Robinson was right about shortcomings of drones

Thanks to The News for printing Eugene Robinson's excellent column about drones. While drones may seem like a good idea, we have already seen what a disaster they are, with civilians being some 90 percent of those killed (in Pakistan, per the Brookings Institute). What do we expect from something that works like a video game? Indeed, with the drones being used in "discrete military operations" (without any declaration of war) the endless war against terror could be waged anywhere and at any time.

Not only will we suffer the rise in retaliatory violence from the families and friends of innocents killed, and/or attacks from others using the same technology, but if targeted killing based on the "best intelligence" available at the time becomes commonplace and accepted, the drones in use at our borders will migrate to our police departments. (They have already been requested in Los Angeles.) The idea of having a trial will become "quaint," as Alberto Gonzales, President George W. Bush's attorney general, famously called the Geneva Conventions.

While there has not been much discussion in the mainstream media, some people are very concerned. That includes 38 of us who were arrested on April 22 in a protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, one of the three main drone bases in the United States. Please examine this vital issue and share your opinion with our legislators. Sen. Charles Schumer in particular is trying to increase drone operations at Hancock.

The use of drones casts a terrible shadow over our future and that of our children, here and everywhere.

Victoria Ross

Interfaith Peace Network



Legislators should lose some of their own perks

Once again, the State Legislature is exempt from any type of accountability. As the CSEA is asked to accept pay cuts and furlough days, even though its employees showed up and performed their jobs every day, the legislators who are responsible for increasing spending with decreasing revenues have off holidays, weekends and summers and receive per-diem pay for days they don't even work. They have given up nothing! They haven't been asked to cut staffing, take a pay cut or make any type of financial concessions. Why? Do they not think of themselves as state employees?

The one union that is stronger than any other is called the Legislature. But when you put the fox in charge of the henhouse, eventually the fox will starve when the hens are all gone. Look at New York's population. The fox should start to worry. Before legislators blame the unions for the problems they created, they should take a look in the mirror. I'm sure they won't like what they see.

Michael L. Kaempf



Column misconstrues politics and economics

In her criticism of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt's appointment to the Empire State Development Corp., Denise Jewell Gee writes as though politics and economic development are totally disconnected. After some three decades in the business around the United States and the world, including eight years as executive director of Buffalo Place, I cannot tell where one stops and the other starts.

One of the problems, for example, with the 20 or so years of Peace Bridge expansion planning is that the planners and engineers have provided technical solutions that failed to address the politics, while the politicians provided solutions that failed to adequately address logistics and budget. Contrast the Peace Bridge with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, launched by Mayor Anthony Masiello, who got the ball rolling in a way that economic developers and politicians would be pretty much on the same page.

Good economic development is a mix of good planning and good politics. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo can show the same leadership skills in economic development that he exhibited in the recent fight for marriage equality, and if Sam Hoyt can bring his 19-plus years of political knowledge to the same table as the planners, engineers and financiers, then maybe the Western New York economy can begin to get rolling again.

Richard T. Reinhard

Deputy Executive Director, Downtown Business Improvement District

Washington, D.C.


Don't blame sport bikes in recent fatal accidents

I'm 59 years old and I own a sport bike. While it is true these machines are extremely fast, you can't blame the machine. Most of the riders are kids under 21. Didn't the parents do any research on the performance of these bikes? Or maybe they thought their child would use some restraint.

I know my limitations, I wear the proper safety gear and I never put anyone on the back. In my opinion, these bikes shouldn't even have a place for a passenger. A lot of the rider's weight is on his hands, and the passenger's weight is on him. So to them I say, ride alone.

I have never had my front wheel off the ground and never will. I have, though, had the bike up to 135 mph. These are race bikes with the best technology in the world. Add to the fact that I stand to hurt no one but myself, and it is my choice to make. I would much rather be surrounded with other sport bikes than someone drunken out of his mind, smoking and texting.

When I worked as a truck driver, I had someone on the Thruway on a slushy March rush hour morning pass me eating a bowl of cereal. So don't even try to tell me how safe car drivers are.

Mark Schifferle



Turner has it right on debt consequences

Douglas Turner's July 4 column, "Ideologues are pushing us toward the cliff," is on the money. The Grand Old (Tea) Parties are playing a potentially catastrophic game of brinkmanship. If the debt ceiling is not raised, disasters will occur. For the first time in history, the United States will default on its bonds and our credit will be worthless. Social Security checks will cease for lack of money. Same with veterans' benefits. Inflation will skyrocket. Gasoline could double or triple in price. Shortages of all kinds will abound.

Democrats have agreed to spending cuts, but Republicans have agreed to give up nothing. The problem could go away if the GOP agreed to tax increases for the very rich, but no, they're willing to risk Armageddon to defend the millionaires and billionaires who've never had it so good.

The Republicans have stopped being a "normal party," according to conservative columnist David Brooks. He writes: "The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it."

These people are crazy. Somehow, we need to restore sanity in Congress.

Bob Catalano