Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day is no time to politic

I agreed with something Mitt Romney said on Memorial Day: “Every veteran is the greatest of his or her generation. Today, and every day, we thank you for your sacrifices.”

It’s true. In this great wheel that is the United States, veterans are the cogs which have held us together in tough times. While a pacifist myself, I understand that importance of a standing army in times of peace or times of war. And I think setting a day aside to honor those who have sacrificed all is the very least we can do.

Of course, I also disagreed with something Mitt Romney said on Memorial Day. The presumed GOP nominee, said if elected he will make sure the US military will have "no comparable power anywhere in the world."

To be fair, it’s not as much that I disagree with the goal. More so I have a problem with when and how he said it. The candidate was at a “Memorial Day service” attended by 5,000 people. But with those words, he turned it into a campaign event. And I have a serious issue with that.

We are often reminded that American men and women fight and die for us to have the freedoms to do and say as we please. This much is true and we are all eternally in their debt.

But for Romney to take a memorial service designed to honor the dead and turn it into a sound bite disgraces that sacrifice. He might as well have asked those in attendance to join Amway or donate to his campaign.

Simply put, he cheapened the event. 

I’m sure that someone will come up with a sound bite of Obama doing the same thing. And I have no doubt he has. As have other politicians. The point I’m making isn’t so much that Mitt Romney is a bad guy, but to ask, isn’t anything sacred any more?

Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe I’m naive. But It seems to me as though some things should be held on high, unmolested by the dirty hands of politics. And one of those things, no doubt, should be sacrifices made by our soldiers. 

It’s a line that we shouldn’t stand for being crossed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There are things that actually matter

To hear some people tell it, this great republic of ours is on the brink of disintegration. We’re just days away from the annihilation of the Constitution and being run by the United Nations or George Soros. Or worse — both!

While I disagree that George Soros or the U.N. are the enemy, to a large extent, I agree with the doom-and-gloom crowd. I think we’re at a crossroads and it’s time to choose freedom. It’s time to remind the government that they serve our needs. Not the other way around.

Now, I’m not calling for armed insurrection, but it’s worth noting that we overthrew our English overlords for much less than our own government is doing to us right now. Yet there are many who are perfectly content to let government run their lives because it’s easier than being responsible for themselves. They’ve got a bowl full of Dinty Moore and Major League Baseball on their television. Who needs freedom?

The ancient Roman strategy of bread and circus served the Empire of Rome well. And it serves Congress well, too. As long as we’ve got food to eat and something to keep us entertained, we’ll ignore the fact that Congress is draining us of all that’s truly important — our worth and our liberty.

While we spend all our time bickering over who should have the right to marry (a religious institution that I don’t think government should have a say in in the first place), Congress tried to gut the First Amendment in the form of SOPA and later, CISPA.

While those of us with limited means fight to get what we can from the 1 percent, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allowing for indefinite military detention without charge or trial.

The NDAA is ugly. It’s like the Patriot Act had a little brother and that little brother is really mean. It’s an affront to the Fourth Amendment among other things. It stops just short of declaring the United States a war zone and imposing permanent martial law. And we should work to stop it. Just like we should work to stop a lot of the things that the state and federal governments are doing to us. But we’re bogged down talking about birth control.

Combine the two ugly acronyms — NDAA and CISPA — and you get A SIC PANDA. You also get a nation where you can be arrested and detained for anything or nothing and have no due process, nor an ability to even complain about it publicly.

You may say I’m being dramatic and exaggerating the issue and that we’ll never let it get that far. I’d like to think that was true. But I didn’t think we’d ever let it get this far.

It got this far because we were distracted — by American Idol, gay marriage, abortion and the NBA playoffs. We need to start paying attention to the things that matter.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What a weekend!

First I get attacked by some hens on Friday ... then I covered the "standoff" in Lockport on Saturday. Sunday we went to the Buffalo Zoo and had a nice picnic at Delaware Park and then Sunday night I caught this snapshot of a balloon flying over Lockport.

Very busy weekend.

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/K4-gexkWSu/

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rich gay rodeo clowns and the people who love them

I find it mildly interesting that President Barack Obama took the occasion last week to come out in defense of gay marriage — kind of.

But I found the reaction to it incredibly interesting. It is proof that sometimes you just can’t please anyone.

First out of the box was the looney left, complaining that he didn’t come out far enough. They wanted him to declare that he was in favor of gay marriage and offer to draft a Constitutional Amendment which he would then force Congress and the states to approve — at gunpoint if necessary. 

They were disappointed in Obama’s wishy-washy-ness. In essence, what the president really said was that while he doesn’t have a problem with gay marriage, it’s really up to the states to decide. 

Many viewed this as a sellout, in the same way that they viewed Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to be a sellout, as well. But they forget that DADT eventually resulted in the free and clear allowance of gays serving in the military. It was a watershed moment for the gay movement and at the time the left didn’t see it, although the right did.

Once the left was out of hot air, the rabid right jumped in saying that President Obama was out to ruin marriages and turn the United States into a land owned and operated exclusively by homosexuals.

My favorite bit was one where many on the right seemed to state that Obama was jumping out in favor of gay marriage in order to curry the gay vote — as though there were a chance they were going to support Romney — or to raise money from gay marriage advocates. 

Then there were the president’s advisors and prominent elected Democrats who were upset that the president would take such a risk in an election year. They publicly stated that they wished the president would have waited to make such an announcement until after the election, seemingly believing that he has the election in the bag.

Personally, I find the president’s statement to be a bit underwhelming. To find out that there’s a Democrat who supports gay marriage is akin to finding out that high school students can be cruel.

Which leads me to the big reveal on Mitt Romney: When he was in high school he mocked and harassed some kids that he believed to have been gay.

While bullying and harassment are NOT okay, everyone knows that they are prominent in high schools across America. And everyone should know that they used to be even more prominent. So to find out that the boy with the silver spoon used to harass people he viewed as different just isn’t that shocking.

Personally, I don’t care that Mitt Romney used to be a jerk. Short of murder or arson, I don’t really care what any of the candidates did in their teen years. I know that I had certain shortcomings when I was a teen. I grew out of them. I’m sure that to an extent, they did, too.

An argument can be made that “it goes to show character,” but I think that’s hogwash. Mitt Romney proudly displays his character on his shirt sleeve. That’s what we’re voting on: who he is now. Not who he was decades ago.

Democrats support gay marriage. Rich kids can be cruel. And the sun rose today. None of those things are news. And frankly, they only serve as a distraction from the real issues.

Monday, May 07, 2012

GOP can’t get out of own way in NY27

It seems the election for the 27th Congressional District is heating up. The newly created district will feature a Republican primary between former Erie County executive Chris Collins and war veteran David Bellavia with the winner going on to compete against “incumbent” Kathy Hochul.

I use the quotation marks because with redistricting, Hochul’s district is largely new to her and the power of her incumbency is somewhat diminished. In fact, many GOP think-tank types would have you believe that this race is theirs for the taking since the voter registration favors Republicans so greatly.

Of course, that’s what they thought before Hochul won the special election in the 26th Congressional District against Republican Jane Corwin, Independent Jack Davis and Green Ian Murphy. But never put it past politicians to screw up a sure thing.

Hochul’s victory in that special election was the first sign of life for the Democrats nationally. They had been adrift in “Obamacare” and economic woes. Say what you will, if Barack Obama wins re-election, the Hochul victory last May will have helped to spark it.

I’m just rehashing old news here, but it could be said that Hochul didn’t win so much as Corwin — and the GOP as a whole — lost, choosing insider bickering and party politics over process. Had Republicans gone through the normal process of picking a candidate, Davis (and Bellavia through endorsing Davis) would not have been the nuisance he was and Corwin wouldn’t have had to resort to stupid stunts. She should have won NY26 easily, but her “handlers” screwed it up bad for her.

I bring that up because it looks like the Republican wagons in Erie County are circling again, this time around Collins, who had been circling in his own right (the drain) following a whomping by Mark Poloncarz. But fresh off defeat, Collins decided he still had the political capital to run for Congress.

From my point of view, though, it looks like Collins is only running for Congress in Erie County, a strategy that makes little sense to me.

Of course, he did get the statewide Conservative Party endorsement, something I found out about through Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, who was apparently told directly by State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long. Why Nick Langworthy and Michael Long talk on the phone is anybody’s guess but it reinforces my personal belief that the Conservative Party is nothing but another line for GOP candidates to run on.

The majority of the party leaders in the 27th District, though, have backed Bellavia, including State Sen. George Maziarz. The weight of that endorsement has got to help in Niagara and Orleans counties where Maziarz could probably be emperor-for-life if only he asked nicely.

So what we really have here, it seems, is a battle over the GOP between Erie County and everyone else in Western New York. And while they’re bickering, look for Hochul to make solid gains in a district she should have no business winning.

It all sounds so familiar.


Speaking of familiar, for the second year in a row, I’m stepping out of character and donning ladies wear for charity. Yep. If you missed it last year, on Saturday you get a second chance to see Scott Leffler in a womens’ clothes.

Tickets for the Second Annual Peaches-N-Crème Fashion Show are available at the Palace Theatre the night of the show, for $15 or for $10 from any of the Mangels (including me) or at the Lockport Maurices on Transit Road in the Home Depot plaza.

Doors open at 6 p.m. so attendees can get a look at the many baskets that will be auctioned off, with the show running from 7 to 10 p.m at the Palace.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Just because it's your right, doesn't make it right

Last week’s column noted the oddity of people not voting when their vote could make all the difference in the world.

I hope you didn’t take that to mean I think everyone should vote. I don’t. 

You may have a Constitutional right to vote, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the right thing to do. In fact, there are people who vote in every election who have no business doing so — right or not.

All across the country there are organizations (Republicans) who want to create so-called “Voter ID” laws under the assumption that people who shouldn’t be allowed to vote (illegal immigrants — and by immigrants, I mean Mexicans) are voting and swaying elections (in favor of Democrats). 

First of all, I’m not sure that this is a real problem. In other words, I don’t think it’s happening. At least not to the extent that these organizations would have you believe. Secondly, there are greater problems with voting, namely that complete idiots’ votes count exactly the same as mine.

And as long as you’re not one of those complete idiots, you should feel that it’s a problem, too.

The Founding Fathers argued for months about how much of a right you should be allowed to influence the government. While it’s popular to believe now that they all were in favor of us having complete control, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, until the ratification of the 17th Amendment — less than 100 years ago — we didn’t have a direct vote on the vast majority of our federal government. Judges are appointed by the president, the president is still technically elected by the Electoral College, and Senators were elected by the states themselves, not the voters. All we voted on was the House and some didn’t even think we should be allowed that right.

See, the Founding Fathers knew that for the most part, mankind is selfish and uninformed — both dangerous qualities, but a downright threat to national security when combined. 

But now we’ve got selfish uninformed people picking our elected officials. And then we get mad at them when they do what we want them to do — or when the don’t do what we want them to do.

Rather than a “Voter ID” law, I’d like to see a “Voter IQ” law. Not literally, mind you. I don’t want only “smart” people to be allowed to vote. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be allowed to vote and I’m selfish, too! 

I’d like to see a test when you enter the polling place with simple questions that anyone who’s voting should know the answers to. Things like: 

• What political party controls Congress?

• Who is the current vice president of the United States?

• What state was Mitt Romney formerly governor of?

I’d like the questions to be different each election year, but I’d like them to remain basic like that. And I’d like there to be five of them. Whatever percent you get right, your vote counts that much. This would help to weed out the people that vote because they feel they’re supposed to, but don’t do the required research — or the people who go and vote for the person they were “told” to vote for, but have no idea why they’re voting for that person.

Although voting is a right, we need to stop treating it as such and start treating it like the responsibility the Founding Fathers were afraid to give us because they knew we’d screw it up.