Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Tis no longer the season

Another Christmas has come and gone.

I had a great Christmas season, ending on an an absolutely wonderful Christmas Day where I got everything I asked for. True story.

I mentioned last month how much I love Christmas. I get into the lights. And the music. And the movies. Heck, I watched Christmas movies almost exclusively from Thanksgiving until Saturday night.

However, as I said, the Christmas season ends on Christmas Day. And come December 26th, it just seems wrong to watch Christmas movies. Christmas music becomes passé. The snow stops being pretty and starts being a nuisance. And I can endure the lights and decorations for a little while longer, but by a few days after New Years, they start to bother me.

I guess I feel like there's a place for everything and everything in its place.

With Christmas come and gone, it's now time to focus on the new year. A time we all dedicate to bettering ourselves.

I had never been one for New Year's resolutions. But I made several last year. And I'm happy to say I kept most of them. I didn't resolve to lose weight. Or quit any vices. I would have failed those. Mostly, I just resolved to just be a better person. I think I was.

This coming year I resolve to build on the successes I had in 2010. I had several. I also had my fair share of failures. I resolve to work harder to have less of those in 2011.

Whatever you might want 2011 to be, remember that it is mostly up to you. Sure, there are things in life we don't control. But we do control who we are, individually.

Resolutions should not be wishes. They are intentions. Promises, if you will. And they're promises you make to yourself. Maybe you make them publicly and tell your friends and colleagues. But what you tell yourself is really more important.

A resolution should not be boastful. No one is impressed with what you say you intend to do. People are impressed by actions.

I can truly say that today I am a better, stronger person than I was a year ago. While that may not be impressive to you, it means everything to me.

I got quite a bit of feedback on last week's column. When I wrote it, I was somewhat concerned that it was too specific to Lockport. But the kudos came from far and wide, as I should have expected. Lockport may have been the example, but the topic was somewhat universal.

I always enjoy feedback. Be it positive or negative. It let's me know that you're reading this, first of all. It also lets me know that you care about the community you live in.

This paper encourages feedback. And we want to hear your opinion on things. You can let us know what you're thinking with a letter to the editor, by calling Sound Off, or by adding your two cents to our Facebook page.

Maybe that can be your resolution. Resolve to get more involved.

Alright, I bared my soul enough this week. I'll meet you back here next Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What part of 'no' don't they understand?

Some people don't seem to take “no” for an answer.

School boards seem to be worse at this than any other group of people I know.

You'd think that those in charge of teaching our children would be able to understand English – especially a simple word like “no.”

But once again, a local school district is wondering if maybe “no” actually just meant “not right now” or “ask again later.” It's like the Magic 8 Ball version of “no” with them.

Last week the Lockport Board of Education got some visitors asking them to ask taxpayers if maybe “no” really didn't mean “no.”

Two years ago, voters went to the polls to vote on a measure that would build a $6 million sports complex at the Lockport High School. It was part of a two-part capital improvement proposal to upgrade the high school. It was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 1,797 to 1,296. The other part of the proposal – which focused more on academics, was approved 1,708 to 1,442 and is the $23.5 million construction work currently being done on the school.

Fast forward to now and some folks in the athletics department are hoping they'll get a second chance at that $6 million project.

The argument they made to the school board last week was that people didn't know what they were voting on before. We're stupid, see, and we can't be trusted to make our own decisions. Since the people who know better are looking out for us, they're going to give us a second change to say “yes.”

I have children in the Lockport School District. I want them to have the best opportunities possible. But I also know what I can and can't afford. And I don't have a spare $6 million for a sports complex.

Now, the sports folks would keenly point out here, that the state is kicking in 93 percent of the cost, so, really, Lockport taxpayers would only pay $420,000. The rest would be paid with money the state has piled up in a big room in Albany.

Except there's no money piled up in a room in Albany. Albany's broke. And let's not forget where Albany gets its money – us!

Government entities have been pulling the whole “don't worry, the state pays for it,” shell game for a long time, all the while, complaining about Albany's overspending. Maybe if we only did things we could afford, Albany wouldn't spend so much.

I have nothing against sports. Growing up, I played hockey, football, baseball, soccer, tennis, even lacrosse. Not for school, mind you. Just at a park with my friends. We never asked for a $6 million sports complex, even though it would have made the games so much cooler. And to the best of my recollection, I never asked my parents for so much as a new hockey stick. When I broke one (which I did often), I got my wallet out and bought one … with my money … if I could afford it. And if I couldn't, I waited until I could.

When you're paying your own way, you learn to accept “no” as an answer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recession finally hits state government

Most of us have had to learn to do with less these past couple years.

I've personally used the phrase, “not in the budget” about four million times, whether it was while out shopping with the kids, or turning down a friend's request to go out to dinner or to a movie or whatever. We all have to prioritize and most often prioritizing means skipping what you want to to in order to afford what you have to do.

“Not in the budget” has become somewhat of a catch phrase. I'm hardly the only one saying it. The recession has affected almost everyone I know in some way or another. Many of my friends have lost jobs, or had to do more at their jobs, picking up the slack left because someone else at their job got a pink slip.

Private companies deal with the pain of recession by reducing their workforce if they can't find other ways to save enough money to make them viable during the bleak economic times that fall upon us from time to time.

Government, it seems, hardly goes that same route.

My budget – much like yours – is determined by my paycheck. My paycheck – much like yours – is determined by how many hours I work, multiplied by how much my employer is willing to pay me for each hour of work done.

Government's budget, meanwhile, is determined by how much they raise in taxes; whether they be sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes or “fees,” which are really just taxes with a different name.

Basically, people get paid what their employer is willing to pay. Government gets paid whatever they want.

This has been the formula for far too long.

One thing that rang out loud and clear from the election is that people aren't fond of that formula. People don't like being told what to do or how much to pay. Government is supposed to work for us. Not the other way around. And many of the people who won their elections in November campaigned on just such a mantra.

It looks like New York State might have gotten that message … to a degree. Last week Governor David Paterson announced that come January 1, there will be 900 fewer state employees than there are right now. The last day of this month, 900 people will get their pink slips and told to move on.

Of course, those 900 people are none-too-happy about this. And the unions that represent them aren't either.

But in Paterson's defense, he did give those unions an opportunity to save those jobs if they were willing to make concessions to save the state money. The unions, however, refused.

Paterson can't force concessions on the unions. They already have a contract. But he can reduce the number of employees. So that's what he did.

It's sad to see people lose their jobs. But it beats allowing the state to be held hostage by public employees unions.

Come January 1, this could all be moot if the incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo belays that layoff order.

If he does, we all might have to get part-time jobs just to pay our taxes. Or we'll have to learn to do with even less.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Its snow fun making yourself look stupid ...

Bragging never works the way you want it to. It always comes back to bite you.

Since the snow hit last week, I've been telling everyone, “I don't have any,” with a somewhat smug smile like the one I watched George W. Bush wear for eight years.

Everywhere I went, there was snow on the roads and people's lawns. There was ice on the driveways, slush in the parking lots and general winter unpleasantness. My daily commute began with dry pavement and green grass. But as I passed through Amherst, I saw snow on the trees and all along the grass on the 990. As I entered Lockport, there seemed to be snow everywhere. Granted, it wasn't a lot of of snow. Nothing we couldn't handle. But snow nonetheless. And as I mentioned, “I don't have any.”

I fell asleep on the couch Sunday night as I admired the glow that came off of our new Christmas tree. There was Christmas music on the radio and I was very much feeling the Christmas spirit, as I've mentioned before that I often do.

Monday morning, however … Bah, humbug. What's with all this white stuff outside? My happy little paradise of green grass and dry roads had gotten covered in snow overnight. And my first thought? Not that I'd have to warm my car up. Not that I'd have to brush it off. Not that this would add another 10 minutes to my commute. Nope. My first thought was that I'd have to eat some crow from all the “I don't have any's,” that I've been telling people.

Then it occurred to me that I'd have to start the car early and it would take more time to get to work. And that simply compounded my braggadocios dilemma.

Of course, it's just a little snow and living in Buffalo, we pride ourselves on our ability to deal with the snow. Heck, it could snow three feet in a day and that wouldn't slow us down. Right?

Well, a week ago I would have said as much … before that debacle on the Thruway last week where motorists got stranded for the better part of a day while government officials did their best to look like Keystone Cops. The thought that a little snow not only slowed us down, but stopped us altogether is a bit humbling.

I'm all-too-familiar with that particular tract of pavement where the Thruway became a parking lot. I used to drive it daily. And when the snow hit, I told everyone I knew, “I'm just glad that's not part of my daily commute anymore.”

I'd then add, “I don't have any.”

And just like Buffalo as a whole lost the right to be self-righteous about dealing with the snow last week, I lost my right to be self-righteous about not having to deal with the snow as Sunday turned into Monday.

After all, bragging never works the way you want it to. It always comes back to bite you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting into the season ...

This time of year I'm like a kid at – well – Christmas.

I'm not sure what it is, but it seems like as soon as I see Santa Claus in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, any concerns I have get wiped away while I bask in the warmth of the Christmas season.

It seemed like half the houses in my neighborhood had lights up the day after Thanksgiving. And almost everyone I know was out hustling and bustling trying to get the good deal on whatever at the stores holding sales Friday morning.

I had friends in town and the kids and I made paper snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling all around the house. I got peppermint flavored creamer for my coffee and suddenly, the egg nog is in season again.

I can't seem to help but to smile this time of year.

Yeah, it's colder than it was a month ago. You've got to turn your heat up. You may have to scrape your car off before heading to work. And there's a lot more traffic than there should be on Transit, the Boulevard, Military Road and Walden. But how can you not grin at the toddler with the gleam in his eyes entranced by the toy at the store that you know he's getting – even if he doesn't.

Of course, there are some kids that don't get the toy. And some people who can't afford the peppermint creamer. And even people who can afford to turn the heat up.

Fortunately, we seem to remember the needy more this time of year. And we make donations of food, clothes and even money to local charities more so than we would in, say, October.

In the Spring and Summer, I'm very interested in being out and about. Doing things with those I care about. Or even by myself. I want to see new things and try new things. This year I got to see and try many things that I hadn't done before. I consider the year to have been successful.
But by late November and early December, all I want to do is sit on the couch with my kids and watch one Christmas movie after another. Ones from when they were younger. Ones from when I was younger. And even ones from when you were younger.

The same goes for Christmas music. I almost couldn't wait to turn Christmas music on. I did though. Thursday night on my way into work, it was all Christmas music. And the look in my eyes was probably about the same as the toddler in the toy store.

There's something special about Christmas music. There's notes that can only be achieved when singing about the holidays. The same thing seems true for Christmas movies. Things take on more meaning.

This is an emotional time of year for me. Always has been. You might know me as “that jerk,” but when it comes to the holiday season, I forget to play that role and I get all mushy.

Maybe Christmas is just stressful for you. You have to work overtime and can't forget to get a gift for Aunt Betty. And the bills pile up. And driving is frustrating. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Let all that go and just bask in the glory of Christmas. Surround yourself with those you love and the rest will seem to take care of itself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flying is a privilege ...

Everyone seems to be up in arms over the new security regulations at our nation's airports.

Really, I think their arms are supposed to be straight out, aren't they?

I know that air travel can be frustrating. And the security rules that surround that travel only compounds that frustration.

I've felt silly on a number of occasions taking my shoes off flying out of JFK International. Thank goodness I thought ahead and wore good socks those days. Holey socks would be really embarrassing when your surrounded by the traveling elite.

But I've never complained about it. And neither should anyone else.

I'm all for civil liberties. I think random locker searches in our nation's high schools are a violation of the fourth amendment. And random traffic checkpoints are, too. Kids have to go to high school. And ground travel in nearly impossible to avoid. But your constitutional rights end at my front door. Or the property line for any private airport.

You don't have to fly anywhere. Ever. John Madden travels all over the country every year. And he never flies. Believe me, it's possible.

So if you choose to get onto an airplane from Buffalo to fly to sunny California - or even gloomy Cleveland – you have to play by the rules governing that airport. And the rules currently state that you may be randomly patted down or asked to go through a full-body scanner.

Those are the rules. Simple. Don't want to play by those rules? Then drive.

I have serious reservations about the “randomness” of those pat-down and scans, but I'm not interested in discussing profiling today.

I've heard people complain about the pat downs: “I don't want to get felt up in the airport.” I hate to tell you this, but odds are, no one wants to feel you up in the airport, either. Get over yourself.

I've heard people complain about the body scans: “You basically look naked.” Yes, you basically look naked. If you're gray and have no facial features when you're naked. Not to mention the fact that the person looking at you naked is locked in a windowless room and can't compare the naked gray image to the person walking through the scanner.

Let's not forget that this is for our own safety. Usually when government says something is for your own safety, what they really mean is they're playing Big Brother, telling you what to do to protect yourself. In this instance, they're trying to protect you from dangerous people. Or maybe protect innocent people from you – if you happen to be one of those dangerous people who wants to do others harm.

Some have suggested that tomorrow (the busiest travel day of the year) everyone opt out of the scanners and go through the pat-downs (you get to choose). This will, of course, will gum up the system and slow down the process. Which, of course, will only delay your flight. A better example of cutting off your nose to spite your face I have never seen.

I agree that the Transportation Security Agency should have no immunity and if someone “touches your junk,” they should be arrested.

But if they're just doing their job, you should simply be happy that you have the privilege (yes, I said privilege) of air travel.

Yes, another thing to be happy for this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The questions that don't get asked ...

Sometimes questions that don't get asked are the ones that should.

I'm not sure how or why, but I was talking about politics with my oldest daughter on Sunday and she asked me, “what's the point of political parties?”

I attempted to explain it the best way I could, telling her it was sort of an indication to others of who your friends were. “It's kind of like football jerseys,” I said. “It's so you know who to throw the ball to.”

Except, that's a horrible explanation.

And the more I attempted to think of a metaphor for the reasoning for political parties, the more frustrated I got. Because, honestly, I just can't.

As the lame ducks in Congress convened in Washington yesterday, the Democrats pushed to get certain things done before the end of their session, knowing that come January when the Republicans take over, their ideals will be put on hold for at least two years.

Many political pundits are split over whether the Democrats will get anything meaningful accomplished in the next month and a half. Some think they'll ram some legislation through and others think they'll simply bicker, much like they have been doing for the last 22 months.

So here's a question that seldom gets asked aloud: Why do we have an election and then wait nearly two months to put the people we elected into office?

Sure there are some races that remain undecided. Votes need counted. And recounted. But for the most part, we know the winners and losers of the mid-term election. Ironically, the losers get a month and a half back at the controls.

In a manner of speaking, each election, we have a pre-planned revolution – a mutiny of sorts. And then we tell the captains we had just revolted against that they have six more weeks at the helm. Why don't we throw them out on their behinds immediately?

For some masochistic reason, I looked forward to watching the Bills game on Sunday. Every week the Bills frustrate me, and yet, I as hoping to watch the game. Unfortunately I couldn't because it was blacked out locally.

Football fans understand the blackout. If the game doesn't sell out, we don't get to watch it. Have you ever thought about the logic in that? If not enough people think the game is worth paying to watch, you don't get to watch it for free.

NFL: “Sorry, but your team is horrible. The only way you can watch them is to pay.”

Does that make sense to anyone?

Some questions, I guess, don't have good answers. And sometimes it takes a 13-year-old girl, a dysfunctional group of middle-aged white men, or a shoddy football team to make you realize that.

Be sure to read next week as we learn why we drive on a parkway, but park on a driveway. Plus, why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Railing on rails ... and more

This is one of those weeks where there's a lot going on in my head, but only one column to get it all out there. As such, I present to you a semi-random stream of consciousness.

I suppose I should say something about the election last week. It went exactly as I expected. Cuomo trounced Paladino. The Republicans crushed the Democrats in Congress. And I voted for two winners.

Okay, so I wasn't sure I'd vote for any winners, but sometimes you get lucky, right?

Although the thought of having another Cuomo in office frightens me, I was impressed by the governor-elect's acceptance speech. Let's hope he can really do some good because we're stuck with him for a while unless he ends up being "Client 10."

I'm looking forward to having a leiutenant governor from Western New York. Hopefully Robert Duffy can remind Cuomo that we exist occasionally.

I know Rochester isn't technically Western New York, but, come on. It is.

I like the city of Rochester. I don't go there as often as I'd like to. Maybe if we had a better transportation system, I would.

Maybe if we get some of the $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding that Ohio and Wisconsin have opted out of, we can improve that transportation system and I can go to Rochester.

Last week, the governors-elect of those states said they didn't want the funding that had been planned to go to their states and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter offered to take it off their hands.

I've been a fan of the concept of high-speed rail since before it was a national discussion. Other places have it. Why can't we?

The thought of being able to hop a train and be to New York City in a few hours is quite compelling, don't you think? Our current train system takes approximately four years (only a slight exaggeration) to get from here to there. Seriously, though, it's faster to take a bus.
That just doesn't seem right.

I've seen the proposed map for high-speed rail. It goes from New York to Niagara Falls and then up to Toronto. This will make it easier for Jets fan to commute to Bills games and root against the "home team."

The Bills game on Sunday was disheartening. Of course, the loss was sad, but not unexpected. The bigger disappointment was the number of Bears fans in attendance. Or maybe they weren't Bears fans. Maybe they were just Bills detractors.

It seems like every game that's been played in Toronto has had just as many (if not more) people rooting against the Bills as rooting for them. To call it a home game is a joke.

Not that this year's Bills had much of a chance, but it is a little frustrating that every other team in the league has eight home games and eight away games. Ours, meanwhile, has seven home games and nine away games. It's like the 2005 Saints, except instead of a natural disaster forcing the team out, it's the economy.

Maybe Cuomo can fix the economy. If for no other reason than to stop the Bills from having to play in Toronto any more.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Happy election day. Now go vote. Or don't.

If you're reading today's column in hopes that I'll provide some advice or insight on voting today, then I have most certainly failed you.

If you know what you're voting for or against, then by all means head to the polls and cast your ballots. If you were waiting for my suggestions, do us all a favor and sit this one out. There are enough followers in the world. And there are far too many uninformed voters.

I know how I'm voting. And I know that most of the votes I cast will be for people who will not win their races. I'm okay with that. Voting isn't about siding with the winners. It's about siding with your conscience … your beliefs.

A vote for a candidate you believe in is never wasted, no matter how slim the odds of their election.

Tomorrow morning the newspapers and talk shows will be filled with people telling you what the results of todays election mean. They'll all be full of it. And likely full of themselves. Today's election is no more crucial than last years. Or next years. Today's election is the will of the people. As it is every year.

Lots of people have spent lots of money telling you that this election is the biggest thing since sliced bread … or peanut butter … depending on what they compare things to. You can listen to them and believe that the world is falling apart, or you can rest assured that no matter who wins today, the sun will rise tomorrow and we'll still have the same problems to deal with.

Sure, it may be true that the person you vote for is more capable of fixing those problems than the other person (or people) on the ballot. But in the long run, America will still be America, living on for our children … and our children’s children.

I will sleep easy tonight knowing that tomorrow is one day closer to the future … and the future holds wonderful things. The future will be cleaner, healthier and more prosperous. It will be ruled by intellect instead of fear. And compassion will win out over greed.

Today is just a hiccup. A rest stop on life's highway. A mere grain of sand in life's hourglass. No matter what happens today, we can fix it tomorrow. Or the tomorrow after that.

Many people will go to bed tonight in horror, knowing that the person they hoped would get elected lost. They'll write off the election process, saying it's a sham. They'll curse out their neighbors, saying they're ignorant for voting the way they did. They'll look into moving to Canada. Or France. Or whatever. They'll say their business can't survive in this environment and they'll have to put it up for sale.

Those people are wrong on many levels. Differences of opinions is one of the things that makes this great nation of ours so great in the first place. The ebb and flow of the direction of our country keep it on the straight and narrow – over the course of the trip. The political pendulum must swing. And swing, it will.

Maybe your vote will help it swing the way you want it to. Maybe your vote will prevent it from swinging too far. Or maybe you won't vote and you'll just watch as the pendulum swings.

No matter, tomorrow will come. And we'll all have to pick ourselves up by our boot straps and keep moving forward.

As long as we do that, the brand of politicians running the Capitol Building or the statehouse won't matter.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Redlich Support Growing

Press release from Warren Redlich

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

From: Warren Redlich <wredlich@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 17:11:20 -0400
To: Eric Sundwall<eric_sundwall@hotmail.com>; Warren Redlich<wredlich@gmail.com>
Subject: Redlich Support Growing

Redlich support growing

Two recent polls show support growing for Governor candidate Warren Redlich. A Rochester poll shows Redlich at 7%, well ahead of other third-party candidates.


A poll by public television program New York Now has Redlich at 14%:


Back in March, a Siena poll had Redlich at 3-4%.


Redlich's performance in the 10/18 debate was a significant factor in his improved poll numbers. "We were able to bring our 'Stop Wasting Money' message to a much wider audience," Redlich said.

A number of newspapers and other media mentioned Redlich's debate performance favorably, including the New York Post, Newsday, Daily News, Buffalo News, Auburn Citizen, and the Rochester City Newspaper.

Redlich believes the Rochester poll understates his support: "Our best media coverage has been in other parts of the state, especially in the Albany and Syracuse areas, as well as downstate. Western New York is more difficult because of another candidate's home-court advantage."

The results also suggest Redlich will easily clear the 50,000 vote requirement for Libertarian Party ballot status. With an expected 4.5 million total votes, 50,000 votes is approximately 1.2%.

As Redlich put it: "This is no longer about whether we get a ballot line, but rather about how well we will do. Of course winning is a long shot, but as the Paladino campaign continues to flounder, second place is becoming realistic. That would send a real message - People are sick of insider Republicans and Democrats, and they want government to stop wasting our money."


Warren Redlich, Esq.
255 Washington Ave. Ext. #108
Albany, NY 12205
Fax: 518-862-1551

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What about the other guys?

One week from today we head to the polls to choose – among other things – the next governor of the great state of New York.

Most of you already probably know who you're voting for. Like the vast majority of New Yorkers, you'll be voting for one of the candidates of the two major parties. You knew this before the candidates were announced.

The Democrats will be voting for Andrew Cuomo and the Republicans will be voting for Carl Paladino. There will be some exceptions, of course, but for the most part, that's how it will go down.

There are others out there, though, who aren't sure who to vote for yet. The thought of another Cuomo in office scares you. Maybe this one has actually figured out how to tax the oxygen in your lungs. His father was pretty close to figuring that out. And Paladino makes you nervous, too. He's a bit of a loose canon. What might he do if actually elected?

There's been some clamoring on the internet over the last week, asking for a debate between just Paladino and Cuomo. Ever since the circus that was the only gubernatorial debate, the Paladino camp has pushed for a debate between just himself and Cuomo, claiming that people deserve that debate.

Something tells me that it's the Paladino people clamoring for this format because their guy was outshined during the last debate. They want a chance to siphon votes off of Cuomo, who holds what appears to be an insurmountable lead over their guy.

I feel like I know plenty about Andy Cuomo … and Carl Paladino. The last thing I want is a debate between just the two of them. Then again, I already know that I won't be voting for either one of them. I realize this puts me in the minority.

I'd prefer to see a debate between the five candidates we don't know as much about. Now, maybe you feel like you learned enough about them during the first debate and subsequent media coverage since, but compare that to the media coverage we've gotten about Carl and Andy for the past several months. It's a pittance.

I'd rather hear more from Kristen Davis, the former madam who got Eliot Spitzer in all that hot water. I know she wants to legalize prostitution (which I agree with), but I'd like to hear more.

I'd prefer to hear more from Jimmy McMillan, who thinks the rent is too damn high and says you can marry your shoes. He seemed a bit off, but he deserves to be heard.

I'd like to hear more from Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate who delivers packages by day. How would he lower our taxes?

I should be able to hear more from Charles Barron, the Freedom Party candidate and New York City Councilman. How exactly would slapping the closest white guy to him help our situation?

And of course, I'd like to hear more from my party's candidate, Warren Redlich. We seem to agree on a lot, but if he's such a good Libertarian, why is he actually a registered Republican?

Unfortunately, my five person “also-running” debate is unlikely. So I'll have to do what I always have to do come election time. I'll have to do my own research and come to my own conclusion.

Those of you who aren't yet sure who you're voting for should do the same. And it probably wouldn't hurt those of you who already know who you're voting for, either. The Democrats and Republicans got us into this mess, don't forget.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gambling on taxes

One of the many ongoing conflicts I enjoy watching is the fight between the State of New York and the Seneca Nation.

I've mentioned before that I think the state is dead wrong in their refusal to ignore the sovereignty of the Senecas and any other Native American tribes doing business on their own lands. My understanding – or belief, at least – is that Native American reservations are unto themselves their own nations and not part of New York. Just as the Vatican is not part of Italy, or the City of Lockport, although fully engulfed by the Town of Lockport is not a part of the town.

This belief in sovereignty that I have leads me to conclude that the state has no more right to impose its will on Native American reservations than it does to impose it's will on Hamilton, Ontario. Sure, the land is within the state boundaries, but again, so is the Vatican surrounded by Italy.

Of course, the problem with this is that the state needs money in order to pay for whatever it is they pay for. I don't think anyone really knows where they money goes. But each year, they need more and more of it. And I have to imagine this makes the folks in Albany say, “Hey, look at those people, spending money on those reservations … we should get some of that.”

The latest turn of events in this public relations fiasco saw four Albany legislators standing firm with the Senecas as that nation said they didn't want to filter their casino payments to “host communities” through New York State anymore. The Senecas say they want to do this to eliminate red tape and get money to the “host communities” faster. I imagine it's really just a shot across the state's bow.

One of those legislators was State Senator George Maziarz. I don't often agree with George, so I kind of like to point out when I do. Kudos, George. We're on the same team for a change.

The state is upset because the Senecas have been withholding the casino payments since the state's more recent declaration they'd be taxing cigarettes and gasoline sold to non-natives on native land. Governor David Paterson and his ilk say the Senecas have broken the casino compact by withholding $200 million in casino payments. The Senecas, meanwhile, say it was the state who broke the compact by allowing competing casinos like the one at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg.

This whole thing could have been avoided if the state had simply made the necessary changes to allow casino gambling in the state. But instead of amending the Constitution, they looked for a loophole and gave the ability to the Senecas in exchange for a percentage of the take.

That “loophole” would seem to me to be an admission by the state that tribal land is not part of the state, which is why they aren't subject to the Constitution … and as a result, not subject to the taxes the state is clamoring for.

I have nothing against gambling, but I don't like the whole loophole bit. I've never understood why gambling is illegal unless it's state sponsored … and a sin unless you're doing it in a church.

If the state would just get its act together and legalize gambling from the top down, I wouldn't have this conundrum of being in agreement with Senator Maziarz.

I'd bet they don't get their act together any time soon, but I don't want to break the law.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I can't escape Carl ...

As I write this week’s column, I sit 800 miles away on a beach on beautiful South Carolina.

First of all, an admission: I’d rather be wandering the beach aimlessly … again. Or sitting poolside with my friends whose wedding I came down here to see. Both of them worked for the Tonawanda News back in the day and my employment there is the reason I met them — and ultimately, the reason I’m down here enjoying this view and the distractions.

But it’s a funny thing to travel that sort of distance, thinking you’re getting away from the problems of New York state, only to talk about them once you get there.

The irony of sitting at a resort in Myrtle Beach talking New York politics to someone from Cambria is mind- numbing … and was frankly somewhat depressing.

Add in the fact that there were people from Colorado, Georgia and Virginia in on the conversation — all about the race for governor here in New York — and it was all a bit mind-blowing.

We’ve got people in New York who couldn’t care less about our governor’s race. There are people whose eyes glossed over the moment this column went from talking about the beach to talking politics. And yet, there are people in other states who know all about Carl Paladino. Not Andrew Cuomo, mind you. No one says the name “Cuomo.”

Just Paladino.

I suppose I could take it as heartening that there are people who pay attention. I suppose I could think it interesting that people from thousands of miles away know about this guy that I know … and they know about him primarily because my friends and colleagues at WNYMedia.net just keeps hammering away at him and the big boys decided to pay attention.

Instead, I just feel ashamed. Ashamed that these people are talking about New York state in this manner. We’re a laughingstock to the rest of the country. We’re up there with Delaware and their senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.

In other words, these people are talking about us cause they think we’re crazy. Great.

Being a New Yorker is a privilege. And it comes with a certain responsibility.

Just as the world looks to the United States to set a good example, the rest of the United States looks to New York. And just as the United States sometimes falters in setting that example, New York has faltered, too.

Sadly, I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do about it this time around. We could be less of a laughingstock if people elect Cuomo in November, but I’d rather be laughed at than taxed and regulated to death. And I find it hard to believe that Cuomo would do anything other than tax and regulate us to death.

Frankly, I don’t want to think about it any more.

Fortunately for me, I’m on the beach. Unfortunately, I have to come back and face reality some time.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

On the role of media ...

The role of media is to tell the story without becoming part of the story..

This is conventional journalism wisdom and I say sometimes it's hogwash.

Last week, New York Post Editor and talk show host Fredric U. Dicker got into a heated argument with gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino over accusations Paladino made against his opponent Andrew Cuomo. This led to Paladino accusing Dicker of working with Cuomo … and eventually telling Dicker – who refused to back down – that he would “take him out.”

Many learned journalists would say that Dicker had crossed the line and should have backed down from the argument after Paladino refused to answer the question Dicker had asked. Dicker should have been content with going back to his desk and writing, “Paladino refused to answer the question,” they would say.

It is a popular school of thought that as journalists, we are there to record events for posterity sake, but shouldn't interfere with what's going on too much – kind of like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. If we do interfere, it will disrupt the space time continuum and the whole world will instantly turn to dust. Or something like that.

I say as journalists, we are there to get the story. And if we have to get our hands dirty a little and get involved in what's going on to get the story, then so be it.

Investigative reporters – the kind you see on the TV news confronting slumlords and whatnot – couldn't do their job without being part of the story. They knock on the door with the TV cameras behind them, sticking those cameras in the faces of the “alleged” slumlords and start asking some tough questions.

I see it as akin to a lawyer asking a judge if they can treat a witness as hostile. I'm not sure if that ever happens in real life or only on TV shows, but it sure is compelling. People sometimes take the same tone with others when they can't get an answer by asking politely. They berate the answer out of them. It might not be pretty but it works.

Well, it works sometimes. Dicker got thrown out before he could get his answer.

Both Dicker and Paladino are unrepentant about the situation, each claiming the high ground.

“People understand where I'm at," Paladino told the New York Times. "They want someone who will fight for them -- they don't want someone who's going to back down."

Paladino's right. I do want that from my politicians. But I also want it from my media. I want someone who's not going to back down and let the person they're attempting to interview dictate the terms of the story. I don't want “no comment” to be good enough.

No journalist worth their salt would let a source edit their story for them. It's just not intellectually honest. But by running away from someone who doesn't want to answer a question, they're basically allowing them to edit it before it's even written.

I'll be honest. That is what I try to do here, after all. I'm being somewhat hypocritical. I've accepted “no comment” on dozens of occasions. Maybe hundreds. I've gone back to my desk and typed it, feeling defeated with every click of the keypad. But I don't have the kind of gumption to get up in a guys face and demand answers the way Dicker did last week.

That's why we need to respect guys like Fred Dicker. We can't always count on the story “coming out.” Or the other candidate forcing the issue.

The role of media is to tell the story. But in order to tell stories, you need to have answers to questions.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Congress really is the opposite of progress

No news may or may not be good news … but I'm of the firm belief that nothing getting done in our nation's capital is a great thing.

The other day I read story after story about Republicans in Washington abusing the filibuster to prevent things from getting accomplished. This was – of course – portrayed from the Democrats point of view and assumed that what they wanted to accomplish was a good thing.

Yes, it's true, sometimes government does things right. Every so often they enact laws that make our lives better, easier, more fulfilled, or – most often – safer. But in between all the good laws they pass, they enact a whole lot of unnecessary dumb ones.

My world view tells me that government is a necessary evil, making it both necessary … and evil. Government isn't intentionally evil, I don't think. At least I choose to believe it's not intentionally evil. But the folks running the place need to constantly be “doing something” in order to justify their existence.

It's not all that different from your job, I'd imagine. When the boss is around, you tend to act busy and look like you're doing something, even when you don't really have anything important to do. The reason for this is to make sure that at the next round of budget cuts and layoffs, you get to stick around.

When you're looking busy at work, maybe you keep a fake spreadsheet open, plugging random numbers into it. Maybe you sweep the same area of your shop repeatedly. Maybe you wipe down the cash register over and over. Whatever it is you do, it's probably not harmful to the company.

When congress is looking busy at work, they're enacting feel good legislation that further erodes our freedoms. Now, this may sound like hyperbole to you, but it's true. If you consider that the more you can do, the more free you are, then every law is a restriction on our freedom even if that law is “good for you.”

Also, when you consider that every bill in Congress has a cost associated with it, the more Congress “looks busy,” the more money you're spending on them.

The best thing we've got going for us is that Congress is split into two camps, each wanting the other side to fail at everything. So Democrat's busy work is poo pooed by the Republicans, and vice versa.

One of the most helpful things in preventing the other side from accomplishing thing is the Senate filibuster. See, we are – for the most part - a “majority rule” nation, but there are government procedures that allow the upper body of Congress to require us to be a “60 percent rule” nation. The best thing about that is that it's usually impossible to get 60 senators to agree on anything, meaning nothing gets done.

So when I hear either party complain about “filibuster abuse,” it sounds to me like, “hey they won't let us do whatever we want without proper checks and balances.” And either party preventing the other party from running roughshod over the people can only be a good thing, in my humble but honest opinion. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reality kills conventional wisdom

When I do something, I go big.

And in this space last week, I went big on being wrong.

At the end of the day, I imagine we'll find that Lazio's downstate support will be too much for Paladino's upstate support to overcome, despite the fact that typically downstate Republicans usually stay home for the primary.” - Scott Leffler. September 14, 2010.

What we really found at the end of the day last Tuesday was that Rick Lazio had little to no support anywhere and Carl Paladino had a ton of support on this end of the state.

Now I'm hesitant to even think about predicting the general election. Conventional wisdom would say that New York is a blue state and Cuomo will wipe the mat with Paladino. But my prediction last week was based on conventional wisdom, too. And you see where that got me.

I've heard before that the vast majority of the time, a professional poker player will beat an amateur, because the pro is simply more knowledgeable. But sometimes the amateur will win because he's unpredictable and won't do what he's “supposed to” do.

That could happen. Or the conventional wisdom thing could happen. I'm not going to guess. At least not until late October.

Thus far this season, conventional wisdom has worked with me calling Bills' games. I thought they looked bad in preseason. And I was pretty sure that would carry over to the regular season. It has. In a big way.

I watched the game Sunday. Well, to be honest, I halfheartedly watched it. But I feel good about that because I feel like they halfheartedly played. Actually, I hope they halfheartedly played, because if they put in a full effort and still looked that bad, I'd be really concerned.

As many of my sports friends have said recently, “Thank God hockey season starts soon.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I've always been a bigger hockey fan than football fan. And I most certainly get more excited about the Sabres than I do the Bills.

I was certainly excited on Saturday when I took the kids to the Sabres' annual Puck Drop event so the team could unveil yet another new jersey. Goodbye slug. Hello new road whites and … royal blue thirds.

I like the road whites a lot. The royal blue thirds with the script lettering? Not so much. I've grown accustomed to the darker blue on my Sabres gear. It goes with everything I wear. The royal blue is just going to screw up my wardrobe, so I'm boycotting it.

I'm also boycotting the new license plates. I got my registration renewal in the mail the other day and learned that I don't have to get the new ugly cash-grab plates. So I won't. I get two more years of the old ugly cash-grab plates.

Remember how excited we were when we originally learned that Niagara Falls would be on those plates? Only to find that it would be a tiny, barely visible Niagara Falls in the upper left corner? Just another one of those things that New York could have done right, but didn't.

I have so much more to say, but, again, only one column a week to do it in. For random daily thoughts, photos, and more, follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/scottleffler

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mish Mosh Apple Sauce

So much to say. Only one column a week to do it in.

Recently I bid adieu to Summer, but if this weekend was any indication, Autumn is going to be just fine. Yes, I realize it's technically still Summer. That's not the point.

The Peach Festival parade was fantastic as always, although the politicians tend to ruin it a bit for me. But seeing the football players and cheerleaders and community groups out en mass is an awesome sight. I wish every parade could be so grand.

The Peach Festival itself is also always a treat. The kids and I wandered around, did some people watching, and played Skee Ball at a place that only took Loonies. How very bizarre. For cost purposes, I prefer the Skee Ball in Olcott Beach. A quarter is a much better price. But the Loonie bit did make me smile.

The Music Is Art festival at the Albright Knox gets better every year. We ran into some friends, bought some art, ate that incredibly tasty Lake Effect Ice Cream we look for at all events, and heard some awesome music by some of Western New York's best bands. To Robby Takac, I tip my hat.

It's primary day for those of you registered in major parties. I'll be sitting it out, as the only Libertarian option is to relax and watch.

An email I received Sunday from Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich says he's going to “hold his nose” and vote for Rick Lazio in the Republican primary today. While Redlich is running with the support of my party, he's actually a Republican. This newfound information lost him points with me. I have a month and a half to work that issue out, though.

A recently released Siena poll found that Lazio and WNY developer Carl Paladino are in a statistical dead heat for the GOP nod. I'd like to think that this more shows Lazio's ineptitude than any sort of real support for Paladino. At the end of the day, I imagine we'll find that Lazio's downstate support will be too much for Paladino's upstate support to overcome, despite the fact that typically downstate Republicans usually stay home for the primary.

I imagine if I were a member of the Grand Old Party, I'd have to hold my nose in the voting booth today, too. Of course, if I were a member of the Democratic Party (as I was for years) I'd have to hold my nose while voting, too (as I did for years). This may explain why I'm not a member of either of those parties.

They say you can't fight City Hall. If that's the case, then fighting the Statehouse must be even more difficult. But a North Tonawanda mom is doing just that and I say, more power to her.

Rhonda Magnus felt she had reason to pull her son out of school in 2005, fearing for his safety and feeling that the North Tonawanda school system could or would do nothing to ensure it.

Mangus said her son's life was threatened because he was openly gay.

Having gone to high school myself, I have no trouble imagining this happening. Kids are cruel. And sometimes violent.

Granted, most death threats are bogus, but if this was your kid, would you want to take the chance that this incident was not the exception?

Mangus, a substitute teacher herself, decided to home school her son. But the state says that's not good enough and charged her with “educational neglect.”

You might think it would all be moot now, since her son got his GED last year, but the state is following through.

Rhonda, take this for what it's worth (not much), but I support you. Best of luck.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I'm on a cow ...

ZOMG, you have to watch this campaign video from Vermonter Daniel Freilich. He ran a Democratic Primary against Patrick Leahy for the US Senate, but sadly garnered only 11 percent of the vote. Good news, he's still running - as an independent.

Boogie down with Barb and friends ...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

If you build it, they will go ...

The Obama administration has bailed out Detroit. They've bailed out Wall Street. And now they're finally bailing out something I agree with: Route 66.

Over the long weekend, a plan was unveiled for the first large-scale upgrade to our nation's infrastructure in over 50 years. It's something I've been calling for for years.

Granted, there was some infrastructure in the president's stimulus bill last year, but not nearly as much as their should have been. This new proposal aims to spend at least $50 billion on refurbishing roads, railways and airports.

Anyone who spends any time in their car in Western New York knows all-too-well that we need new roads. We need new bridges. And we simply need better ways to get from point A to point B.

The six year plan is designed to rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads; 4,000 miles of railways, and 150 miles of airport runways. It also calls for a new air navigation system to get us to our destinations faster.

While the stimulus package put money in people's pockets, this proposal fixes problems that have stood for far too long while doing the same.

Of course, as much sense as this makes to me, there are people who hate the idea. Before the plan was even formally announced, I was hearing the typical response from the ultra right-wing faction of this greatly-divided nation: No.

I've always maintained the the best government is the least government. I despise government intrusion into our lives. For the most part, I tend to think that – individually – we can take care of ourselves.

There are, however, certain things that we must do collectively. And for those things, government is a necessity. One of the big ones on that list of things that must be done collectively is transportation infrastructure.

Could you imagine if we were all required to pave the portion of road in front of our homes? It would be an unsafe, nonuniform roughshod mess.

It makes much more sense to have government do it for us and bill us in the form of taxes.

There are some who would say that transportation infrastructure should be the responsibility of the states. Again I say, “phooey.” It would still be a nonuniform roughshod mess, just on a grander scale. And, frankly, there are some states that simply couldn't afford it. Not to mention, with the number of tourists and visitors we get throughout New York State, why should they be exempt from picking up part of the tab on fixing our roads?

It seems like when the federal government leaves the states to figure things out, this state then passes that burden onto the counties. In that case, we'd have our counties trying to improve our infrastructure. Niagara and Erie County have some of the highest property taxes in the country. And I trust them even less than I trust the state – which is saying a lot. So the thought of them being charged with building roads – let alone bridges and runways - scares the heck out of me.

I'm not saying that the federal government will do it flawlessly, but it will be better than the states could do. And certainly better than the nothing we've been doing for decades.

Silly kitty ...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer here. Summer gone.

Ah, Summer, we barely knew ya.

As we turn the calendar over to September and make out last minute preparations to send our kids to school, we do so with a heavy heart, knowing that the calendar might say there's still three weeks left in Summer, but, really, it's over.

Earlier this year, I said, “This is the year that I cross more things off the list than not. This is the year that I refuse to let the warm months slip by. This is the year that I refuse to let life get in the way of living.”

I wish I could say I was successful in that. I wish I could say that I didn't let the warm months slip by. But 2010 was very similar to 2009 in that fashion.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't do anything. Oh, I did plenty.

I went to Darien Lake with the kids, Toronto with a cute brunette, and took a nap in Delaware Park all by myself.

I ran into friends at the Allentown Art Festival, Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, and the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

A saw Pearl Jam at HSBC, Public Enemy at the Town Ballroom and George Thorogood at Artpark.

I enjoyed Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal and every vantage point of the Niagara River.

I ate tasty food at the Taste of Buffalo and drank tasty beers at the Buffalo Brew Fest.

Despite that laundry list of accomplishments, though, I still feel like Summer slipped by because this is Western New York, where we're blessed with summertime entertainment 24/7 and there's so much I didn't get to do.

I guess I'll have to stick around another year and see what I can accomplish in 2011.

Maybe my accomplishments will be of the laundry list variety I displayed above. By the way, that laundry list is abbreviated. There's just too much to write. Or maybe my list of accomplishments will be something more meaningful.

I'd love to improve our community. I'd love to find the magic bullet that makes everything all better. Or have a hand in removing the cancerous things that keeps us down.

What Western New York really needs is better leadership and vision. Less promises and more action. Less talk about the next great fishing store that's going to make everything better and more doing away with burdensome taxes and regulations that make it hard to keep afloat.

As much as I love our free concerts and festivals, when the summer ends, we're reminded that the problems we had in spring are still problems. Bread and circus might work in the warm months, but when the days get shorter, the circus leaves town and we remember who the real clowns are.

Summer is a great time to forget our problems and just go with the flow. But as the kids go back to school, we need to get back to work. We have an election coming up. Better start studying.

Of course, if you're content with just three good months a year, sit back and do nothing. It'll be festival season again soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the 17th ...

I’m a people person.

I like meeting new people and getting to know them. I like people who take an interest in getting to know me.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve met a lot of new people lately and am really enjoying the “getting to know you” process that inevitably occurs.

As a result, I’ve answered questions in the last week about where I live, what kind of movies I like, what my favorite bands are, etc.

One question I was asked, though, isn’t typically in the list with favorite color or the nocturnal habits of my hedgehog; “Which of the Constitution’s 27 Amendments do you want repealed?”

That question came to me via Facebook, the social website that has taken the place of real social interaction.

Specifically, the question was, “so which of the Constitution’s 27 amendments do you want repealed? Because that’s the thing about the tea party types — they want to return to the founders, who by the way did not prohibit slavery, or child labor, or cruel and unusual punishment. Ironically, limiting the powers of the federal government to only those specifically granted by the Constitution was not granted until the 10th amendment, so better not repeal that one ...”

I think the United States is the greatest country in the history of civilization, but that doesn’t mean that we’re perfect.

There are actually three amendments I’d repeal; the 12th, the 16th and the 17th.

For those of you without a pocket Constitution (in other words, everyone but Bob Confer), the 12th Amendment revises the presidential election process, the 16th creates the IRS and income tax and the 17th revises how senators are elected.

Of the three, the one I like least is the 17th because it is the one that most dilutes the states’ powers. You may recall I’m a huge proponent of states’ rights. Actually the conversation that brought on the question of what amendments I’d repeal was born with a discussion on the holy grail of states’ rights, the 10th Amendment.

Prior to 1913, United States senators were not directly elected. You wouldn’t find them on a ballot. They were appointed by the legislatures of the states themselves.

Over time, a movement grew suggesting that U.S. senators didn’t represent the people and eventually direct election won out.

The problem I have with the whole thing is that U.S. senators aren’t supposed to represent the people. That’s what the House of Representatives is for. The Senate is supposed to represent the states.

China has official representation in Washington, but the state of New York does not. It all seems quite silly to me.

As for the 12th and the 16th, I’ll tackle those amendments in the future. Maybe here in this column. Maybe on my blog at www.scottleffler.com, which you’re always encouraged to check out. After all, I do like social interaction, me being a people person and all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In opposition to hypocrites


It's a long word. One of the longest in the English language. Growing up it was one of my mother's favorites, although I have no idea why.

It comes up at random in conversation because it's fun to say … and it's a real word, unlike Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious. That said, Antidisestablishmentarianism has really outlived it's purpose, aside from being fun to say at parties.

It refers to opposing the removal of there being a state sanctioned church. What with the separation of church and state here in the United States, it really never meant anything here. It was an England thing back in the 19th century.

However, if you break it down, it can still hold meaning here and now. It could refer to those who are opposed to those who are opposed to the establishment. Anti-protesters, more or less.

And oddly enough, as much as I'm opposed to the establishment, I'm also an antidisestablishmentarianist, at least locally.

I have many friends in many political circles in and around Buffalo and Western New York. Democrats. Republicans. Liberals. Conservatives. Elected officials. Rabble-rousers and gadflies. They all think they're doing the right thing. And I respect them all on principle, even if I disagree with their intended goals.

There's one group I have the hardest time respecting, though. And that's those who comprise those political circles, but pretend not to. I don't like the players who tell you to hate the game, even though they're the ones making the rules for the game. They're simultaneously the establishment … and the disestablishment, profiting from the system while complaining about it. I won't specifically name any individuals or groups, but if you pay attention, you can likely come up with your own.

These people wear one hat on Monday, reaping the rewards of a political system that pays to be friends and family with the chosen few. And on Tuesday they go to luncheons, coffee clutches and town hall meetings deriding the system they themselves benefited from just a day before.

On Wednesday, they bemoan political strip-mining. And on Thursday plunder from the system, doing the very things they were complaining about one day earlier.

They write the laws then complain about them and tell you that there's nothing they can do.

They're not based in principle at all. They simply know how to work the system.

There are some people who complain because it's their only weapon. They go to town board meetings and speak their peace. They take their three allotted minutes and attempt to get their point across. To them, I say, kudos.

Others might disagree with that, saying that the complainers should be ignored unless they're willing to run for office and buck the system from within. Of course, those are usually the ones who are within the system, who have no desire to have the system bucked.

Be careful who you lend support to. Make sure they're doing what they say they're doing, and not simply talking out both sides of their mouths, like so many of the disestablishmentarianists.

This goes double for any elected official who complains about the system … or tells you they only have one vote and there's nothing they can do to help matters. Anyone within the system who tells you they're powerless ought to be stripped of the position.  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking a bite out of TV

Some people abhor television. To them it is a brain-numbing device sent to destroy people's creativity.

I'm not one of those people.

Odds are you aren't either. Because – honestly – let's face it, most people love TV. In the United States, the average person watches 151 hours of television per month, according to the Neilson Group. That's three hours per day. Every day. For each and every American citizen.

Taking into account the people that don't watch any television, that means that some people have to watch 302 hours of TV per month to make that average work out. Six hours a day. Every day. Monday through Sunday. As though it were their job.

Now I'm not that much of a TV fanatic, but maybe you are. Maybe you live vicariously through the soap operas and sitcoms that get broadcast day in and day out. Maybe you can't get through a conversation without saying “Hey, did you see (fill in the blank) last night?”

I'm not here to judge. If that's how you roll, good for you. I'm just here to let you know that we might have something to talk about now. Because for nearly the last year, my answer was almost always, “No.”

I've been without my trusty TV for a while for a variety of reasons, none of which are pertinent to this column. I haven't seen local news. I missed every episode of the final season of Lost. American Idol escaped me. I've never seen Tosh.0. And I missed almost all of Shark Week.

Actually it was Shark Week that put me over the edge. I was planning on waiting until the start of the hockey season to subscribe to any sort of television service, but I couldn't take all the tweets and Facebook updates about Shark Week. I just couldn't stand not being in the loop. I felt like an outsider – the new kid in school who didn't get all the inside jokes.

So last week I caved about two months earlier than planned and got myself hooked up to the rest of the world. I reveled in the glory that is HD. And I sat gleefully on my couch watching as sharks ate things. And people. I watched some Saturday Night Live and some stupid show about the 10 dumbest partiers. I recorded some movies on my DVR. I even watched a sappy chick flick. Then I watched sharks eat things to cleanse my palate.

I've always been more of a computer guy than a TV guy. Usually I'd rather watch some stupid video on YouTube than sit in front of the television going through 227 channels trying to find something worth watching. And I'm sure I'll still spend more time in front of my netbook's 10-inch screen than my television's 37-inch screen. But now I have the option.

I doubt I'll watch my allotted three hours a day. Then again, I did just sit down and schedule four movies to record today. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, none of them featuring sharks eating people.

Too bad it's not Shark Month.  

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Winning with less (votes)

Sometimes when you ask a question publicly, you can be very surprised where the answers come from.

Last week I wrote about my thoughts on why Carl Paladino was running for office … especially knowing he was going to lose. I mean, why would someone do that?

A few short days after that question ran in the paper, I picked up the phone to find none other than Ralph Nader on the other end. He wanted to promote a visit he is making the Buffalo today in support of another gubernatorial candidate; Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

If someone knows about running uphill against the two-party system, it's Ralph Nader. He's run for president four times with no chance of winning. But as he explained to me there are victories that come from winning even when you lose at the ballot box.

“I'll tell you a few,” he said. “One is there are voters are conscience. They want to vote for someone they believe in. Not for the least worst of the two majors. And you always should have an opportunity for voters of conscience.

“The second is, you can't emerge full fledged if you're going to build a political initiative. You've got to usually start small. If you're not willing to start small, you'll never get bigger. That's the lesson of billions of seeds now fermenting in soil around the world.”

He went on to explain that in Hawkin's case there's a particular initiative that his candidacy is hoping to bring to the light of day. And that initiative, Hawkins and Nader claim, could close the state's budget gap and save hundreds of state workers' jobs.

The initiative is called the “Demand that New York State stop rebating the stock transfer tax to Wall Street.”

“Now this is an amazing situation where they collect $16 billion from the stock exchanges and then electronically rebate it immediately,” he said.

Nader said the working class doesn't get tax rebates on things they buy out of necessity, so there's no reason Wall Street should have their taxes rebated, especially since the tax that's rebated from the stock market is a fraction of a percent as compared to 4 percent state sales tax and approximately 4 percent county sales tax, depending on the county, of course.

Nader and Hawkins will be in Buffalo tonight to discuss the transfer tax rebate and Hawkins' campaign. Nader will also be signing copies of his new book, “Only the Super Rich Can Save Us.”

The event will be held at 7pm at the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, 562 Genesee Street in Buffalo. For more information on the event, call (716) 479-2351.

Noteworthy: Nader was not the only politician to respond to my column last week. Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich also sent me an email saying he liked the column, pointing me to his website (http://wredlich.com/ny) if I wanted to hear more about him.

“Maybe I can draw attention to some issues (like the budget instead of the mosque),” Redlich said in his email.

I'll share more from Hawkins, Redlich and other candidates who believe they can “win” without becoming governor (those not named Cuomo) in future columns.