Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inconsiderate actions up in smoke ...

I have a plethora bad habits. Not the least of which is smoking.

I started smoking at a very young age and have quit a couple times – once for five years – but like most bad habits, it has been near-impossible to kick.

I'm well aware of the health implications of smoking. It's bad for me. I get it. Most bad habits are considered bad because … well, they're bad for you. Otherwise we'd call them good habits.

The problem I have with smoking – and the reason I've tried to quit – is because it's bad for other people.

Frankly, I'm more worried about other people's health – especially my kids' - than I am my own.

That's why I have no problem with the Town of Tonawanda's recent ban on smoking in public places.

You might think that a smoking ban would go against every bone in my Libertarian body. I was, after all, vehemently opposed to the smoking ban in bars and restaurants … and I still am. But bars and restaurants are to playgrounds and baseball diamonds like apples are to anvils. Not even close.

I opposed the smoking ban in bars and restaurants because those establishments are privately owned … just like your home. The owner should be allowed to set the rules as he or she chooses. And as the market dictates. You have a family restaurant? Don't allow smoking. You have a corner bar? Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

There is no market for allowing smoking at a public ball field, though. And there's no benefit. Not public. Not private. Not to anyone.

Quite the opposite, in fact … unless you're one of those people who doesn't believe that second hand smoke is bad. Honestly, I find it hard to believe that some people still believe there is no danger from second-hand smoke. The same people, undoubtedly, believe that the oil being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico is somehow good for the environment.

You likely know that I think government's role should be limited. Minuscule even. And government certainly shouldn't make it their job to protect us from ourselves. But one of the things they should do is protect us from others … and protect others from us when necessary.

It should be a given that you wouldn't light up at a t-ball game. If nothing else, it's poor form. But some people just don't get the memos. They don't comprehend the concept of societal norms and social etiquette.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for an etiquette czar or anything; some sort of Amy Vanderbilt with detention slips. But when the public health is being harmed because someone is too inconsiderate to realize the ramifications of their actions, someone needs to step in.

Someone – in this instance – was the Town of Tonawanda. And good for them.

Of course, I'd actually say they could have gone further. The ban is by voluntary compliance. They're going to post signs and hope people play along. Teeth would go further, but it's a step. A step that I hope other communities would follow along in.

To my friends in the various town, city, village and county legislative branches: I'd love to see you all follow in the Town of Tonawanda's footsteps on this particular piece of legislation.

My kids will thank you for it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bits and pieces ...

It’s easy in this fast-paced world we live in to lose sight of the big picture .I think a lot of people did that this past week when President Obama visited Buffalo.

All anyone seemed to want to talk about was that he had chosen Duff’s over Anchor Bar for wings and that some woman called him a “hottie.” I heard very little conversation on the substance of his speech.

Of course, I’m not sure his speech had much substance, to be honest with you. But it was the reason he was here. And yet, we’re talking about cougars and chicken wings.

Chicken wings and cougars must be the modern-day version of bread and circus.

•••

For some reason or another, I wasn’t interested in seeing the president while he was here. I’m sure I could have easily gotten press credentials for one of the things on his to-do list, but I made no effort whatsoever. I’m not even sure why.

In 2004, when President Bush was in town, I made sure to go see him.

Knowing what you know about me, it’s odd, right? That I’d make an effort to see Bush and not Obama. I’m still trying to figure out what that means.

•••

Of course, with most live events, you get a better view from your couch than from the event itself. Think of all the things you miss when you’re at a Bills game that you see on TV. Then again, it’s really the atmosphere that you’re there for. I could sit home and listen to Pearl Jam any time, but going to the concert last Monday was something special. It really is the atmosphere. And oftentimes, the company.

•••

That said, local TV did a great job covering the presidential visit. I caught some of Channel 2’s coverage and was forced to watch some of Channel 4’s. I’m going to assume that Channel 7’s was similar in scope to the other two.

Radio, on the other hand, didn’t do as good a job in my opinion. I checked three different stations, all of the news-talk variety. Only one of them really covered the visit. And they used the audio feed from one of the TV stations to do it. But it was better than the satellite-fed talk shows on the other two.

•••

It seems to me that the world is shrinking all the time. Maybe it’s because I make such an effort to stay connected, whether it’s through Facebook or Twitter or my cell phone or my latest greatest method of connectivity, foursquare.

Foursquare is an application for your phone which uses your GPS to allow you to tell your friends where you’re at. It seemed silly at first, but it’s fun when you get into it.

This past weekend, I noticed that one friend of mine and I were never more than a few blocks apart, despite the fact that we were all over the Buffalo region. Another friend of mine and I were actually at the Buffalo Zoo at the same time, although we didn’t run into each other. Was just weird, I guess.

You may recall I mentioned a while ago that I was apartment hunting and it went well. As it turns out, I now live down the street from a friend of mine, a fact I didn’t know until after moving in. Making this more strange is that I have recently discovered that two other pairs of friends live down the street from each other. One pair knows each other, but didn’t know they lived so close. The other pair only know each other’s names … and only because I’ve mentioned them to each other.

Maybe this is common and we don’t know it. Maybe we should just pay attention better.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how small the world is if you don’t take your face out of your phone to actually talk to the person next to you.

I think that’s the real big picture.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Together we can do anything

There's nothing we can't do.

It really is that simple. It's just a matter of our state of mind.

Whether it's a Bass Pro or an Ikea or a new bridge from Buffalo to Fort Erie, there's nothing we can't do.

It seems like every week I see a new group on Facebook suggesting that if we get a certain number of members, a certain eatery or retail outlet will come to Buffalo. The most recent one I noticed was Sonic drive ins.

And there's no reason we can't do it - no matter how many fans a cause gets on Facebook.

The first step is that we have to believe we can do it. And, frankly, that's the hardest step of all.

For some reason, Western New York has convinced itself that we're not worthy or capable of 
handling things like Bass Pro or Ikea. Maybe it's because of "wide right." Maybe it's because of "No goal." Maybe it's becuase we'e sat by idly and watched our beloved community slowly sink
into a cesspool. Or maybe we just don't get enough sunny days. For whatever reason, we're stuck in what President Jimmy Carter would surely call a "funk."

I used to joke that we were stuck in the "Bush recession." I would quickly follow it up with, "No. the first Bush."

Maybe that's part of the problem. We're so quick to blame others for our problems and look to others for leadership, when the country and specifically this region is so obviously devoid of leadership.

Instead what we need to do is take matters into our own hands. Silly little things like Facebook groups don't hurt. They lead us down the right path. But clicking "like" on a web page is pretty easy. We need to do more.

Yes, I said earlier that the first step was believing. And I also said it was the hardest part. Both true. But it's not the only part.

Believing you can ride a bike will only get you so far. Until you peddle, you'[re never going  anywhere. Actually, that's probably the best analogy I can think of. Picking this region up is a lot like riding a bike. We've done it before. We can do it again. But we have to peddle.

Join the Facebook groups. Write letters. And make phone calls.

A couple years ago I ran across a certain chain restaurant that we didn't have here. I fell in love. Not Love, love, of course, but you get the gist. I would plan vacations around where they had locations. My family will vouch for this.

I wrote emails. I made phone calls. And I suggested that my radio listeners do the same to get this particular restaurant in Western New York. Last year they opened their first location here. I'm hoping they open more. And - this is key - I'm frequenting this establishment that I begged for.

Now, I'll be honest. That is, afterall, what I try to do. My favorite restaurant didn't come here because of me. They came becuase there was demand. But I was part of that demand. And you can be part of the demand that brings your favorite thing here, too.


You just have to vocalize your desire. And work towards it.

Sitting by watching, you're pretty much assured to get nothing.

But if we try - together - we can do anything.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The power of 10 ...

A couple months ago, I bemoaned the relative silence of New York's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. The same day that column ran, I was apparently put on her press office's mailing list. Silence is no longer an issue.

But that's not to say I don't have issues with Gillibrand. Some of them rather large. A perfect example comes from a press release I got last week announcing her “Plan to require minimum requirements for graduated drivers licenses in all 50 states.”

I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read it. I would have certainly spit it out.

I have no idea whether minimum requirements for graduated drivers licenses is a good idea or not. Gillibrand's press release made a decent argument for them, to be quite honest. And if each state wanted to take up the concept and pass laws with certain requirements for younger drivers, I'd be hard pressed to oppose it.

We're talking about teenage drivers here. The idea of teenagers behind the wheel frankly frightens me. Actually, the idea of teenagers in public frightens me. But I'd no sooner support a nationwide ban on teenagers in public than I could support a nationwide standard on teen driving.

Fact of the matter is, I abhor the concept of nationwide standards on much of anything. I believe the federal government's sole purpose is to do that which is necessary for us as a country, but impossible for states to do independently. Basically, I think the feds are there for military purposes to protect us.

Of course, there are some standards that I think are necessary nationwide. And most of those are outlined in the Constitution.

One of those Constitutional covenants is that the feds will not interfere with the states on matters other than where the Constitution dictates otherwise. It's the 10th Amendment. Or as I like to refer to it, the forgotten amendment.

It 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, except where the Constitution says otherwise, the feds will let the states do as they wish.

Gillibrand's idea of national driving standards for the youth seems to be in direct opposition to this concept.

Worth noting, she's not proposing a law to create such standards. She's proposing a penalty for those states that don't create such standards; a withholding of federal highway funds, similar to how the federal government bullied all 50 states into raising the drinking age to 21, lowering the acceptable blood alcohol content to .08, and – for a time being at least – lowering state speed limits to 55.

It is, essentially, extortion. If states don't comply they lose money they were previously entitled to. How this is not seen as a violation of the 10th, I have no idea.

Gillibrand and her fellow senators don't have to worry about it too much though. The Supreme Court doesn't even seem to recognize the 10th Amendment. In modern history, it's been upheld very infrequently.

The concept was important enough to be in the Bill of Rights. Not to mention, it was in the Articles of Confederation before that. But it's not important enough for our present-day elected officials to pay any attention to it.

Then again, what is?

For more on “the forgotten amendment,” check http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com