Grisanti understands how democracy works
Perhaps Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, State Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long and Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo could benefit from a refresher in high school civics. The form of government in New York State is a representative democracy in which the rule of law springs from principles of justice and equality. It is not a theocracy in which the rule of law springs from religious doctrine and belief. Nor is it ruled by ideologues who will not tolerate any position that is contrary to their special interest.
In a representative democracy, we recognize that our representatives will act on a wide range of issues. They should receive or be denied an endorsement based on their aggregate performance, not because they contravened some ideologue's expectation. In a representative democracy, we expect our representatives to conduct research on the complex issues facing them. Effective representation is based on knowledge of the issues. We expect our representatives to measure those issues against the principles of justice and equality. And we expect them to enact laws that are based on the results of their research.
When that research contradicts positions and beliefs previously held by our representatives, we should -- we must -- expect them to act in accord with the knowledge they have gained and with the principles of justice and equality. That is not breaking a promise. That is responsible representative democracy. Sen. Mark Grisanti understands that. It appears that Langworthy, Long and Lorigo do not.
Langworthy's remark shows he is clueless
Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy is out of touch with the plight of most New Yorkers. Langworthy blasted Sen. Mark Grisanti for his vote in favor of marriage equality, saying, "I urged him to stick by his word. This is not tax policy or something. This is important stuff." (June 28 News.)
I agree with the importance of marriage equality. I'm proud to live in a state that recognizes that all people have the right to marry. It's about time.
That said, it is also about time for our elected leaders to address some other extremely important matters -- like tax policy, jobs and the economy. How Langworthy and the Republican Party can claim that tax policy isn't an important issue for government is absurd.
Attacks on Grisanti are disheartening
I have been disheartened to read the negative responses to the gay marriage vote from fellow New York residents. For those who claim Sen. Mark Grisanti is listening to a vocal minority: the latest polls show that approval for gay marriage has been steadily climbing and rests at about 5 0/5 0. As more young people age into voting, that number will only go higher.
For people who question why we don't push for polygamous marriage rights: maybe that will become an issue for legislation, and we will pick sides when the time comes. But for now, they are using the same logic that people used to protest interracial marriage. Never is it a good idea to base present laws on vague fears of rights people could request in the future.
Regardless of what side you lie on, surely there can be some relief in a politician making a decision regardless of his party's stance. Many of the decisions made in legislation have come to resemble checker games with two sides, rather than a diverse group of people seeking to represent their constituents as best they can. I would prefer a government where everyone is reaching opinions based on research and true belief, rather than a government of individuals consistently refusing to act because they are too worried about re-elections and party reprisals.
To not vote for Grisanti just because of this vote seems misguided. The greatest problems facing us now are not marriage certificates, but the economy, tax rates, health care, etc. To judge anyone's entire term based on a single vote will be far more to our detriment than to his.
Use a panel of judges to decide court cases
After watching news of the Casey Anthony trial and seeing how those unfortunate jurors spent the July Fourth holiday deliberating the case, it made me realize just how pointless the "jury system" is and that it should be done away with. Billions of dollars are spent every year in this country maintaining a flawed jury system that watches people with high school educations have to sift through complicated evidence of crime scenes, DNA and forensics and then have to, in many cases, decide life or death.
The jury system often creates great hardship for the jurors, who must sometimes take months out of their lives and jobs to participate in an expensive and cumbersome system. Jurors are untrained in law and yet are required to understand complicated legal issues in a few months or even days. In other cases, there is juror misconduct, often caused by the very lack of legal knowledge I just described, that can derail a case, causing further cost and delay.
The solution is to emulate what many other countries do, and what we do to a small extent in the United States. We should use a panel of judges to decide cases. At least they are trained in legal issues and are more geared to understand the science behind the cases. And in our own Supreme Court, that is exactly what we do. We have a panel of nine judges who listen to lawyer arguments, then vote. This is a simple solution to trying cases and is not nearly as expensive and intrusive as our current system.
People need to focus on important issues
Since about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, my Facebook and Twitter news feeds have been full of people upset about the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. I'll admit that even I, for the past three years, have somewhat followed the case. It has been almost impossible not to read something about it. While almost everyone in my social network seems to think a jury of her peers in Florida was wrong and that Anthony will "get hers," I personally am a little disappointed in what the general public seems to find important. In a country where women's health is being attacked on almost a daily basis throughout the states, where we're still fighting a war and where Americans can't find jobs, this is what we're focusing on? When can we start concentrating on the real issues?
There are so many court cases that are decided daily in this country, ones that affect a lot more people than one accused child murderer. About a week ago, a federal judge in Indiana put a stop to defunding Planned Parenthood for Medicaid patients. This ruling was an extreme win for women and men in Indiana who rely on those services. Unfortunately, other states haven't been that lucky. They are facing the devastation that is caused by not only defunding Planned Parenthood throughout the country during this war on women's health, but also new limitations of abortion laws. Call your elected officials and voice your concerns about the real issues.
Naysayers derailed sensible bridge plan
It's unfair to say that leadership failed Buffalo in failing to build any variant on the "signature bridge." I'd argue that leadership came through, if too slowly. A few naysayers, not community leadership, killed the only option that made sense. Remember the original twin-span proposal? If the Peace Bridge Authority had been allowed to build the twin span, it would have been done by now. It would have been done (or at least permitted) well before the Department of Homeland Security changed its requirements, necessitating the controversial further expansion of the U.S. truck plaza.
After the twin span was killed, we got one signature bridge plan after another, each one far too fancy for an economically hobbled region that needed to set a better example by seeking frugality, not grandeur, in its public works. Since none of the signature bridge plans was affordable, it's a good thing, on balance, that none will be built.
Ah, but if only we'd built that twin span. Instead of heaping blame on community leaders over a signature bridge no one can afford, let's heap the blame higher on the handful of aesthetes, most of them with no community leadership credentials whatsoever, who killed the twin span. They're the true villains.
Health care industry needs serious overhaul
The solution to the health crisis in this country is multifaceted: The health care industry cannot continue to be embedded in the decision-making process for a nationwide health care plan.
From a lay person's point of view, among the most egregious issues is the "overhead" of health insurance companies, the multitude of corporate officers with their excessive salaries. Also, their complex formulae for deciding if and when to pay for medical procedures, at times making the health care professional and the insured go through hoops to prove their case.
Another issue is the pharmaceutical companies. There is the cost of drugs to maintain the exorbitant salaries, bonuses and stock options for their upper echelon management. And then there is this cockamamy "doughnut hole" for Medicare recipients.
Another facet of the health care system is large conglomerates of health care facilities. These health care systems pay their administrators overly generously, especially as most are supposedly non-profit. While at the other end of the salary scale in the health care field are those employees who work most directly with the patients. These are among society's working poor; their salaries are so abominably low.
Physicians need to do unnecessary tests and carry excessive malpractice insurance in our overly litigious society, also adding excessive cost to the health care system.
These criticisms of our health care system do not let us off the hook. We, also, have an obligation to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which also helps keep health care costs under control.
Progress in Buffalo is excruciatingly slow
Only in Buffalo could we become excited about a hot dog stand and some lawn chairs. But we had great news coverage and the politicians were out in force. Alas, things in Buffalo are about the same. Let's hope the next generation has the wherewithal to make Buffalo the city it once was great.