Ostrowski noted the irony of how the politicians expect us to support this project when it is shrouded in secrecy and the details have not been made known. “Even the time and place of the Governor’s press conference has not been disclosed,” Ostrowski said. “I guess they don’t want real live citizens showing up to rain on their corporate welfare parade.”

Ostrowski also noted that as some information about the project trickles out, we find that this is not just a deal to promote economic development, but one which strengths the role of big government in our lives. “The city gets to own more parking ramps; our bloated and inefficient transportation monopolies get an expensive new station; and the State gets the Aud. The corporate welfare model gets more firmly entrenched. Anyone who thinks this a movement away from big government and toward the free market is sadly deluded.”

Here are some excerpts from Ostrowski’s report:

“Nor will any other current politicians do anything to turn this place around. They are all clueless. They don’t know what the problem is and so naturally they don’t have a solution. So they revert to selfish careerism, the operating principle of politics around here since the great Grover Cleveland left town. They focus on quick-fixes (one percent sales tax increase), public relations gimmicks (regionalism), and magic bullets (Bass-Pro) that will single-handedly save the day, or rather con the public into so thinking. It’s a sporting goods store, for Pete’s sake.”

“We’ve seen this kind of nonsense during the entire forty-five year period of Buffalo’s decline. It allows the politicians to get re-elected enough times to reach the magic age of fifty-five, at which time they can start collecting their outrageous pensions, a reward for doing absolutely nothing good for their communities in their entire careers!”

“The Bass Pro deal that conservative-turned-liberal George Pataki has put together will not rescue Buffalo. Any benefit from giving Bass Pro $66 million in public money or benefits will come at the expense of $66 million in losses to the taxpayers. Anyone who can’t grasp this after it is explained is, I am sorry, just plain stupid! Unless money grows on trees, that money has to be seized from taxpayers who would have spent it on their most urgent needs in voluntary free market transactions.”

“Stealing all that money from taxpayers will destroy jobs. The jobs Bass Pro will create are artificially subsidized and may well disappear without further subsidies. The record of government-subsidized jobs is atrocious. Huge amounts of money are spent per job and those jobs very often disappear later. Any questions?”

“Here’s a list of the magic bullet projects the politicians said would turn Buffalo around but never did:

• Urban renewal
• The subway line
• The theater district
• Subsidized construction of office buildings and hotels downtown
• The baseball stadium
• The convention center
• Marine Midland Arena
• The Adelphia Project (never got off the ground)
• The Medical Campus (in the works)”

“The failure of these projects proves factually what I have already proven theoretically: seizing small amounts of money from hundreds of thousands of taxpayers for use in concentrated form for a politically-chosen project will always fail—except to line the pockets of the developers and politicians and their errand boys and girls.”

“One of the problems with Buffalo is that we keep rewarding failure so long as it hath the power to assume a pleasing shape.”

“To sum up, the corporate welfare schemes our politicians are addicted to fail because they suck the energy out of the far corners of the market economy and concentrate that energy in one place and time where it can do the most good for the politicians. After the press conferences are over and the consultants, lawyers, and power brokers have been richly paid off, these projects are left to face the harsh reality that they are not sustainable in the free market. Their costs exceed their revenues. Duh! That’s why they need a subsidy in the first place. The choice then is to either keep subsidizing them—stupidly sending good money after bad—or abandon them. A grim prospect but the politicians don’t give a damn because they are long gone by then, spending our pension funds in warm weather climes to avoid our high taxes.”
But there’s nothing cheery about CHEERS. The acronym is deliberately misleading and, when examined, downright scary. This time, the government is protecting an unethical study that actually exposes children, including babies, to some of the chemical industry’s most noxious poisons. Who is the EPA protecting? The health of American children? Or the profits of American corporate interests?

Parents of children in the CHEERS study must agree to routinely spray or have pesticides sprayed inside their homes during the two-year study period, according to Chemical & Engineering News. Chemical concentrations will be measured in air, dust, and urine samples of the children, and by analyzing chemicals absorbed in clothing before and after pesticide applications.

The chemicals EPA and their corporate partners want to expose these kids to are already known to cause serious health problems. Along with pesticides, which are known to damage neurological and reproductive development, the study includes phthalates, (chemicals used to soften plastics). Phtalates have been linked in animal studies to damage to kidneys and liver and are considered a probable human carcinogen.

EPA also wants to expose Florida kids to brominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants). Animal studies indicate that these chemicals may harm neurodevelopment, and a recent study determined of exposure of these chemicals to fetal and newborn mice showed a permanent effect on spontaneous behavior, learning, and memory. Still another chemical category under CHEERS is perfluorinated chemicals, which have shown a statistically significant association with bladder cancer.

In return, the parents of the young test subjects will receive up to $970 and a free video camcorder for participating. And, revealing their target demographic of infants, they are offering a ‘study bib’. A review of the protocol, however, suggests that they won’t receive health care, during or after the study. In fact, the study seems to entirely ignore any potential for serious injury to any of its participants. Participation of the Centers for Disease Control and Florida’s County Health Department appear to be only window dressing.

If it’s not already obvious why this study must be stopped, consider the following. Floridians are already dispraportionally burdened by toxins. Due to the state’s humid conditions, it uses fungicides extensively—some reports claim that Florida’s fruits and vegetables can be sprayed with 5 or more active ingredients shown to be male reproductive toxins in animal studies, and the cause of birth defects. Adding additional pesticides and chemicals to the already overburdened bodies of Florida’s children raises additional serious health issues. According to EPA's own Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment, children receive 50 percent of their lifetime cancer risks in their first two years of life. And because children are growing, they are more vulnerable than adults to toxins. Nonetheless, EPA is proceeding to add a prescription of select poison to the infants used in this study.

Furthermore, EPA’s study is inherently unethical because children cannot legally give their consent to participate in such experimentation. CHEERS directly violates the Nuremberg Code Directives for Human Experimentation arising from world condemnation of the Nazis’ experimentation on human subjects without their consent. Using children without their consent violates their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. Moreover, this study suggests that participating parents are fully informed and competent to rely on the judgment of the individuals conducting the study or applying the pesticides on their own behalf as well as for their babies. Furthermore, the use of government funds to underwrite such tests may create a liability to the government (and the American people) for any future problems attributable to the study.


There may be a glimmer of hope. A recent release was sent out from EPA advising that the study had been suspended while study protocol was reviewed. However nowhere has it stated it's been cancelled, or stopped.

A New York Supreme Court Justice Edward Greenfield ruled in T.D. v The NYS Office of Mental Health (1995), "Parents may be free to make martyrs of themselves, but it does not follow that they may make martyrs of their children." The promise of $970 and a camcorder to potentially permit parents to cripple their infant children leads to the inescapable conclusion that the subjects of the CHEERS study are uneducated, poor and vulnerable.

When the government’s protection agencies fail to protect our children, we, as citizens, must insist that they do the right thing. This unconscionable study must be stopped.

----------------------
References

Concern over "Phthalates"In Food Packaging – plasticizers Paper, Film, & Foil Converter, Feb 1, 2003 by Richard M. Podhajny (COPYRIGHT 2003 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group)

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Maternal and Fetal Blood Samples

Anita Mazdai,1 Nathan G. Dodder,2 Mary Pell Abernathy,1 Ronald A. Hites,2 and Robert M. Bigsby1 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; 2Department of Chemistry and School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Proposal for Regulations on PFOS-Related Substances Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment prepared for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Chemicals and GM Policy Division in association with BRE Environment, September 2004




For further information:

Robina Suwol, Executive Director
California Safe Schools
Box 2123
Toluca Lake, California 91610
www.calisafe.org
818-785-5515
The Juliet Dagger in concert is a force to be reckoned with.

The “Daggers” just may be one of the finest local bands to step out onto the national scene in recent years. Although their fame has not yet surpassed that of Buffalo favorites Ani DiFranco or the Goo Goo Dolls, they are slowly teetering on the edge of something great.

The Daggers returned home from a West Coast tour, just in time to play a packed Nietzsche’s on Nov. 5. The crowd was varied, yet dedicated and eager, although shy to listen to the band’s hard candy sound.

The band consists of Erin Roberts, lead vocalist and guitarist; Leisha Gray, bassist; and the lone male, Josh Heatley, on drums. These kids get together with their overwhelming talents to produce one hell of a show. They combine their individual energies, with Roberts burning the mic, Heatley killing the drums, and Gray cradling the bass, to form a scathing, ripping punk outfit.

The show featured many tracks from the band’s new CD, “Turn Up the Death.” Songs had consistent beats and rhythms, yet mixed each other up with different feels. You could see how tight and polished this band was becoming. The third song, “Only Love,” featured a reminiscence of a ‘50s bop. Think a twisted, fish-netted Ricki Lake in Hairspray.

The remake of “Our Lips Are Sealed” proved a true crowd pleaser. Yet, this song also provoked a grim response from Roberts.

“Just so you know, Hillary Duff did not write that song,” she said. “We recorded ours for the CD, and then this remake of hers just came out.”

By far, the best song on their new CD and of the show itself was the biting “Stab,” which probably causes grief for Heatley but encourages him to play even harder and crazier.

“This song is for boys we love and sometimes want to stab at the same time,” Roberts explained into the microphone.

“Stab” is a short song, fewer than two minutes in length, but it ferociously showcases the pure musical power of this band. It shows the band’s true working dynamic to combine together as a single unit with super fast play and chaos, producing a track very close to perfection. The extreme changes in tempo provide the most excellent script for disdain and disappointment, seething with climatic energy.

This band has truly emerged with only about a year or so of play together under its collective belts. They bring something true and clean to not only the Buffalo music scene, but the pop-punk scene in general. The Juliet Dagger may visualize pink daydreams, but it warps its image with hard dark rock roots.

A much better movie is Sideways, a road movie, of sorts, in which two guys, seeking a respite of male bonding before the marriage of one of them, head to California wine country. Sideways was a much-talked-about hit at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and it’s worth seeing. Paul Giamatti is Miles, a hapless middle school English teacher whose marriage has failed, whose novel may or may not be published, and whose life is only a tad better than that of a sad sack. His pal Jack, Thomas Haden Church, is a television actor who now does mostly commercial voiceovers and he’s soon to be married. Jack decides that a jaunt into wine country with his best bud is what both of them need, and he has high hopes that he can get Miles laid. And that’s the movie as directed by Alexander Payne and co-written by Payne and Jim Taylor from the novel by Rex Pickett. The fellows meet some women (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh), learn a lot about wine (as does the audience), and learn something about themselves. Sideways is sweet, gentle, lightly comic, and one of the best films of the year and highly recommended.

Wine also flows in Alexander, the week’s mega-opening, and it’s unfortunate that the movie doesn’t flow as well. I’ve always admired director Oliver Stone’s work and salute his obvious courage in taking on big issues. He has a storyteller’s gift for melding action and ideas. So it’s unfortunate that I have to report that Alexander is less than the sum of its parts. It’s not a complete success, but it is ambitious and risky. Stone has long been fascinated by Alexander The Great, a young cub who conquered the known world, carving out an empire from Greece to India. The director has things he urgently wants to say about Alexander, but this eagerness outshines the film’s muddled narrative. There are provocative ideas and moderately successful set-pieces, but the movie seems less than a complete draft. The film doesn't feel comfortable with itself. It says a lot, and yet there’s a lot left unspoken. Stone’s personal passion for the subject isn’t captured on screen.

The biggest problem is that in spite of a nearly three hour running time, this sincere movie fails to find a focus for its elusive subject. Stone seems primarily fascinated by two aspects of Alexander’s life: his nationalism and his sexuality. He shows him trying to unite many tribes under a single rule – his. He seems to believe in a One World point-of-view. And we get hints of his willingness to have sex with men. But Stone – obviously forced by the studio – tones done much of the relationship between Alexander and his closest friend Hephaistion, a strikingly beautiful lad, played by the strikingly beautiful Jared Leto, who is always lurking in the shadows, ready to hug and be hugged, but the two are never shown passionately kissing. It’s a cop-out Stone should have stopped in its tracks. In Alexander’s time, men bedded men and nobody cared.

We never really get a fix on whether or not Alexander has united the people his armies have overrun. The movie delivers little depth here. Do those he conquered like Alexander, welcome his rule, care about anything? In fact, they seem like mystery people – crowds of extras without substance. The movie is shockingly void of details. Oh, there’s all the typical pomp and circumstance, but what’s really going on with all the murkiness involving the gay sex, with Alexander’s relationship with his “barbarian” bride with the weird kinship with his angry mother, played with slinky feline undertones by a wildly beautiful Angelina Jolie, who looks like she could eat Alexander and his armies for breakfast? Jolie’s performance revs up the classic 1950s sword and sandal campiness. As for the narration from the character of Ptolemy, it goes on and on and on and is filled with so much detail that you practically fear a pop quiz at the end of the movie. As for Anthony Hopkins’ acting as Ptolemy, well, phoning it in doesn’t begin to describe what Hopkins yawns his way through.

The facts are quickly summarized. Alexander, weakly played by a very miscast and dreadfully uninteresting Colin Farrell. is the son of Philip of Macedonia (a blustery Val Kilmer) and Queen Olympias (Jolie). As a boy, Alexander sees his drunken father virtually rape his mother, who for her part insists the kid’s actual father is Zeus, but she doesn’t fill in the details. Nothing like a little delusion to keep everyone guessing. Little Alexander impresses his father by taming a wild horse, but both mother and son are banished from the kingdom, Olympias advises her son to seize the throne before Philip has him murdered. As things work out, Philip is murdered, and Alexander rules Macedonia. Told by Aristotle (a furry Christopher Plummer) where the known world ends, Alexander discovers in his bloody travels that the world keeps on going and he keeps on conquering. He defeats the Greek city states, the Persians, and all the other folks he encounters until he is finally defeated in India. He dies at age 32. The battle sequence in India with the charging elephants is stunning. The earlier battle sequence at Gaugamela is a bore. It’s blurred by so much dust and sand that it never jells into anything spectacular.

In Stone’s version, Alexander seems incredibly open-minded for a tyrant. There are many, many scenes in which he argues goals and strategy with members of his army. He marries an Asian instead of choosing a Greek girl. He spends eight years in battle, taking with him his army, their families and lovers, their servants and households, in a sort of traveling sideshow of an empire. And always waiting in the shadows is Hephaistion. We are told by Ptolemy that in ancient times, powerful men often took males as their lovers, reserving women for childbearing and acting the accessory – sort of like human jewelry. Alexander seems to be following that tradition to the extent that the studio will permit it. Hephaistion doesn’t even go through the motions of taking a wife; he is always there for Alexander, but for what? They often have the look what might lead into a love scene before it fades out. The rest of the time, they do all that hugging.

As for Alexander's sex life with Roxane (Rosario Dawson), it shouldn’t surprise you that we see a great deal more of her body than Hephaistion’s. Alexander and Roxane have one fiery sex scene that begins with her fighting him off and ends with them engaged in the kind of feral passion where you fear somebody might get bloodied. So basically, they have great sex – at least once. Then we learn that three years pass, and she provides no male heir, although for how little we see of them together, the fault may belong to the Gods.

It's clear enough that Alexander loves Hephaistion and has married Roxane as a political gesture. In that case, it’s a serious miscalculation on Stone’s part to make Hephaistion into an alluring sideline figure who specializes in significant glances – you know, those glances - the significance of which the movie really doesn’t explore. Stone doesn’t have the courage to make Hephaiston as erotic a character as Roxane; therefore, he’s not really following the trail of the story. And then there’s that wacky nonsensical flashback literally tossed into the middle of the narrative involving Philip that doesn’t seem like a flashback at all, but more like material switched from its place in the chronology and inserted later to clarify what Stone’s thinks we might have misunderstood. It sticks out like a badly edited sore thumb. I even quietly commented on it to my seat partner.

As it nears its conclusion, Alexander slows down and peters out. There’s old Ptolemy pontificating about something or other and tying up very loose ends. At this point at the screening I attended, the audience was already starting to head for the exits. Ultimately, the movie is too long for what it delivers, which really isn’t all that much. It’s glossy, but shallow. Stone and company opted to temper the emotional with superficiality.

Here are four movies you never saw playing Buffalo; in fact, they might only have played Los Angeles and New York and then avoided ALL of those red states in between. The films are from Strand Releasing, one of the best distributors of offbeat, quirky, and fascinating independent features on the entire planet.

What’s great about DVD and Home Video is the staggering availability of titles you never saw; if you even heard about them. Although there’s nothing like seeing a movie in a theater, seeing a movie at home doesn’t have to be second best, especially if the film is worthwhile and hard-to-find.

The four movies in question are from Great Britain, Thailand, South Africa, and Israel. Their themes are varied and the quality of the filmmaking in all cases is solid. These are not cheesy straight-to-video efforts, but examples of national cinemas that have huge followings in their home countries.

New Year’s Day is from the United Kingdom and it focuses on two teenagers who have to reassess everything that’s important in their lives. On a school ski trip, an avalanche kills a teacher and a group of students, leaving two 16-year old boys as distraught sole survivors. The two are beset with guilt, a pressing survivor’s guilt that shrouds them with despair and angry feelings they’ve never before experienced. Hostility overtakes them; then remorse, and soon their young lives become a rollercoaster of emotions. If things don’t improve, they want to die and make a pact to commit suicide on the next New Year’s Day. This is a tough movie, honest and resolutely open about communication and dread. A popular hit at the Sundance Film Festival, the feature was a huge success in its native U.K. The very well-acted picture stars Andrew Lee Potts, Bobby Barry, and two powerhouse women of the movies: Marianne Jean-Baptiste and the legendary Jacqueline Bissett. It’s directed by Suri Krishnamma from a screenplay by Ralph Brown, most noted as one of the actors in Withnail And I, the comic hit from 1987. New Year’s Day is well worth tracking down.

You don’t have to have seen The Iron Ladies to have some fun watching The Iron Ladies II. This is the high-energy sequel to the colorful saga of an almost exclusively gay/transgendered team of social misfits who have taken on legendary status in both the world of sports and in the gender wars. Call it Bad News Bears Meets Club Marcella. Incorporating fabulism, hilarious comedy, and defiant queer sweat, the talented Ladies rose to prominence winning the national volleyball championship of Thailand. The gist of the new movie is that the hunkiest player on the Ladies team – yes, drag queens can be hunks, abandons the club to start a rival team. So the Ladies go on a whirlwind adventure to China to woo out of retirement a former player who is now a fabulous cabaret star. This really is one of those movies you have to see to believe. But trust me on this one, it’s so well-made and so cleverly directed that it works on a number of levels including, sexual politics, sportsmanship, and the value of loyalty and friendship. The enjoyable movie is written and directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon and is in Thai with English subtitles. It’s a hoot.

From South Africa comes a true story and a thrilling one at that. Proteus was an official selection at both the Toronto and Berlin International Film Festivals. The tough-as-nails movie offers a highly combustible combination of sex, race, and politics. And you know what politics was like in South Africa in the 1700s. It wasn’t pretty. Among the inmates in a notorious South African prison are two men. One of the men is Claas Blank, an intelligent black soul whose people have been enslaved by colonial rule. He’s been unjustly imprisoned for stealing cattle. The other man is a mysterious and withdrawn Dutch sailor, Rijkhaart Jacobz, who is in jail for the crime of being homosexual. In eighteenth century South Africa the idea that these two men would begin a sexual affair in a Cape Town penal colony is tantamount to drawing a death sentence, but they do. The movie proceeds with power and quite a few jolts to the psyche. Proteus stars Rouxnet Brown as Claas and Neil Sandilands as the Dutchman. Both deliver solid performances. The rest of the cast is up to the task of this very strong little movie. It’s co-written and co-directed by superstar Canadian filmmakers John Greyson (Lillies and Zero Patience) and Jack Lewis. Be careful when seeking this out. There are other movies called Proteus, but look for this one from 2003. The movie is in English and in Afrikaans and Nama (the native languages are subtitled).

Neglected children often make for interesting central characters in foreign films. From Israel comes Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, a terrific drama about a teenage boy who has a secret that eventually comes out. The lad has hidden smarts, but he’s so introspective that no one knows, not even his family. Shlomi lives with his overly excitable and essentially useless mother and a very ill grandfather. He has an offbeat musician brother who provides little support. Shlomi also has a sister who has twin children and is married to a sex-obsessed guy who can’t stay off the internet. Although he’s not doing well in school, Shlomi is a truly gifted cook and takes care of virtually all of the household chores. He is the primary – and wondrously loving caregiver - for the elderly grandpa. One day, the school’s principal discovers that Shlomi might actually be a math prodigy, even a genius, and tries to get him into a more suitable curriculum. However, Shlomi is more interested in taking care of his family because that’s the safe and secure life he knows. Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi is written and directed by acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Shemi Zarhin. The movie’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, and it offers a sublime performance by Oshri Cohen as the teenager who needs to take responsibility for the kind of person he is and the kind of life he is going to lead.

The concept was begun by the organization/magazine Adusters in 1999 as an attempt to discourage the riduculous shopping frenzy. To celebrate BND, one simply has to refrain from buying for one day, but that simple choice is intended to have further implications. It is a day to reflect on manipulations of advertising and excessive consumerism that has permeated every aspect of our culture. This year Buy Nothing Day falls on November 26. Supporters of this new holiday hope to get the word spread as widely as possible. Plans vary from postering and TV ads to more humourous prank-like activities. Keep your eyes open for signs of BND in Buffalo and remember to resist going to the store this Friday.

For more information go to http://www.adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/index.html .

And here at home, the Bush administration continues its war on freedom. Karl Rove, George W’s top political strategist and a personal friend of mine, said that Bush will “absolutely” use his second term to push for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Well, that’s just mother-fucking-terrific, you fat piece of pedophilic shit.

"Five thousand years of human history should not be overthrown by the acts of a few liberal judges or by the acts of a few local elected officials," Rove said on NBC’s Meet the Press. "Marriage is and should be defined as being between one man and one woman." Riiiight. Because we all know that a marriage license is going to tear our society down. Yep. A motherfucking piece of parchment declaring a couple’s love is certainly going to be the beginning of the end.

So let me get this straight, you right-wing douche-bags. The statement is that it’s okay for a gay couple to live together. They can even have a “civil union” document. But a marriage? Oh, nooooo, that would be wrong. So basically, two gay people can live together, adopt kids, open up joint financial accounts, and fuck like bunnies; all of this is just morally peachy keen to you Evangelical dipshits. But a piece of paper with the M-word on it? Oh, that’ll just be the end of civilization as we know it! Mmm-hmm.

Am I the Only Person Who Sees the Fucking Problem Here? Look, look, look, I don’t care if your church has a problem with it. You can go to church on Sunday or Saturday or whatever-fucking-day you think is most holy, and bash gays all you want. That’s just swell. Lock your church doors and refuse to marry anybody you want; you reserve the right to be prejudiced bastards cowering in a pew because reality simply doesn’t fit your narrow-minded bible-centric paradigm.

I’ll be damned if I don’t fight you with my dying breath on this issue, however. You can take your Fear-of God-and-Gays hokey religious crap right the fuck out of my government. Thank you very much. Unlike our president, you see, I think this whole separation of church and state thing that our founding fathers supported was a pretty good idea.

How the fuck does a piece of paper in a gay couples house affect any part of society if you know that they are going to be sodomizing each other in there anyway? It doesn’t! Just like it doesn’t really matter what happens between them in the bedroom, I also feel it’s really none of my business what happens between them and the government. I see no, NO, NO reason to refuse a homosexual couple a marriage license.

It doesn’t even make rational fucking sense. And to make an amendment to the U.S. Constitution over it? You mean to tell me that you actually think this is an important enough issue to alter the very contract that this nation is founded on. Really. You really, really do? The highest law of the land, the document that actually protects all our freedoms should be instead altered to persecute a certain lifestyle? Hmm. Oh yeah, that’ll really make me want to put my hand to my heart and pledge allegiance.

I thought this country was all about liberty. But hey, I’m a liberal. What do I know? Oh, and while we’re altering this fine constitution of ours, let’s be sure to rewrite that part about the freedom of religion to mean that you have to choose one. No more of this secular humanism nonsense. Oh! And we should probably change that part about limiting the president to two terms. I mean, what’s going to happen in 2008??? Yeah, we really don’t need that 22nd amendment anyway…

But God save our guns! If Jesus were alive today, he’d be a Texan! YEE-HAW! I have an amendment for you, Bush: Go fuck yourself. You get this amendment through and I’ll tear it out myself.

In fact, a front page editorial in the second edition of the paper gives us the general impression that while The Buffalo Examiner may be a brand new paper, behind the curtain it’s the same old Natalie playing the all too familiar role of stage mom from hell. The editorial begins:

“For the last eight years, every time the subject of newspapers in Buffalo arose, someone waxed nostalgic about the old Courier Express, or said something about how they used to get the News, or that the News is just too conservative, or just too liberal, or just too comfortable in our one newspaper town.”

Monopoly Dailies, The Alternative Press, and Fox News

There are important differences between newspapers and magazines, just as there are important differences between dailies and weeklies. The tabloidization of the news media has pushed everything further in the direction of a magazine format. If a style of writing or graphic layout arises that is popular and helps sell the product, it is appropriated by the major dailies.

Ms. Green seems incapable of grasping this fact because the first person, editorial-as -news style utilized in the alternative papers over the last twenty to thirty years is so completely ingrained in her style that she appears to be unaware that she is even employing it. Consider the first words of her essay, “For the last eight years…”

Of course, people in Buffalo have been waxing nostalgic for the Courier Express before its doors were even closed. It’s just a guess but the last eight years Ms. Green refers to seems to coincide with her career as a writer in alternative papers in Buffalo. She then employs a favorite technique of Fox News by using the mysterious attribution of “someone” in a bizarre context: “someone waxed nostalgic…” What’s wrong with saying “friends”, or even “the majority of people I talked to…?” After all, this is just an editorial essay.

The movie “Outfoxed,” demonstrates the creeping takeover over of tabloid attribution style by showing Fox news personalities using the phrase, “Some people say…,” as a tool to promote an editorial viewpoint in what is supposedly “a fair and balanced” news segment. Apparently the generic “someone” attribute is acceptable to Green in lieu of an actual man in the street story. As formulaic as the man in the street story is, it’s still a lot more interesting than “someone said” or in this case, “someone waxed nostalgic.” Who the hell is this someone and why should I care about their nostalgia?

In all fairness to The Buffalo News, it seems that most people complain about a perceived bias because they don’t read. When we say that Buffalo is a one newspaper town, we mean that it is the only daily. This has created a cottage industry of critics in which the Buffalo Examiner is only the latest entry. Declaring Buffalo a two newspaper town, as Green does with more than a little measure of self-aggrandizement, does not make it so.

Settling Old Scores Vs “Conservative” Feminism

The “How does it feel?” portion of the headline sounds like a quote from Dylan’s classic, “Like a Rolling Stone.” This falls under the heading of gratuitous classic rock reference, another hallmark of alternative press excess. Who is the person this come-uppance is directed at? The evidence points to Jamie Moses. Mr. Moses must be quaking in his motorcycle boots.

Mr. Moses has been accused of a lot of things, but to my recollection I’ve never heard him described as fat. However, his publication Artvoice was castigated in a Buffalo News article for running ads that were connected with a prostitution ring, as I recall. So while in the following passage, Ms. Green seems to speak in general terms of the state of the alternative press, it certainly seems to apply to Artvoice, specifically.

“…free alternative weeklies have grown fat and, well, a bit lazy, resting on their knee-jerk (Big L) Liberal values, and advertising for restaurants, plastic surgery, and prostitutes. The sex trade, whatever you think of it subsidizes a great deal of that independent journalism, which is unfortunate, since marketing prostitution isn’t a very solid ethical foundation for those calling for progress.”

The Buffalo Examiner is a publication that has, in its infancy, taken pro-feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage editorial positions. How its publisher can pen a screed slamming “knee-jerk (Big L) Liberals” is a pretty amusing question. Who are these Big L Liberals? Apparently, the big L here doesn’t stand for lesbians. Maybe it refers to those limousine liberals we’re always hearing about on Fox News?

If you read carefully, however, you see that Ms. Green appears to have an issue with organized labor. Unions are as convenient a target as any in the finger-pointing aftermath of the 2004 election. In Green’s article on the Control Board, she takes issue with the Taylor Laws, stating that, “…these laws have everything to do with why it matters who we elected for State Senate and Assembly.”

She also depicts the control board as something heroic: “In comes a group of New York State Governor George Pataki’s friends and supporters, finally, to straighten out the wayward children who in this case are the city of Buffalo and its, ‘covered organizations.’”

“Finally,” indeed. Its about time Daddy Pataki came home with his pals and took us all over their collective knees. Can you get any more paternalistic and authoritarian than that, really? This is straight out of the playbook of The Buffalo News. Desperate times call for desperate measures. In her worldview unionized workers are greedy, lazy and in need of some good old-fashioned discipline. She never questions the specifics of the hostile, corporate takeover that the control board represents, never questions why two lifelong political flunkies like Masiello and Giambra have found a home on the control board, and never questions why some “covered organizations” (a term she uses with heavy-handed sarcasm) have been exempted from control board scrutiny, despite massive problems (i.e the Buffalo Sewer Authority).

Happy News, Advertising and Tony’s Cronies

There is another journalistic trend that Green still seems to follow: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Emphasize happy news!!! As a result, we can expect plenty of boosterism out of the Buffalo Examiner. Lots of Chamber of Commerce type stories about what a great job our local powerbrokers are doing. On the other hand, if there’s a group of people who are unpopular or there’s a business that’s not interested in advertising, we might find them to be tempting targets for Green’s “independent journalism.” In the meantime, sucking up to Masiello cronies appears to be the order of the day.

As you may recall Ms. Green was the editor of Buffalo Beat, a free weekly which carried on an often bitter rivalry with Artvoice. Both papers occasionally accused the other of throwing out their papers and thereby defrauding their advertisers.

Speaking of advertisers, it never seemed to bother Green that the back pages of Buffalo Beat were generally filled with salacious ads when she was editor. The way she groups restaurants, plastic surgery and prostitutes together in the same sentence is truly remarkable. Is it really a small restaurant owner’s fault that he cannot afford to pay the exorbitant advertising rates of The Buffalo News? Is plastic surgery still a seedy, morally dubious profession and do these businesses deserve to be held up for public ridicule for advertising in a paper that fails to check on the legality of other advertisers’ businesses? That’s what Ms. Green seems to be saying here.

Ms. Green does not, however, make a pledge to her readers to police the legitimacy of her own paper’s advertisers. So we don’t really know how her paper will be different from the unwashed masses of alternative papers which are so much pulp in her eyes.

Unlike the usual free alternative paper offerings, the Examiner is charging a rather steep newsstand price of one dollar. Considering the fact that the Examiner is only slightly larger than Alt, this is a big leap of faith. Their website currently offers no free content, whatsoever. Given the fact that the editorial positions of the Examiner more or less mirror those of the big, bad Buffalo News: pro-Pataki, pro-choice, what do readers get from the Examiner that they cannot get from The News?

More “Usual Suspects”

Green has brought some familiar pen names to the Examiner, including former Buffalo Beat staffer, Suzanne Taylor. While having a woman write a hockey column certainly provides an alternative perspective. It doesn’t help much that we’re in the middle of the NHL’s lockout season, does it?

Also on board, is Nancy Parisi, the Artvoice photographer who successfully ran the Whathashappened page, documenting society happenings in the Buffalo area. The fact that The Buffalo News has apparently not offered Parisi a job is puzzling. What could be better for a Sunday edition than a contemporary society section chronicling the comings and goings of rich and beautiful people in photographs? Apparently, there’s little more to living in our society than weddings and obituaries.

Recently, the controversial Richard Kern was also added to the Examiner roster. While we can agree that Kern’s “surveillance” tactics earned him unwarranted scrutiny from Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark’s office, there are reasons why Kern was asked to leave Alt, not the least of which was his association with Mike Kuzma and Common Council President Dave Franczyk. We regret that these friendships appear to sometimes cloud Mr. Kern’s judgment.

We’ve seen nothing that would convince us that the white fist on Kuzma’s political campaign posters were anything but an appeal to white power enthusiasts. Franczyk’s ability to live down his race-based campaign literature is, of course, a testament to the public relations prowess of The Buffalo News.

While we wish Mr. Kern luck in his new endeavor and we appreciate the efforts that some times accompany his indignant attacks on the endemic corruption in East Side housing policies, we would prefer that he and his friends keep their distance from Alt and would like to take this opportunity to remind readers that Mr. Kern has had NO association with the Buffalo Alternative Press for the last seven years.

Beating A “Beat” Paper

In terms of ethics, there are still some questions lingering over Green’s role at Buffalo Beat. She attacks alternative weeklies in the editorial we discuss here, but while at Buffalo Beat she actively campaigned to join the Association of Alternative Weeklies. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that in her application she claimed that Buffalo Beat broke the story of how Masiello’s Chief of Police, Rocco Diina was running for Erie County Sheriff, while his private security firm was doing business with the County. Great scoop! Unfortunately, that story was broken by a retired Buffalo Police Officer, Bill Logal, in The Buffalo Alternative Press.

Buffalo Beat ended its run when its publisher Mark Mausner, ran afoul of the IRS, but Green was on the outs prior to that debacle. We can’t speculate on what could have been, but under Green, the paper was certainly competitive. While in this essay, we focus on the early faults we see with her new endeavor, Green deserves some respect for her efforts. We can’t accuse her of lacking chutzpah but in terms of our response to the question her editorial poses, “How does it feel” our answer would have to be, it feels like Buffalo Beat has returned to the land of the living and now costs one dollar more than its worth.

Building an alternative paper through a subscription base is a tough assignment, but it is one that may ultimately prove successful. If Ms. Green and company are up to the task they can rant and rail about the Buffalo News all they want, despite the fact that they may +be fighting on the same side as The News in Buffalo’s culture war.

“This deal is bad for the hospital and bad for County taxpayers. The new independent hospital authority started out burdened with a large debt that wasn’t used to improve its operations, with no new revenues to pay the debt and no business plan to improve its self-sufficiency. The County is still financially responsible for a money-losing hospital over which it now has little control. All this to solve a short-term cash crunch for the County,” Hevesi said. “This is a lose-lose deal for axpayers and for the people who rely on the medical center for essential health care.

“The County forced the hospital to borrow and took the proceeds to pay for the County’s operating expenses. In other words the County used one-time debt proceeds to pay for its own continuing operating costs. That’s irresponsible,” Hevesi said. “Similar deals were done with public hospitals in Nassau and Westchester, but it seems Erie officials did not learn from the mistakes made in those transactions.”

The audit found that:

· In January 2004, a public hospital that was losing significant amounts of money as a part of County government was converted into an independent entity, Erie County Medical Center Corporation(ECMCC), with no new revenue or operational plan to make it self-sufficient.

· Instead, the deal imposed additional debt costs on the hospital, though the borrowed money was not used to improve the hospital’s operations. The hospital now has $101 million in long-term debt, up from $22 million when it was part of County government.

· Paying off that $101 million in debt will cost $214 million in principal and interest over 30 years.

· Erie County could have transferred the hospital’s assets for free, but instead used the deal to borrow funds to pay for it sown operations at a time when it was running out of cash. Using long-term debt to pay for this year’s operating costs violates the most basic principle of responsible government finance.

· Because the Medical Center issued the debt, County government created the false impression that its debt is lower, even though the County is obligated to repay the debt.

· The County’s actual aid to the Medical Center will be overstated, because a substantial portion of that aid will go to repay the debt. If there were no debt, the Medical Center could use those funds to improve its operations or provide additional services.

· There is no indication that Erie County learned from the earlier mistakes made when Westchester and Nassau Counties transferred their medical centers to public authorities, but did not develop business plans.

· ECMCC has been slow to develop and implement a business plan, which the experience in Nassau and Westchester demonstrates is essential to ensuring the success of the Medical Center. ECMCC’s bylaws require it to have both a business plan and a five-year strategic plan.

· The Medical Center needs a business plan, including a five-year strategy, so it can use the County’s subsidy to implement reforms, improve its operations and eventually reduce the subsidy and achieve the goal of increased self-sufficiency.

· The formation of ECMCC has been under serious consideration since at least December 2001 and was approved in July 2003.County and Medical Center officials should have developed at least a preliminary business plan before ECMCC was created so that reforms could begin to be implemented immediately when it took over the Medical Center. For example, even if the Medical Center could not begin to negotiate with private partners until it was independent, it could have identified potential partners and developed a strategy for negotiating with them.

· No business plan was submitted to auditors until yesterday, almost nine months after ECMCC was created. It is impossible to do a thorough analysis based solely on a power-point presentation. However, it is a one-year plan. Officials have still not prepared the five-year plan required by ECMCC bylaws.

· Erie County is still obligated to subsidize ECMCC regardless of its performance. The County must cover the Medical Center’s losses and pay the debt service. The County has also promised to provide capital funds. In 2004, for example, the County operating subsidy is $24 million. According to the one-year plan, the County subsidy will increase slightly in 2005.

· In exchange for one-time cash flow through borrowing, the County, which is still financially responsible for the Medical Center, gave up management control. The Governor appoints the majority of the new board. And if ECMCC fails, the hospital reverts back to the County.

Erie County Medical Center had operated as a department of Erie County for many years. It includes a general hospital, which has the only adult trauma and burn treatment centers in the area, several clinics and a 586-bed nursing home. It serves as a safety net, providing care to low-income and indigent patients. Like almost all public hospitals that serve the poor and uninsured, the Medical Center loses money. From 1998 through 2003, the Medical Center received $119 million in subsidies from Erie County. It projects 2005 spending of $299 million.

ECMCC officials rejected almost all the findings of the audit.

· Medical Center officials claim that the deal reduced the hospital’s debt because the borrowing was used to eliminate the hospital’s $53.7 million in short-term debt and $22 million in long-term debt.

The claim is false. The OSC audit found that the $53.7 million was not a true debt of the Medical Center. The Medical Center was part of the County, which paid for the difference between wha the Medical Center spent and what it took in. Most years the County would appropriate less than the Medical Center actually needed. When the County made up the difference, it would call that additional amount a “loan,” even though it was no different than the other funds the County was providing. Calling this payment a “loan” allowed the County to create an “asset” on its books, the “loan” to the Medical Center. Over the years, that“ loan” grew to $53.7 million. But this is no more a true loan than if the County had to make up shortfalls in its parks department. What’s more, the County was using this gimmick to turn what was really an expense, part of the cost of operating its hospital, into a phony asset, the “loan” to the Medical Center.

The $22 million was debt associated with the Medical Center, which the County was required by law to retire when it sold the assets. If the County wanted to put the new ECMCC in the strongest possible position, it would have just forgiven the “loan,” retired the small amount of debt, and let the new hospital agency start out with no debt. However, the County was running short of cash. So instead, it forced ECMCC to buy itself. Taxpayers, who had already paid to build and maintain the Medical Center, are now paying for it again. The factis that the actual debt of the Medical Center went from $22 million to$101 million.

· To prove the deal left the Medical Center with less debt, ECMCC officials claim liabilities declined from $144 million before the takeover to $121 million afterwards.

This claim is classic misdirection. These are irrelevant numbers that have nothing to do with debt. When the Medical Center was transferred from the County to a new separate agency, its balance sheet was completely restructured and not all assets and liabilities were transferred to the new entity. While liabilities went down $20 million, assets declined by $53 million. None of that has anything to do with the amount of debt, which climbed from $22 million to $101 million.

· ECMCC officials state that the Comptroller’ Office had approved both the short-term debt issued when ECMCC was setup in January 2004 and the long-term debt issued in August 2004. ECMCC officials suggest that because OSC approved the debt, it therefore approved the creation of ECMCC.

That is false. The State Legislature and the Governor created ECMCC with the support of County officials. The State Comptroller had no role in approving the plan. The Comptroller’s Office only role is to rule on technical issues related to the terms and conditions of the sale of notes and bonds, such as whether they were priced properly and whether fees were appropriate. In fact, in January, February and May2004 when asked to review the note and bond deals, the Comptroller’s Office did raise questions about the soundness of the deal and the lack of a business plan. Indeed, when OSC requested a business plan in May 2004, ECMCC officials temporarily withdrew their request for approval of the bond deal. It was because of those concerns that OSC decided to audit ECMCC. The audit began in May 2004, before the bond deal was approved.

· ECMCC officials state they do have a business plan, which was passed by its board on October 28, 2004. They acknowledge a number of senior management changes that delayed the development of a business plan.

ECMCC officials have not provided any valid reason for the failure to create a business plan before the corporation was created. Creating an independent hospital has been under discussion since at least December 2001 and it was authorized in July 2003. Since the stated goal was to maintain an essential health service while reducing taxpayer subsidies, a plan to achieve that goal was also critical. The fact that the Medical Center could not begin to implement a plan until after ECMCC was created does not justify its failure to develop a plan.

The audit has five recommendations. ECMCC officials should:

· Complete a detailed business plan and five-year strategy as required by ECMCC bylaws.

· Explore whether equity partnerships can enhance financial operations and learn from Nassau and Westchester medical centers’ experiences.

· If partnerships make sense, identify potential partners and develop a strategy for negotiating deals.

· Develop plans to reduce costs without harming health care and study the experience in Nassau and Westchester in attempting to reduce costs.

· Erie County officials should carefully monitor ECMCC financial operations and be prepared to continue to provide a significant financial subsidy.

Click here for a copy of the auditor go to www.osc.state.ny.us.

Now that it appears that President George W. Bush won fair and square (or rather, fair and square enough), it’s time to dumb it down a little and get with the program. Stop wallowing in the self pity and start thinking of ways to turn this situation to your advantage.

We’ve got one word for you: ribbon magnets. Okay that’s two words, but we’re one nation, under God, and don’t you forget it!

According to a recent New York Times Magazine article, “The ribbon-magnet phenomenon apparently began in April 2003 in rural North Carolina, where a Christian-book-store owner named Dwain Gullion began distributing a batch of 1,000 magnets created by a local designer and a local screen printer.”

Wow, nice story, but with all due respect, bigger is better. Ribbon magnets were too important to remain in the hands of a little guy.

We’re all united in support of our armed forces, but someone other than Gullion applied for the patent on the idea. Richard Real, a Florida entrepreneur, apparently figured out that, in a country obsessed with wearing its patriotism on its sleeve, it makes sense to be the guy designing, manufacturing, and selling that sleeve. Profit is, after all, the American way.

This Year’s Bumper Crop: Ribbon Magnets

While driving to the country one fine autumn morning, I was suddenly exposed to the fashion phenomenon that has swept the nation – ribbon magnets. With enough of these things, I thought, Bush is destined for glory.

Living in Buffalo, a place where folks struggle to put food on the table and have to be stingy when it comes to accessorizing, I hadn’t really noticed the trend of normal Americans affixing these ribbon magnets to their cars to show their patriotism. In years past, it had always seemed as if it was enough for patriotic folks to hang American flags from the front porch, but apparently that no longer cuts it.

If you’re a true blue American, you drive, period. You consume, no questions asked. And this is just my gut feeling, but it seems to me that people who drive sport utility vehicles, especially ones that burn lots of fossil fuel, are more patriotic than the rest of us, at least in the countryside south of Buffalo because I was absolutely blown away by the number of vehicles that had these things on their rear ends. The most common ribbon magnet I saw that day was the yellow one with the inscription, “Support Our Troops.”

When Did “Our Troops” Become a Charity Case?

I noticed that all of these folks were supporting our troops, and I apparently wasn’t. How was that possible? Don’t my taxes also go to support the military? Like the flag from the front porch, that’s no longer good enough, apparently.

Part of the new patriotism is this church fundraiser mentality (exemplified by Guillon’s best intentions) whereby we have to raise money for the most powerful military force in the history of the planet as if they were Jerry’s Kids. I’m not trying to make fun of Jerry’s Kids by saying that, but aren’t Jerry’s Kids a more worthy charity than a war machine? I’m just afraid that many of these folks who hold house parties to scrounge up quarters for Kevlar may not have anything left over to give to charities such as Jerry’s Kids.

Then it dawned on me. The ribbons weren’t necessarily a symbol of the drivers’ extra financial support for the troops. How much of the money spent on these magnets goes to the troops, I wondered. Well, why would any of it have to go to them? The U. S. military is, after all, not a charitable organization. Then I realized that there was probably some guy out there who masterminded the whole movement, kind of like the guy who came up with beer-dispensing football helmets. An absurd invention, true, but it’s one that many people can no longer live without. I decided that there must be some genius exploiting all of this patriotic fervor for fun and profit, and I was going to find out this man is.

“Support (Wink-Wink) Our Troops”

His name is Robert Real and his Florida-based company, Americas & Americas Inc., carries not only a complete line of the seemingly ubiquitous ribbon magnets but also lots of other patriotic novelty products as well. His company does make these products available to not-for-profits for resale, but anyone who can afford to buy these products in quantity can do as they please with them. Talk about a great potential hustle! There’s nothing that would stop an enterprising person from selling these things at a mark up and keeping all of the profits, because after all, if the hustler pays his federal taxes, he would not be lying if he promised the buyer that some portion of the profits would go to the military!

But if you’re of this same entrepreneurial frame of mind, don’t get any big ideas because Mr. Real is no fool. He has applied for a patent on ribbon magnets and, if the letters of appreciation from Rudolph Guiliani that are posted on his company’s website mean anything, Mr. Real has some serious support of his own and is prepared to defend his patented products. The company’s website has all sorts of tidbits that can satisfy a curious person.

For example, did Mr. Real come up with this product out of the blue? The answer to that is no. The company apparently started out with other, less exciting patriotic products, such as flags, prior to coming up with the ribbon magnet. Not surprisingly, September 11 was like manna from heaven, and the company did its best to meet the demands of a grieving nation; hence the thank-you letter from Rudy Guiliani.

Lest We Never Forget…

The saddest thing about our need to memorialize things with trinkets is that the very things that are meant to help us remember eventually help us forget. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for some people to figure out who is buried in Grant’s tomb.

In that vein, Buffalo was once awash with memorials to the Grand Army of the Republic. Who were they? The town of Kenmore has an inordinate number of streets with French names. Why? Lest we forget, indeed. Today’s tragedy becomes tomorrow’s trivia. Perversely saying we’ll never forget helps us forget.

If you still feel the need to remember the events of September 11, you might be interested to know that Americas & Americas is now having a clearance sale on some of its unforgettable novelty items, including an American flag with the World Trade Center towers silk screened over it, a 9/11 paper weight, and a charming little set of figurines depicting Yesterday’s heroes, the firefighters and police. They were heroes on that day but, today, they seem to be just another example of bloated government that we can no longer afford. Buy now, lest you forget.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Parade magazine kept a vigil for tacky novelty products that the magazines’ editors felt were exploitative of the legacy of the late Princess Diana of England.

No such watch was carried out for 9/11, however.

But to stick with the ribbon magnets, let’s analyze the company’s latest assortment:

God Bless the USA Magnets – Both Presidential candidates in this year’s race intoned “God Bless America” in their final speeches. I believe there is a country song, called “God Bless the USA.” If I’m in the mood for a patriotic anthem other than the Star Spangled Banner, I find “This land is your land, this land is my land,” to be an attractive alternative. I apparently don’t have much company with this because there isn’t a ribbon magnet with that theme. This sort of communitarian patriotism appears to be distinctly out of favor with the ribbon magnet mavens, anyway.

Pray For Our Troops Magnets – Ah yes, the power of prayer! Somehow I don’t think this one would be appropriate affixed next to an old Darwin fish insignia.

Keep My Soldier Safe Magnets – This one is personal, almost atomistic. It kind of reminds me of the “army of one” commercials you see during sports broadcasts. It’s all about me, my soldier, my anxiety. Who is being asked to keep the owner’s soldier safe with this ribbon magnet, though? I’m going to go out on a limb, take a wild guess, and say God because some of us did do our best to keep your soldier safe by voting for John Kerry, but that didn’t work.

Freedom Isn't Free Magnets – I think they may have gotten this one out of George Orwell’s 1984. It also brings to mind Rene Descartes’ assertion that freedom cannot exist without responsibility, but that comment needs to be taken with a grain of salt because we hate the French, right?

Camouflage Proudly Served Magnets – New! This tells your fellow motorist that you proudly served your country. The problem that I have with this is that that the camouflage makes the ribbon look like a snake and, although few restaurants in the United States proudly serve snake, it is a delicacy elsewhere. For example, I once bought a snake dish from a street vendor in Seoul, South Korea. I can’t say the vendor seemed particularly proud of serving the snake but he had no reason to be ashamed, either. It was quite tasty, as I recall.

Camouflage Support Our Troops Magnets – New! The camouflage “Support” ribbon almost says that the driver secretly wants to be in the military. Stop hiding behind the um, camouflage and join up, already. Then, if you survive, you can upgrade to the ribbon that we just discussed.

Keep My Airman Safe Magnets – I’m probably the only person who saw this ribbon and thought of the William Butler Yeats poem about an Irish airman (“An Irish airman foresees his death”). Okay, I had to look it up on the internet to get the correct title. Now that I did, I don’t know if I can see this ribbon in traffic and not help but foresee the death of my fellow motorist’s airman. Again, we’re being asked to keep this serviceman safe. Again, Kerry lost. If it’s any consolation, I promise to vote against the Republican candidate in 2008, okay? As Mr. Yeats said, “Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love…”

POW-MIA Magnets - Shades of Vietnam with this one. It’s my personal impression that the whole POW-MIA thing kind of got appropriated by Harley enthusiasts. Face it, POW-MIA insignias look awesome on a Harley. It has major curb appeal in the “owner is a badass” department. I don’t think this magnet works on a Harley, however. Too big. Not a part of the artwork. Still, it’s ahead of the curve. The people being taken hostage in Iraq have thus far been primarily poor, desperate people who are in the country to support their families. Hardly the glamour of the Hanoi Hilton in the minds of war enthusiasts, but this could change as things escalate.

Support Our Marines Magnets New! - Now I know a few ex-Marines and maybe it’s just them but they’re not the type who need or even like support from some fat slob in an SUV or from any branch of the service, save their fellow Marines. Leave them alone! They’re Marines, damn it! Semper Fi! Hoo-ah!

Protect My Sailor Magnets New! - On the surface, this one makes no sense, whatsoever. Protect your sailor? What are we supposed to protect your sailor from? KP duty? Seasickness? Seriously, all the Iraqi problem areas (they’re not quagmires, if you believe your fellow voters) are inland and don’t involve the Navy directly. But here’s an interesting twist: Iran is building a nuclear weapons program. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike, and Iran were to decide to retaliate by sending a few shiny, brand new missiles into an American navy vessel in the Straits of Hormuz, your sailor would need more than a little protection to survive. This is not as unlikely a scenario as you might think. We’re spread too thin, can’t invade Iran, and extremely vulnerable. Thank you, Paul Wolfowitz and Ariel Sharon, in advance.

Pink Ribbon Magnets – Breast Cancer Awareness – Okay, so pink is a color that we associate with femininity, but so is yellow, and we figured out a way to make that color apply to the military. This reminds me that the whole yellow ribbon thing got started in the first gulf war and was inspired by the Tony Orlando and Dawn classic, “Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.” We know that Mr. Real has applied for a patent on ribbon magnets, but shouldn’t part of the proceeds of the yellow ribbon campaign go to Tony Orlando? And what about Dawn? It’s been a long time since they had a hit and, while people might have tied ribbons around trees before, I’d definitely credit them with making it a national craze. They should get with the program and cash in.

Cancer Awareness Ribbon Magnets – Were you aware that there was a horrible disease which eats away at its victims and is often fatal? Well, you will be if this ribbon starts to take off the way that the others have. What is the cancer of which motorists need to be made more cognizant? Well, in my opinion, it’s called the war machine of George W. Bush, but it’s also known by other names, such as the American political-criminal nexus, the military-industrial complex and the Project For the New American Century. It’s a cancer all right, but I’m not aware of any chemo that can kill it now.

The Most Important Frequently Asked Question:

The number one question that the company wants to respond to in its FAQ? Well, if you were wondering if you can mix and match ribbons, you’ll be happy to know that the answer is yes, or to be more supportive of our military, we should say, “That’s an affirmative!” So, while I’d say that the maximum number of ribbons I’ve seen on a vehicle thus far is three, the company gives its blessing to those who want to show their support in spades.

How will the left respond to all this, we wonder? It might be time to bring back “Visualize Whirrled Peas,” or, perhaps, my personal favorite, “Keep it Cool With Telly Savalas.” How about the ultimate smarty pants slogan, “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm?” Eventually, people may regain a sense of humor, but, in the meantime, it’s sobering and (perhaps a bit hopeful) to note that the Americas & Americas company does carry a line of American flags with a peace symbol. They’re just not very big sellers, at the moment.

The Erie County Legislature has announced its schedule of 4 public hearings on the proposed 2005 Erie County Budget:

Monday, November 22, 6 p.m. Lancaster Middle School Auditorium 148 Aurora, Lancaster

Tuesday, November 23, 6 p.m. Erie Community College City Campus Auditorium 121 Ellicott, Buffalo

Monday, November 29, 6 p.m. Erie Community College South Campus Room 5101 4041 Southwestern, Orchard Park

Tuesday, November 30, 6 p.m. Clarence Public Library Three Town Place, Clarence

Join advocates from across Erie County in a collective effort to keep OUR public libraries from closing in 2005!

http://www.buffalolib.org/libraries/advocacy.asp

Madam Jakubowski:

I have a proposal, or a question, depending on how much thought and/or preparation has been expended regarding the impending doom overshadowing our library system.

Would it be possible to run the Central Library on a staff of volunteers if the community were able to muster enough support? I care less about the smaller branch libraries for the present, because most of them simply do not have the depth of resources available at the Central Library. It seems a logical choice for a unified attempt at volunteer staffing because of its central location and proximity to a major public transit hub. Plus, it could serve as a model for similar but smaller projects at the branch libraries.

Naturally, as this would be a rather complicated undertaking, I wish to enlist the support, or at least solicit the advice, of officials such as yourself who know how the library functions. I've bounced the idea around with various people, and several sub-projects have emerged as necessary:

1. Find someone or several people to coordinate library volunteers. Make available postcard forms with spaces for the names, phone numbers, and hours of availability of potential volunteers, to be mailed or given to said coordinator, who would keep a scheduling database and manage scheduling.

2. Enlist the support of librarians. It is, after all, a library.

3. Start a petition drive to put pressure on the Executive and Legislature to deal with the closings in a way that minimizes loss of materials (do you know if there will be any?) and downtime. The library system reaps obvious benefits (efficiency, knowledge, expedited upkeep, expansion, etc.) from having a professional staff and a budget with room for acquisition and other discretionary spending.

I realize that it may not be politically intelligent to attempt to run the Library system, or any particular branch, even, with volunteers, because it may encourage the Legislature to continue to slack off and may encourage the County Executive to continue to target the system for funding cuts. I believe, nonetheless, that the immediate harm done to the citizenry of this County, especially the poor, like myself, who often have little or no other recourse for research materials, computer access, educational opportunities, or just plain old entertainment, far outweighs the political problems this may create for the future re-professionalization of the library system. When the time comes that it is possible to re-incorporate the library system into the Erie County budget, we will just have to work as a community to see that it is done, and fire the executive and legislature if it is not. This region is simply too economically depressed to suffer any further deprivation.

Alternatively, I also ask your opinion on a smaller-scale attempt to staff the branch libraries with local volunteers, disregarding the Central Library. Perhaps it would be more politically valuable to do such a thing, since the real gem of the system would remain closed under such a plan--a glaring example of fiscal irresponsibility to keep pressure on the Legislature and Executive to re-professionalize the system. I dislike this plan primarily because I suspect that the manifold materials of the Central Library would remain locked in until the Library's budget was reinstated, completely unavailable for the length of the deficit. I prefer depth of resources to local convenience. This is, however, perhaps a more viable option, and maybe the Central Library could be staffed just enough to facilitate interlibrary loans, or some such reduction of services.

I write this with the sincere hope that something can be done. Call me naïve, call me an outsider (I'm from Alaska), call me what you will: I cannot sit by and watch this wonderful, friendly, yet-vibrant, stolidly dignified community lose yet another battle with its elected officials over an invaluable asset that belongs to every member. I hope you can help, Madam, or at the very least, direct me to someone who can. This is not only my plea: I write this on behalf of those who will not speak out but who will feel the burden of loss perhaps more poignantly than I. Please write back.

Sincerely,

Marcus Gottsche
Several of us citizens, county tax payers are we, testified about what libraries mean to us. I listened as senior citizens who either cannot afford to purchase computers of their own or who worry about not knowing enough about the technology to maintain them spoke of their dependence upon the Internet access provided in their neighborhood library. Ordinary working people, the ones Giambra does not listen to, spoke about their need of library services. Mothers told of borrowing stacks of books for their families’ enjoyment. Everyone spoke with eloquence, including children. One small boy said, “ I love the library.”

His testimony reminded me of when my father and I went to the Riverside Library each week during my childhood. Our reading preferences differed but we both found plenty of books to satisfy us. Helpful librarians were always ready to suggest other authors we should check out.

When I visit my neighborhood library now, students of various ages look for materials for class projects. I think back to the papers I had to write and the information I found at the public library.

My children enjoyed the “ Library Hour” at our neighborhood library as preschoolers. After the stories, we found books to bring home. In the beginning our younger daughter balked at returning books she had made me read repeatedly. I promised her new ones. Eventually she realized more books awaited that could make her laugh, teach her something, and make her feel good.

Our older daughter and a friend made weekly visits to the library. They had a competition to see who could read the most books in a week. Our daughters continue to enjoy reading, a practice that originated at the public library.

In April, 1993 Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, testified before Congress saying, “ There could emerge two classes of Americans: information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’” Now we may indeed experience that very inequity in WNY. Our governor has proposed funding libraries in Republican districts while our county executive threatens to close the libraries to “ fix” a budget gap of his making.

Districts with Republican legislators, most often suburban districts, also have well funded schools with libraries. Their residents may not miss public libraries as much as people in poorer areas where many depend upon the free library services.

According to the 2002 American Community Survey, approximately 30,000 Buffalo households have annual incomes of less than $15,000. Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council found that more than 40% of adults in Buffalo have no access to private transportation. Buffalo hosts some of the highest populations living in poverty in our nation. City schools cut libraries, despite the fact that strong libraries improve student achievement. To propose taking away free public libraries from lower During the Depression years, library usage went up. People could not afford recreation and needed access to information. In a democratic society, unhindered access to information is not a luxury, but a requirement.

Renovation of the central library for a cost of $15.5 million has begun. The proposed closing of both the Dudley and Cazenovia branches for a new $2.5 million library with the renovation costs adds up to the $18 million needed to keep Buffalo and Erie County libraries open. Instead of unneeded construction, library access in all communities should be the priority.

Cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Denver host public libraries considered destination places. Imagine what visitors to WNY will think if our libraries are shuttered. An area without a free public library will be a backward place where the populace may resort to information from sources like, shudder, Fox News.

Every citizen must have access to easily attainable information. Libraries are the true centers of our democracy. They provide information, meeting places, and opportunities for civic engagement.

I have attended public hearings as well as theatrical productions such as Macbeth at the library. Citizens receive help making out their income tax forms there in the spring.

It seems as if the Republican agenda nationwide is to run up deficits that will force cuts to entitlement programs. Giambra wants to cut the very things that make life bearable here in this wasteland of no ideas and no real leadership.

We must not allow his slash and burn mentality to triumph. Public libraries are necessities, not budgetary fat. We must cut the number of politicians and their out-of-line salaries instead.

Sandy McPherson Carrubba
( 716) 873 4586
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

"I have no doubt but that some people did leave before it started."

Anyone who reads the newspapers or is in one way or another subjected to the language of Bush Administration officials will recognize in this utterance the verbal stylings of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld uses this phrase — is it even a "phrase"? — so often, it is almost an obsession. A Google search of "no doubt but that" and "Rumsfeld" brought up over 400 pages and showed quotes from Rumsfeld on a variety of topics.

The fact that this odd grouping of words consistently conveys the opposite of Mr. Rumsfeld's intended meaning never seems to faze either him or the press. The press has never, to my knowledge, sought clarification when Mr. Rumsfeld has claimed having no doubt but that something or other is the case. Everyone seems to have no doubt that Mr. Rumsfeld's assertion is a jewel of clarity and poise.

Since I find this situation intolerable, I will now take the liberty of examining Mr. Rumsfeld's pet locution step-by-step. Let's take the statement that appeared in print yesterday. First, we learn that Mr. Rumsfeld has,

"...no doubt..."

That much is clear. Whether this absence of doubt applies in some sort of unyielding way to Mr. Rumsfeld's overall character or to what he would like us to think of that character, or whether it applies only to the case in hand, is perhaps not the most important point. What we are sure of is this: Mr. Rumsfeld feels absolutely sure about something. Let's pick up the next part of the locution:

"...but..."

Here, an exception is announced to the thing or the set of things about which Mr. Rumsfeld has no doubt. Something is subject to doubt. We can assume that much. Moreover, we should not conclude, from the suggestion or admission of doubt, that Rumsfeld's self-assuredness has been compromised. If Mr. Rumsfeld ever did have a doubt, he would be the first to say so, and he would do it forcefully, using language that puts to rest all doubt. That is, again, part of Rumsfeld's style. Now, on to the next word:

"...that..."

With this, we know, the subject of Mr. Rumsfeld's one doubt cannot be far off. Given the subordinate conjunction, we can assume, moreover, that it will be some state of affairs that is in doubt. Those familiar with Mr. Rumsfeld's manner of speaking surely were anticipating this moment. Upon hearing or reading him say, "I have no doubt...," they may have skipped at once to the words that follow:

"...some people did leave before it started."

So, that's clear, isn't it? The only thing Mr. Rumsfeld has doubt about is that some people in Fallujah left before the assault had started — the assault that was designed to kill them while they were still in town. In other words, they may not have left, for all Mr. Rumsfeld knows. If you have any doubt that this assertion contradicts what Mr. Rumsfeld intended in all likelihood to say, consider that Mr. Rumsfeld follows this boldly phrased acknowledgment by noting that,

"We also know that there are a number of hundreds that didn't and have been killed."

(This is a different point, but what is "a number of hundreds"? Is this to be distinguished from "hundreds"? If so, how? What other kinds of hundreds might Mr. Rumsfeld have been imagining that he perhaps felt it was important to exclude at once from others' considerations?)

The reason why this manner of speaking irks me is that one wonders exactly what Mr. Rumsfeld had (as the reporter noted) "acknowledged" — in this case as in all the others where he has reverted to claiming no doubt but that something or other was or was not so.

I might maintain a principle of charitable interpretation and not over-analyze statements that were perhaps made in the heat of a press conference, but the fact is, Mr. Rumsfeld always uses such pseudo-intellectual gibberish when discussing grave matters. As such, no charity could ever keep up with him, nor would it be warranted if it could keep pace. Moreover, the press is already overflowing with charity towards the Bush Administration. Therefore, I feel I am forced to try to understand.

When I do try to understand Mr. Rumsfeld's repetitive assertion, two possibilities come to mind. According to the first, Mr. Rumsfeld deliberately plants such doublespeak in his public statements. In this way, if Mr. Rumsfeld were ever called out on anything, as when facts emerge that contradict his previously stated views, he could say, "Well, look at the record... I said clearly that I doubted! In fact, I said that that's all I doubted!" Since Mr. Rumsfeld uses the curious expression almost obsessively, he could surely claim, without speaking untruthfully (though with the full intent to deceive) that he had always doubted whether Fallujah fighters had escaped, whether weapons had been stolen from Al Qaqaa under the watch of U.S. troops, whether weapons of mass destruction were being kept or developed by Saddam Hussein, and so on.

According to another possibility, the only thing that Mr. Rumsfeld may have implicitly acknowledged on this occasion, or at any time that he has spoken in such a tortured manner, is his own incoherence and incorrigible phoniness. Of course, if this were so, getting him to acknowledge that he had mistakenly or implicitly acknowledged any such thing would surely require another type of torture. Mr. Rumsfeld is a man of little doubt. Of that we can always be sure.

My conclusion? It is one thing to have a government full of unaccountable war criminals. It is another, and far worse, when the war criminals are deceptive, bungling fools. Indeed, I have no doubt but that that is not the case.

In fact, I'm sure of it.

(Philip M. Adamek)
What do you do with a budget deficit that was caused, in part, by policies of your own political party holding power in Washington? Create a public relations campaign. Get busy with a power point presentation. Punish constituencies who have opposed you. Or as Irv Weinstein, anchor emeritus of Channel 7, might say: use it as a pretext to attack a hard target such as the county’s public library system that has proven to be too politically popular to succumb to the proverbial budget ax in the past. Joel knows how to get even and he knows how to curry favor with higher ups in his own party, and the strategy is really quite simple: Impersonate Newt Gingrich.

Am I the only person to notice that this latest expression of the repugnance of government is being carried out by a person who has held government positions for his entire adult life? Irony, thy name is Joel.

Of course, Joel more than doubled his IQ in the eyes of The Buffalo News when he began sporting reading glasses. Aside from a prop for the bridge of his nose, it’s difficult to say what he used his new glasses for. Clearly, he wasn’t reading the complaints and warnings concerning the phony budget that he gave to county legislators prior to getting us into to this artificial crisis. Still, that kind of fashion statement is pretty impressive for a guy with an associate’s degree.

Now, it seems clear that, if Joel decides to start using his reading glasses for their original purpose, he may have to hurry. With all of the public libraries closed as a result of his “activism,” Joel might find himself stuck reading the screeds of his own party and actually start believing that he, too, is on a mission from God.

In modern America, the sales tax is similar to the poll tax in medieval times; in the right hands, it can be used as a weapon of repression. Increases in the sales tax are regressive because they have a disproportionate effect on poor people. But we are at war here, and, in times of war, property value is more precious than human life. Therefore, we don’t expect Giambra to roll back the property tax breaks that he created in his first term without a fight.

It’s not likely that there will be a peasants’ rebellion over all this because we don’t realize that we’re all basically a bunch of peasants in the first place. At least, nobody’s admitting to it. The best that we can hope for is that Joel’s latest jihad will elevate him in the GOP to a higher level of incompetence.

Nancy and Sid

In our last issue, we discussed the vicious and negative attack ads of the Nancy Naples campaign. We discussed the fact that, in the presidential campaign, the door appeared wide open for election fraud. Just because John Kerry fell on his sword doesn’t mean that Nancy should back off. After a photo finish to her race with Democrat Brian Higgins, the full court press is on for the recount to send Naples to Washington.

Forget about all that talk of hands reaching across the aisle. If any olive branch had been extended by the Higgins camp, it was most assuredly returned scorched. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Karl Rove declared his party defeated in its efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, hinting that the majorities that Republicans now enjoy in the Senate and in the House of Representatives are simply not enough. Maybe next time, right?

Who would have suspected that the religious right in the United States was a Stradivarius lying in wait for the hands of such a maestro as Rove?

In light of the losses suffered by the Democratic Party, what about the veiled threats that the Naples campaign made concerning the federal monies that would not be made available to Western New York if voters in this region did not do their part and send a loyal foot soldier of the GOP to the capitol.

Higgins vowed to fight for an increase in the minimum wage. It looks as if that’s probably dead in the water, at least for this term. Maybe we should all cry uncle and try appeasement. After all, what if the Republicans make good on their threats and punish the region voting in a Democrat during a war? Maybe we’re simply not destined to enjoy the sort of “peace in our time” that the Kerry campaign asked its supporters to seek in defeat.

Not Necessarily The News

Much has been made of the fact that a growing number of Americans rely on late-night talk show hosts and so called “fake news” programs hosted by comedians such as Jon Stewart and the reactionary Dennis Miller for their news.

Where does this leave political commentary in the print medium? Satirical political humor with overt bias has long been a form of expression that was left fallow by mainstream dailies, which, in turn, created a vacuum that alternative and college newspaper writers gleefully filled.

Well, what’s old is new again. Where does that leave the new and improved Buffalo News? It leaves our sole local daily newspaper with a void in the all-important political humor programming area, which is like trying to run the Department of Homeland Security without having the ability to scare the be-Jesus out of people.

So, in an attempt to leaven their publication with a bit of humor and wit, they turned to a seasoned staffer, Mary Kunz. Kunz brings a typical middle-aged, Republican, suburban woman’s perspective to the proceedings. Of course, if life is a bowl of cherries, there’s no need to ask what Kunz is doing in the pits, because this is The Buffalo News we’re talking about.

Kunz’s contribution to the Sunday edition’s Off Main Street column was passable in a “bimbo about town” kind of way, but applying this narrative perspective to the inside baseball political humor popularized by people such as Jon Stewart is unintentionally funny. We might be able to laugh with her, if only her views weren’t so uninformed. Instead, we must be content to laugh at her ditzy, epistolary diarrhea, knowing that her pathetic ignorance, especially about local politics, is a state of mind that is shared by the majority of our neighbors. Apparently, the editors at The News are of the opinion that their readers are like the offensive line of the Buffalo Bills, a “mushroom culture,” that is completely in the dark.

Maybe men and women process politics differently, but in the current environment it seems that, if you’re going to identify yourself as a Republican humorist, it would behoove you to play by Rove’s rules and pretend that you’re a character in an Icelandic saga. As such, you should never refrain from pausing to make some sort of sarcastic or ironic comment before running your defenseless opponent through, amidst fountains of spurting blood and the anguished cries of innocent women and children. Stay in character, for Pete’s sake. After all, this is war.

As if to highlight the ongoing violence, the rumbling of heavy explosions could be heard as a backdrop as the prime minister went on to state: “We want to secure the country so elections can be done in a peaceful way, and the Iraqi people can participate in the elections freely, without the intimidation by terrorists and by forces that are trying to wreck the political process…” Allawi must know that he is putting a brave face to a situation that is quickly spinning out of control. All across Iraq, insurgent forces have the initiative. Just before the emergency was declared, guerillas staged dozens of attacks throughout the Sunni Triangle and beyond. In the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, three police stations were raided and 22 officers were killed, many of them lined up and executed by firing squads. In the two days of attacks, over the weekend, more than 60 people have been killed and about 75 wounded.

If martial law is indeed the plan, it would seem to be up to the U.S. occupation troops to do the cracking down during the 60 days of emergency rule. This could lead to more checkpoint shootouts and more doors kicked in as U.S. troops again go about the mostly ineffective tactic of rounding up the usual suspects. Meanwhile, feuding Iraqis finger the folks whom they want arrested.

Fallujah

The occupation forces are convinced that the elimination of the insurgent stronghold in the city of Fallujah is the central theme in fighting the rebellion. The military believes that killing or capturing the 3,000 or so fighters in the now-besieged city will break the back of the resistance. Just hours after the declaration of martial law upon the populace, the prime minister gave the green light for the Americans to begin the assault on the city.

U.S. Marines and soldiers with tanks and other armored units from the First Infantry Division and the First Cavalry Division had sealed off the city in the weeks preceding the attack. They launched the main attack at sundown on Monday. Between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops, supplemented by Iraqi infantry troops, are involved in the hostilities. In the words of the Pentagon, this is to give the assault an “Iraqi face.” But unfortunately, many of these soldiers have refused to participate and have deserted. An embedded reporter with National Public Radio has written that one Iraqi battalion shrank from more than 500 men to just 170 during the past two weeks, and another 225 de-enlisting over the weekend. This scenario is typical of U.S. involvement just about anywhere. During the Vietnam War era, this was normal procedure. While thousands of U.S. troops were dying in southeast Asia, a token amount of allied troops who should have been leading the charge were on the scene. At the same time, the hapless U.S. taxpayer was footing the bill.

Prior to the ground assault, U.S. fighter jets dropped 500-pound bombs and artillery units shelled the city with high explosives in an effort to soften up rebel targets. Civilians still holding out in the city are estimated between 30 and 50,000, down from the normal population of 300,000.

Army General George Casey predicts that the guerillas “will probably fall back toward the center of the city, where there will probably be a major confrontation.” This could be a serious engagement for U.S. forces as they try to fight their way from house to house, block by block. Snipers, PRGs, and interlocking machine gun fire could prove disastrous. The only option left to the U.S. command might be pounding suspected targets with massive firepower to minimize U.S. casualties. Insurgents will know the terrain and they will know which local civilians will be amenable to helping them. The insurgents will easily blend in with what’s still alive of the population.

Waiting inside the city could very well be the hard core of several hundred fighters, loyal to or even led by the notorious and elusive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Their weapons of choice will be suicide bombers, booby- trapped car bombs, and even reports of entire building rigged to explode. The enemy units inside the city have had months to prepare and nothing to inhibit their movements.

As we go to press, other cites are feeling the sting of increased insurgent escalation. U.S. casualties are on the rise, and will increase.

A military action that begins to break the back of the insurgency could well be the straw that breaks the back of the occupation.

I was stationed at a precinct on a quiet street in a little town in eastern Ohio, and it was nonstop trouble for the full thirteen hours the polls were open. My assignment was to make sure that all registered and qualified voters who showed up at my precinct would get the chance to vote. Here is why I failed at that assignment:

1. The Republicans had well-trained lawyers assigned to each targeted polling place, armed with lists of newly registered Democrats and instructions on how to challenge their right to vote.

2. The Republican challenger at our polling site got to sit inside the polling station all day, while the Democrats (two other volunteers and me) were not allowed in the polling site all day, even to use the bathrooms.

3. The Republican lawyer stationed alongside the Board of Elections staff inside the polling site occasionally left her post to talk with voters waiting outside about Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Bush’s plan to “save” Social Security. She argued with voters that didn’t agree with her. Then she returned to her seat inside to decide which voters she would challenge.

4. The presiding elections judge was also a Republican and repeatedly threatened to call the police on us because we were “distracting her.” She did call the police a couple of times and, each time she called, the police stayed to monitor and question us for more than an hour. This made it impossible for us to respond to frustrated voters.

5. This presiding elections judge also ripped down all of our legally posted Kerry/Edwards signs and our non-partisan “Know Your Voting Rights” posters so that voters couldn’t identify us for assistance if they had questions.

6. Other Republican lawyers who were technically unauthorized to enter the polling site were allowed in and out of building all day by the presiding election judge, while we were not allowed to even step inside.

All of this leads up to the biggest problems:

7. Voters in this highly Democratic precinct (85 percent registered Democrat) were pressured to use provisional ballots, not the standard punch-card ballots. About 25 percent of the voters at this site were first-time voters, and many did not know that their provisional ballot might never count. And what happened? Bush won Ohio by 130,000 votes, but there are still 155,000 uncounted provisional ballots, most from the bluest of blue precincts.

8. Late in the day, the Republican challenger started asking voters for additional identification, which meant that some people would have to go back home to get more ID. But the later it got, the less likely people would have time to get back in line before the polls closed. Many qualified voters left and never came back to vote.

9. At each polling place, the elections officials were required to post the number of voters so far that day two times. The first time was at 11:00 a.m. and the second time was at 4:00 p.m. The vote count that the presiding election judge reported both times did not correspond to the number of people we tracked going in and out of the polls.

11. Thirty minutes before the polls closed, the Republicans called the police on us again. While the police were questioning us, we noticed a very official looking guy, preppy and well-dressed, enter the polling site. This individual conferred with the Republican lawyer and made a series of phone calls from inside the polling site. As he was leaving, we confronted him and asked him who he was. “I’m a lawyer from the Bush team.” Of course. He refused to tell us his name, so we followed him out to his big shiny SUV, took down his license plate number, and reported him. Voter suppression tactics, such as these, can’t win you votes, but they can significantly drive down the votes on your side in areas where your opponent is sure to sweep whole precincts, making him less competitive overall, and adding power to your red county votes. Voter suppression tactics weren’t used in Red precincts because Bush needed every Red vote to count, and Republicans didn’t use them in highly contested precincts because these precincts were being closely monitored. But in the bluest precincts, especially poor inner-city precincts, many voters didn’t stand a chance.

More news from around Ohio:

- The Akron Beacon Journal (November 6, 2004) reported an error with an electronic voting system giving President George W. Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus. Earlier, on October 28, the Akron paper caught four Republicans falsifying more than 900 of the forms required to challenge Democratic voters. The Bureau of Justice has been contacted, and felony charges against all four are possible.

- According to the election day issue of the Cincinnati Post, absentee ballots in Hamilton County were sent to voters without listing Kerry/Edwards as a choice for president. Instead, where “Kerry/Edwards” should have appeared, the ballots read “CANDIDATE REMOVED.” Hamilton County election officials claimed to have corrected this problem by late October, but many of residents used these faulty ballots and sent them back to the Board of Elections as their official vote.

- The Vindicator (November 6, 2004) in Mercer County, Ohio, reported that thousands of votes disappeared on more than a dozen touch screen voting machines, but there is no paper trail and no way to re-count. Elsewhere in Mercer County, computerized voting machines broke down early on election day so elections officials advised voters to go home and come back later, but the machines were never repaired. Mercer County is also a blue county.

- And across the state, registered Democrats were phoned the evening before the election and given false information regarding their polling site and poll hours (Athens Messenger, November 3, 2004, Mansfield News Journal, November 2, 2004, The New York Times, November 1, 2004).

-The Cleveland Free Times reported on November 3 that Republicans started challenging more than 23,000 registered Democratic voters weeks before the election. Of those, 80 percent were from low-income Cuyahoga County, which are overwhelmingly pro-Kerry. Challenging so many Democrats in one county was so time-consuming for local Republicans that they tapped local Republican mayors and councilmen to help push the challenges.

- The Dayton Daily News (November 6, 2004) reported that the voting machine for at least one precinct “wouldn’t allow any votes for John Kerry,” and this machine was never fixed. The Dayton paper also reported that the Republican challengers stationed at the polling sites created significant tension between voters and voting officials, especially when some Republican challengers attempted to challenge every single voter in violation of the court order.

-The Mansfield News Journal reported (October 27, 2004) that Republicans challenged new voters in more than 75 percent of the counties in Ohio, while Democrats did not challenging anyone. Local elections officials claimed they have never seen a party challenge voters like this.

-The Warren Tribune Chronicle (November 3, 2004) reported that two Republican challengers were kicked out of a polling site in a heavily democratic precinct for harassing voters.

- News 5 in Lake County Ohio broke the story of hundreds of Lake County Democrats receiving letters stating that voter registration conducted by the NAACP was fraudulent and that their voting privileges were being revoked.

-And in Defiance, Ohio, the Crescent News (November 2, 2004) reported that Republican Challengers stationed at polling stations refused to give their names, even to the Democratic voters whom they were challenging.

This is all just in Ohio. Does all this mean that Kerry would have won the election? I have no idea. Maybe not. But I am convinced that the Republicans kept tens of thousands of Ohioans and hundreds of thousands of other voters nationwide from voting for Kerry in this election. And by keeping Kerry’s votes down, Bush didn’t just win; he is now claiming a “mandate” for his second-term agenda.

Federiconi, now the executive director of Autistic Services, Inc., looked at the pictures with the eye of an experienced professional. “Some of the children looked as if they might have autistic tendencies so I asked (the photographer) if there were any kids with autism. He was not sure, but felt there could be children with special needs. I asked, ‘Can Autistic Services help the project in some way?’” She was given the email address for a director of Hope and Homes for Children Romania, a United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization.

Federiconi told the director, “Our organization would like to help you if we can, especially to identify the autistic population and give you some resources. She said, ‘We don’t know what we need. Could you come here and tell us what we need?’”

An Adventure, Not a Tour

In July 2003, Federiconi made her first trip to Romania. She had been assured that, when she arrived at the Bucharest airport, Dragos, an English-speaking person, would be there to make sure that she safely boarded her train. Dragos, however, delegated the task to a friend, who spoke no English. The driver delivered Federiconi to the train station, handed her tickets, and left her at the door to fend for herself.

“There was a big marquee that tells you what trains were leaving for where. I couldn’t read any of it, of course.” Eventually, an English-speaking tour guide offered her to help her find her train, when it was due to arrive. He also offered her a tour, which she turned down. Federiconi waited for the train in a beer garden. Before long, she had two companions, an English-speaking man, who was traveling to Germany, and a woman, dressed in traditional Romanian clothing, who spoke no English.

After the man left, the woman talked nonstop to Federiconi in Romanian for an hour and a half. She also drank three beers that Federiconi had purchased for her. After she finished talking, she kissed Federiconi’s hand and left. Eventually, the tour guide put her on her train.

Federiconi traveled north through Transylvania for ten hours. At 4 a.m., not sure of where she was, she got off the train, where she encountered someone from Hope and Homes. The next day, she was told, “‘When we heard that Dragos didn’t pick you up, we figured that you were just lost.”

But Federiconi had made it to Maramures, and she returned two times, most recently in September 2004.

Visiting The Institutions

During her first visit, Federiconi saw the institutions. “I visited both of those institutions while kids were still in there and saw the conditions and the children,” she said. “What they are doing is closing down institutions. What they’re doing right now is very similar to what I worked in thirty years ago. Their first mission is to try to reunite the children with their families if the families are still around and can take them.” When reuniting children with their families is not an option, children are placed in foster homes or in small family homes.

Life for children in the large state-run institutions was very hard, Federiconi said. Many of them experienced neglect and abuse, which included beatings and being tied to metal beds for hours at a time. The result was the children suffered from the loss of sensory stimulation and from the effects of “never having been held or given any physical contact.” Federiconi described the population of the institutions as being mixed, with “typical children and special needs children.” Quite a few of the typical children had learning disabilities, caused by environment factors, Federiconi said. The special needs children exhibited autism tendencies, including difficulty in communication, social skills, and in recognizing social cues. The children also had difficulty relating to their environment. Some of the children were hypersensitive, shrinking away from touch and startling easily at noises and visual stimulation. Others were hyposensitive. These were the children who, when they could not find stimulation in their own environment, engaged in self-stimulation activities or in self-injurious behavior.

Federiconi said that, after experiencing the institutions, she could see that Autistic Services, Inc., could best help Hope and Homes by providing training to staff on working with special needs children by introducing “best practices, through staff trainings, consultations, program analysis, and implementation.”

“They were falling short of best practices,” she said.

Continuing The Process

Federiconi said that she is encouraged by the progress that she has seen in her subsequent visits to Romania. She has visited children in their homes. Even after not seeing her for six months, they remember who she is and they greet her by name, frequently waving the photographs of them that she had mailed to them. She said that her returning to see them means a lot because many professionals come once and never return.

“When I go to visit and I see the changes, it’s just amazing, especially having witnessed them while they were in the institution.”

Federiconi spends much of her time training managers, directors, and Child Protection staff. The trainings cover such subjects as maintaining best practices while working with children, sensory integration, autism, and behavior strategies. The people whom she trains, in turn, train the staff members who work directly with the children.

Federiconi has also had Romanians visit Western New York, for trainings and to see the work that Autistic Services, Inc., does with both children and adults with autism and related conditions. She said that, every time she visits Romania or Romanian professionals visit the United States, “Enthusiasm is growing and recognition is growing. That’s what it’s all about. I’m trying to teach key people so that they can teach their own people. I can’t continue to go there to teach their people. It should be that they teach one another. The people whom I’m training are the people who live there and can communicate with them.”

When enthusiasm does lag and when the Hope and Homes people and other Romanian staff see what a daunting task lies ahead of them, Federiconi reminds them that deinstitutionalization in the United States has been going on for more than thirty years and that the process is not yet over.

Recognition of the process has grown tremendously in Romania, where the collaboration between Hope and Homes and Autistic Services has received a great deal of media attention, much more than here in Western New York. Autistic Services.

Federiconi said that the lack of media attention in Western New York has been a disappointment. “We’re trying to bridge the children who are leaving institutions and going to other places to give them a second chance at life. I just want people to know that something good is coming out of Buffalo for some very, very needy children.”

Hope for the Future

Until recently, Federiconi was paying for many of her trips to Romania from her own pocket and with some assistance from Hope and Homes. She said that she was happy to donate her money for this cause.

“I’m very committed to working with this population. When you give your money for something like that, it feels good,” she said.

The collsboration between Autistic services, Inc., and Hope and Homes Romania has been successful, Federiconi said. The goal now is to replicate that success throughout Romania and other Eastern European countries, such as Bosnia, Croatia, Moldova, and Belarus. To continue the process, a new not-for-profit organization has been set up as a subsidiary of Autistic Services, Inc., called Bridges for New Beginnings, Inc. Its goals are to continue the deinstitutionalization process, to prevent the circumstances that caused children and young adults to be placed in institutions, and to establish a training center for professionals to learn about best practices. The goal of the training center ids to reduce abuse and neglect and to help in the transition process from institution to family-type alternatives.

Individuals who are interested in donating time, expertise, or money to Bridges for New Beginnings are encouraged to contact the organization at 4444 Bryant and Stratton Way, Williamsville, N.Y. 14221 or to call 631-5777 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When you get right down to it, Being Julia is a truly extraordinary one-woman show. Obviously, there are a number of other solid actors and actresses in it; all giving terrific performances, but it’s Bening who has to sell the movie. Fortunately, she owns it. She’s nothing less than glorious. The film may not be perfect, but Bening struts across the screen and makes it work. People who love the theater are probably going to love the movie. If you believe all the publicity, Buffalo is the fifth greatest center of theater in the universe, after New York, London, Toronto, and Chicago, which means there should be plenty of folks rushing out to see Bening and her delicious film. She plays a wildly famous 1930s London stage actress in this mostly dead-on adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel “Theatre.”

Bening is at times vain, giddy, haughty, loving, hilarious, neurotic, and sexually supercharged. She is an actress playing an actress who never stops acting, especially in her personal life. Bening’s Julia usually triumphs, but she does occasionally falter onstage, and is, depending on her moods, both convincing and obvious in her offstage manipulations. Why she is like she is a completely different matter. The movie never quite gets around to explaining Julia’s behavior. There’s no psychological resolution, but maybe there doesn’t have to be. Perhaps she is what she is because that’s the way she is. There’s nothing wrong with sitting back and enjoying what director Istvan Szabo and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have concocted: a delightfully glamorous and wonderfully witty backstage world.

At the start of the film, Julia, a diva who knows how to drape a mink over her shoulders with just the right note of insouciance, claims exhaustion. She asks her producer husband (Jeremy Irons) to stop the play in which she is currently starring. The request seems reasonable enough, but the reaction of everyone around her offers clues that Julia’s momentary whim falls into the “heard it all before” category. It certainly hints at her capricious temperament. Irons’ character feigns indulgence, but being very business-minded, he offers her a deal. He agrees to end the show, but not immediately. He believes, or knows, that she will change her mind. Julia’s devoted dresser and maid, played with entertaining good humor by Juliet Stevenson, has definitely heard it all before. In fact, she can mouth along to what Julia says as she complains about middle age, her lot in life, the weather, the audience, almost anything and everything. “The curtain has come down on Act 1, and I have no idea what happens in Act 2.”

One very refreshing aspect of the character, especially the way Bening plays her, is that Julia’s not completely self-absorbed. She’s a diva with an understanding that artifice isn’t everything. She can be sweet and warm and charming, and you can tell it’s not an act. She revels in the company of her theater friends and is honestly concerned about the emotional needs of her quite prescient teenage son (Thomas Sturridge). Julia is just a little less developed as a person than she is as a performer. The movie uses the conceit of her now-dead first, and much beloved, acting teacher (Michael Gambon) offering her advice on everything, sort of a whimsical angel-devil on her shoulder.

Much of the film revolves around Julia’s affair with a young American accountant who adores her acting and then adores her body. We’re soon in All About Eve territory. Tom is played by Shaun Evans, who we first see as cute and blond, but latter as cute and bland. Ah, callow youth. Evans acts the part with just the right understanding of his character’s place in the scheme of things. Julia’s open marriage allows her to cavort, and she is thrilled by the opportunity, and loves giving gifts. Tom is a puppy, nude and lusty, and is filled with eager advice for Julia. He tells her she could be in pictures, to which Julia responds, “Real actresses don’t make pictures,” an in-joke that Bening delivers with just the right note. But when Tom starts pushing the career of a willowy ingenue, Julia’s claws come out. Boy, do they ever. Tom and the ingenue haven’t got a chance.

It’s great watching the London diva swallow what Tom has to offer, but you know she’s smart enough to retain a touch of wariness. You love it when Julia giggles as those around her comment on her sexy sparkle. And you love it when she gets annoyed at Tom and decides she has to turn the tables.

It’s clear that Julia believes that Tom might be an accessory, sort of like the hats she wears. But she certainly knows how to get into the swing of things. As for her husband, well, I got the impression that it was he who opened the doors for the open marriage. Julia also has a dalliance with a chap named Charles (Bruce Greenwood), who ends up revealing something about himself that actually doesn’t surprise her. And hubby isn’t beyond the gentle shag or two. Theirs might be a marriage devoid of romance, but there’s still a lot of love left in it. And it sure does make for great dialogue. Listen for exchanges such as Julia complaining “I’m a bitch. Awful through and through.” “Nevertheless….” Irons begins in response. And as the producer in the relationship, he’s the only person on the planet who can tell her when she’s giving a bad performance.

Being Julia is beautifully photographed by Laos Koltai. The costumes and production values are top-notch. There’s not a dark view or bad outfit in the movie. This is a comedy, after all. As noted, the acting from everyone is sublime. Also enjoy appearances by Rita Tushingham, Rosemary Harris, Lucy Punch, Miriam Margolyes, Sheila McCarthy, Leigh Lawson, and Maury Chaykin, he himself a product of the University of Buffalo and our town’s avant-garde theater scene in the late 60s and early 70s.

Bening, of course, delivers nothing less than a tour de force.

The study entitled CHEERS (Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) pays participants up to $970 and offers them a free camcorder, free VCR, as well as t-shirts, calendars, bibs, and a framed Certificate of Appreciation. Participants are asked to “maintain” their normal pesticide applications throughout their home for two years. The EPA will monitor developmental changes in babies, from birth to 3 years, who are exposed to pesticides in their home. The study looks at 60 children, with less than 10% representing a control group, which consists of children that have low pesticide exposure, rather than no exposure at all.

The widespread use of toxic pesticides in homes is a serious threat to our children’s health. Many commonly used products contain ingredients that can affect the nervous system, cause birth defects, increase asthma rates and are suspected to cause cancer. “The EPA’s role is to protect infants and children from harmful pesticides, not encourage exposure!” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “CCE believes this study is unethical and dangerous to infants and children. We are sickened by the fact that the EPA views infants and children as acceptable test subjects. Frankly, we are appalled and horrified by the whole study ” Esposito added.

The study solicited participants from 6 health clinics and 3 hospitals in Jacksonville, Florida. According to the study, the 6 health clinics “primarily serve individuals with lower incomes” and the 3 hospitals report 51% of all births were to non-white mothers, with 62% of all mothers having only received an elementary or secondary education.
The selection criteria for the study requires that a participant must spray or have pesticides sprayed inside their home routinely. “This study solicits people that may be easily persuaded to maintain or increase their pesticide use to receive monetary and other forms of compensation,” stated Brian Smith, CCE Program Coordinator. “It has been clearly designed to target lower income families and to endanger the health of their children, making it grossly unethical,” Smith added.
The study has received $2 million in funding from the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies, including pesticide manufactures, leading one to question the motives of the study.

CCE has written to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to ask him to halt the study. “CCE believes that it is unethical that an agency set up to protect public health and the environment would advance a study designed to endanger the most vulnerable members of our society, infants and toddlers. This study must be stopped immediately so as not to set a precedent for future similar studies,” stated Esposito. “Once the study is stopped, CCE would welcome the unexpended dollars to be allocated to expand educational outreach on the dangers that pesticides pose to children and vulnerable populations,” Esposito concluded.

The EPA website on the CHEER study: http://www.epa.gov/cheers/

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) is an 80,000 member not for profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working to protect the pubic health and natural environment. For additional information please visit www.citizenscampaign.org

While the paranoid, delusional Christian right is doubtless applauding its minions’ efforts, organizations and individuals on the left like Move On and Michael Moore are pacifying their base with words of conciliation and sympathy, relentlessly remarking what a remarkable effort they made (Moore lists 17 reasons not to slit your wrists on his website). The fact that everything from the Redskins’ loss to the Red Sox’ win in sports forecasting analogies, and the overwhelming numbers of world leaders and citizens hoping for a Democratic victory had little or no effect on the outcome does not change the fact that America and the world are faced with four more years of unprecedented deficits and illegal wars, lost rights and opportunities, lies and deceitful corporate cronyism at the hands of the neo-cons pulling puppet Bush’s strings, or that America deserves everything that happens to it because of it. Even the 49 % of us who know better, but couldn’t stop it anyway are going to pay the price for the ignorance, superstition and government promoted paranoia of the other half. So much for the separation of church and state in American politics.

On the upside, the youth vote, which turned out in unprecedented numbers this year, was largely (55-45%) in favor of anyone but Bush, and even here in pre-civil war time-warped Virginia, that the city of Richmond came down on the right (left) side of the ballot demonstrates hope.

On the other side, the Democratic party, while fiscally solvent for the first time in decades and pulling it’s best numbers ever, is as dead as the squirrel carcass laying in the street in front of your house. The party died in 2000 when it bent over for Bush I’s Supreme Court coup, and hasn’t shown a pulse since. Ralph Nader was right. A third party needs to gather the disappointed and disenfranchised Dems and make a new choice (not the Republican-lite the Democrats have devolved into) that actually provides an option to the conservative, religious right, pro-corporate-profit clones that comprise the parties of the only two levers presently pullable.

Whatever happens, the important thing is that we keep this pre-election's political public discourse open and active so that mistakes like this can be corrected BEFORE they happen next time.

alexander graham