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 ...