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The cost of war

   Heading into Memorial Day weekend:

- People must face the reality of war - Ben Perrone/My View/The Buffalo News
   ... War, like business, has a balance sheet. The number of casualties plus the dollars spent and other Perrone factors can be divided by our eagerness to prove a point, even if there really isn’t one. But there are hidden costs to doing business and hidden costs of war. They have been hidden under those flags that drape the returning coffins we seldom see. They are hidden in the wards of veterans’ hospitals where soldiers fight to regain their mobility or learn to use their prostheses. Sometimes they can be seen in the vacant looks of men walking down the street, home but not really there. These costs may turn up on police blotters, too, when a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder goes off the deep end. ...
   In the end, we don’t know what the cost of war is. We have been too insulated. We’re fighting our own small battles with life and not paying close attention. We can, however, get a glimpse of that cost if we look into the eyes of a father or a mother who has just been told that his or her son is not coming home from the war. There is no number for that cost. We should consider this before we decide that war is the answer.
   Ben Perrone is a longtime Buffalo artist with an exhibit titled “War Ongoing Project” now at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

- Afghanistan: America's longest war   - Rick Hampson/USA Today
   Three months after 9/11, every major Taliban city in Afghanistan had fallen — first Mazar-i-Sharif, then Kabul, finally Kandahar. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were on the run. It looked as if the war was Longestwar over, and the Americans and their Afghan allies had won.
   Butch Ivie, then a school administrator in Winfield, Ala., remembers, "We thought we'd soon have it tied up in a neat little bag."
bin Laden and Omar eluded capture. The Taliban regrouped. Today, Kandahar again is up for grabs. And soon, Afghanistan will pass Vietnam as America's longest war.

- US toll reaches 1,000 deaths in Afghanistan war - Robert H. Reid/AP/Buffalo News
   The American military death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 at a time when President Barack Obama's strategy to turn back the Taliban is facing its greatest test - an ambitious campaign to win over a disgruntled population in the insurgents' southern heartland.
   More casualties are expected when the campaign kicks into high gear this summer. The results may determine the outcome of a nearly nine-year conflict that became "Obama's war" after he decided to shift the fight against Islamist militancy from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Afghan insurgents find sanctuary.
   The grim milestone was reached in a roadside bombing just before the Memorial Day weekend, when America honors the dead in all its wars.
   The NATO statement did not identify the victim or give the nationality of the service member killed Friday in southern Afghanistan. U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the trooper was American - the 32nd U.S. war death this month by an Associated Press count.

- America's 'casualty gap' - Los Angeles Times
   On Memorial Day we honor the brave men and women in uniform. In doing so, we shouldn't overlook a hidden aspect of war: the socioeconomic inequality in who makes the ultimate sacrifice for the nation.

- Obama's Forgettable New Strategy - Leslie H. Gelb/The Daily Beast
   To shape a true strategy, the president must establish and explain priorities. In the Obama document, everything seems to be a top priority.

- Karzai's Delayed Peace Jirga: Any Chance of Success? - Abigail Hauslohner/Time
   Afghan President Hamid Karzai's heavily trumpeted peace jirga — a proposed grand assembly meant to build national consensus toward a path of reconciliation with the Taliban — has been delayed for a second time, from a start date of late this week to June 2. The National Consultative Peace Jirga Preparation Commission says the delay merely accounts for logistics — that not all of the attending delegates would have been able to make it on time.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Can't really call it the NewsHour any more

   This program is getting with the program. Now, it's more like the NewsEveryMinute:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

State open spaces. County lock-up.

   In today's Opinion section:

- Holiday, with parks - Buffalo News Editorial
   This would be funny if it wasn't so pitiful. New York's pathetic Legislature, reluctant to make difficult decisions unless dodging them becomes too politically painful, thrashed about until the eleventh hour to Park find a way to reopen state parks before this holiday weekend. By 4 a.m. Thursday, they succeeded.
   That's not all good news. The parks will be open, allowing New Yorkers to commune with nature, because the governor and lawmakers will cut the needed money out of the state's
Environmental Protection Fund. How's that for irony? [See below]
- Padlocked parks lock out sense - Fred LeBrun/Albany Times-Union
- Financial problems may shut New York tracks in June - Reuters
   [Web searches today turn up a lot more about the threat of closing the state's race tracks than about the hope of keeping state parks open. Priorities. Plus, New York City, Center of the Media Universe, has its own parks. Without them, even the Greatest City in the World would be unlivable.] 

- Pass the better jail panel - Buffalo News Editorial
   Politics permeates most considerations of a fractured Erie County Legislature, and there’s no getting around that premise when it comes to efforts to set up a much-needed jail advisory panel.
   This issue has been part of the prevailing controversies swirling around Sheriff Timothy B.Howard, the person elected to the post and who is responsible for the jail system. According to a report by the New York State Commission on Corrections, the sheriff hasn’t been doing such a hot job. ...
   What is needed is an advisory panel with the kind of power that only comes through legislation that overcomes political influence and has the potential to outlast administrations.

   About that irony. OK. So she isn't using the word correctly. It still seems properly woeful for the circumstances:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

World Wide Webs: Obama's top spy. Your teen's tweets.

   In today's Buffalo News Opinion section:

- Spying trouble - Buffalo News Editorial
   The Senate now has a good excuse to take a serious look at whether it was really so intelligent to create a position called the national intelligence director.
   Last week Dennis C. Blair
[right], the third person to hold the post since it was invented in the post-9/11 Blair upheaval of the American spy apparatus, announced that he was resigning. ...
   It is fair to question whether Obama was right to have hired Blair or, having done so, whether he gave the retired admiral the budget, staff and clout necessary to do his job. ...
   But more important now for members of Congress, as they consider not only Obama’s nomination for a
replacement but also the whole intelligence structure, is whether any president and any national intelligence director can do their jobs properly with the current structure — a structure mandated by law and only changeable by an act of Congress.
- US intelligence chief out; who's next in hot seat? - Kimberly Dozier/AP/Buffalo News
   For months, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair has been a dead man walking - and he knew it. So constant and vicious were the leaks from the White House and Congress of his imminent departure that he opened a recent speech on intelligence reform with a joke that his replacement would be Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.
-  The Politics of National Intelligence - Marc Ambinder/The Atlantic
   A final variant of a reinvigorated DNI would turn the position into a -- wait for it -- czar, with a small staff, who would coordinate conflicts among executive agents and who would be more or less a problem-solver. This person would not testify before Congress. He or she would not make public appearances. He or she would remain in the shadows.
- Obama's plan seeks security through peace - Associated Press/Buffalo News
   President Barack Obama's new national security strategy says armed conflict should be a last resort but doesn't repudiate the Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive war or its call for the U.S. to go it alone in defending against foreign threats. 
- Dennis Blair erred -- but he had an impossible job - David Ignatius/Washington Post
- An intelligence chief who gets it - Los Angeles Times Editorial
- Intel post becomes 'wicked problem' for W.H. - Josh Gerstein/Politico
- Searching for intelligent life - Tom Foreman/CNN
- While President Obama dreams of utopia, the world gets rougher - Kevin O'Brien/Cleveland Plain Dealer
- Industrial Espionage: How the CIA got the world to buy American during the Cold War - Ray Fisman/Slate

- Some support for texting - Buffalo News Editorial
   There may be many different words to properly describe a teenager who is plugged into Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and texting, seemingly all at the same time. But, according to some reassuring new Facebook research, “alienated” is not one of them.
   In fact, the suggestion made by some of the small but growing amount of scientific research done on the subject is that today’s plugged-in teens and tweens may be better emotionally adjusted than previous generations of passive couch potatoes whose only technological accomplishment was to change the channel.
- The real reason Facebook changed its privacy rules - Peter Lauria/The Daily Beast
- Teen Tech Use: Too Much Too Soon? - CBS News [complete with links to CBS' Facebook and Twitter pages]
- Killer used Facebook to lure teen girl - New York Post

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

Deals that might just work

   Also in today's Opinion section:

- A decent deal emerges - Buffalo News Editorial
   The steps now taken toward a proposed contract between the county and its largest union are worthy of Collinsmug credit for both the county executive and union leaders.
   Union members should support
the deal. Instead of a vote, that now will be done by mail.
   County Executive
Chris Collins [right] may have accomplished a near insurmountable task that loomed as he took office in 2008. He has negotiated new labor agreements with the county’s unions, in an era of distrust and well after the previous contracts had run out.
   If successful, it would be a crowning moment for Collins -- 85 percent of county employees will be under a contract through 2015, and during the last year of his second term if he is re-elected next year. That percentage includes other union agreements.
   The willingness of leaders of
Local 815 of the Civil Services Employees Association leaders to negotiate deserves as much recognition.

- Physician-led groups would improve quality of care - Dennis R. Horrigan /Catholic Independent Practice Association
   After months of contentious debate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. health care Horrigan reform, recently became law. We have learned, however, that the cost of the reform bill will exceed the original projection and is estimated that it will increase costs by more than $511 billion over the next 10 years.
   An overlooked part of the law creates a
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that will support local health care systems in delivering care at a sustainable price. In short, the law empowers physicians and hospitals to take the lead in making the health care system work better. ...
   A recent California Health Care Foundation survey found that one in three patients who accessed their personal health record took action to improve their care. Empowering patients to use their personal health information will become a critical component of high performing health care systems.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

What's that light on the dashboard mean?

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section:

- Change the oil policy - Buffalo News Editorial
   The oil company that was supposed to be different, and the administration that was supposed to be Monopoly better, are today both smeared with the tons of oil that continue to gush from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. ... 
   The idea that a giant oil corporation can be trusted to operate its offshore wells safely — and to shut them down when accidents happen — should be treated as dead. Replacing that should be the understanding that government permits for offshore operations should be hard to get, come with detailed plans for how drillers will react when the unthinkable happens, and require multibillion-dollar bonds to ensure compliance.
   This particular mess is BP’s fault. The environment that allowed it to happen is an executive branch — and now the Obama administration’s — responsibility. The only way to remove the stain is to provide the good government that this president promised.
   [BP's live video and AP's photo gallery. Despite the similar sounding names, they are no kin. Really.]

- Time for the Obama administration to show who is boss - New Orleans Times-Picayune Editorial
   The administration argues that federal law limits its ability to take over cleanup efforts from the company. Officials also note that the industry, not the government, has the expertise and equipment needed to stop the leak.
   But the federal government, which is supposed to ensure that BP assumes responsibility for this Cleanup disaster,
has often acted timidly during the crisis. President Obama has the bully pulpit to come down hard on BP and its executives, and he should use it. Most Americans are ready for the president to light a fire under the company and under the bureaucracy overseeing the disaster response.
The Arctic After the Gulf - New York Times Editorial
   There is an important way for President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to show they are absorbing the lessons of the gulf oil spill and to reaffirm their pledge to proceed cautiously with offshore drilling in the future. That is to withhold the permits Shell Oil needs to proceed with a highly controversial drilling project in the Arctic Ocean.
- Freeze It, Crimp It, Plug It, Nuke It -  Josh Levin/Slate
   Slate readers' ideas for how to stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico
- BP's shocking memo -  Rick Outzen/The Daily Beast
 This is a story about the Three Little Pigs. A lot of dead oil workers. And British Petroleum.
- Of Top Hats, Top Kills and Bottom Feeders - Maureen Dowd/The New York Times
   As we watch a self-inflicted contamination that has no end in sight, consider this chilling arithmetic: One oil industry reporter reckoned that the 5,000 barrels a day (a conservative estimate) spewing 5,000 feet down in the gulf counts for only two minutes of oil consumption in the state of Texas.

 - George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Time for a new sheriff in town

   "If this is the way Queen Victoria treats her prisoners, then she doesn't deserve to have any." -- Oscar Wilde

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section lays it on the line:

- Sheriff should step down - Buffalo News Editorial
   Erie County needs a new sheriff.
   If it's not truly dangerous convicted
felons finding their way out of their cells in the county's downtown Holding Center or its Alden Correctional Facility, then it's neglect, mistreatment, even suicide among Sheriff inmates who may have been waiting for their first look at the inside of a courtroom.
   Case after case,
documented or credibly alleged, has arisen over the last few years, all of them posing a threat either to the general public or to inmates whose health and safety are legally and morally the responsibility of the county that has incarcerated them.
   But whenever these concerns are raised, whether by inmates, their grieving loved ones or state and federal officials, the response of
Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard and his staff is the same.
It's not our fault. We're being unfairly picked on.
   If that's the best that Howard and company can do, then it is time for the sheriff to step aside —
or be removed [See Article IV, Section 8]. Someone needs to take responsibility for this difficult but crucial local government function.
   The latest sad example of how the current regime tries to turn every critique into a political football came last week when the
New York State Commission on Corrections issued a blistering review of how a series of oversights and blunders allowed a dangerous prisoner to get out of his cell.
   Rather than taking the findings of the state commission, headed by another experienced lawman, to heart, Howard made himself invisible and trotted out an underling to blast the report as a "vicious personal attack on Sheriff Howard based on politics and an attempt to alarm the public."
   But the report was not political. And the public ought to be alarmed. ...

   And, speaking of doing the right thing:
- Overdue justice may come - Buffalo News Editorial
   Compensation for former Bethlehem Steel employees who worked during the Cold War and unknowingly were exposed to uranium is finally looking like a real possibility. It’s about time.
   A federal advisory panel’s recommendation that former workers or their surviving family members be compensated for diseases that might have resulted from their work on Cold War-era nuclear programs should be upheld by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The recommendation then goes before Congress

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

WNY seeks CoP, lunch, wine

   What does Western New York want? Not much. According to today's Opinion section, just a good police commissioner, a really nice place to eat near the Falls and a good bottle of New York wine.

- What national search? - Buffalo News Editorial
   Whether you believe Buffalo's mayor and his staff have been conducting a full-out, intensive national Brownandcops search for the next police commissioner, or whether you believe it has been more along the lines of a cursory 2.0 version on a number of free Web sites, there's no doubt that Buffalo deserves the best and brightest.
   Some lawmakers are questioning whether the administration has made a significant effort in finding a replacement for H. McCarthy Gipson, whom
Mayor Byron W. Brown dumped in late December. ...
   For police commissioner, one might want someone who has gone through professional training such as the
FBI National Academy, considered a fundamental requirement to be a midlevel manager in some departments.
[Photo: Mayor Byron Brown, shown in 2006 with then-Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson and then-Deputy Commissioner Daniel Derenda, seems intent on appointing Derenda, now interim commissioner, to the top post without a national search.]

- Don’t let up - Buffalo News Editorial
   Even the Niagara Falls—or the Grand Canyon, or the Golden Gate Bridge—can only hold visitors in awe for so long before something else occurs to them.
   What’s to eat?
   The answer to that question for the City of Niagara Falls should include the dream of Niagara County Community College to create a culinary institute in that city’s downtown. If the idea of placing that school in the largely derelict Rainbow Centre mall can’t be made to work, and soon, then it is time to look elsewhere in the neighborhood.

- Balanced proposal for supermarkets helps everyone - Scott Osborn/Fox Run Vineyards
   With New York staring into the budget abyss and searching for creative ways to generate revenue, a vastly popular win-win proposal already exists, one that will raise critically needed revenue, create jobs and support small businesses: the sale of wine in grocery stores.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News


Reading the tea party leaves

   Leading off today's Buffalo News Opinion section:

- More change - Buffalo News Editorial
   Like the frustrated customer at the office vending machine, the American voter keeps punching the Votingbooth button marked "change." Unlike that unhappy consumer, the U.S. electorate isn't exactly sure what it expects — or wants — to see falling into the dish.
   The risk is that, in different states and congressional districts, change will have such a different meaning that the Congress that assembles next January will be even more riven by partisan and ideological divisions than the one we have now. It will become that much more important, then, for the
grown-ups who run Congress and the White House to show real leadership, working together when they can, moving alone when they must, but never seeking to destroy the other party or faction just for the sake of it.
   Yeah. Right.
- Voting for kids - Buffalo News Editorial
   Perhaps the most interesting outcome from the recent near-unanimous school budget approvals in Erie and Niagara counties was the sheer number of people who turned out, not necessarily to vote down budgets, but to vote out incumbents.

- Big lessons of primaries: What the heck were they? - Liz Sidoti/AP/Buffalo News
   Dazed and confused. The biggest primary night of the season left the two parties struggling Wednesday to figure out their next steps in an increasingly volatile election year. House Republicans tried to explain their costly defeat in a special election in Pennsylvania, a contest they had hoped would launch them toward big gains in November's midterm elections. President Barack Obama failed for a fifth time to push Democratic choices to victory, a troubling sign for the White House.
   Despite the White House support, Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff with union-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in Arkansas and is clinging to her political life. Arlen Specter saw his long Senate career end altogether with Joe Sestak's nomination in Pennsylvania.
   Tea party activists scored a big victory in Kentucky, rejecting Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell's hand-picked GOP nominee - Trey Grayson - for the state's other Senate seat in favor of political upstart Rand Paul.

- The Ad That Did Specter In - Benjamin Sarlin/The Daily Beast

The Story of an Angry Voter - David Brooks/The New York Times
   But these days, the political center is a feckless shell. It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.
A smorgasbord, not a tea party - E.J. Dionne/Washington Post/Buffalo News
   In Arizona—nobody’s idea of a liberal state—voters supported a temporary increase in the sales tax from 5.6 to 6.6 cents on the dollar. This, coupled with a large tax increase on businesses and high-income earners endorsed by voters in Oregon earlier this year, suggests a pragmatic electorate that is far less reflexively opposed to taxes or government than tea party cheerleaders would have us believe.
- Target: The federal government - David Broder/Washington Post/Buffalo News
   But mainly it was a mainstream reaction against the centralization of power in the capital, a combination of bank bailouts, health care guarantees and all the other ways in which Washington has found reasons— or excuses—to intervene and to spend money it does not have.
The voters have spoken - Johnstown [Penn.] Tribune-Democrat Editorial
   In the end, voters in the 12th Congressional District were less concerned about bringing down Washington than about lifting up western Pennsylvania. By a solid margin, voters chose Democrat Mark Critz over Republican Tim Burns in the special election Tuesday to succeed the late John P. Murtha.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Budget clock ticking ...

   From today's Buffalo News Opinion section:

- Set a deadline, governor - Buffalo News Editorial
   Gov. David A. Paterson keeps prodding the Legislature to pass a state budget, but he has in hand the best tool to get the job done. He needs to use it. ...
   The governor should set a deadline for passing the state budget in the next two weeks or announce he will begin layoffs to save the state $1 billion

- Challenging pay-to-play in Albany - Rod Watson/The Buffalo News
   I’m not normally a fan of single-issue voting, but election reform is the one issue that affects every other issue—taxes, education, health care, etc. Do redistricting right, so that legislators fear for their re-election and have to be responsive to voters, and it will be possible to institute other reforms and take back government.

- Budget mess tarnishes Silver - Bill Hammond/The New York Daily NewsSilver
   No one in Albany carries nearly as much clout these days as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
   As the undisputed boss of an overwhelming 102-47 Democratic majority, he could probably round up the
votes to rename the Bronx as Red Sox Nation if he really tried.
   Yet Silver
 [right] has allowed his house to drift almost seven weeks into the new fiscal year without acting on a budget as the state Constitution requires.
   And he wants us to believe the delay is Gov. Paterson's fault?

- Introducing: New York's Hall of Shame - Albany Times Union Editorial
   There they were ... Five men with a combined 109 years of experience in the ways of state government, unable to do one of the few things they were elected to do: Pass a budget.

- Voters did the right thing on Prop. 100 - Arizona Daily Star Editorial
   Arizona lawmakers hoping to take away some grand anti-tax, anti-government statement from the Prop. 100 election Tuesday were thwarted by voters' overwhelming approval of the 1-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase.
   Voters were willing to do what the Republican majority in the Legislature refused - accept that Arizona cannot cut its way out of this budget debacle. A new revenue stream is necessary, and voters decided to tax themselves to help reduce budget cuts to public education, public safety and public health.

- Some tough love for the state budget - Long Beach Press-Telegram Editorial
   As always is the case, those at the lower end of the financial pole suffer the most. It's tough, but it's the right thing to do to close the state budget gap and avoid even deeper - and uglier - cuts in the future.

- The wrong kind of bipartisan agreement - Twin Cities [Minn.] Daily Planet
   Minnesota State Legislators have achieved bipartisan unanimity: everyone agrees that the Minnesota state budget deficit should, once again, be balanced by raiding money from Minnesota's schools. It's a dubious achievement.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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