Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New column online ...

Today's column, of course, runs in the Tonawanda News and other fine GNN papers ... but they don't seem to be putting them online.

So I will.

Click here for today's column about government's idiocy over a flavored tobacco ban.

Common sense up in smoke

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

Tomorrow's column today ...

Kind of.

Wordle: Cloves

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

Paterson should go now ...

I'm not a big fan of the federal government telling the states what they may or may not do.

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

Primary challenged

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

All things come to an end ...

'tis true. My employment at WLVL in Lockport came to an abrupt end early yesterday morning.

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

Bird war gets political!

OMFG! I can't believe it.

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

September 1st show notes ... (and podlink)

Today's guest was Dave Mongielo, business owner and candidate for supervisor in the Town of Lockport. Dave and I talked about his sign and the difficulty the Town has given him about it. We also talked about Transit North, the IDA and WalMart.

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.