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Comments that get people in trouble

   As of about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, the score was News Editor 489, Hack Writer 0. Comments, that is.
   From the Sunday Viewpoints section:

- Seeking a return to civility in online comments - Margaret Sullivan/The Buffalo News
   Some editors were sitting in a news meeting one morning not long ago, bemoaning the often outrageous,Sullivan_margaret intolerant and hateful online “comments” attached to stories on The News Web site, when News Business Editor Grove Potter uttered a simple but eloquent truth:
   “Let’s face it,” he said. “We’ve created a class of anonymous flamethrowers.”
   He’s right. We have. And shortly, we’re about to change that dramatically
.
   Related:
- It’s time for news sites to stop allowing anonymous online comments - Rem Rieder/American Journalism Review
   Comments sections are often packed with profanity and vicious personal attacks. The opportunity to launch brutal assaults from the safety of a computer without attaching a name does wonders for the bravery levels of the angry.
-
 The anonymous back-stabbing of Internet message boards - Leonard Pitts/Miami Herald/Seattle Times
  It must have seemed like a great idea at the time.
- Anonymous comments part of online life - Michael Silence/The Knoxville News Sentinel
  The sanctimonious, high-brow bloviating by some Ivory Tower types is getting old - like half a decade old.
   On the heals of recently discovering the Internet (sarcasm intended), some are now hyperventilating about anonymous online comments.
   Hello? What do you think has been happening on talk radio for, oh, decades?
 
- Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster - Neil Swidey/The Boston Globe
   News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan
  

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State of confusion

   Opinions on the state our state is in:

- Struggling for solvency - Buffalo News Editorial
   Gov. David A. Paterson [right] understandably is fed up with those forces that have refused to do anything about solving the state's serious budget crisis. He has shown leadership in attempting to reduce Gov06-10 the deficit, but always has been thwarted by the Legislature. And when he asked state unions for givebacks, quite common now in both the private and public sectors, they thumbed their noses at him.
   So now, when he could just sit out the remaining part of his term, he has decided again to act. Before he leaves office, he will set up
layoffs in the state's work force.
   It's an extraordinary step, and a drastic and painful action brought about by drastic and painful circumstances. But just as in the private sector, employee costs are a major part of the budget problem -- about 20 percent of state spending -- and must be addressed. ...
   This year's crop of candidates for governor and Legislature should say, specifically, what they would do to balance the state budget. They should outline what they would expect of
public employees and local governments, schools and universities, taxpayers and those in need of services, without smoke, mirrors, debt and budget trickery.
   The voters -- and those among them who work for the rest of us -- need to know.

- Paterson plays budget chicken - Fredric Dicker/The New York Post
   Never before in the sorry 2½-decades-old history of late budgets has a New York governor made a move like Paterson's. He is basically daring the Legislature to shut down the whole state -- by rejecting the budget extender -- or accept mandatory spending cuts.
- Dave dares 'em - New York Daily News Editorial
   Who'd a thunk that David Paterson might be the governor who found the way to cut New York's out-of-control, Constitution-defying, money-grows-on-trees Legislature down to size.
-
We can't spend our way out of hole - Glens Falls Post Star Editorial
   California ignored the warning signs and look at where they are now. Do we really want to be turning criminals loose, pillaging our public higher education system and shutting down essential government services? Go back to our free-spending ways, and that's exactly where we're headed.
- Pols turn on labor unions - Politico
   They're the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.

-- 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.
   Related:
- 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.
   Related:
- 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  

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
.

   Related:
- 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.

   Else-web:
- 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

No hablo ingles. Don't know much about history.

   Also in Opinion:

- School fails students - Buffalo News Editorial
   A hundred years ago, immigrant workers and their families would, over the course of time, obtain proficiency in the language of their newly adopted home country. Today, immigrant demographics have changed dramatically and so have the challenges in educating new arrivals who need to be up to speed much more quickly to qualify for higher-paying jobs that are heavy on English-language skills. 
  Buffalo schools are failing in their requirement to provide that education, according to a harshly critical report by the Council of Great City Schools. A wide gap between planning and implementation is leaving these students in the lurch. The district needs to plug those holes and, just as important, ensure that other well-conceived programs aren’t also failing at the classroom level.

- Sometimes, history hurts - Leonard Pitts/Miami Herald/Buffalo News
   History is not a Hallmark card. Sometimes, history breaks your heart. ...
   Gov. Jan Brewer just signed a law restricting ethnic studies courses in public schools. Having apparently Pitts_leonard decided she had not done enough to peeve Latino voters by signing a Draconian immigration bill a few days back, the governor went after a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson. But the prohibitions in the new law seem to say more about the mind-set of the governor than about any danger posed by ethnic studies. ...
   The problem with that reasoning is obvious: America is everyone else, a nation composed of other nations, a culture made of other cultures, a history built of other histories. And yes, sometimes, those histories will be hard to hear. But silence does not make a hard story go away. Silence only makes it fester, grow and, sometimes, explode. ...
   Granted, the challenge of incorporating those stories into the larger American story is daunting. The governor seems to fear what kind of nation we’ll be if we accept that challenge.
 I fear what kind we’ll be if we don’t.

   You knew this was coming:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Building downtown critical mass in Buffalo

Several days into a social experiment involving a car-less existence while living and working downtown, my travels have turned up some interesting tidbits on store hours, where they're located and what goods they carry. This research involves a lot of walking, riding the metro and, when the weather cooperates, bicycling. Yes, there's still Buffalo CarShare but that will be another experiment.

Overall, living and working downtown is a whole reach better than it was a decade ago when there were few places, if any, to rent apartments or buy condominiums.

The increase in places in which to live was driven by developers, and with it came slightly more retail. It's an impatience probably shared by not just a few that leads one hoping each day for more. More places to shop, drop off and pick up dry cleaning, buy groceries (the kind with meats, fish, vegetables and fruit).

Meanwhile, as Buffalo Place Executive Director Michael T. Schmand recently pointed out, the state's second largest city is getting there. It's going to take critical mass to drive demand and the signs there are good.

Consider the Webb Building, Elk Terminal, The Avant, the AM&A's lofts which just came on line and that's not to mention work by gubernatorial candidate and developer Carl Paladino on the Belesario and Bellasara. Buffalo has strong neighborhoods nearby in the Elmwood and West side villages, it's growing from the inside out and outside in. It's just going to take a while.

But if someone were trying to navigate downtown's core in a car-less manner and in need of a pharmacy, thinking these stores might stay open past 6 p.m., there might be disappointment. Serious disappointment. Where to go for pharmaceuticals, sundries or groceries downtown and without the advantage of a car but assisted in part by the metro or bus system?

There are signs of life building in the 500 block with a CVS, Rite Aid and year-old Downtown Food Mart. But retailers post hours of operation in line with their audience and Monday through Friday there are roughly 50,000 people working in downtown Buffalo and within walking distance. Granted, when there's a Thursday at the Square or special event those retailers remain open.

It's difficult when there's not that critical mass living downtown, yet and retailers are basing their business decisions on what they see. Who could blame them?

Still, downtown didn't die overnight and it's not going to get revived overnight. There is forward movement with adaptive reuse of buildings and people beginning to live downtown 24/7 and to create that critical mass, there needs to be more. It's a conversation that might not have taken place 10 years ago but is being discussed with increased frequency.

There was a national award-winning plan put in place called, "The Queen City Hub," that addresses the access issue in downtown Buffalo, specifically it has to be a neighborhood which requires residents and that's starting to happen. Developer Rocco Termini of Webb Building, AM&A's and Lafayette Hotel has been a constant on the scene, along with other developers. There are challenges in the downtown core whether it's the building code or pure economics. Some developers have been able to move past those challenges.

Consider there was once discussion of tearing down the Webb Building and now it's fully occupied. Some specialty retailers downtown weren't there and now there's Spot Coffee, Starbucks and Tim Hortons and The 2nd Cup, to name a few. Mom and pop entrepreneurs who know the downtown market are still the future, but with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to the north, Canalside to the south and access to Main Street with vehicular traffic it's all moving in the right direction.

What positive changes have you seen or would like to see?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Car-less, seeing the world through green eyes

Suddenly I have found myself thrown into a bit of a social experiment that, as a journalist, will hopefully produce a slew of ideas and fresh perspectives. Well, calling it a social experiment goes a bit far but I am currently car-less -- without an automobile for the next couple of weeks because of this strange obsession I happen to have with my 2000 Accord EX. (see, what's with all the details?)

Anyway, I'm getting some dents knocked out of the car which means allowing the magical servicemen to keep it for a couple of weeks. No problem, right?  At least, that's what I figure for someone who lives and works downtown. We'll see.Cars on main street

I'm giving myself extra credit because I often ride a bicycle to work during warm weather and take the train when I don't want to dig my car out of the snow.  What I've found during those moments is that I'm much more observant than I otherwise would be tooling down the road in my 10-year-old automobile while listening to the radio.  It's one of those "duh" statements but all too true.

During these environmentally green moments, it's easy to take stock of changes in neighborhoods, street plans (such as when the city was able to turn Main Street between Goodell and Tupper back into a two-way street) and facade improvements. It brings the issue of cars on Main Street to the fore.

Sure, I could have tried the nonprofit Buffalo CarShare, which my colleague George Pyle (a frequent user of the transit system and one who appreciates taking in the details at eye level) has written about.  But I'm going to try to tough it out on foot and by bicycle (except for times I can bum rides, of course).

Listen, for a girl (well, a bit past that stage) who grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., during a time when the famed Metro transit system was in its infancy, this is big.  But, let's explore together and talk about issues.  I'll do my best to chronicle my short adventure and we'll see what we see.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Welcome to the city of our (Detroit and Buffalo's) future

Today's Mitch Albom column bemoans, in his usual satirical style, the Detroit that is by offering his version of what could be. You know, the one where there are no burned-out houses and people walk to work because they live in the city.

The piece is particularly striking because of natural comparisons to Buffalo. Albom is wistful about a city that contains outdoor walkways that are more conducive to cold-weather cities and where there isn't some unspoken notion that the urban core is supposed to be black and the suburbs white.

"In my Detroit, people no longer act as if the city is supposed to be black, the suburbs are supposed to be white, and the two are supposed to be at war with each other." Or, for that matter, concerned about a "certain element" of seniors crowding their suburbs.

How about the future?


"In my Detroit, all city contracts are reviewed by an ethics board to look for conflicts of interest, favoritism or cronyism, because if you catch it before it starts, it won't start." Priceless.

"In my Detroit, you cannot sit on vacant property in major development zones," Albom writes. "Either you develop it, or you get fined so badly you'll sell it to someone who will." Does that ring a bell, Niagara Falls?

Later, "In my Detroit, we make Windsor a bigger partner, because how many U.S. cities can offer such a gateway to Canadians?"

Well, Mitch, Buffalo can. And, in our Buffalo ...

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer 

Opinion: Ruth Marcus on Republican voyeurs

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post Writers Group reacts to the GOP bondage-club scandal (and if you think we're going to add a picture to this post, forget it):


 A woman did it.


Turns out the Republican National Committee staffer who accompanied a group of donors to Voyeur, a bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood, and then turned in an expense account seeking reimbursement for the nearly $2,000 tab, is one Allison Meyers, director -- make that former director -- of the RNC's Young Eagles program of donors under the age of 45.

I had assumed that the outing was a kind of frat-boys-being-frat-boys event, along the lines of a bachelor party. That it was a co-ed affair, and that the apparent group leader was a woman, only makes the whole mess even creepier.

     As described by the Los Angeles Times, the club, "inspired by the film 'Eyes Wide Shut,' is intended to be 'risque and provocative' and 'a combination of intimidation and sexuality,' " in the words of partner David Koral. "Scantily clad performers play out bondage and sadomasochistic 'scenes' during the night." On opening night, the Times said, "One female performer with a horse's bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another."

Call me naive, call me prudish, but what is any self-respecting woman, anyone who wants to be taken seriously professionally, doing at a place like this -- no less putting it on the company tab? According to an RNC e-mail on the episode, "that person (Meyers) was aware that this activity was not eligible for reimbursement and had been previously counseled on this very subject. Accordingly, that staff person has been terminated." This activity -- do they mean she's tried to bill for strip club visits before?

Snicker about the episode, if you will, but there is a troubling history to professional women and strip clubs. Entertaining clients at strip clubs was a popular practice on Wall Street until women started winning sex discrimination suits complaining about the practice as part of a larger pattern of unequal treatment and a hostile work environment.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO now running for the U.S. Senate from California, describes in her memoir, "Tough Choices," how she was disinvited to an important lunch back in the early 1980s when it turned out the clients wanted to go to a strip club. "I had no idea what I was supposed to do in this situation," she writes. "I couldn't tell myself it didn't matter -- it clearly was important to meet these clients and to convince (her boss) that I should be taken seriously. It never occurred to me to be outraged and demand that they not go -- it wouldn't have worked anyway."

Fiorina decided to go along, "tried to sound knowledgeable . . . and desperately tried to ignore what was going on all around me" -- her drunk boss calling over women to perform lap dances. The "next day in the office," she concludes, "the balance of power had shifted perceptibly. I had shown (her bosses) that I would not be intimidated, even if I was terrified."

I don't quite see this as the victory Fiorina does: Why should she have had to grin and bear the lap dances to get ahead? Three decades later, Allison Meyers with her flock of eagles at Voyeur is even more troubling. Either she felt pressured to go along with the boys -- in which case we haven't come a long way after all. Or she thought it was a big hoot to watch, as The Washington Post described it, "topless dancers wearing horse bridles and other bondage gear while mimicking sex acts" -- in which case we've slid way, way back.

- Ruth Marcus

A riot is an ugly thing

   The lead editorial from today's Buffalo News Opinion page:
- Anger taken too far
    One argument against the newly signed health care reform law was that it is an example of the Washington elites ignoring the will of the people.
   But if "the people" are now engaging in acts of vandalism and threats of personal violence directed at Brokenglass members of Congress, then their will ought not only to be ignored, but condemned and, in some cases, prosecuted.
   Related:
- Tactics signal a return to ugly Republicanism - Douglas Turner/The Buffalo News
   So now the Republican theme is “repeal,” meaning trash the massive, confusing health insurance reform law just passed by paper-thin majorities in Congress.
   There is no chance whatever the GOP can win repeal before 2013. The repeal theme will be sounded anyway to raise money, keep right-wing skinheads smashing windows and help entertainers like Rush Limbaugh rake it in.
   And:
- How to keep hate alive - Clarence Page/The Chicago Tribune/The Buffalo News
   Racism doesn’t always come dressed in white sheets. Besides racial hate, there’s also the racism of irrational anger, fears, suspicions and resentments. Radio star Rush Limbaugh offers ample examples

   ElseWeb:
- House of Anger - Timothy Egan/The New York Times
   Unfairly or not, the defining images of opposition to health care reform may end up being those rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips. Whether the outbursts came from inside Congress — the “baby killer” shout of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, and his colleagues who cheered on hecklers — or outside, where protesters hurled vile names against elected representatives, they are powerful and lasting scenes of a democracy gasping for dignity.
   Now, ask yourself a question: can you imagine Ronald Reagan anywhere in those pictures? Or anywhere in those politics? Reagan was all about sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie. In him, the American people saw their better half.
-
The Rage Is Not About Health Care  - Frank Rich/The New York Times
   How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.
- Government-hating tea-partiers love their government checks - Cynthia Tucker/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   This is a great country, isn’t it? It’s a nation where libertarian, government-hating, militiamen can collect government checks that allow them the time to denounce the government! So it is with Michael Vanderboegh, an Alabama militiamen whose blog has urged health care reform critics to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic elected officials.
- Before threats become deeds - The Corpus Christi Caller Times
   Once again, the militia movement is emerging from the woodwork, as it did in the 1990s. The country at large ignored these adherents’ paranoid ravings as they skulked about the woods muttering about the Posse Comitatus Act, the New World Order and an imminent U.N. invasion.
   Then 15 years ago this April 19, one of the more unhinged of their number detonated a truck bomb outside an Oklahoma City federal building. He killed 168 people. We shouldn’t think it can’t happen — because we know it can
.
   For example:
- 9 militia members charged in police-killing plot - AP/The Buffalo News
   Nine suspects tied to a Midwest Christian militia that was preparing for the Antichrist were charged with conspiring to kill police officers, then attack a funeral using homemade bombs in the hopes of killing more law enforcement personnel, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Quick, before something happens and this isn't funny any more:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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