Monday, September 30, 2013

Vote "No" on Casinos

Our governor is loudly touting the power of casinos to strengthen the upstate economy, and it looks as though the language on the ballot initiative in November will be enough to talk voters into marking a big YES—those who notice the initiative at all. But I'm with Paul Davies on this one: Gambling is a lousy way to stimulate anything other than addiction and crime. I don't even like the state lottery—hell, I think we might as well use drug deals or prostitution as a means of funding our schools. Do casinos bring in business? Not enough to make them worthwhile; most gamblers live within 75 miles of the casino in which they gamble. And gambling, whether off-track, lotto, or casino, is indeed a regressive tax on the poor and stupidly hopeful. I'll never forget going to Atlantic City for a convention, some years before Trump took over the boardwalk, and meeting someone who told me that the Salvation Army there had gone belly up, because it lost so much money buying people bus tickets to get home after they lost all that they had. I'm voting a big NO WAY on this one.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Required Reading

Politico looks at the mounting campaigns pro and con the Common Core State Standards. It doesn't take a standardized test to assess that many Americans are dimwitted.
But the opposition is also fertile ground for wild rumors: That the Common Core bans the teaching of cursive so future generations won’t be able to read the Declaration of Independence; that the standards require schools to monitor kids through iris scans or biometric bracelets; that teachers will be forced to introduce pornography under the guise of reading instruction.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To Merge or Not to Merge

Two interesting merger votes will happen today. In the one that most directly involves us, Spencer-Van Etten (already a merged district) and Candor will hear the results of the report they commissioned and will vote on whether to pass this on to the public for a straw vote. Meanwhile, in Romulus and South Seneca, the straw vote happens today. If both mergers go through, TST BOCES ends up with something like a wash—they lose South Seneca but gain SVE.

The state has virtually guaranteed that a merger is impossible by insisting that each district have a majority vote for merging rather than requiring a plurality of yes votes over both districts. There's always a loser in these mergers; either one district ends up paying more in taxes than before, or one district loses a building, or in the SVE case, they lose their current BOCES, etc. So I'm not holding my breath, although Romulus/South Seneca looks like a surprisingly good bet.

LATER: It was close in Romulus, but it passed both districts. South Seneca: 473-86, Romulus: 268-242. I guess we know which district expects to lose out. Now it moves to the referendum later this fall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a Gas

What makes one kind of weapon worse than another? We can't really ask the folks who die, "Would you rather have been shot through the head?" Is having your limbs blown off and dying slowly in agony really better than inhaling toxic gas and dying slowly in agony?

Why is gassing Syrians in 2013 worse than gassing Iranians in 1983? Is gassing Kurds worse when Iraq does it in the 1980s than when Britain does it in the 1920s? Why do we hear so much about the Germans' use of chlorine and mustard gas in World War I and so little about the American and British use of phosgene in World War I? The Japanese gassed the Chinese during the Sino-Japanese War. Hafez Assad gassed Syrians in the 1980s, with the Reagan administration's wink and nod—better a Westernized dictator than those Muslim Brotherhood boys. What is it about gas—some gas—that makes us so queasy?

The Germans gassed Jews and Gypsies, the Croatians gassed Serbs. We killed our own prisoners with gas from the 1920s to the 1990s. Wikipedia suggests that the excessive twitching and drooling of the decedent makes the whole thing particularly icky for the viewers. I guess in comparison, electrocution is kind of pleasant, and the firing squad is a day at the park.

Perhaps our red line should have to do with the action and not the methodology. Just a thought.