Occupiers' message is abundantly clear
The protesters' movement in downtown Buffalo is impressive and meaningful. In the beginning, there were only three people -- one of them held a sign that explained why they were loitering in Niagara Square in the middle of the day. It was a large piece of cardboard with prominent but haphazardly scribbled words in red marker that read, "Occupy Buffalo."
Three weeks later, they no longer need a sign. Their numbers steadily grew, and with it, their legitimacy. Sturdy camping tents now line the southeast side of the square. One tent, larger than the rest, looks like it belongs behind the 18th green at a local country club.
The grass in the square is now muddied with their footprints. Signs destroyed by wind and rain are quickly replaced. I heard them marching through the streets on a recent afternoon. They carried an American flag. People honk and wave when they drive by or as they are stopped at a red light at Niagara and Court streets. In some respects, the scene resembles a tailgate for a downtown Bills game.
As a whole, the occupiers' stated goals are vague, opaque and divergent. Some might say that whatever it is they want is probably just as likely to happen as that downtown stadium. But that shouldn't matter because their message is abundantly clear to anyone who cares to listen: They are unemployed and under-employed; they are in debt; their prospects seem bleak; they feel slighted and left out; and they have nowhere else to turn. For those reasons they occupy a place in my heart, and I hope yours, too.
Why not protest salaries of pro athletes, actors?
Why should the protesters vent their wrath only on Wall Street? If the issue is contrast between the affluent 1 percent and the needy hoi polloi, why not set up camp outside of sports arenas and movie houses to object to the huge incomes earned by professional athletes and movie stars?
Then again, why couldn't a rumpus be raised about the disparity between the incomes earned by doctors and lawyers as compared with their patients and clients?
Are these protests a harbinger of creeping socialism? Maybe we should divide the total gross domestic product of the United States by the number of workers of all kinds and distribute it accordingly.
Lucian C. Parlato
Movement seeks change in a peaceful manner
I have been part of the Occupy Buffalo movement since Oct. 17. One of the features that fascinates me is the cordial relationship we enjoy with the Police and Fire Departments, Erie County Sheriff's Office, the media and City Hall, in contrast to the constant clashes reported in Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta or even nearby Rochester. We are a peaceful movement, seeking to alter people's perceptions and illusions about the broken American Dream, alert them to the fact that the 99 percent of us pay taxes whereas the very rich (known as the 1 percenters) squirrel their money away into tax shelters.
Occupy Buffalo also seeks to abolish corporate personhood, raise the minimum wage, raise the tax rate on those making more than $1 million and ultimately pass a constitutional amendment banning corporate and union donations to political parties or candidates. We are all about grass-roots democracy. Each individual has an equal voice and vote at our daily general assembly meetings, and we'd like to see a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.
We are not about anarchy. To the contrary, we are a drug- and alcohol-free zone, and anyone caught doing illegal acts is immediately removed. While we may be referred to as the "neo-hippies," we enjoy a close cooperation with the police, who trust us to monitor ourselves.
Occupy Buffalo objects to any use of violence, being comprised mainly of pacifist and idealistic young people. I truly believe that other cities can take a page from us on how to conduct themselves in a peaceful, effective manner while at the same time collaborating with the establishment to effect a change from within.
Group in Niagara Square represents real people
My compliments to Mayor Byron Brown for his appropriate response to the Occupy movement camped out in Niagara Square. They are real people with real power, representing the 99 percent peacefully protesting corporate greed and other injustices.
Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, received $36.4 million in compensation for one year. Come on! Yes, she is talented and very intelligent, but $36 million for one year? It's vulgar, lacking decency. Why not $13 million or $7 million? How many pairs of designer Italian shoes does a woman need? What good is Bernard Madoff's Belgian loafer collection doing him as a lifer in federal prison, where he is hopefully required to wear some sort of ugly, cheap footwear?
I am disappointed and sometimes horrified as other cities throughout our country evict the protesters from their public squares. When the Occupy Buffalo movement leaves Niagara Square two months from now or two years from now and the damage amounts to a muddy lawn, we can plant new grass. Power to the people!
Paine predicted reaction to accumulation of wealth
Those of the Occupy Wall Street movement point to the excessive accumulation of wealth among the 1 percent, the growing inequality among the population, the increasing desperation of the middle and lower classes and their growing anger.
Thomas Paine, a founding father, predicted this reaction more than 200 years ago: "When wealth and splendour, instead of fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; when, instead of drawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult upon wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance it makes, serves to call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security."
Paine's message to the 1 percent is that the accumulation of wealth can only be justified and the general anger of society mitigated when it is accumulated in a way that all society prospers or, as Paine stated, "also serves to benefit the general population." Paine points out that the accumulation of wealth to a person is largely derived by living in society and they owe "on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."
Paine was the author of Common Sense, the pamphlet largely credited with stirring up the American colonies to rebellion. Perhaps he was also a prophet, one who predicted the Occupy Wall Street movement more than 200 years ago, and we ignore his warning to our detriment.
Modern cars require less muscle power
My best friend served with the 299th Combat Engineer Corps during their assault on Omaha Beach at 6:33 a.m. on June 6, 1944. After his discharge, he went to work for General Motors, building cars. He's been driving for as long as I've been alive (63 years) and has never had an accident, so when he offers an opinion on the new regional trend of crashing cars into buildings, I'm inclined to listen.
He wonders if people even know that front-wheel-drive cars require less muscle power to steer and accelerate, or that modern gas pedals are so much more responsive that a gentle touch actually enhances control.
He says also that he uses both feet to drive -- right foot for gas and left foot to brake. I don't know that I agree with his foot technique, but between the two of us, he's never had an accident.
Teens are involved in many crashes, too
In reply to the Oct. 21 letter, "Rash of crashes highlights need for harsher punishment," the writer forgot to mention one group. These are the ones in their late teens or early 20s who don't care what the speed limit is -- they are speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes missing cars by inches. I agree with the writer that punishment should be greater for drunken drivers. That's for sure. But we should include irresponsible teenage drivers in this group. Look back and see how many accidents they have caused (with deaths).
Stop resisting change, embrace food trucks
Once again Western New Yorkers are exercising our stalwart protection of the status quo. While other cities have consolidated school districts and merged into metro governments, we resist any challenge to the way we've always done things. The latest to resist change are the downtown restaurants that want to eliminate the competition of upstart food trucks. No doubt the trucks are a serious challenge in an already very competitive climate. Even the tea party small government hero, Carl Paladino, wants government rules and regulations to control these small entrepreneurs.
Anyone who has traveled beyond our borders knows that food trucks have long co-existed with established restaurants on the streets of New York City and many smaller cities. They provide city workers an outdoor lunchtime break from the workplace, as well as new and ethnic food choices.
In Missoula, Mont., for example, downtown restaurants operate their own food trucks. During the summer, the city sponsors Out to Lunch, a Wednesday noontime opportunity for people to get outside. Their riverside park, comparable to our Erie Canal Harbor, has a permanent canopy over a sea of picnic tables surrounded by food trucks on Wednesdays. One has a choice of tacos, pulled pork, Thai noodles, pizza and other enticing offerings. Even making new acquaintances at a picnic table enhances the quality of life for downtown workers. Various local bands have an appreciative audience and provide a festive atmosphere.
The restaurateurs in Missoula, and in a myriad of other creative American cities, have taken on the challenge of food trucks by also showing up wherever people gather. Isn't that in the spirit of meeting the competition?
Janet M. Goodsell
America must repeal Affordable Care Act
A recent letter about health care had the facts misconstrued. The health care bill signed by President Obama did not repeal the federal laws restricting insurance carriers from competing over state lines. That was a Republican version that was not included in the bill. We need to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Seventy percent of America said no to that bill for good reason.