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Senate's dual leadership? is cause for skepticism

I enjoyed The News' interesting comparison of the New York State Senate's pending experiment in shared governance to Caesar and Bibulus' disastrous co-consul arrangement in the Roman Senate in 59 B.C. However, as Tom Precious points out, the two were sworn enemies from the start; Bibulus was put in place specifically to thwart Caesar's consolidation of power. A more apt historical analogy might be the alliance between Alcibiades and Nicia in Athens around 420 B.C. Then, as in our Senate now, the two publicly declared common cause to positive aims, but their alliance was based not on shared perception of the public good but rather on constantly shifting, temporary alliances calculated to maintain the perquisites of power.

This arrangement ended rather badly for Athens. Athenians weary from the Peloponnesian War were dragged into protracted foreign conflict, wars doomed by betrayals and defections as the Athenian Assembly's quicksand of churning, amoral coalitions expanded to include former enemies Sparta and Persia. In the end, Athens suffered the demise of democracy and the Spartan-imposed rule of the Thirty Tyrants. Indeed, as the Athenians lost faith in their ability to govern themselves, fear and suspicion condemned Alcibiades' friend Socrates to a death sentence, thus bringing low the father of Western philosophy.

So I remain skeptical of the Skelos-Klein arrangement. As Mark Twain said, history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Frank Housh

Buffalo

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Obama should forgo ?expensive vacation

Merry Christmas. President Obama is going to Hawaii for 20 days. This vacation will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $4 million. Even with the fiscal cliff problem, Obama feels he is entitled. Why? He is a 2 percenter. The president should not spend the $4 million on his vacation for another reason. There are people affected by Hurricane Sandy who still do not have power or a place to live.

The president should practice what he preaches fairness. He should direct the government to forward $4 million to the people in New York who have serious problems and forgo his trip. He is not a king. He is the president and he should act like one.

John Orlowski

Amherst

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Media are in lockstep? with Obama's ideology

In communist countries, the government tells the media what to say and when to say it. Unfortunately, in our country, it is not much different. Approximately 95 percent of the media outlets are liberal in their ideology. This has developed into a scenario where the White House puts out talking points, marching orders, and the media keep pounding the drums of these messages. Let me give you two examples.

President Obama gave an executive order that said church-run businesses must provide free contraception to their employees. The whole narrative around this issue should have been that the president was overstepping his boundaries, i.e., First Amendment, and telling the Catholic Church in particular to do something that was against its doctrine. This was not the narrative portrayed by the media. When the Republicans spoke up against this, the new narrative became that Republicans are against women. As crazy as that sounds, it worked. People believed it.

Second, this fiscal cliff mess. The narrative should be how the federal government spends too much money. The annual budget is close to $4 trillion, yet it takes in around $3 trillion. Clearly, the issue is that there is too much spending. If a man makes $2 million a year and spends $3 million, people would conclude accurately that he has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. The exact same is true with the federal government. But because the media are in lockstep with the president's wishes, we keep hearing the drumbeat that we have to tax the rich more, which by the way will do almost nothing to fix our deficit.

Martin Dziwulski

Williamsville

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McCain's attack on Rice? sounds like sour grapes

Sen. John McCain does not think U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is qualified to be the next secretary of state. On Thursday, she withdrew her name from consideration. McCain's assumption is primarily based on faulty CIA talking points Rice used on Sunday morning TV talk shows regarding the attack on our consulate in Libya.

The CIA does make serious mistakes. Remember Colin Powell making a speech at the United Nations using CIA information that emphatically said that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to world peace? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice often repeated these same claims. This false information was used to launch the invasion of Iraq; an unnecessary and costly war. They were not viciously accused of wrongdoing; the blame was rightly put on the CIA. Why is Susan Rice being treated so differently by Republicans this time for such a minor offense compared to the above? Could it be politics?

Yes, this is the same astute McCain who picked Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Based on his judgment, Palin possessed the unique qualifications to replace him as president if he was elected and an emergency arose. We found this not to be true. No wonder he lost the election. Based on McCain's performance in the Senate helping Obama overcome the problems facing our country, I think he is still suffering from being a "sore loser."

Jack Peracciny

Middleport

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Taxes provide us? with vital services

A recent letter argued the morality of taxation in America. There isn't a single individual on the continent who looks forward to paying taxes income tax, school tax, county tax, sales tax they all leave us with a rather bitter taste. But to argue that taxes are immoral is not only misguided but irresponsible.

We often hear that freedom is not "free." Our military troops understand this as they lay their lives on the line every day to ensure that we continue to enjoy all that America has to offer. The daily and seasonal services that we depend on; the educational opportunities offered to our children; the security services that save lives and property; the local, state and federal leadership that is there during times of crisis; the life line that a 911 emergency call can provide; the special assistance that can be offered to a family desperately in need; the list could go on and on.

Can you imagine if we made paying taxes optional? As sweet as this may sound, it is obvious that we as a nation would simply crumble. The point is that none of this is self-supporting. It is our tax money that provides the financial strength for all of our services to even exist. The freedoms and services that we enjoy on a daily basis are all our collective responsibility, both financially and ethically. Our input also requires action to ensure that the funds we pay in taxes are used appropriately and with fairness. There is no "inherent immorality" to taxes. We must always remember: Freedom is not free.

Tom Hoolihan

Getzville