Archive | June, 2009

Supremes Get It Right

29 Jun

The Supreme Court came to the right decision today, in Ricci vs. DeStefano, in which 18 white firefighters in New Haven brought suit because they were passed over for promotion. It turns out you can’t change the rules half way through the game just because you don’t like the result.

First, a thought on Sotomayor. Yes, she was part of the three judge panel on the 2nd Circuit that just got overturned. No, that alone does not make her unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court; no more so that Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter or Stevens, who voted in the minority here. But much is also being made of the fact that Sotomayor had “no choice” in how she voted when hearing the case on the 2nd Circuit. I’m not sure I buy that. After all, she has bragged that Circuit Courts set policy. Was precedent so overwhelming here that she couldn’t find in favor of Equal Protection? I am not a lawyer, but it seems like you could at least write an opinion before you take away someone’s promotion.

Second, a thought on the merits of the case. Its about time that discrimination is seen as discrimination not matter which direction it flows in. New Haven was not in an impossible situation, as they have described. They can set the standards for promotion, and even include “extra points” for being a minority. But when your Affirmative Action weighted system still produces no African-American candidates, you live with the results. We do want the most qualified firefighters, don’t we?

ricci

Conservatives take quite a beating for being unfeeling automatons, for not understanding that laws affect real people, and not being empathatic enough.

So someone, who disagrees with the ruling in the case, please explain something to me. Explain how denying Frank Ricci his promotion atones for decades of discrimination against minorities living in other parts of the country, or even in New Haven. Is Frank Ricci a statistic, a demographic, or is he a real person being discriminated against? Frank Ricci wasn’t even alive during the worst of authorized segregation and Jim Crow – why punish him for someone else’s sins? What did Frank Ricci ever do to you?

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Weird News Weekend

29 Jun

Now all the jokes comparing New York State government to some third world banana republic tend to ring true. Malcolm Smith should be happy he wasn’t exiled to Costa Rica, as the President of Honduras was yesterday in a military coup. President Zelaya was of the leftist variety, friendly with nominally anti-capitalist, pseudo-Marxist, power-hungry types such as Hugo Chavez. The coup came about because he, like Chavez, wanted to – ahem – give his people the ability to “vote” in a “poll” as to whether his Presidential term limit should be lifted. The Honduran Supreme Court had ruled the poll illegal, but Zelaya was pushing forward with it anyway.

In Iran, the crackdown on protests has made them fewer and more far-between, but just because they’re down doesn’t mean they’re out.

Billy Mays, Oxyclean pitchman, died mere hours after hitting his head during a rough landing into Tampa Airport. He went to bed not feeling well, and never woke up. It sounds eerily like what happened to Natasha Richardson on that ski slope in Quebec.

The revelations about Michael Jackson’s personal life are flowing like Niagara Falls. I can’t link to them all, but it seems to me that Jackson surrounded himself with a combination of greedy/sympathetic sycophants and evil opportunists. He was already psychologically and physically challenged, and was in financial turmoil. It’s no surprise that these people Jackson surrounded himself with are tripping over themselves to sell salacious stories about him.

Poison & Def Leppard

27 Jun

I stumbled on Jeff Miers’ review of last night’s show at Darien Lake, and laughed at this bit:

Sadly, Poison also performed. Calling the band’s set atrocious would be going easy on them. The band rode the wave of glammed-out pop-metal acts that seemed to be lurking behind every corner in the latter ’80s, and managed to earn a rabid audience based on its pale reworkings of classic rock and metal tunes.

Many of these were in evidence on Friday, from the moment the band aped Aerosmith with opener “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” through the Cheap Trick “She’s Tight” to “Talk Dirty To Me.” Reality TV star and frontman Brett Michaels strutted about the stage to the audible appreciation of the female portion of the audience, and grabbed an acoustic guitar to lead the band through the country-leaning ballad, “Something to Believe In.”

It was all truly awful, from the live sound, to the cheesy refried Kiss effects. Happily, Def Leppard wasted little time taking the stage after Poison’s merciful cessation.

Negative reviews of things are always so much more entertaining than the positive ones.

If it’s Sunday, It’s Hardline with Dave Debo

26 Jun

There’s a change coming in the way we vote.

Erie County Elections Commissioners Ralph Mohr and Dennis Ward join host Dave Debo Sunday at 10am for WBEN’s weekly politics program. They’ll talk of a new nationwide pilot project for unique voting machines… and in light of the power struggle in Albany, it’ll be a chance to look at election funding and their challenge to Tom Golisano’s Responsible New York. They’ll also have the latest on power sharing in the NY State Senate.

Then at 11…Your calls as part of a roundtable on Health Care Reform. Guests include Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, (Speaker Pelosi’s point person on the Democrat’s current plan), and Dr. Michael Cropp the CEO of Independent Health, among others. That’s Hardline from 10 to Noon… Sunday on Newsradio 930 WBEN.

Reframing Healthcare: Part III

26 Jun

In Part I, I talked about reframing healthcare insurance, and by admitting we already have Universal Healthcare, shift the focus to the healthcare itself. In Part II, I gave a Republican argument for Universal Healthcare, based upon National Security and Business needs.

But what should this Universal Healthcare look like?

A Conservative definition of the role of government is that it should exist to provide services that an individual can not do on their own. National defense, the printing of money, and paving of roads traditionally fall in this catagory. Healthcare should as well. Universal Healthcare needs to be seen a social service. That is, a service provided to members of the community, for the overall good of the community, and paid for by the community through taxes. While police protection and garbage collection count as social services, the model for Universal Healthcare is public schools.

Did I already lose you? “But we have failing public schools”, you say. “Why would we want a healthcare system as bad as our schools. Isn’t this proof Universal Healthcare is a bad idea?”

Public Schools are the right model for healthcare for a number of reasons.

1) Public Schools are funded through a mix of funding: local, state and federal. We do this because not only does the country as a whole recognizes the need for public schools (thus federal funding), we also believe in local control of schools. Healthcare should be the same way. It should be funded with large block grants from the feds for a minimum amount of services (Medicare, plus the new Universal Funding), but then also funded by the state (Medicaid), and controlled and funded by local governments. Healthcare should be locally controlled because healthcare needs vary by community. Buffalo has a higher rate of heart disease than the national average. Local control would allow our healthcare system to better reflect this.

2) The existence of Public Schools does not preclude the existence of Private Schools, Charter Schools, home schooling, and other options. There has been a lot of fear-mongering that Public Healthcare would crowd out Private Healthcare. Why? Private Schools shouldn’t be able to “compete” with Public Schools under this argument. Why would I pay for schooling when my kids could get it for free? Well, millions do, because they like a Private system better. The Catholic Health System can still exist, because it has a clientele.

3) Public schools have physical infrastructure distinct from Private or Charter schools. The same with hospitals. I believe hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities would have to “choose” to become Public Hospitals, or Private non-profit or for-profit hospitals. The government could also choose to fund Charter Hospitals. How these hospitals would provide emergency services and reimburse each other would have to be worked out. But a model already exists in the VA Healthcare system.

4) We may argue about how to fix public schools, but we don’t argue about their right to exist. We should view Universal Healthcare the same way.

But how to pay for it?

In 2008, the average cost of healthcare for a family of four was $12,680. That works out to a $1 trillion a year, roughly, for the country as a whole, and is paid for by a mix of employer contributions and premiums by individuals. Not to mention the $100 billion we spent as a country to provide healthcare to those without insurance. I am not advocating that the government raise $1.1 trillion in taxes next year. But efficiencies won’t be realized immediately, and it will look costly at first.

Our country raises money three main ways: property taxes, income taxes, and consumption taxes. Property taxes are too linked to housing bubbles, as currently being experienced in Florida and other states. Income taxes are already a mess. A national VAT would be initially unpopular, but is the fairest way to keep the tax progressive. One benefit of Universal healthcare is that it may finally spark a national conversation on tax reform. And any sale of this plan to the American people who have to show how they would have an average of $1000 extra in their paycheck every month.

Is this a bridge too far? Republicans went from the party of “Abolish the Department of Education” to “No Child Left Behind” in one year. We can move to the right side of the healthcare debate too.

Thanks

26 Jun

Thanks to the readers and editors of the Buffalo Spree for naming me “Best Online Writer” for the Spree’s “Best of Buffalo 2009”. The gala was fun, as always, and we bumped into Kevin Hardwick, Jen, and Jen, among others.

They Come in Threes

26 Jun

Ed McMahon led a long and fruitful life. Farrah Fawcett lost a long, valiant battle with cancer. Michael Jackson came way out from left field.

The video that changed videos. (unembeddable but follow the link)

Bow to the Master

25 Jun

Rush Limbaugh has somehow managed to argue that Mark Sanford’s Argentine tryst is Barack Obama’s fault.

That is utterly fantastic in the literal sense of that word.

No Session, No Pay

25 Jun

Maybe in this case, they’ll all go home and never go back to Albany, ever.

From now on, every New York State Senator – every single one – should be written as such:

Pedro Espada, Jr. (D-Disgrace)
Dale Volker (R-Disgrace)

Etc.

Polonia Angry About Play that Celebrates Polish Ancestry

25 Jun

Let’s be blunt. The people who are protesting this play are imbeciles. Cretins. They are incurious, ignorant, lacking in a sense of irony or humor, and in desperate need of a job or hobby.

A handful of Buffalonian Polish-Americans protested a play that is being put on by the Kaleidoscope Theater Company, which had shown its plays at a theater at Canisius, but that school has ingloriously pulled the plug due to the idiotic brouhaha.

The name of the play is “Polish Joke”, and if you didn’t bother to get past the title, and you were Polish, you’d probably be upset. But if your ears worked, and your brain worked, and you listened to the synopsis of the play, maybe you’d go see it:

…about a man deeply conflicted over his Polish roots. Throughout the play, the man learns to confront the stereotypes he’s grown up with, eventually coming to the realization that he should not be ashamed of his rich heritage.

“The message is to be proud of yourself no matter who you are. Whatever your heritage is, you should stand up and be proud of it,” said Alison Louis, a former intern for KTP, who performs its shows at the Marie Maday Theatre at Canisius College.

The protesters, naturally, didn’t see the play, and refused to consider seeing it:

“It implies that we are imbeciles, idiots, and therefore the connotation of the title itself is offensive, no matter the content of the play,” one protester proclaimed. Many people also carried signs showing anger over the show’s logo and program’s cover art. Louis said throughout the protest members of the theater company – many of whom are Polish themselves – tried to work with the protesters, offering them free or reduced price tickets, so that the protesters could actually see the show they were protesting against. No one accepted the offer, however, even though many have not seen or even read the play.

You are imbeciles and idiots. Not because you’re Polish, but because you’re ignorant imbecilic idiots who judge a book by its cover. Polonia should be ashamed of the people who protested this play.

Please consider buying a crapload of tickets and going to see this play every single day it’s showing through the 27th.