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Demonizing the conservatives

I read a lot of stuff every day. And a lot of the stuff I read is the work of syndicated columnists and op-ed contributors, who riff off the news of the day with their own viewpoints and opinions.

That's all well and good, but I've been getting a little tired of the unintentionally hypocritical bashing some of our liberal writers have been giving conservative commentators they perceive as somehow responsible for the hate crimes that have marked the past few weeks. There are valid points to be made about dangers that may lurk in "firing up the base," to play off Obama's own term, but some of the commentary has crossed a line into simply demonizing the far right for supposedly demonizing liberals and turning them into righteous targets.

Then I came across some balance from Clarence Page. The column we'll publish tomorrow discusses accused Holocaust Museum shooter James Wenneker von Brunn, accused Arkansas recruiting station shooter Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and concludes with this:

"Right-wing commentators and talk show hosts have taken a lot of fire from critics who say their excessive Obama-bashing fueled Brunn's hate. Some of that criticism is justified. But so is the criticism from the other side that holds liberals accountable for the loose talk that emits from their own side of the lunatic fringe. It's time for both sides to fight crazy talk with a dose of sanity, as long as we can still find some."

In a totally different context, Kathleen Parker emphasizes in her column on the same page that "Opinions don't get punished in this country, period." She's right -- or should be.

Words have consequences, and should be measured. But it's far too simplistic just to demonize the purveyors of certain opinions as the authors of evil. And there's danger in that, too.

-mike vogel 

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson: shared border management, lakes and "Buy American"

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson paid a visit the other day to The News editorial board and shared with us some thoughts on key issues affecting both nations and the Buffalo Niagara region, in particular. Among the topics: shared border management, the Great Lakes and Canadian concerns regarding the "Buy American" policy.

On environmental issues on the Great Lakes, Wilson sees the ballast water issue as the one causing the greatest amount of concern. Shared border management has been discussed at the upper echelons, according to Wilson, and where it's been left is to take another look; he sees a possibility, if there is flexibility on both sides, for the issue to be resolved.

But perhaps the most contentious issue Wilson wanted to discuss was something that has stirred Canadians: the "Buy American" policy that our northern neighbors view with concern as it relates to trade relationships with this country.

Please feel free to listen to the hypertext-links and hear what Wilson has to say in his own words and, as always, share your thoughts.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Journalists saying good-bye

   One thing America seems to have in surplus these days is journalists, particularly the ink-stained wretch variety. A silver lining in that cloud is a run of pretty nice farewell columns.

   Here are two good ones from Maine, from people I once pestered for a job and who now find themselves without one.

   I particularly like this one, from Portland Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Editorial Page Editor  Portland-press-herald-maine-telegram-logo-175 John W. Porter. I'm struck by it because, unlike the normal writer's good-bye, it is not all about him. It is about the community he has come to know and love.
   It also has meaning for New Yorkers thinking about their own governing structures.
- Maine shouldn't cling to the past
   Our love of local control and other parochial attitudes threaten to hold the state back.

   This one, from Kennebec Journal Publisher John Christie, is pretty good, too. At least for journalists of a certain age.
What if younger self could see you now? 
   The older I've grown, the more I see that just about any job can be socially responsible. A factory manager (assuming his mill is up to safety and environmental standards) employs many people, who can feed and shelter their families with their paychecks. A lawyer can make a fine living, but she also can be the means to justice for her clients.
   And I'd like to think that putting out a newspaper is a good use of a lifetime, too.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News



Smoke-out: FDA regulation over tobacco is overdue

Neither myself, my brother nor my mother ever smoked but a running joke in the family has been the number of years each of us has inhaled because of my father's now abandoned smoking habit. Both of his two brothers and sister were lifelong smokers, the eldest brother recently deceased but not without his end-of-life companions consisting of an oxygen tank and a cigarette.   

My father and his siblings grew up as perfect targets for the tobacco industry: modest income, black and during the 1950s, when the tobacco industry virtually convinced America that smoking was healthy.  Fast-forward decades later and we now know better. Or, should. 

This is why Senate approval of landmark legislation giving the government far-reaching power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products is so important. The House joined.

Thwarted efforts years ago to allow the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products could be corrected. The legislation before the House allows the FDA to regulate ingredients in tobacco products and ban the marketing of "light" cigarettes.

Fewer Americans are smoking. But the grip of a bad habit often takes hold at a young age, especially when cherry-flavored cigarettes are used as a lure. The measure also allows the FDA to ban most flavoring, allowing menthol.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said it best: “The United States Senate has finally said 'no' to Big Tobacco.”

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Editorial: Wrongful convictions

Today's editorial, "Protect the Innocent," revisits an issue we've tackled before in editorials and in-depth story projects -- flaws in the criminal justice system that can lead to wrongful convictions and the imprisonment of the innocent.

That's not an academic argument. Western New Yorkers confronted the reality of this tragedy with the release in recent years of Lynn DeJac and Anthony Capozzi from imprisonment on serious crimes they didn't commit. In Capozzi's case, the wrongful conviction let Altemio Sanchez prey upon women in this community for years.

What's needed are reforms state government should quickly enact -- rules to improve witness identification procedures, the taping of interrogations in felony cases, increasing prisoner access to DNA testing and preserving evidence.

There's also more on this topic at the Web sites for The Innocence Project and The Center on Wrongful Convictions.  The reader info guide accompanying the editorial also has snail-mail, phone, Fax and e-mail contact information for the governor and key legislators Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Assemlyman Joseph Lentol.

Rehab focus needed in Albany

By now, most of us are well aware of the chaos occurring in Albany and that has, at the very least, delayed important measures. Take, for example, expansion of the state's Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, which the Senate has passed for a couple of years and has desperately needed Assembly support. Last year, the governor vetoed the measure but it is critical in today's economic climate. As today's secondary editorial states, this is a job creation bill important to upstate.

This rehabilitation stimulus bill expands the tax credit program and the Assembly version has been introduced again by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo. Before the political coup earlier this week, the Senate moved quickly to pass the bill introduced by Sense. Antoine M. Thompson, D-Buffalo and David J. Valesky, D-Oneida.

Given the number of historic structures that stand to benefit from this legislation and the critical gap funding this bill provides, this area can hardly stand to see this measure die. The question is whether it can survive the current Albany chaos.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Conservative bias in the media

In a syndicated column we published on today's op-ed page, liberal writer E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post Writers Group opines that there's a definite conservative slant in the media.

We pause now, while you clean up the coffee you just spit out.

Anyway, Dionne argues that the media is allowing the likes of Rush Lmbaugh and Newt Gingrich to set the debate agenda, and is this complicit in a bias against "progressives."  He sees a "tilt to the right" and a "deep and largely unconscious conservative bias in the media's discussion of policy."

Hey, we've been called "largely unconscious" before.But we don't often hear about our right-wing leanings. At least not on this blog.

-Mike Vogel

Death and demolition

Today's lead editorial, "An outrage in Wichita," on the murder of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George R. Tiller, remarks on the parallels between the suffering by that community and this one years earlier following the slaying of Amherst Dr. Bernard Slepian.

Authorities quickly made an arrest in the case of Tiller's shooter, whereas it took three years before police in France arrested James C. Kopp, later convicted of state and federal charges.

Unfortunately, such heinous incidents offer vocal figures like Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, a bully pulpit. Terry haltingly deplored Tiller's murder, but only after calling the doctor "one of the most evil people on the planet” and saying that “he reaped what he sowed.”  Terry's vile words are in no way representative of the pro life movement but are newsworthy because of the notoriety of his organization.

The secondary editorial, "Demolition delayed," poses a logical question to an illogical action being sought by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo and the Federal Highway Administration, in requesting the Peace Bridge Authority to postpone demolishing several uninhabitable houses. As the editorial states, "In terms of a building a new bridge and plaza, it doens't make much difference if the houses come down now or later."

With one exception, these structures are not historic houses and, ironically, many are slated for demolition. Some neighbors and Niagara Council Member David Rivera, want the authority to fix violations at the houses, three of which are eligible for but not currently on, the National Register of Historic Places. The exception is the Wilkeson House -- we're already taking heat, and rightly so, for ignoring the link of that structure to one of the early leaders of Buffalo (his grandson once lived there), however much time and changes have degraded the building itself.  

Should vermin-infested houses, already set for demolition, be gussied up? Moreover, should the demolition of any of these structures be postponed. If so, to what end?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

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