The cock-eyed optimists in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today hope for a good outcome in the tax disputed between the State of New York and the Seneca Nation, and praise the Erie County decision to restore funding for child care subsidies:
- Negotiate with Senecas - Buffalo News Editorial The law and justice are on the side of Gov. David A. Paterson’s plan to start collecting state taxes on tobacco products sold by the state’s Native American nations. That doesn’t mean the governor won’t have to be very careful in the way he follows through with that pledge. [State lawyers win another round in cigarette tax battle - Buffalo News] Paterson said last week that he had been warned by his own State Police that “violence and death” could be the result of any effort to go against the Seneca and Oneida nations’ long-standing and heartfelt opposition to collecting or paying state taxes. Previous pledges to collect the taxes have been met with demonstrations and confrontations, and have resulted in state officials giving up. ... If the governor can keep a cool head—ignore the intemperate advice from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “put on his cowboy hat” and stand up to the Indians —he might be able to work something out. And, like it or not, the Senecas are not only within but part of a larger community. Paterson might gently remind the native leaders that, despite their protestations of independence, their tribal members are not so divorced from New York State. They do, after all, avail themselves of everything from education and welfare to police protection and access to public infrastructure that are funded by, yes, state taxes. The fairness the Native nations seeks should reflect that fact. Related views: - Statement From Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry E. Snyder Sr - PR Newswire - Time to kick butts - New York Daily News Editorial - Saddle up, Dave - New York Post Editorial - State must be firm on Indian tobacco tax - Utica Observer-Dispatch Editorial - The benefits of tobacco taxes - Mary Cushman/Burlington [Vt.] Free Press - Stop high taxes on cigarettes - Andrew Harris/Wellsville Daily Reporter
And: - More families will get help - Buffalo News Editorial County Executive Chris Collins has done the right thing in restoring some child care subsidies as Albany promises $6 million more in additional aid in the state’s current budget year. ... [More families eligible for subsidies - Buffalo News 8/24/10] It was a hard pill to swallow for many families, which had to figure out how to balance child care and low-wage jobs. The cost of unsubsidized child care made a trip back to the welfare rolls likely, if not a rush on Medicaid and food stamps and any number of other tax-supported programs. ... This latest development cannot be attributed to any moral or policy epiphany. It’s simply a matter of finance. But making more working families eligible for child care subsidies is the right thing to do.
From the Easy Readers in The Buffalo News Opinion corner, and from a friend, two sides of the page about how people learn.
- A word about libraries - Buffalo News Editorial In economic times such as these, when taxpayers are stretched and governments knocked off balance, no public function can be completely immune from the need to tighten every belt. Not even one as crucial to the heart and soul of any community as its public libraries. But the ongoing strain on the public purse and private billfolds only increases the importance of the services that modern public libraries provide. That must not be forgotten as the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, and the county government that provides the bulk of its annual funding, put together their budgets for 2011. County Executive Chris Collins has put out the word that he wants county-funded agencies to sketch out budget cuts of 20 percent. Combined with other anticipated funding shortfalls, such a cut would be a major blow to the library system. [Library system faces layoffs, closures due to budget shortfall - Buffalo News 8/19/10] The executive's call is a reasonable starting point for the budget process, given the county's revenue picture. There comes a point, however, when what may look like frugal spending now only undermines the economic future of a community. Libraries are a prime example. Public libraries, a singularly American creation promoted by personages as revered as Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie, exist to spread knowledge and understanding, practical and poetic, among the populace. ... Without libraries, accessible and active libraries, people are tragically less likely to keep their minds growing and their civic awareness up to speed. And those are factors in everything from a community's poverty and crime rates to its ability to attract businesses and professionals [and retirees].
And a forceful dissent, via this semester's welcome opening blast from Today's Word on Journalism: “I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.” — Sir William Berkeley, Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671
Time for a little easy reading, with two Oscar winners:
-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News [Awaiting an angry call from Morgan Freeman's agent.]
The epicures in The Buffalo News Opinion corner must be hungry. Two of the last three lead editorials have been about food.
- The feds scramble - Buffalo News Editorial A nostalgic view of agriculture as a bucolic pursuit, the calling of Jeffersonian yeoman farmers who are one with the land, has for far too long kept many facets of food production outside the view of government safety regulators. The current recall of more than half a billion eggs -- most of which had already been eaten -- is further evidence that the old attitude toward food production is not only out of date, it is potentially fatal. [Iowa to review feed mill at center of egg recall - AP/Buffalo News 8/27/10] The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, can do little about the situation beyond what she has done ... The understanding that such industrial companies can hide behind the name of agriculture, evading scrutiny and putting more deadly poisons into our national food supply, should be all the Senate needs to motivate it to finally move ahead on the need for tighter regulation of this national threat. [S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act ]
- Limit animal antibiotics - Buffalo News Editorial If anyone should understand how plants and animals evolve through the intervention of human agency, it's the farmers and the scientists of the agribusiness world. Over the centuries, they have selected and combined and weeded and cross-pollinated to create everything from cows that give a lot of milk to corn that stands up tall and straight. What too many of them don't seem to get, however, is that they are also creating another breed of creatures. But this one won't help the farmer's bottom line, or contribute to the consumer's dinner table. It will pose a threat to large numbers of human beings who will never set foot on a farm. That's why it is imperative that a bill promoted by U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter should become law (the bill is the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, H.R. 1549), and why it is troubling that the state's major farm group is one of the major impediments to its success. [Slaughter seeks to limit animal antibiotics - Buffalo News 8/22/10] Here is how it works. And this is where the theory of evolution is cold, irrefutable fact, no matter what anyone thinks about how old the earth is or whether the thought of being a cousin to a chimpanzee leaves you queasy. ... In humans, this means we should not be bugging our doctors to prescribe us antibiotics when the bugs we really have are viruses, which don't care about antibiotics. In animals, this argues against the widespread agricultural practice of adding antibiotics to animal feed as a means of supposedly preventing disease and apparently speeding animal growth. Both are practices that cannot help but hasten the day when currently potent antibiotics become as useless as a bow and arrow against an F-16.
It's fish-in-a-barrel day for the fault-finders of The Buffalo News Opinion corner:
-Brown must oust Thomas - Buffalo News Editorial Mayor Byron W. Brown's inaction in the face of Human Resources Commissioner Karla L. Thomas' incompetence in managing her department is disgraceful and a mark on his term as mayor. Thomas' flaw was her inaction in stopping errors; Brown is making the same mistake in not fixing this problem. [Number rises to 170 for dead workers city insured - Buffalo News 8/18/10] Thomas was not qualified to begin with, and got the job through the mayor and political allies. If that was not bad enough, when she was called on the carpet to fix flagrant errors she was ultimately responsible for, she proved derelict and did not fix them even though she was told exactly what to do. Any defense that underlings undercut her is no defense at all; it's an argument for the firing of the underlings as well as of the manager who supposedly didn't realize for seven months that she was being undercut.... If there is a civil service hurdle in dismissing Thomas, the mayor should explain it to the people, start the process to clear that hurdle and then use his skills to see that the problem does not result in an unqualified individual, making $91,374 a year, still at the public trough. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The time is always right to do what is right." Previous: - Thomas should go - Buffalo News Editorial 8/18/10
- What has this cost? - Buffalo News Editorial Erie County Executive Chris Collins says his determined resistance to the federal government’s probe of the county’s correctional facilities is all about protecting local taxpayers. If that is really the reason that Collins and County Attorney Cheryl Green have circled their wagons, then the county should have no problem letting the taxpayers know how much they are spending on the legal battle. Yet it has taken a lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union and an utterly predictable ruling from a local State Supreme Court judge to pry that information out of the county. And, astoundingly, the county says it may continue this fight with an appeal. There are no grounds — legal, political or ethical — for the county to maintain this resistance any longer. Money spent by the county for any purpose is, by right and by law, a matter of public record. ... For his part, Collins never tires of spinning horror stories about how counties that don’t fight tooth and nail against any and all federal investigations wind up supplying their inmates with steam baths in the morning and mints on their pillows at night. But the county’s resistance to making this public information public can only make the harried taxpayers wonder if those mints might be a lot cheaper than all the billable hours the county’s lawyers are running up. Previous: - Green to make run for state bench - Buffalo News 8/21/10 - Fixing the jail - Buffalo News Editorial 6/21/10 Not that these issues are unique to Erie County: - Death of man in custody highlights mysterious condition - Syracuse Post-Standard - Federal judge rules for sheriff in inmate lawsuit - Enterprise [Ala.] Ledger - Suit over Anderson inmate's death settled - Knoxville [Tenn.] News Sentinel - Man accuses deputies of jail attack - Los Angeles Times
The know-it-alls in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today approved announced plans to clean up the neighborhood crime-wise, and urge the governor to sign a bill keeping the benefits of Niagara hydropower in the family.
- Ramping up the fight - Buffalo News Editorial Buffalo police are planning to do what they must in ratcheting up downtown security in the aftermath of the brutal killings at a popular restaurant. The violence that erupted at the City Grill on Aug. 14 was frightening to every demographic: business owners, residents, workers and visitors. Creation of a new Violent Crime Task Force, one designed to put city police at the center of a network of local, state and federal agencies targeting the worst of the worst, is not a complete answer to asserting the rule of law on the streets, but it's a good step. The commitment of resources to attacking the problem of violence also is praiseworthy. The area's district attorneys also can help by buying into a request by State Division of Criminal Justice Service Acting Commissioner Sean Byrne to voluntarily expand the state's crime-solving DNA database, by making DNA sampling a condition of any plea bargain to a lesser charge. That also could help nip crime careers in the bud, and as Byrne noted here Tuesday it's an "interesting suspect" who wouldn't trade a mouth swabbing for a lesser sentence. Downtown, especially, needs protection. Downtown is a special place in all cities, Buffalo included. It is the heart of the city, and a city with a wounded heart cannot be healthy. Buffalo will suffer worse than it already does if those who would patronize downtown businesses conclude that their safety is at risk. That is a real possibility following these shootings. Police needed to act and they are. ... Much violent crime is gang-related. That kind of crime is rarely associated with downtown; yes, it is important to protect the city's core, but it would be useful to attack this kind of crime at its source: in the desperation and poverty where gangs find their recruits.
- Keep power benefits here - Buffalo News Editorial It should be obvious that if something that belongs to you is sold, the money raised by the sale belongs to you. The obvious, however, is not always the legal. So, after much cajoling and politicking, the New York Assembly and Senate have finally passed a bill — A8712-A — that would make it clear that not only is a block of low-cost hydropower from the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston to be reserved for the benefit of Western New York, so is any money raised from the sale of that power. All that remains is for Gov. David A. Paterson to sign the legislation and bring common sense and state law — at least in this case — into harmony. The complicated relicensing of the New York Power Authority as the operator of the Niagara facility had many strings attached to it. Among them was the provision calling for a block of 695 megawatts called “replacement power” to be reserved for Western New York industry and business. Not all of that allocated power is used, for various reasons. Some businesses don’t need it all, others have yet to start up or, in recessionary times, have gone away. The leftover power is sold on the open market, offering a good deal to power-thirsty areas outside the intended zone and picking up some spare change for the Power Authority. The estimated $161 million raised from the sale of the unallocated power between 2005 and 2008 went into the Power Authority’s general coffers when, by right, it should have been reserved to the benefit of the same purpose and area the electricity itself was supposed to help. Paterson last year expressed his support for the concept. He should now ignore any grumbling he may hear about limiting the Power Authority’s options and sign the bill into law. If he doesn’t, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins is ready to pull the trigger on federal legislation [HR 2133] that would accomplish the same purpose. Higgins’ bill, though, shouldn’t be necessary. Paterson can accomplish it with a simple signature, and a step toward basic fairness for Western New York will have been accomplished.
Today the watchful heads in The Buffalo News Opinion corner view with alarm and point with, well, some relief.
- Ratepayers at risk - Buffalo News Editorial Gov. David A. Paterson, who wielded his veto power very effectively in shaping the state budget, needs to keep that pen handy. Yet to come his way is a deceitful measure that will needlessly drive up energy costs for New Yorkers. The bill [S8379A] was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature, once again demonstrating that it doesn't understand the meaning of the words "financial crisis." New York and its residents are sinking under the weight of a raft of disastrous state policies, yet lawmakers saw fit to take this, of all moments, to stick it to voters once again. The measure would, for the first time, require utilities such as National Grid and National Fuel to pay prevailing wages to services with which they contract -- landscapers, for example. National Grid estimates that this thievery will cost it $18.3 million, which it will pass along to its customers who, thanks to Albany, already pay some of the nation's highest electric rates. What is more, and possibly worse, this cowardly sop to the unions who control the Legislature also makes violations a criminal rather than a civil matter. If this preposterous bill ever becomes law, utilities are going to be very sure they follow it to the letter, which means that everyone who pays a gas or electric bill is going to have to reach even farther into their pockets. Related: - Coalition Against the Service Worker Prevailing Wage Expansion- Management - Bill Would Keep Public Utilities from Creating Poverty-Wage Jobs - Labor [I couldn't find any other mentions of this in the mainstream media.]
- Getting out of things - Buffalo News Editorial Recent days brought welcome news that the U.S. government’s occupation of two territories — Iraq and General Motors — are entering hopeful new phases. Neither problem is completely solved, and the Obama administration is wise enough not to be flying any “Mission Accomplished” banners for either theater of operations. But the progress is real. First, Iraq. The other day the last designated combat unit deployed to Iraq, the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, rolled through the desert and into Kuwait two weeks ahead of the deadline envisioned by the president who ran on a promise to end the war there. Behind the brigade were 2,711 days of violence, the deaths of 4,415 Americans and an untold number of Iraqis, and some 50,000 American troops still in country with various missions, all dangerous but none described as a combat assignment. ... From closer to home came news that General Motors has filed the voluminous paperwork required to publicly offer stock in its reborn self. Among the sellers of stock is to be the United States, holder of equity valued at $43 billion. The company is not out of the woods yet, but it is has restructured itself, slimmed down its work force and brand structure and is now confident enough to take off the training wheels and again go forward on its own. The fact is that swift and decisive action by the federal government saved GM, might yet save Chrysler and made it possible for Ford to go forward ... That action averted liquidations and layoffs that could have tipped the balance of recession into full-blown global depression. The realistic hope is that, after the stock is valued and sold, the taxpayers will not only get their GM money back, they might even make a tidy profit. Missions, well, over. To much relief.
I told you we shouldn't have let those guys from The New York Times into our Editorial Board meeting a couple of weeks ago. They must have bugged the place. How else would they have known to run their editorial take-down of Rick Lazio, the leading [for now] Republican candidate for governor, on the same day The Buffalo News Opinion page carried an Another Voice column by the self same Lazio? Viz:
- Attorney general should investigate mosque funding - Rick Lazio/Another Voice/The Buffalo News ... Given the imam’s statements and his reported ties to radical organizations, it would seem like a fair question to ask, especially when a spokesman for the imam wouldn’t rule out taking money from Iran. Furthermore, it’s also fair to ask why, exactly, Rauf has demanded that the mosque be built so close to ground zero. This is, first and foremost, a security issue. New Yorkers deserve to be safe and to feel safe, and we have a right to know who’s footing the bill for Rauf’s mega mosque.
- Mr. Lazio’s Bid for Attention - New York Times Editorial The former congressman Rick Lazio may be the front-runner in the Republican primary race for New York governor, but he lags far behind the Democratic nominee, Andrew Cuomo, in both the polls and fund-raising. That may explain, but can never excuse, his increasingly hysterical attacks on plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero. At least they didn't call him Little Ricky again.
Also: - A Test of Tolerance - Christopher Hitchens/Slate Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …
And, today's Best of Show: [More than nine minutes long. Worth. Every. Second.]