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More stimulating editorials ...

... Or, at least, more editorials about the federal stimulus plan :

      The Buffalo News offers a twofer. The lead, "Money must work now," argues that the federal money  Adamactivate the states spend must be in addition to, not instead of, money they would have spent anyway, or it won't really stimulate anything.

What was and is needed is spending that produces jobs immediately. That’s where the money should be directed. Economic stimulus delayed is economic stimulus denied.

   The other, "Support neighborhoods plan," backs the proposed Community Regeneration Act, which would help Buffalo and other cities deal with the growing problem of vacant homes.

And so on:
- The News-Press of Ft. Myers, Fla., warns that state's governor not to forget that the stimulus money is a one-shot deal, not something that will keep the state in the black in the out years.
The Ann Arbor News thinks likewise.
The Northwestern in Oshkosh, Wis., praises that governor for setting out a process, and a chief money follower, to see to it that stimulus money is spent wisely and in the open.
The Post-Bulletin in Rochester [the other one] thinks that governor is right to avoid the cheap theatrics of some of his peers and not reject the federal money.
The Banner-Herald in Athens, Ga., says that state will have to look for other revenues to pick up the already considerable slack when the federal boodle runs out.
-  The Wilton [Conn.] Bulletin: Back in November, the nation voted for change, and this is it.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer   

Striking two balances

   A local focus for today's Buffalo News editorials.

   The lead, "County sees a surplus," welcomes news that Erie County government will run a budget surplus of anywhere from $5 million to $10 million, not long after a deficit had been predicted. The figureCollins that won't be nailed down for certain for several more weeks. The reason may take even longer.

The county executive says it’s skill. The county comptroller says it’s luck. We just say it’s good news.

   Either way, County Executive Chris Collins [right] is right to stash into reserves whatever extra cash the county does have when the books close. It will help ease future burdens on taxpayers and improve the county's credit rating.

   The second, "Justice is served," praises Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita [left] for not playing Sedita any favorites in the case of a now-former judge and a disgraced attorney who cooked up a failed scheme to beat a DWI rap. The judge has resigned and the attorney faces both jail time and disbarment.

Widespread knowledge, or even suspicion, that the system can be manipulated by those in the know, or by those taking advantage of who they know, seriously damages the credibility the system must have if it is to sift truth from falsehood, establish guilt, proclaim innocence and mete out the proper consequences.

Also on today's Opinion pages:
- University at Buffalo student Melody Mercedes has a problem with plans to balance the New York state budget on the backs of the state's university students.
- My View contributor Cyntiha J. Wittcop will always wonder what would have become of her brother if he had not died 35 years ago.
- Columnists Eugene Robinson and Susan Estrich suggest that the people who have run America's economy into the ground should sit down, shut up and take their medicine.
- While pundit George F. Will opines profoundly on "Sex and cheeseburgers." [That should get people to click through.]

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer     

Roundup: Obama stands strong

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News, "Obama stands strong," praises the president for last night's speech to a joint session of Congress:

   The president delivered a strong speech Tuesday that sounded the right tone of confidence and strength—but the road ahead, through a still-deepening recession and a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Israel, remains difficult indeed.

   Obamaspeech The official text of the president's speech is here. [Y en espanol.] The White House posts the video here [though you have to have a newer Flash than I do to see it.] Here's an interactive video/analysis of the speech posted by The New York Times. The NYT also provides a video of the Republican response from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

On the other hands:
- The Wall Street Journal: Far from suggesting limits on Congress or federal spending, the new President made clear in his first State of the Union address that he believes in government power as the answer to our current difficulties, and he intends to use it.
 The New York Times: The president is right. The growing ranks of unemployed and uninsured Americans need health coverage, and shaky businesses need relief from the burden of high health care costs. The time to move boldly and rapidly on health care reform is now, while the need is great and Mr. Obama’s popularity is still high.
The Orange County Register: President Barack Obama offered not only candor about the problems this country faces, but a sense of hope and confidence about America's ability to come back stronger and more prosperous than ever. Whether the program outlined in his speech will do it or whether the country will recover more in spite of what government does rather than because of what government does is the question.
 The Arizona Republic: We encourage Congress to embrace Obama's call to make an acknowledgment of a shared love of country the starting point of every debate. It is a good formula for civil discourse. It reveals the callousness of those who tout a desire to see the new president fail.   
The In general, the speech had its usual effect on me, only amplified this year--which was to make me hate all the senators and representative gathered in the House to unctuously pretend on camera that they're supportive of the President. They're not the people who are going to help him succeed. They are the people who are going to conspire, probably successfully, to prevent him from succeeding.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

Roundup: Again with the stimulus

   Again with the stimulus package. [Well, until baseball season starts, what else is there?]

   The Buffalo News editorial "Schools get a break," argues that it was right for President Obama and  Obamaseal Congress to pour federal money into school district budgets so they can avoid big layoffs/program cuts/tax increases. But it has to be seen as a breather, not a permant solution.

   Had school districts not been held harmless by an influx of federal dollars, districts would be in dire straits this year. But those dollars largely will be borrowed overseas, and will be a liability for the future generations now being educated. School boards should feel an obligation to use that debt wisely now and to take steps toward the changes that must happen if future shortfalls are to be met—re-examining health insurance, employee contributions and so on.

   Across the page, economics pundit Robert Samuelson argues that the stimulus package spends a lot of money [which is good] but spends it too slowly and on things that won't really stimulate the economy [which is very, very bad]. 

More stimulating debate:
The Democrat & Chronicle is happy that everyone from the president to the New York State Comptroller is promising to watch how all these billions of your dollars are spent.
   State spending can be tracked here, we are told, and federal spending there. 
- The New York Times scolds the handful of GOP governors who are rejecting parts of the stimulus package, saying they are making political points at the expense of their own states' unemployed.
The New York Post says the normal NYC fight over library budgets avoids the real issue -- overly generous pension packages for library retirees.
-  The Las Vegas Review-Journal says the stimulus package is an "abomination" that won't stimulate anything but the size of government.
-  The Dallas Morning News says President Obama has a big task before him when he speaks to Congress and the nation tonight: He must inspire like Churchill and warn like Lincoln.
 The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif., wants the president to give it to us straight. We can take it.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer 


States must cut back. Really.

   Two bites at the state budget apple in The Buffalo News editorial columns yesterday and today.

   Sunday's lead editorial, "State must still cut," says New York Gov. David A. Paterson [right] is correct when hePaterson0209 says that the state should not use the passage of the federal stimulus package as an excuse to avoid cutting its own expenses and deficits.

   The governor, obviously, has no illusions. The Legislature, on the other hand, does. Instead of seriously reducing costs—most of which would require reducing state job payrolls—lawmakers pin their hopes on a federal bailout and ignore the fact that it can be only a short-term, stopgap measure.

      The theme continued Monday, in "States need deep cutbacks," noting that New York is far from alone in facing hard financial times. And that means that the federal bailout is, yes, necessary.

   When the bank holds 10 bad mortgages, it’s the homeowners’ problem. When the bank holds 10,000 bad mortgages, it’s the bank’s problem.
And when one state is facing a budget crisis, it’s the governor’s problem. When a dozen or more states are facing a budget crisis, it’s the president’s problem.

   Gov. Paterson speaks for himself in a New York Daily News op-ed headlined (by the newspaper, I'd bet, and not the governor), "David vs. Goliath: Paterson takes on hospital lobby in $11 billion fight":

   Some groups want us to take some $11 billion in stimulus funds and simply pour them into our current health care system - without demanding reform. This would be a terrible mistake.
   That's because two years from now, when the money runs out, we would be stuck with the same failing health care system, and the same huge deficits, as we have now. The only thing that will be different is that we will have wasted 11 billion precious stimulus dollars.

The Daily News editorial beavers agree with the governor.
- The New York Post refers to the head of the Greater New York Hospital Association as The cowardly bully.
The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester: Too many representing labor in New York apparently didn't get the memo. You know, the one that says that the nation is in the worst economic mess since the Depression and that New York, as the world center of financial services, has felt the downturn more than nearly any other state.
- The Wall Street Journal notes that some states not only see Paterson's point, they are going further: At least five Republican Governors are saying thanks but no thanks to some of the $150 billion of "free" money doled out to states, because it could make their budget headaches much worse down the line. And they're right.
- The New York Times: California’s budget imposes new taxes, slashes state services and asks almost every Californian to give up something. Now, it’s every New Yorker’s turn.
 Newsday: Whenever this tsunami of acute economic problems finally ebbs, the chronic problem of out-of-control medical costs will take center stage as an impediment to a healthy future. Unless surging costs are arrested, the federal treasury will be depleted by the exploding cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
   And, oh, yes, Newsday also says, consolidate school districts.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer
[A tip of the tin-foil hat to Newsday's Viewsday editorial page blog for finding most of these eddies.]

Flight 3407: Covering a tragedy

Today's top editorial discusses the difficulty of balancing the newspaper's duty to the community to cover a tragedy as fully and accurately as possible with the very human obligation to be sensitive and respectful to the families and friends of the victims. The victims of the Flight 3407 crash deserve not just to be listed, but remembered -- and telling their stories aids in that remembrance. What say you?

From peanuts to Pakistan

   Just as the terrorist cells of 9/11 rode the modern transportation network into the World Trade Center, single-cell terrors hitch rides on the modern food distribution network to find a way into your children's digestive systems.

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News, "Food safety flawed," calls for a single federal agency to take over the underfunded and fragmented food safety system that allowed all those salmonella-Fdalogo contaminated peanut products to get into our grocery stores and our homes.

   Winning and keeping the confidence of the buying public through a stiff regime of inspections and recalls would be the best favor the government, at all levels, could do for the food industry.
   Just ask the bankers.

   The second editorial, "Refocusing on Afghanistan," is less a call to action than a fret that the Obama Dnilogo administration will have a really hard time figuring out what to do about the real terror cells that continue to operate, and grow in strength, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

   Ask us in 10 years whether recent events in Afghanistan and Pakistan should have told us that President Obama’s decision to boost American troop strength in the region was a bold stroke or the first step into an unending quagmire.

See also:
- From our op-ed page today, Trudy Rubin on Taming the 'good Taliban.' 
- The New York Times on food safety: The food poisoning of people — is that just a cost of doing business?
And on Afghanistan: Mr. Obama’s biggest challenge will be trying to figure out how to persuade Pakistan that the fight against extremism is not a favor to the Americans. It is essential to Pakistan’s own survival. 
 The Grand Rapids Press: From tomatoes, to spinach, lettuce, beef and now peanut butter, it has become painfully obvious the FDA doesn't have the resources, authority or inspectors to do a thorough job of protecting the nation's food supply.
 The Hartford Courant backs a proposal [that] would also give federal regulators authority to conduct regular inspections, order recalls, seize contaminated products and impose fines. It would also set clear standards for preventing contamination. Such reforms are long overdue.
 The Louisville Courier-Journal: For any business thinking of cheating on quality to save a few bucks, here are some famous last words: Peanut Corporation of America.
 The Food and Drug Administration maintains a Web site list of Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts. The Department of Agriculture has another one. At least someone has thought to create a roundup called so you don't have to bookmark so many different sites.
- If the food's not scary enough, the Director of National Intelligence has this report to Congress on the threats facing us from people who want to kill us on purpose. 

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer 

On the other hand

   There are no one-armed editorial writers today at The Buffalo News. You know, the ones who can never write, "On the other hand ..."

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News, "Keep clear of census," wants elected politicians of both parties to keep their hands off the 2010 federal census.
   That became an issue, briefly, while Republican Sen. Judd Gregg [left, with President Obama] was a Gregg  Censuslogo candidate to be secretary of the Department of Commerce, the department that includes the Census Bureau. Democrats worried he'd cook the books one way. So the White House said he wouldn't, that Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would be watching over him. Which meant that Republicans worried the books would be cooked the other way.
   Finally, Gregg withdrew. And President Obama has a chance to make it all right.

   Picking a commerce secretary with some credentials as a wonk — a scandal-free governor, perhaps, or an academic with some administrative experience along the lines of Energy Secretary Steven Chu — would help.

   On the other hand...
   The second editorial, "Improve health insurance," is happy that an elected politician, in this case New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, has gotten his hands around a part of the huge health insurance business that was operated in a way that constituted a huge -- and, for consumers, very expensive -- conflict of interest.
   One of the businesses whose employees were apparently victimized by the practice happened to be a newspaper, The Syracuse Post-Standard. Ooops. Here are the newspaper's latest story and editorial on the matter.  

- The Dallas Morning News: President Barack Obama now has to make it crystal clear that nobody will put a political thumb on the census scale. Trading out Karl Rove for Rahm Emanuel isn't the kind of change America deserves.
 The San Francisco Chronicle: Putting it in ballot-box terms: An undercount is what the GOP wants since it draws few voters from minority groups. Democrats, in contrast, draw strength from these groups and have always favored an arms-wide census.
 The Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner : The entire Gregg affair was a political soap opera, the kind of blather that many hoped Obama's presidency might avoid. Instead, the new administration has already had its share of "mini-dramas," with stars named Richardson, Geithner, Daschle and now Gregg.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

Have there been bigger stories?

I suppose the question was inevitable. It surfaced, briefly, in the heat of coverage planning after the crash of Flight 3407. It was simply this: "Where does this crash rank, among all the news stories we've covered?"

The question vanished almost as quickly, lost in the crush of an all-out coverage effort and the need to tell THIS story right now, in the right words, in the right way. That's no small challenge.

But I think the question's worth revisiting, even if it's not that earthshaking. And because there are only seven or eight journalists here who have been in this newsroom longer than I have, I thought I'd do the revisiting. So here's my personal take on the top three dozen news events (an arbitrary number) that local newspapers have covered (the asterisks simply mark those other papers covered before The News was founded).

It's a subjective list, obviously, so it's open to suggestions. What do you think should be added? Excluded? Shuffled to a different rank? Consider this a draft list, with a revision possibly to be posted or published later, just for the heck of it.

Oh, and by the way, here's my answer to the original question: I think it ranks about 10th. And I think the top local news story of all time, hereabouts, was a good-news story on a list that's pretty heavy in tragedy. See what you think.

-Mike Vogel


 1. Opening of the Erie Canal (Oct. 26, 1825) *
 2. British burn Buffalo (Dec. 30, 1813) *
 3. President McKinley assassinated (Sept. 6, 1901)
 4. Cleveland Hill school fire (11 die, 19 hurt, March 31, 1954)
 5. Great Storm of 1844 (about 200 drown in floods, Oct. 18, 1844) *
 6. Blizzard of '77 (Jan. 28, 1977)
 7. Attica prison uprising (9 hostages and 28 inmates die, Sept. 9-13, 1971)
 8. Paddlewheeler  Erie burns off Dunkirk (more than 175 die, Aug. 9, 1841)*
9. .22-Caliber Killer (September, 1980)
 10. Flight 3407 (50 die, Feb. 12, 2009)
 11. The "Angola Horror" train wreck (about 50 die, Dec. 18, 1868) *
 12. Honeymoon bridge collapse (Jan. 27, 1938)
 13. East Side propane blast (5 firefighters, 2 others killed, Dec. 27, 1983)
 14. Father Baker's funeral draws 25,000 (Aug. 3, 1936)
 15. Civil rights riots (June 29, 1967)
 16. Canal District fire (10 blocks burn, 700-800 homeless, Sept. 26, 1851) *
 17. Love Canal (evacuated Aug. 4, 1978)
 18. Pan-American Exposition dedicated (May 20, 1901)
 19. Cholera epidemic of 1832 (hundreds die in summer of 1832) *
 20. Electricity transmitted from Niagara Falls to Buffalo (Nov. 14, 1896)
 21. Bike Path Killer/Delaware Park Rapist (2006)
 22. Freighter-gasoline barge collision and fire (11 die, Oct. 29, 1951)
 23. Tim McVeigh/Oklahoma City bombing (arrest April 22, 1995)
 24. Barnett Slepian/James Kopp abortion-related murder case (Oct. 23, 1998)
 25. Grover Cleveland elected president (Nov. 5, 1884)
 26. City schools desegregation (1972-1976)
 27. Schoellkopf power plant collapses (June 7, 1956)
 28. Marchand murder case (artist and model scandal, March 7, 1931)
 29. Cheryl Jolls kidnapping case (1961)
 30. Buffalo Harbor opens (April 13, 1822) *
 31. Lackawanna Six (2002)
 32, Bucky Phillips manhunt (2006)
 33. Michigan Avenue bridge destroyed by drifting freighter (Jan. 21, 1959)
 34. Influenza epidemic (1918)
 35. Richard Long killing involves off-duty police (1977)
 36. Canadiana riots (May 30, 1956)

Other possibilities might include the domed stadium controversy, Millard Fillmore's election as president, Lafayette’s visit, Teddy Roosevelt's Inauguration as separate from McKinley's assassination, the  St.Patrick’s Day Storm of 1936, Hurricane Agnes flooding the Southern Tier in 1972, the 19th century Eagle Hotel fire, the ice storm of 1976, passage of the Lincoln funeral train, West Valley, a tragic Grand Island dock collapse, the October Surprise storm, Buffalo's dock riots in 1884, Vietnam war protests at UB, etc. etc. etc.

And, of course, there's always the chance that I missed something entirely, even though I've been here for nearly four decades now. Why, I remember the time  . . .

Making short flights safer

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News, "Make short flights safer," hopes that the investigation of the loss of Flight 3407 will settle some ongoing questions about air safety.

The conflicting information that has emerged in the wake of the loss of Continental Express Flight 3407 last Thursday, and the deaths of 50 people, only heightens the sense of loss and the feeling that someone, somewhere, is to blame.

   It has got to be maddening for pilots, and frightening for passengers, to hear that two federal agencies Cockpit charged with keeping the skies safe -- the Federal Aviation Administration and thNational Transportation Safety Board -- don't agree on such key points as when to switch off the autopilot in icing conditions. Experts also differ on whether turboprobs, such as the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that fell on Clarence Center, are efficient for short hops or dangerous for low-speed, low-altitude flights where ice is a special danger.

   In a special op-ed in The News Tuesday, former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall bluntly says: This crash was foreseeable and likely preventable, if not for the preference of profit over safety in some of the aviation industry and for the lax oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration in its failure to adequately address known safety risks related to icing. 

And so forth:
- Scientific American explains "How does ice cause a plane to crash?" [In which we learn that NASA has a whole bureau devoted to the question of ice on airplanes.]
- The NTSB has an FBI-like Most-Wanted List. But, instead of a list of bad people, it's a list of good things. Things like improved aircraft safety programs such as dealing with ice, crew training and in-flight video recordings. And its Web site is stressing its Aircraft Inflight Icing Safety Alert. 
The Batavia Daily News adds its sympathies.
- Complete Buffalo News coverage of the crash and its aftermath continues to be updated here. It includes word of how many people around here can depend on the kindness of strangers.
The Washington Post has a touching editorial honoring Alison Des Forges, the Buffalo resident and human rights activist lost in the crash of Flight 3407: There could be no finer purpose or higher honor than taking up the work where she left off.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer
[Photo of Dash 8 Q400 cockpit from Bombardier Inc., where info on the Q400 still appears under the headline "Success story."

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