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The Paragraph Factory

Welcome to today's chapter of The Paragraph Factory, an occasional (usually monthly) on-line live conversation on the art and craft of writing. Mike and Charity Vogel will open the discussion at 2 p.m. today, and the topics will include anything you want to discuss -- although Charity just may have something to say about book-length writing.

Program note: The Paragraph Factory

For those of you who enjoy the give-and-take of a live on-line chat about the art and craft of writing, the next chapter of "The Paragraph Factory" will open right here at 2 p.m. Tuesday (July 7). Join Mike and Charity Vogel for some conversation about books, journalistic writing or whatever else in the writing biz may be on your mind.


U.S. Welcomes New Americans

As editorial writers, we don't get out much (you can probably tell?) but a recent trip to video and familiarize myself with the swearing in of newly-minted United States citizens was a true honor.

New americans

U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny presided at the ceremony welcoming 50 new Americans from 32 countries, including Iraq. Young and old, families and singles all gathered at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society for a momentous life occasion.

Given the unrest in other countries such as Iran and Honduras, the freedoms we enjoy here in America are made that much more clear.

Skretny spoke of eloquently of responsibility and honor. Words we should all live by.

—Dawn Marie Bracely / Editorial Writer

Read the full editorial.

What the hell goes on in New York?

   It is Independence Day Weekend. And if I still had a Betamax player I'd get out my pirated copy of the 1776-musical musical "1776" and make my family watch it with me again.
   Yes, I know. This comic opera version of the drafting and approval of The Declaration of Independence has all kinds of historical inaccuracies in it -- John Wilson wasn't a wimp. Caesar Rodney wasn't dying [yet]. Martha Jefferson was way too ill to come to Philadelphia. Richard Henry Lee wasn't going to be governor of Virginia.
   But I love it anyway. And at least two bits of that play/movie's wonderful dialog seem not only accurate about then, but about now.
   This first one, a bit involving Continental Congress President John Hancock and New York Delegate Lewis Morris, makes more sense than ever. [It helps to know that, throughout the play, New York always abstains. Courteously.]:
Morris: [as Hancock is about to swat a fly] Mr. Secretary, New York abstains, courteously.
[Hancock raises his fly swatter at Morris, then draws back] 
Hancock: Mr. Morris,
[pause, then shouts] 
Morris: I'm sorry Mr. President, but the simple fact is that our legislature has never sent us explicit instructions on anything!
Hancock: NEVER?
[slams fly swatter onto his desk]
Hancock: That's impossible!
Morris: Mr. President, have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature?
[Hancock shakes his head "No"]
Morris: They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done.
[turns to the Congress as he returns to his seat]
Morris: I beg the Congress's pardon.
Hancock: [grimly] My sympathies, Mr. Morris.

   Also, reading the statement from U.S. Rep. Eric Massa on why he voted against the climate change bill -- no funding for hydrogen fuel cell research -- reminded me of the pained complaint raised by one delegate who found something missing from Thomas Jefferson's draft of The Declaration of Independence.
Joseph Hewes: Mr. Jefferson, nowhere do you mention deep sea fishing rights.
John Adams: Oh good God! Fishing rights? How long is this piddling to go on? We have been here for three solid days! We have endured, by my count, more than eighty-five separate changes and the removal of close to four hundred words. Now, would you whip it and beat it 'til you break its spirit? I tell you, that document is a masterful expression of the American mind!

Indeed. Even without the songs. Read it here.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 


Better air. Better airlines.

    Click here to see the offerings of today's Buffalo News Opinion pages. They include:

Action on climate change 
   This time, we’re all going to the moon.Jfk
climate change bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives Friday recalls nothing so much as President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call for the United States to send a man to the moon within a decade. [Video.]
   There are differences, of course. While Kennedy’s challenge was mostly about inspiration and politics, the task before us now is about planetary survival. And, instead of watching intently on TV, we are all going to take part in the bold venture, soaring to success or crashing to failure.
   Related comments from The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, The Lufkin (Texas) Daily News, The Houston Chronicle, The New York TimesThomas Friedman, Andrew Sullivan and The Salt Lake Tribune.     

- Toughen airline rules
   The Federal Aviation Administration’s quick action to revamp rules for airlines may offer small comfort to the families of Flight 3407 victims and can never return those 50 persons to their loved ones and friends, but it shows that the agency has learned a valuable if costly lesson.
   Related comments from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Greenville (N.C.) News, the Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times and this really sobering post from The New York Times Freakonomics blog:
   Isn’t it great to know that you have the newest, least-experienced, exhausted, starving young cockpit crew that this regional airline could find? Good for you!  

- Universal health care is a blessing, not a curse
   Williamsville's Brian Pawley explains what Americans are missing by not having the kind of universal health care he took for granted living the United Kingdom.

- State will take steps to ensure group home safety
    Gladys Carrion, commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, promises improvements in the wake of the death of a young woman who worked at a group home in Lockport.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Bad Senate. Better FAFSA?

   Today's Buffalo News Opinion page sez:

- Senate still failing
   The outbursts of anger against [Gov. David] Paterson by some frustrated senators, including Buffalo’s Gavel normally restrained Sen. Antoine Thompson, are less a proper assignment of blame than they are more evidence that the Senate is not capable of governing itself, much less the rest of us.
   Latest news. Editorial commentary from NewsdayNew York PostNew York Daily NewsAlbany Times-UnionRochester Democrat & Chronicle and The Times Herald-Record of Middletown.
   Of course, CaliforniaIllinois and Arizona are falling apart, too. And their legislatures are meeting.        

- Welcome simplification
   Good on President Obama's education secretary and IRS commissioner for announcing plans to greatly simplify the process college students and their families use to apply for loans, grants and scholarships.
   The much feared FAFSA — for Free Application for Federal Student Aid — is so long, complicated, redundant and intimidating that, for many, it might as well be called AHAYWEH — Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.

- Realtors stand for open space and lower taxes
   by Mike Johnson, president of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

Bridge improvements can’t wait any longer 
   by Barbara Palazzo 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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