Kaleida and ECMC

May 28, 2008

Yesterday’s Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Board of Directors addressed one of the more recent issues becoming yet another wart on the face of Buffalo: The Berger Commission’s mandate to merge Kaleida Health and ECMC into a single entity. The board voted – unanimously, with a few abstentions – to request that the New York State Health Commissioner and State Legislature do whatever is within their authority to implement the Berger Commission plans by the June 30th, 2008 deadline. That would include that a joint commission comprising Kaleida, ECMC and independent officials (currently called Newco) to take management reins, and that the ECMC Public Benefit Corporation be dissolved.

As of today, ECMC has not come back to the table to discuss merger plans. The June 30th date is important because prior to that date there is both state and federal money available to assist in the consolidation effort. After June 30th, all legislative bets are off, and Buffalo may be forced to go it alone.

The request to the BNP Board was spearheaded by Independent Health (Michael Cropp), Health Now (Alphonso O’Neil-White) and Univera (Mary Lee Campbell-Wisley). Their request was more of a plea to demonstrate leadership and a unified front at a time when health care costs are skyrocketing. Their belief was that consolidation and build up of the downtown medical campus establishes the critical mass needed to provide quality care at lower cost. The discussion at the BNP was rather prolonged but eventually the Board decided to back the three HMOs. Expect a full-page spread in an upcoming Buffalo News in the form of a letter to the Health Commissioner.

I found it unfortunate that what was voted on was essentially a request to persons outside of Western New York to make a decision that, as a community, we could not make ourselves.


Sharing the Road

May 25, 2008

Bicycle HelmetToday, on a gorgeous Memorial Sunday, my wife and I had the all-American dinner – hot dogs – at Ted’s, an iconic institution here in Buffalo.  Neither of us are fond of hot dogs anymore, but we figured once a year is okay.

On the drive home we passed 9 cyclists.

Not one was wearing a helmet.

There is no excuse for children or adults not to be wearing a helmet, what with today’s aerodynamic and comfortable designs.  In that unlucky instance where the cyclist hits the ground hard, the helmet cracks like an egg and absorbs the shock.  Without the helmet your skull does the cracking.

Kids:  What are you thinking? The last thing you need going through your mind is asphalt.


Patio Homes

May 24, 2008

Today’s Front Page article in the Buffalo News has Amherst Deputy Supervisor Shelly Schratz bemoaning the tax breaks that Amherst patio home owners receive relative to single-family homeowners.  The accompanying photographs show two virtually identical-looking houses:  The $200,000 single-family unit with taxes of $5,440 and the $295,000 patio home unit with taxes of $3,330.

“Half a million dollars”, she said, shaking her head in disgust.  People in this subdivision pay a premium to live in these “patio homes”, she said, yet they pay only about half the property tax of single-family homeowners down the street.

That’s wrong, she said, and the law shouldn’t allow it.

Damn right.  And Schratz should be voted out of office for saying it.

Not once does the article even hint that perhaps, just perhaps, tax burdens on Amherst and other towns might be a little too much for the average homeowner, and that perhaps the town should be looking seriously at ways to cut taxes so that everyone enjoys a tax burden as low as the patio home owners?  That a member of the town council looks at patio home owners as cheaters of the system just floors me.

Small wonder why we tend to have little respect for politicians.


Flight of the Phoenix

May 23, 2008

Phoenix LanderBy now most people who browse the Internet or catch any national news knows that the Phoenix mission will attempt an autonomous landing on Mars this coming Sunday. We will observe the lander setting down, either in one or many pieces, at 7:53 PM EDT.

Most people won’t care.

Some will decry the millions spent on the mission to dig into Mars’ surface looking for ice, money which could have been spent feeding the hungry or building new roads here on Earth. Others can’t wait for the science that will potentially be revealed by this spacecraft and other spacecraft that will follow in subsequent years.

I, for one, am ambivalent about most of the science but look forward to the ramifications should the mission discover abundant ice as well as key elements needed to sustain life. For if life – even fossilized life – is found a few feet below Mars’ surface, the whole idea of life originating on Earth (or perhaps, to God creating life on Earth) gets thrown into question.

If life exists – or existed – on both Earth and Mars, there are only three possible explanations: They sprang up independent of each other (or as part of a directed Panspermia); some kind of impact on Mars sent biological material into space and eventually to Earth; or some kind of impact on Earth sent biological material into space and eventually to Mars.

Celestial dynamics, gravity and atmospheric pressure dictate that the latter possibility much less likely than the Mars-to-Earth origin of life; so if we eventually get a spacecraft actually landed on the Red Planet that can analyze subsurface material for DNA, we might just determine with pretty reasonable assurance that the Martians were here first.

In the grand scheme of things I’m just curious as to how religious scholars, fundamentalists and secular intellectuals will deal with that.


The Pregnant Man

May 21, 2008

Pregnant Man

This is weird. History will not look kindly on us for ever calling this person a man.


Talking to Inmates

May 18, 2008

Behind BarsThis entry is about social justice.

Most of us adults are not as emotionally extreme as we were, say, as teenagers. I know this is not always true, but for the vast majority of us our emotional swings don’t stray off the center line nearly as much as they did when our hormones were raging, when our wisdom was limited and before we put more years under our feet.

People change with time. Last Friday I had to face that reality like never before when I sat with a cold-blooded killer, behind bars for the past 25 years, telling me that after doing his time he’s ready to rejoin society as a changed individual. Only if the New York State Parole Board has its way, his sentence will be “adjusted” so that he never gets out. It’s one of the ways that New York wants to show how tough it is on crime. It’s also sort of like the Parole Board playing the role of judge – passing sentence – and on those grounds it’s being contested in federal court.

There is no doubt that CBK should have gotten a long sentence for his crime. And our society seems willing to go to great lengths to prevent another Willie Horton from occurring, even if it means locking up all violent felons and throwing away the key, without giving merit to whether or not they change with time.

The problem is that most violent crime is not premeditated. It is a crime of rage, of emotional extreme. Now that CBK has spent half his life in jail and has had plenty of time to re-think his life – to come down off the emotional extremes where he lived as a young adult – the people he has worked with the past decade probably agree that he is neither a danger to himself nor to others. Yet he may never get the chance to have a second chance, something his victim’s relatives may wholly agree with but nevertheless makes two victims out of one crime.

Contrast this with the pedophile sex offender, whose crime is an addiction to a socially unacceptable form of sex. I would consider this individual much more likely to fall back on his addiction should he be released back into society. Under New York State law the pedophile will re-enter society after doing his time. The quiet, gray-haired guy who killed someone in his youth and spent an entire generation trying to make amends for it may never get the opportunity.

I’m not convinced that this is equitable justice. Cephus, Bissonette House and other social justice centers would probably agree.


Mom Will Never Again Go to Florida

May 16, 2008

PythonIt’s bad enough that Florida has suffered from fire ants, giant snails, two-inch cockroaches, cane toads and africanized honey bees.

Now it has to deal with pythons.  You know, really big snakes.

These are Burmese Pythons – which can grow to over 20 feet long and weigh 2oo pounds – released into the wild by owners no longer interested in keeping them.  It is estimated that their population in the Everglades is now around 30,000.  They are efficient swimmers and tagged snakes have been shown to swim over 30 miles in 3 hours.

My mom hates snakes.  As kids we had to stomp around to make sure that any garter snakes were scared away, before she would go work in the garden.

She’ll never set foot in Florida again.