuming you're in the minority of those who gets to vote.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
You may have heard rumors about it or seen it in the local paper ... but I wanted to give you the straight dope ... cause, that's what I do.
I'd been at WLVL for nearly seven years now. And it was a job I loved doing. I said frequently, I got paid to do what I would have been doing anyway, bitching about the world in which we live ... and - moreso - the community in which we live. And just shy of seven years is a pretty damn good run if I do say so myself.
As for the reasoning of my termination, I can't really say for sure. Station owner Dick Greene simply said he wasn't happy with the direction things were going.
Personally, I thought I was doing a good job. Talking politics. Talking local issues. And having fun doing it. I know then when I left WECK earlier this year, several listeners from that radio station followed me over to WLVL and would not only listen, but call into Dialog. Frankly, it gave the show new life.
I have no animosity towards Dick. He is a very good man ... and has always treated me with the greatest respect ... and frankly could have fired me several times over the course of the years, but didn't. He even mentioned that he might come banging on my door some day begging me to come back. I'd be open to the idea, that's for sure.
So, if you heard there was yelling, screaming or some big blowout, that simply isn't true. The radio industry is ever-changing ... and I can't fault Dick for deciding to make a change. Even if I disagree with the decision.
Now, of course, the hard part. I have to find another job ... again.
You may recall I used to work for Greater Niagara News and had been let go from there a few years ago as part of a massive downsizing on their part. Fortunately, I already had my foot in the door at WLVL and parlayed my talk show into a full-time gig, including that of production director.
I've been very fortunate over the years to have been able to pick up a wide variety of skills ... and make a lot of long-lasting relationships. Hopefully those skills and contacts will make finding a new gig less difficult for me.
I loved radio and would love to stay in radio, but Buffalo's a small town and there really aren't that many talk show host positions open, ya know? I have journalism experience and could go back to writing. In fact, I think you'll see me writing for print again soon ... but details on that are not yet hashed out, so I can't say for sure what it'll be. And hey, I'm not THAT ugly ... so TV is always an option. There's also public relations. Or I could be a migrant worker. But that's my least favorite option.
Moral of this story ... thank you for your words of support ... and you'll see me again.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The birds are at it again, this time attempting political assassination of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Now, you may call the "bird strike" mere coincidence, but it was Mayor Bloomberg who ordered the execution of hundreds of Canada Geese following the takedown of flight 1549 back in January.
The mayor, a pilot himself, did not comment.
For more, click here.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Dave's website is MyLockport.com. If you want more info about him or other things in the town, check there. If you missed the show, a link to the podcast is below.
Also, if you're interested in Town politics, you'll want to know that Donna Pieszala will be on Dialog next Thursday, September 10.
Of course, I'd be happy to have any political candidate in ... be they challengers or incumbents.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Dialog 082709 - Starpoint
Thursday, July 30, 2009
That answer came in the form of a new law banning texting while driving. Now, some of you may think that a ban on texting while driving is a good thing. Personally, I think the ban itself is silly, but that's not the part that's stupid.
The real stupidity is that the legislature - in their infinite wisdom - decided to make the texting ban a "secondary law." Basically, you can't be pulled over for texting while driving. You have to be committing some other violation simultaneously.
So ... what's the point?
The point is to make points, I believe. This is feel-good legislation at its worst. It's exactly the type of thing that I did NOT miss while the Senate was on their little sabbatical. Pass a law to appease people, mainly the law enforcement community and the families whose lives have been touched by tragedy concerning texting-while-driving ... but make sure there's no real teeth to it. It's akin to telling a friend you'll help them move ... and then not showing up to actually help.
But never fear ... the US Senate is here ... kind of. Under the leadership of our very own Chuck Schumer, the is putting together legislation that would require states to pass laws banning text messaging or lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds.
There goes the US government again ... holding states hostage with a threat to withhold federal funding. They do the same thing with speed limits. This, in fact, has come up on Dialog on a number of occasions. See, the feds can't impose laws on states. But they can bribe or blackmail states with threats of witholding money. Some states have actually had the fortitude to tell the US Gov't to pound salt. How very.
I'm not sure why, but texting seems to be the new boogie man. First it was marijuana. Then the Communists. Now ... texting. Texting accident stories are popping up on the internet like shark attack stories seem to multiply each year.
Here's a clue for you: Texting is NOT the problem. Stupid is the problem. Just as it's the problem with the NY Assembly and the NY Senate and the US Senate ... it's the problem with the American people. Some people just aren't bright enough to multi-task.
Me? I can text while driving. I do it all the time. Texting with my right hand, smoking with my left hand. Steering with my knee. And changing the radio with whatever is left. Oh, and I speed. Guess what? Never been in an accident. Know why? Cause I'm capable. But the laws are not geared towards capable people. They're geared to the lowest common denominator.
So what we've got here ... is stupid people creating stupid laws ... to keep other stupid people from getting in car crashes.
Seriously, I commented on radio today that we should be able to test for certain things - add-ons, if you will - to your drivers' license. Want a license to text? Put it in the test. If you can text while parallel parking, it's all good. Want a license to speed? Just be tested for it.
Personally, I'd like a license to completely ignore traffic laws. They are - for the most part - arbitrary. And I hate arbitrary laws. Of course, I hate laws, period. I think they're stupid. But that's another blog post for another day.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Maziarz said the action was illegal ... and wanted to know why Paterson didn't do it a year ago.
Maziarz is full of it. Always. He had over a decade in the majority and got what done? Nothing. Just a continued circling of the drain. But some people are just in love with the guy, evidenced by the comments on this facebook post. (you have to be my Facebook friend to see it)
But today's hypocrisy is something to behold. He's upset that Paterson has come up with a solution to the state senate deadlock ... which Maziarz, himself, is responsible for. He was proud to admit that he was one of the architects of the "coup," but now wants to blame Paterson for wanting to fix it?
Of course, the best way to get my point of view on this is to listen to the podcast, which you can do by clicking here.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
So we did.
Melissa mentioned something going on at the History Center talking about "Hobo marks" or some such thing. I've always been amused by the word "hobo," so I took it and ran with it. Why, for example, do we have homeless people here in Western New York when they could be living in Miami? As amused as I am by the word, "hobo," however, I can't seem to pronounce it. I accidentally said "homo" at one juncture. Yeah. So not what I meant.
Melissa also brought up "King Harvest" and their song, "Dancing in the Moonlight." Lots of callers called in with little known facts about the band. Was fun.
Click here for the podcast.
And be sure to tune in tomorrow when I mispronounce "truck."
Tuesday I began discussing government misconduct, especially the use of the Buffalo City Seal by Mayor Byron Brown during a non-profit charity event … and the seemingly-coercive methods used to get city hall employees to carry Brown’s water.
Then – as happens often – the show turned on a dime and callers lamented the ruling in the Wilson sexual abuse case. Sorry, can’t … won’t … call it hazing.
Anyway, to listen (and I hope you do) click this here link, yo … and enjoy.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Read it out loud and try not throwing up in your mouth a little bit.
MICHAEL JACKSON IMMORTALIZED IN BUTTER? YES, IT'S TRUE
We're not sure if this is in poor taste, but the organizers of the Iowa State Fair plan to carve a life-size sculpture of Michael Jackson out of butter.Organizers say it will act as a tribute to the King of Pop. It will reside next to a butter sculpture of a cow that acts as an annual attraction.
M-J performed twice at the fair in 1971 with The Jackson Five.
(originally reported by the Associated Press)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Not that I don't enjoy Dialog, but at times, I think it's a bit too serious. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to add some much-needed levity to the show. One particular feature that I enjoyed on Reason was a bit I called "News of the Weird." It worked particularly well having producer Frank Miller to bounce things off of. On Dialog, I'm going to have to run it solo. And I've renamed it: "Yup. That. Really. Happened."
Speaking of things that really happened, check out this YouTube video of a flash mob in Los Angeles.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I'm pleased today because the Penguins won last night, forcing a game seven in the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately, I'll miss game seven ... or at least I won't be able to WATCH it. I'll listen in the car on XM 204 whilst doing job 2. For the record, I'm not a Penguins fan. I just hate them less than the Redwings.
Hey! Are we facebook friends? Why not? Just search for Scott Leffler on facebook. You'll find me.
And now for something fun:
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
1) A story in the US&J by Mark Scheer explains that Republicans in the legislature feel they have "no choice" but to sue the New York Power Authority over the $544 Million the authority transferred to the state recently.
They held a press conference last night to discuss it, with Clyde Burmaster calling the fund sweep, "more like a broad, daylight robbery."
Basically, the GOP is saying that since the power authority had so much money left over after paying it's bills, etc, it must have been overcharging residents for electricity and those residents should get their money back. Now, they're currently saying that they want the money given in the form of a customer rebate, but I'm betting that at some point, they'll say it would be put to better use if it went straight to the county.
2) The county allotted $6,000 of casino funds to provide a "free entry" night to the Niagara County Fair.
Of course, one legislator (John Syracuse) had to get in a jab at the state, saying that they don't know where the money is going to come from next year. The state plans to take the county out of the casino cash equation, which, of course, the county is suing over.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
1) Delphi's deal to emerge from bankruptcy and GMs role in it.
2) Lockport's ice arena moves one step closer to reality.
3) Danny's Sklarski's plan to implement a "tax stabilization fund."
The above is just funny.
Monday, June 01, 2009
News, notes and necessities
items of interest the week of June 1, 2009
News: Monday: Bob Confer returns to the airwaves this week after a break. We'll talk with Bob about that break and why it was good ... plus we'll discuss state government and all that is wrong with it. Well, not ALL that is wrong with it. We only have Bob for 15 minutes or so.
Notes: You may have noticed that the ScottLeffler.com website is down, but you can still access the blog directly. I have - once again - started paying attention to the blog. Forgive my disappearance.I'll have the website back up soon, I hope, but it's non-functionality also means that my regular email address is down. For the time being, please use email@example.com. Thanks.
Dialog airs on Hometown 1340, WLVL at 11:11 am Monday through Friday. It can also be heard on WLVL.com. Podcasts of the show are available for download at WLVL.com, as well.
Necessities: Also, even though the main website is down, you can still access, read and post to the forum directly. Just click here.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I found this link on how to get rid of Canada Geese (not Canadian Geese).
A listener added cayenne pepper to the list ... and another added wires close to the ground. Personally, I think hiring some dogs will work best.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I love sports, but I especially like when sports converges with politics ... as is the case in the following news story:
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are opposed to the Phoenix Coyotes relocating to southern Ontario because it would have a potential "crippling" effect on the Buffalo Sabres, according to WGRZ.I know that Chuck Schumer has a thing with the Buffalo Bills and keeping them in WNY. But now, he apparently is going to be the a public advocate for the Buffalo Sabres.
Personally, I wish he'd concentrate on the budget, the deficit, the crumbling economy, the war on terror, and other things he should be working on.