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Author and Muslim banquet speaker: Juan C. Cole

Attendance at the recent fifth annual banquet of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York proved enlightening, not only for its obvious sharing of cultures but ideas.


University of Michigan history professor and featured speaker Juan C. Cole’s opinion on relations between the United States and the Muslim world under an Obama administration, far different than the just-ended Bush era, is that relations may improve -- welcome news to those aware of an earlier increasing disdain for Americans under George W. Bush’s administration or, perhaps, for the president and his policies?

Cole’s observations of an Obama administration and attitudes toward the Muslim world that he spoke about Saturday evening at the Adam’s Mark Hotel reminded me of a similar telephone interview with Broadway and screen star Mandy Patinkin.  The actor/activist shared his views with me on Obama, Israel and Palestine, offering his efforts to better understand the Palestinian point of view.


Cole, author of "Engaging the Muslim World," had some unflattering words for the media and its interpretation of events in Pakistan, in particular and of the Muslim world in general.  Criticism well taken.  Perhaps an increased understanding of Muslims could be sought by more Westerners? 

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Editorial: Brown's decent budget

Is there anything quite as exciting as a governmental budget?

Maybe exciting isn't quite the right word. Or someone needs a life (keep your suggestions to yourselves).

In any event, today's lead editorial reviews Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown's budget proposal, one he hopes will push him one step further out of the shadow of a control board.

Cuts taxes. Downsizes government. Adds police officers and firefighters. Seeks efficiencies. Drops the tax levy. Assumes no increases in state aid.

Told that sounded like a very Republican budget, the mayor just laughed and protested, "I'm a fiscal conservative!"

-Mike Vogel 

Route 5: (Road)work in progress

What we really need, down on the lakefront, is T-shirts.

Specifically, T-shirts that proclaim, "I survived the Buffalo Harbor Parkway Project." To qualify, you just have to be among the 30,000 or so commuters who venture onto the shoreline each morning or afternoon to see what new drving challenges await them. The T-shirts could be sold or distributed anywhere traffic slows to a crawl -- which isn't much of a limitation in peak rush hours.

This thought came to me as I was following a semi through mud at the infamous Ohio Street elbow, the turn under what is still the non-bridge at the Small Boat Harbor -- you know, the one where traffic from east side of downtown gets 30 seconds to turn onto Fuhrmann, good for about 10 cars, before the Skyway crew gets another two-minute shot toward hearth and home. Anyway, this morning, the road had been completely removed. God knows where they put it. I assume it'll be dusted off and put back somehow, but this morning it was a bit of off-roading with the trucker doing his best to squeeze between orange pylons. Not completely successfully.

Route 5

I have the utmost respect for the folks who are doing the roadwork down there. There's artistry in timing the speed-up of huge trucks heavily burdened with gravel across the traffic lanes and up steep embankments. And the flagmen who have to deal with the motoring public surely deserve a special place in heaven (one with signs saying, "Slow Down").

But this whole trip, for Southtowns commuters staying with a major commuter route despite the hassles, is far from over. The $55 million roadway was launched with an initial day of traffic jams last July 11. It's a two-year project. At this point, it still looks like the construction of a training course for Jeep drivers -- not those newer suburban SUV Jeeps, but the rockcrawling kind. And along the detours, they still keep throwing in the occasional new bottleneck -- without taking any of the old ones away.

In the meantime, here's a salute to the Ohio Street commuters who know the day goes a little easier when everyone just forms a single line even before getting within sight of the "elbow" and its lane restrictions. And to those who have grown to love the "shoot-the-chutes" curves at the end of the southbound Skyway. And to all those, on the morning commute, who recognize that the Tifft off-ramp's rght lane is ONLY for those turning onto Tifft (come to think of it, couldn't they afford a traffic light down there, so traffic wouldn't back up onto the elevated highway?).

As for everyone else, you know who you are.

-Mike Vogel     5/8/2009 

Editorial: Poverty un-plan

As many people already know, the City of Buffalo finally released its poverty plan. The reception: crickets. Disappointment, really, over a long-awaited plan that delivered nothing except a plan to create a task force which will, in all likelihood, produce another plan. Or, at least a report -- on the plan.

Today's lead editorial takes City Hall to task over its artificial document that restates the problem of poverty and re-emphasizes programs already in place. In January, Brown agreed to be interviewed  on a number of topics including a comprehensive poverty plan.  Watch the video of the mayor’s strategy to address poverty here. Perhaps the taskforce will be better able to put together a comprehensive approach to combat decades-long decline.


Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer


A day at the State Department

Here's a short note from a day of issues briefings for editorialists in Washington this week: The State Department has a gift shop. Who knew?

Well, apparently all the recipients of foreign aid around the world, but we're not talking that kind of gift here. We're talking souvenirs, which some of my colleagues at an annual National Conference of Editorial Writers' session hosted by the State Department found time to peruse. I didn't, perhaps put off by this exchange when the opportunity was announced:

Journalist: Is there a sale on disused policies?

State Department official: No, but discredited ones are a dime a dozen.

Seriously, though, it was good to talk to some of the key players in various areas of foreign policy practice. For a bit of an insider look at the event, here's a link to Richard Prince's article on the briefings and media coverage: 

For the record, Hillary was supposed to join us for lunch but didn't make it back to Washington in time, perhaps because of the family rumors about Chelsea and a summer wedding. And also for the record, Washington was a lot colder than Buffalo early this week, and rain-soaked to boot.

-Mike Vogel/Editorial Page Editor

Editorial: Revive Studio Arena

Studio Arena -- the name evokes decades of memories of what was the only regional theater here, a venue that launched plays toward Broadway, featured star-quality and up-and-coming actors and actresses, and staged works by emerging and top-flight playwrights. Studio

As long as Studio Arena remains closed, there will be an empty spot in Buffalo's cultural life. It has been shuttered for long months, and smaller theaters have kept -- some even say augmented -- Buffalo's theatrical picture with quality presentations of their own. But none has the cachet and the national image that Studio Arena had in its heyday.

A strong push for revival is needed from leaders of both the private and public sectors, most notably County Executive Chris Collins, whose county government has claimed the lead on deciding cultural funding assistance. A key objective would be a new board of directors with the skills to keep the theater in business with financial savvy as well as a mandate for quality plays and performances.

Studio Arena long was one of three cultural pillars in this community. The other two, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Albright Knox Art Gallery, recently announced cutbacks. They must be protected, and the Studio Arena restored. Sure, there are other venues in all of the performing and visual arts -- but the communty still needs strong foundations to anchor them.

Read the full story.

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