Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some heavy thoughts for the new year

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope you got everything you were hoping for. Santa took care of pretty much everything on my list — aside from world peace … but I remain hopeful for 2013.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions for the new year. Sure there are things that I want to improve about myself, but I try to take things one day at a time rather than putting all my hope into the new year and then realizing in December that I still have a lot to accomplish that I said I was going to do in January.

This year was a good one, though, in terms of resolutions I didn’t even make. For one thing, I lost a significant amount of weight. At one point, I was in the 220-pound range and quite unhealthy. For years, I’ve hovered right around 200. And now I’m just under 180, which has been my goal for at least half a decade.

Dropping the weight was good for my sense of self worth — and not that I feel better because I am my target weight, but more so because I feel better because I was finally able to do it. Although to be honest, weighing 180 also just FEELS better. I have more energy. My back hurts less. And the guy looking back at me in the mirror smiles a lot more readily.

Losing weight has resulted in some funny conversations, though. Very few people tell you when you’re gaining weight. No one wants to offend you. But they’re quick to say something when you’re losing it. Of course in my twisted mind what they’re really saying is, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to tell you that you’re fat, but I kept forgetting.”

I was at a local watering hole last week putting weight back on — 16 ounces at a time — when I was introduced to a woman who refused to believe I am who I say I am. Comparing my photo that runs with this column to who I appeared to be in the flesh, she said something to the effect of I must have lost 80 pounds.

That made me feel good … and bad all at the same time.

This past week has not been good for trying to lose weight, I’ll tell you that. I feel like I’ve done nothing but eat. Pizza. Cookies. Crab. Cookies. Ham. Cookies. There’s a lot of cookies this time of year.

Fortunately the cookie well will run dry just as soon as I finish the plates on my kitchen island. I’m inclined to eat them all right now - just so I won’t be tempted later. Sometimes my logic is riddled with holes. Which is why it’s good that Christmas only comes once a year.

Scott Leffler is skinnier in real-life. And he’s practically weightless on Twitter. Find out for yourself @scottleffler.

Brewing 122612

It's the day after Christmas and all through the house — Scott's jacked up on coffee and rambling on about politics.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Lefflers

Everyone deserves to have a merry Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And for kids around the world, the entire calendar revolves around today — Christmas.

This morning, kids woke up early to get a peak under the tree and despite their best efforts just couldn’t wait long enough to wake their parents so they could open all the wonderful presents that Santa brought.

Or at least that’s how I imagine it. My ex-wife and I always had to wake our kids up. They always chose today to sleep in for some reason we never understood. And frankly the excitement was more than we could handle.

Some years Santa was extra generous. Some years Santa just couldn’t seem to fit as much under the tree. Oddly Santa’s generosity was tied to how well the Leffler family itself was doing financially. I think it’s a subsection in the Santa Clause that says he’s not allowed to show up mom and dad.

But every year we had Christmas.

Sadly part of that Santa Clause means that some trees go nearly empty year after year.

Also noteworthy, some kids understand fully well — without ever being told — that Santa has his limitations. Those kids make the most peculiar requests of the Jolly Old Elf. We know this because sometimes the US Postal Service reads their letters … so they can help Santa out.

This year, even more than in years passed, the postal service has noticed that the things kids ask for are simple. Jobs for parents without work. Shoes, coats and blankets. Simple things that most of us take for granted.

For those of us who are doing well, it’s hard to really imagine those that aren’t. Sure we donate to the local soup kitchen or drop some coins off in the red kettles outside the big box stores or grocery markets, but the scope of need nationwide — as well as in our own communities — is just staggering.

It’s a good thing we’ve got organizations that help. It’s a good thing that there are men and women at the postal service going through letters to Santa to find families in need and giving them merry Christmases, too.

I have everything I need this year. All I asked Santa for was to have my family be together on Christmas to enjoy each other’s company and watch the sparkle in each others eyes.

Over the years Christmas has changed. When I was a young boy, it was about toys and games. Then I grew up a little and it was about time with family. And back to toys and games when my girls were younger. And now that they’re a little older, it’s back to time with family again.

Take a minute today to inventory what you have. And revel in all that it is. Some people aren’t nearly as lucky as you. And that’s up to you to decide how you define lucky. Maybe it means more toys and games. Maybe it means more time with family. But today everyone deserves to be happy.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Scott Leffler is a very lucky boy. And he gets a little sentimental this time of year. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Brewing 122112

More on Sandy Hook. More Plan B. Bill Clinton's famous (so is George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Tip O'Neil) ... and a woman with some odd holiday spirit. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brewing 122012

Google+ Hangouts grew a little bit on Thursday with the addition of +B. Jason Ouellette who joined along with +Al Gritzmacher . Topics included Sarah Palin's complaining about President Obama being Time's person of the year, the fiscal cliff and inauguration.

I'm hoping to add more and more people to the G+ Hangout mix because it will add more opinions, more interaction and generally make the show more lively.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brewing 121912

Are $1 bills worth the paper they're printed on? Also - Obama flinched and the GOP may push him over the fiscal cliff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brewing 121812

Tuesday's episode starred Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, Chris Christie and John Boehner. Plus we discuss gun control and the fiscal cliff.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brewing 121712

My take on our reaction to the tragedy in Connecticut.

Maybe we should reflect before we talk

The tragedy in Connecticut was nothing less than that — a tragedy. When I heard the news Friday, I did the same as everyone else with a Facebook page; I immediately posted my thoughts on the topic.

“There is a special place in Hell for those who harm animals and children.”

That’s all I had to say on the matter. And still that’s about all I have to comment on the horrific shooting deaths of 26 people, gunned down for no reason that makes sense to anyone of sound mind.

What would transpire over the next several hours and days, however, was just as ugly in my opinion. The reaction by what would seem to be half of America was just as hateful and just as hurtful as those gunshots.

My simple message on Facebook quickly devolved into a political commentary about gun control. As did other people’s messages. Many jumped into the gun control message off the bat, completely ignoring the lives lost in Connecticut.

Mind you, my message was neither pro-gun or anti-gun. It was anti death. And it was anti-horrible people. And it was pro-love. That’s something I thought we could all agree on. But I was apparently wrong.

We have no time to agree on anything in America. We can’t even take a weekend to mourn the loss of innocents. We must take the first available opportunity to break out our talking points, bang our chests and shout to the world that we are right — about whatever it is we believe.

Just as the posts came stating that there’s no reason for us to have handguns, so came the posts saying that if only teachers could carry guns, the loss would have been minimized. Just as the statistics were rolled out showing that there are practically no gun deaths in other countries, the stories rolled out about armed civilians stopping mass casualties in suburban shopping malls because they had the sense about them to “pack heat.”

The television pundits salivated, finally having a topic to discuss that would divide us so evenly as the election had. Our division, after all, fuels their ratings.

And lost in it all were the 20 children and six adults who wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas this year. Lost in it all were the families who would have to plan funerals rather than attend holiday parties. Lost in it all was the fact that while America was arguing over whether the problem was guns or bullets or mental health, the friends and families of those who were killed couldn’t care less what caused the deaths of their loved ones. They just wanted someone to hold on to. And make them believe that all was not lost — even if everything they cared for was.
There is a time and a place for the debate over gun control. It isn’t now. And it isn’t in Connecticut. Let us first mourn our dead.

Scott Leffler is a father and a son. That’s all that matters this week. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Brewing 121412

Brewing as a Google+ Hangout day three ... Topics include Stephen Colbert, White House petitions and marijuana. Plus we look at Twitter's list of 2012 trending topics.

The show(s) from Dec. 13 are available on YouTube, but they're kind of a disaster. So only watch them if you're looking to totally kill time and maybe mock me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brewing 121212

Wednesday's show was the first beta test/experiment using Google+'s Hangout feature. It allows others to join into the show live ... and saves the video directly to YouTube. It also has some bells and whistles not previously available. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out all those bells and whistles yet, so I didn't start broadcasting/recording the show on time (missed about 15 minutes) ... and there was some dead air when I tried to play a YouTube video. I know what the problem was with the failure to broadcast from the beginning, but I'm not sure why the YouTube video didn't play as it should have ... so I'll work on that for later.

Assuming I stay with this format, you'll be able to watch the video live on YouTube (link to my channel is at the bottom right of the blog - or in the links section above) ... or participate live via Google+ (link at the right).

Monday, December 10, 2012

We have never been a nation of majority rule

There seems to be this notion that we’re a democracy. It gets taught to schoolkids and passed from parents to children. It is discussed in coffee houses, bars and even churches.

It is a lie. We are not a democracy. We never have been. And I pray to God we never will be.

But if a handful of congressmen get their way, we’ll be inching in that direction. Four Democrats from the House of Representatives — with the help of a nonpartisan outfit named Common Cause — have filed suit in US District Court to end the Senate practice known as the filibuster, saying it usurps the “principle of majority rule.”

A filibuster is a tool used by the minority party in the Senate to refuse to allow a bill to be voted on — stating that it still needs debated — unless 60 members of the Senate vote to end discussions (cloture) and vote on the bill at hand. In essence, the minority party (with 40 or more members) can prevent any measure from being voted on as long as they keep debating said issue.

I get what the congressmen are trying to do and it’s admirable in a sense. They feel that the wheels of government have ground to a halt because of a tendency to abuse the filibuster and they want to grease those wheels with some democracy.

To advance their point, there were 16 filibusters from 1840 to 1900. That’s one every four years. There was about one per year in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. And then the numbers started rising. In 2009 and 2010 there were 130.

It’s worth noting that prior to 1917, there was no process to stop a filibuster. And until 1975, a cloture vote required two-thirds of senators, seven more than today.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the process of the filibuster is being used more than “intended.” What was once a part of the system of checks and balances has become a burdensome process preventing any real progress from occurring.

Except that assumption would also assume that “progress” is a good thing and that the “principle of majority rule” is a true tenet upon which this nation was founded. But as I’ve already said, it wasn’t.

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner,” according to the author James Bovard.

And that’s precisely why the filibuster needs to remain in effect. The sheep need protection from the wolves.

Of course, in years past, the Senate was a much more thoughtful and responsible body where moderates from both parties outnumbered the radicals and everyone worked together to compose bills they knew would pass. In fact, the Senate was designed to be just that. That’s why there’s only 100 of them. And that’s why (originally) they were appointed by their respective states, chosen not for party affiliation but for their ability to work together and come up with reasonable solutions to the nation’s ills.

In this manner, the Senate also was designed to temper the more whimsical tones of the House. But the 17th Amendment screwed that all up and gave the people to power to directly elect senators.

The reason filibusters have increased exponentially over the past few decades is because the bills put forth in the Senate have become less and less reasonable and more and more partisan. It could actually be offered, then, that the filibuster’s design is working exactly as intended, preventing a tyranny of the majority.

Which is exactly why we don’t live under “majority rule,” but rather a complex design created by our founders to protect us from ourselves. Because in the end, we’re both wolves and sheep.

Scott Leffler is a self-proclaimed Constitutional scholar. He’s also a ginger. But we don’t talk about that. Follow his Tweets @scottleffler.

The Reverse Golden Rule is better

The Reverse Golden Rule, of course, is treat others the way they treat you. AKA, payback's a bitch.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Brewing 120412

Rather than airing live, today's show went direct to YouTube. Unfortunately, the last two shows (Monday and Friday) didn't save, so anyone who didn't watch live didn't get to see it. Considering the show has more "aftermarket" viewers than live viewers, I felt the need to switch thing up.

I know there's a way to broadcast live on YouTube (or maybe as a Google+ Hangout?) ... and I'll look in to that in the next few days to see if we can get back to live shows.

Topic today, BTW, was "the battle for the GOP." It is the same topic as my column from this week, which is once again featured on Thanks to Marc Odien for adding me back to the lineup.

GOP will have to pick a side and go with it

It doesn’t seem to matter what you do in life, you’ll always second guess yourself. Maybe you should have stuck with something longer. Or quit something earlier. Maybe you should have taken that job at that place. Or gone to graduate school.

Looking back on life, it’s usually easy to see how you got where you are. It has been a straight line, after all. Even if it didn’t seem it at the time. But when you reached those forks in the road, you had to pick a direction. And you wonder if you picked correctly.

The Republican Party now finds itself at just such a fork.

The “conservative” or “tea party” wing of the party believes that they lost the presidential election because their candidate, Mitt Romney, wasn’t conservative enough. This, they feel, caused “the base” to be reluctant to turn out to vote, which, in turn hurt other Republican candidates and causes.

The more moderate (or liberal, if you will) side of the Republican Party believes that it’s actually those uber-conservative ideals which hurt them in this election cycle. Many have said that they feel they have been painted with a very wide brush that makes them look as though they're uncompromising and hard to get along with.

So you have two sides of a political coin, if you will. And it’s currently in the air waiting to come down heads or tails.

My personal belief is that the tea party wing of the party overplayed their hand and got hurt because of it. When you give ultimatums as they have made a habit of doing, you have only two options: everything goes your way or nothing does. They had gotten used to getting what they wanted and have no idea how to handle the current situation where they may very well get nothing.

That would be all well and good if they learned that lesson. But they seem to feel — as evident from Grover Norquist’s appearance on “Meet the Press” this past weekend — that the problem wasn’t their unwillingness to budge. The problem was that they weren’t strong enough.

Norquist predicted that there will be a huge resurgence of the tea party in 2014 if the president takes us over “the fiscal cliff.” He’s calling for the GOP to stand firm and refuse to cave to the White House’s demands for tax increases as part of a budget compromise.

I’m not sure if Norquist is bluffing or if he really believes that, but I think the GOP has painted itself into a corner and missed the memo that the nation as a whole took a left turn at the last election.

Of course, only time will tell. And when we look back on it, it will all make sense. Hindsight is 20-20, of course.

Scott Leffler can not see the future. This column is intended as entertainment only. All rights reserved. And other legal mumbo jumbo. Call your doctor if you feel more columns are right for you. And be sure to follow Scott on Twitter @scottleffler — as long as your doctor says it’s OK.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Brewing Bunch ...

Sometimes the screen captures from the Brewing videos on YouTube crack me up. I look like a total dork. And if you think I *look* like a dork, you should watch the show to hear some of the crazy things I say!

Brewing 112812

When Democrats attack, Mitt and Barack sitting in a tree, and Powerball dreams ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brewing 112712

Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Nicki Minaj.

Ringing in the Christmas season right

I went to a tree-lighting ceremony Friday night and a parade Saturday. Plus I watched Christmas movies almost non-stop. But for some reason I just couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit.

Until it snowed.

The snow Sunday morning put me over the top and I am now officially in Christmas mode. I want Christmas movies and Christmas music and Christmas decorations. And basically, I want Christmas. Now. And forever.

I’m not entirely sure what it is that makes me such a Christmas fanatic. Maybe it’s a longing for my childhood. Maybe it’s just a desire for the innocence that comes with Christmas. Whatever it is, it’s always been this way. I love Christmas.

Truth of the matter is, I’m a Christmas geek all year round. Those that know me know that one of the best ways to tell if I’m in a good mood is to listen for me whistling Christmas music in the middle of the summer. Ding Dong Merrily on High and whatnot.

There’s not an aspect of Christmas that I don’t like. I want to put the tree up. I want to cover my art in Christmas wrapping. I want to go shopping. I want to put my Christmas ducks in the bathroom. As soon as humanly possible.

Of course, as any responsible adult, I wait until the day after Thanksgiving. This year that was earlier than most and I took full advantage.

Saturday afternoon I did nothing but watch Christmas movies with my daughters. One after another. After another. We continued the trend through the weekend, watching Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Jingle All the Way and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, among others.

My memories of Christmas growing up are somewhat scant. Of course, I remember a couple presents here and there. I remember waiting with my dad for everyone else to wake up. And I remember family coming for dinner — or on a few occasions us going there. But I wish I remembered more.

My only hope is that my girls remember Christmas. And our Christmas traditions. First and foremost, I hope they remember that we loved each other. Because, really, that’s what the Christmas season is all about — loving each other, despite our differences. And despite any problems we might have the rest of the year.

I find it somewhat ironic that Christmas essentially begins on one of my least favorite days — Thanksgiving. I know, most people seem to love Thanksgiving, although I have no idea why.

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, and I’m told I did a good job. I hope that’s a for-real thing and not just people being nice because of it being the Christmas season.

You should be nice during the Christmas season, of course. That means now through the end of the year.

Of course, you should be nice all year long. But it seems so much easier this time of year. Maybe that’s because Santa is coming. Or maybe it just is what it is.

Either way, I hope your Christmas season is off to a great start.

Scott Leffler loves Christmas. If you have a problem with that, you can tell him @scottleffler on Twitter.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brewing 112612

Extreme couponing gets violent. Medical marijuana could cure New York state's budget ills. Plus, ROBOSQUIRREL!!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How is this possible?

Apparently, I own only two Christmas movies. Granted, they're good ones, but still ...

My "collection" includes "A Christmas Story," possibly the best Christmas movie ever made, and "The Ref," one of my favorite Christmas-oriented movies that isn't a Christmas movie.

Missing from my collection, however are "Elf," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," "The Santa Claus," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," the "Home Alone" movies and more.

Obviously, I need to fix this horrible atrocity. And it just made me wonder ... what is YOUR favorite Christmas movie? I'm not looking for Christmas specials. I'll get into that in a future post.

Brewing 112112

Election fraud? No more nudity in San Fran, more Tea Party politics and tomorrow's Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A world without Twinkies? Say it ain't so!

Growing up, I always looked forward to the day mom came home with groceries. It meant snacks. And by snacks I mean junk food.

Now we didn’t drink a lot of pop in the Leffler household. And we didn’t gorge ourselves on sweets or chips or anything like that. But that’s not to mean that there wasn’t often something extra tasty in the grocery bags.

Every so often that “something extra tasty” would be Hostess snack cakes — whether they were Ho Hos or Twinkies, it didn’t matter. They were made out of the magical stuff that all kids love — sugar!

In actuality, mom probably bought Ho Hos or Twinkies a handful of times in my life. And I may have bought them a handful of times for my kids in their lives. In other words, I don’t exactly subside on a died of snack cakes. In fact, I can’t recollect when was the last time I had the sugary goodness that is a Twinkie. Maybe that’s because as I grew old(er), I decided that what once had been sugary goodness is now just decadence.

And yet over the past few days I’ve found myself craving one of those cream-filled yellow cakes. Why? Because we might not be able to get them any more. The company announced last week that they were filing for bankruptcy and would cease production of all their goodies — including Twinkies.

I (along with the rest of the Internet) find it funny to think that Twinkies, which are supposed to be able to survive a nuclear holocaust and have a shelf life of forever, may disappear just weeks shy of the alleged end of the world (according to the Mayan calendar). I find it even funnier to think that this revelation has made me want one.

But you see, Twinkies are more than a sugar-filled death stick. They’re a part of my youth. And I’d imagine they’re a part of America’s youth. I have a feeling I’m not the only one thinking back on days when mom brought the groceries home and I “helped” put them away (primarily so I would know what goodies she brought and what cupboard they went into.)

So a Twinkie-less future just seems unAmerican to me.

But wait! Monday a judge told Hostess that the company needs to go to remediation to try to work things out with its union and continue to produce their sugary goodness.

So I’m hopeful for the future. And thankful for Twinkies. May there be a bounty of them on your Thanksgiving table.

Scott Leffler is thankful for more than just Twinkies. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler for a running tally Thanksgiving Day.

Brewing 112012

Another sign of the Tea Party's demise ... and the Huffington Post mocks the Bird War.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brewing 111512

Obama reminds us that he won. The Buffalo News reminds us that they're irrelevant and some guy reminds us that men can be really stupid.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brewing 111312

Some people in Texas want to start their own country? Best of luck with that!

Let the pundit battle rage on

Like many of the pundits that you see on TV spouting off about politics, I went to school for journalism and political science. Unlike (seemingly) many of them, I was not in the least bit surprised by last week’s election results.

There is a battle brewing between words and numbers and right now, numbers are winning.

See, many of the political analysts thought they understood how polls worked and many of them tried to read them themselves as though they were soothsayers reading tea leaves or something. Then they mixed in a healthy dose of “gut instinct” and came up with their conclusion that the election was going to be a nailbiter and Gov. Mitt Romney had a good chance of winning because unemployment was high — among other reasons.

I’m not an analyst. I don’t pretend to read polls. I don’t pretend to understand polls. In fact, I don’t like dealing with numbers at all. Math is so not my strong suit. But I’m smart enough to know that, acknowledge it and use a lifeline to “phone a friend.”

For the past three elections, that “friend” has been Nate Silver*. He’s been spot on in reading the poll numbers, giving them weight, and figuring out what they all mean. Taking his cue from his ability to analyze baseball statistics, Silver created a website devoted to analyze polling statistics for elections. And a brand was made.

For some reason, Silver’s polling numbers got under some people’s skin this year — primarily because they didn’t like the results, I think. It was a classic case of attacking the messenger.

But now that the election has come and gone and Silver was overwhelmingly correct in his “predictions,” there will be a new fight - between Silver’s new (and old) fans and those who still believe that gut instincts and intuition plays a role.

I suppose it is possible that Silver’s dead-on predictions in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles are all a matter of happenstance. It’s theoretically plausible that he’s just gotten lucky for the past three elections. But the odds are that he’s just smart.

Sadly, people are already talking about who will run for what office in two years and four years. Personally, I’m not ready for that. I think we should finalize the results of this election first.

Apart from the battle for the House, Senate and White House, though, many political pundits — analysts, whatever — face an uphill battle for mere relevancy. And just as people hoped and prayed that Obama would be a one-term wonder, there are many secretly (and some openly) praying for the downfall of Nate Silver and his ability to do math.

That’s a battle I’m excited to watch. Granted, it’s inside baseball, but for a political geek like me it’ll be fun.

* Scott Leffler isn’t actually friends with Nate Silver. He just has an overactive imagination and a horrible penchant for mixing metaphors. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Brewing 110812

Did the voters give Obama a mandate? Or will he have to remain the "compromiser in chief?"

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Brewing 110612

It's Election Day in the U.S. One final show before we crown the (new?) president tonight.

Monday, November 05, 2012

I’ve added a holiday to the calendar this year

I have an incredible memory sometimes. While most people are able to recollect experiences, I can remember the calendar dates of those experiences.

As such it seems like it’s always an anniversary of something. In other words, I always have a reason to celebrate. It’s always a holiday in my head. As if the normal calendar items weren’t a big enough deal, this week was the anniversary of when I bought my car, my hedgehog’s birthday and Guy Fawkes Day, among other trivial items.

Some days are more important than others though. Like my birthday. And Halloween. And Christmas. And given their close proximity on the calendar, Halloween time really means the start of the neo-Christmas season. And my birthday is so close to Halloween that THAT means the start of Christmas. To simplify it, my birthday equals Christmas. Because after Halloween there’s nothing important until Christmas — usually.

The fourth Thursday in November, the rest of America tends to celebrate a holiday that I don’t usually recognize: Thanksgiving. As I did last year, I offered to work this Thanksgiving, in part to get out of having to endure the annual “celebration” that is Thanksgiving.

For those of you familiar with me from my radio days, my contempt for Thanksgiving should come as no surprise. For those of you who aren’t familiar, just google “Scott Leffler Thanksgiving.” It’s page-ranked.

Nonetheless, my loving mother asked if I wanted to do Thanksgiving this year. Bless her heart, she’s always trying. At first I said ‘no.’ But after thinking about it some more, I decided that I would actually celebrate America’s favorite giftless holiday. But I’d do it on my terms.

While I don’t “particularly care for” (pronounced “remotely like”) turkey, the thing that frustrates me about Thanksgiving the most is having someone spend hours — or days — creating a meal that I don’t like … and then give me the stink eye when I don’t rant and rave about how much I love it.

There’s this theory that “us men” can just sit in the living room and watch football while the “women folk” cater to us. Except I don’t work that way. I don’t believe in antiquated gender roles. I do laundry. I cook. I clean. I bake. True, I’m a bachelor and in my current situation, I’d have to do all those things. But I also did them all when I was married. And I’ll continue to do them all should my “bachelor-hood” change in the future.

In addition to my refusal to buy into gender roles, there’s the fact that there’s nothing more stressful for me than watching someone else work while I sit on my patootie. It’s guilt-ridden stress through and through. And it makes every bite of dinner guilt-ridden and stressful. It ruins the whole meal - to the extent that you can further-ruin turkey, at least.

So this year, I’m cooking the turkey. I’m making the mashed potatoes. I’m doing the stuffing. I’m hosting. Cleaning. And making doggie bags when we’re done. And then I’m going in to work. Guilt- and stress-free.

I hope this crazy plan works. Because while I may not like turkey, I prefer it to eating crow.

Scott Leffler is a Libra who likes long walks on the beach, burgers and pizza. Just not turkey. He often posts pictures of his dinner on Twitter @scottleffler.

Brewing 110512

Polling update. Sandy's influence on the election. And WTF is wrong with people?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brewing 103112

Zombie Apocalypse, polling numbers and us vs. them ...

Happy Halloween #Instablog

via Instagram

Nate Silver continues to be a hot topic

Nerds ... I was one of them
This story on the discusses the ongoing feud between math geeks and political pundits.

We talked about this Tuesday morning on Brewing, specifically  Politico columnist Dylan Byers' confusion between facts and what he felt was correct.

The story (written by Elspeth Reeve) seems to get to the heart of the matter thusly:

"So what seems like a debate over the value of Silver's work is really a debate over the value of Politico."

As I said Tuesday, I love Politico. But until I'm proven wrong, I will continue to trust Silver's methodology. We'll find out in less than a week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This is funny ...

And all that much funnier if you know who Joss Whedon is.

Brewing 103012

Hurricane damage in NYC and the lack thereof here in the Buffalo area. Plus I take a Politico writer to task for his failure to understand probability and statistics.

Something scary is in the air

It’s the scariest time of the year. And no, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about election time.

This is my last column prior to election day and I could tell you who to vote for but I have no intention of ever doing that. Ever.

I just hope that people will vote based on knowledge and fact instead of voting for the person they share a skin color with or the person their spouse or favorite media mogul told them to.

The real scary thing going on right now is that people DO vote based on those things. And with an election as close as some are projecting it to be, I hate to see the whole thing decided by people who don’t know what they heck they’re doing.

Whether it’s the presidential election or the race for your local congressional seat or even your state assemblyman or senator, informed decisions are crucial.

Like you, I’ve been inundated with political mailers and commercials and even water cooler talk from people who want me to vote for their candidate. Facebook has been almost unbearable with all the political banter — as if anyone’s Facebook post has ever swayed someone else’s mind. Actually, I’m sure it has and that just leads to me thinking that my being scared is warranted.

The scariest thing for me, though, is the fear. The number of people who seem to think that these United States are so fragile that any one man — be it Barack Obama or Mitt Romney — could bring about its demise in four short years is truly frightening.

There are a system of checks and balances in place to prevent that from happening. Some of those checks in balances are the electoral system itself. Others are those we elect.

While my friend and fellow columnist Bob Confer expressed some concern in his most recent writing that we are headed towards a monarchy, I have no such fear. I believe that the system put in place by our founders remains intact and completely capable of protecting us from the potential that any one man (or woman for that matter) could destroy our freedoms.

That’s not to say that everything is hunky-dory. No, I think that America is sick and in need of a healing. I think we’ve become far too obsessed with what government can do for us and much less interested in what we can do for ourselves … or for our country.

When we look upon government to save us, ask yourself what we need saving from. The all-too-obvious answer is ourselves. So cut out the middleman and do it yourself. Vote not for the person who’s going to help you the best but who’s going to help America the best. Maybe it’s the same person. Maybe it’s not. But this systemic greed doesn’t flow from the top down. It flows from the bottom up. And only we can change it.

As you get ready to vote next Tuesday, I ask only that you base your vote on knowledge instead of fear.

Scott Leffler is a raving lunatic whose weekly rantings are available each week in this paper and online. Shorter daily-ish rantings are available on Twitter @scottleffler

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brewing 102612

We discussed the Frankenstorm and the Frankenelection. Plus it's "Back to the Future Day" and we had an earthquake nearby.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Clinton brings his best for rally

Sitting in Nick Tahou’s on West Main Street in Rochester Friday night, I looked up at Heather and said, “If Bill Clinton had asked those people to jump off a cliff, a lot of them would have.”

She and I had just covered a rally at the Main Street Armory where the former president had stumped for Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

Congresswoman Slaughter referred to Clinton as a “national treasure.” Hochul, meanwhile, alluded to Clinton’s widely regarded stature as a “rock star.”

Whether he’s a national treasure, a rock star or just a former president, people love Bill Clinton. And really, what’s not to love? He comes across as both intelligent and compassionate. He is incredibly energetic. And somehow he manages to transfer that energy to anyone he’s talking to.

Almost everyone has seen or heard Clinton speak on television. And some of that charm comes across through the boob tube. But being there in person, I imagine, is similar to the difference between watching an NFL/NHL/NBA game on TV and watching it in the flesh. There’s something about the experience of “being there.”

For his part, Clinton mostly served in the role of an Obama surrogate. He spent the largest portion of his nearly one-hour speech talking about why people need to vote for President Obama’s re-election, trotting out facts and figures as well as personal stories and accounts.

Bill Clinton knows he’s popular. Not just in liberal Democrat circles either. Many independents look back on the 42nd president in a way that some guys look back on their high school sweetheart. There’s a feeling of longing for a bygone era and a disbelief that we ever let that era slip away.

“I hope I have some credibility with you on what’s good for the economy,” the former president said to the crowd, breaking into the portion of the speech where he derided what he referred to as Mitt Romney’s “hide-and-seek” budget.

“Nobody who ever served as president … could have brought this economy back in four year,” he said, solidifying any doubt of those in the crowd that they had to not only vote for Obama but convince others to do the same.

On Hochul, Clinton said she “has proved that she will vote with Republicans to cut spending,” — an odd thing to say to a crowd of Democrat partisans. But not so odd when you consider that Hochul’s district is overwhelmingly Republican. And for a second everyone in the crowd loved Republicans and even the concept of cutting spending. It was amazing to watch.

I was only half joking when I told Heather that people would jump off a cliff if he asked them to.
Although we had a good time covering the event, it was not all sunshine and lollipops. The disorganization was readily apparent.

I had gotten an email from the Hochul campaign about the event on Tuesday, three days ahead of the rally. I put in for press passes on Wednesday. I called the same day to no avail.

Thursday I got an email from the Slaughter campaign that they would be handling press credentials. And that they would only issue one credential per newspaper. So I re-applied, altering our credentials so that Heather would represent the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal and I would be there on behalf of the Medina Journal-Register.

I knew that this was gaming the system to a degree but I figured with a newsgroup of four papers, all of whom would run the story and photos, I was well within my rights. Plus I do work for both the Lockport and Medina papers. And the Tonawanda News. And the Niagara Gazette, too. So really, I wasn’t lying.

And to top it all off, I said if it was still possible to get only one press credential I wanted to photo credit for Heather. I have been to enough political rallies that I could cover it from the crowd with my eyes closed.

Thursday evening I had still not had a response. So I started calling people. I finally got a call from someone with the Hochul campaign saying that they got our application for credentials and that Heather’s was approved but they’d be making a decision on mine later.

Friday afternoon we show up at the rally. We have one credential. But they don’t want to allow Heather to bring her camera in. “All photos are coming from the pool,” they tell us. We wouldn’t have even gone if we had known that. The photos were the point of the trip and I had specifically stated (numerous times, in fact) that if only one credit was possible, I needed it to be Heather’s.

After much complaining and wrangling (and with some help from the AP photographer) we both got in. Thank God.

We were astonished, however, that they didn’t check our IDs. They didn’t search Heather’s camera bags. And they didn’t pat us down. Security was - in a word - lacking, especially considering President Clinton was in the house.

Once inside there were more issues of organization: No power for people with laptops; No wi-fi; and there were big honkin’ speakers where WBEN’s Dave Debo was supposed to be set up. That wouldn’t possibly affect his audio, could it?

I realize that hosting the president is a daunting task. But if these two congresswomen have any hope of doing it again in two years, they better hope their campaigns are better organized than Friday’s rally was.

Scott Leffler mostly abhors politicians but is an unapologetic Bill Clinton fan. Follow his fawning and fanning on Twitter @scottleffler.

Brewing 102212

I discussed my trip with Heather to Rochester to see Bill Clinton speak on behalf of two Democratic congresswomen from Western New York. Also, presidential polling and newspaper endorsements.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Brewing 101912

Shortened (and pre-recorded) show on account of the political rally in Rochester starring Bill Clinton.

Here's the links to the Al Smith Dinner YouTube videos I mentioned:
Mitt Romney's remarks
Barack Obama's remarks

By the way, I love that I appear to be playing peek-a-boo in the YouTube screen shot for this video ...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Brewing 101812

Thursday's episode focused on the distasteful politicking over the loss of life in the middle east. I also discussed - for some reason - my trip to Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

I have seen the enemy and it is us

Four years ago right about now I was gearing up to go to our nation’s capital for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. I had no idea who it was going to be but I knew that I had to mark “inauguration” off my life’s grand to-do list.

Truth be told, I didn’t care who won last time around. Then-Sen. Barack Obama seemed capable. And I’d always like Sen. John McCain. I thought both candidates would do a fine job of keeping America afloat for four more years.

I had such a great time that I’m considering going to the inauguration again. And again, I’m not sure I care who wins. President Obama has been less than impressive. Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, looks like a worse human being each and every time I see or hear him.

As I expected four years ago, Obama has not killed America. And I don’t think his re-election will bring about its demise either. Nor do I think that Romney’s election would be the death-knell for freedom, but as I mentioned last week, his policy ideas frighten me.

I just wish we weren’t in this constant struggle year after year to pick the person we think will do the least amount of damage possible. But until we change the system used to select the president, nothing will change.

I’m not proposing doing away with the primary system. Nor am I suggesting that the electoral college is fundamentally flawed. The system put in place by the Founding Fathers is solid. No, the real problem with the electoral process is our involvement in it. The problem with the system is the outside influence in it. And specifically my involvement in it. Not me as in Scott Leffler, but me as in the media.

We the media are to blame with the apathy in this country. And we’re to blame for the ignorance. Or something like that.

The real problem, in my opinion, is that we feed people what they want rather than what they need. The real problem with the media industry is the word “industry.” The free press isn’t free. It comes at a cost. And that cost demands a profit. And the need for profit means that the masses must be entertained — just like bread and circus for the Romans.

So once again, it would appear, the real problem with America is that the people are getting what they want rather than what they need. In short, the problem is us.

Look, I’m no rocket scientist. I don’t know how to fix the problem. But maybe knowing the problem is the first step to a solution.

On a personal note, Monday marked the 38th anniversary of my birth, which my mother tells me was a very funny day. The story of my birth involves my father delivering a pig in a cargo van. Or something like that. My mom tells it much better. And my dad told it even better than her.

Not all of my 38 years has been as I’d hope, but it’s been interesting. And I look forward to 38 more. Or something like that.

Scott Leffler is 38 years of sweetness wrapped in a bitter candy coating. He shares his mundane life experiences on Twitter @scottleffler.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Brewing 100812

Today's episode focused on things that irritate me: David Blaine, bad moms and Big Bird. I also discussed Mitt Romney's foreign policy push. For more on that topic, check out this week's column.

Romney's foreign policy statement is scary

I was just sitting at home the other day thinking to myself, “We don’t have enough wars right now. We should get out there and shake some trees — see if we can’t rile up our enemies.”

OK, no, I wasn’t really thinking that. But apparently Mitt Romney was.

Seeing an opportunity to score points with the people in this country that think we’re supposed to be the master of the rest of the world, Romney delivered what he called a “major” speech on foreign policy on Monday, basically calling the Obama administration weak and suggesting that the real problem we have in America is that we’re not out there enough fighting for freedom in other parts of the world.

Romney suggested Monday that Obama has arbitrarily cut military spending in dangerous ways, giving “the enemy” an opportunity to strike at the heart of America — specifically our American outposts in Muslim-majority countries around the world. Essentially Romney is say that because we don’t spend enough to defend our embassies, our nation may fall.

I’m not a fan of the “military industrial complex” and would prefer that “national defense” actually had something to do with defense and wasn’t a code word for creating “freedom colonies” throughout the Mid-East.

I’ve always found it odd that in the time of the Founding Fathers, we had a secretary of war, but pretty much kept to ourselves, while we now have a secretary of defense while pretty much always playing offense.

We have miniature wars all over the world on an ongoing basis, but we don’t even refer to them as wars. Hell, we we in Vietnam for the better part of two decades and we call that a “police action.”

Ironically, when compared side-by-side, Romney and Obama have almost identical foreign policy plans. And they’re both too confrontational for my liking. Me? I would prefer we take a more neutral stance on the rest of the world’s problems.

My big concern is that Romney is a figure on the world stage. And although his opinion matters very little until the election, to large parts of the rest of the world he is America — or at least half of America. As such, to large parts of the rest of the world, his “major” foreign policy statement served as a shot across the bow that “America is coming to get them.”

I think sabre rattling and tough rhetoric does very little to help us and in fact puts lives at greater risk than cuts to military spending ever could. When that sabre rattling is little more than politicking, that’s downright dangerous and is no better than creating an anti-Muslim movie knowing the effect it would have on the world — and on our place in it.

I’m not saying that Romney isn’t entitled to his freedom of speech. But he should speak carefully.

Scott Leffler doesn’t tell you what to do you your house. And asks that you not tell him what to do in his. If you want to know what he does, though, you can follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.