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MORE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM: If you thought the presidential race was nasty, be thankful you weren't in Oklahoma. The winner for the U.S. Senate seat there, Republican Tom Coburn, categorized the choice between himself and Democrat Brad Carson as a choice between "good and evil." Perhaps thinking the race wasn't ugly enough, James Dobson, who helped mobilize the vote for President Bush as head of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family, went to Oklahoma to campaign for Coburn, who made "rampant lesbianism" in Oklahoma schools a campaign issue.

Dobson said a vote for Carson would be a vote for, among others, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As quoted by the Daily Oklahoman, Dobson said, "Patrick Leahy is a God's people hater. I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people."

We're not sure what that says about the good people of Vermont, and we're afraid to ask.

WITH PARTNERS LIKE THIS . . .: Responding to the draconian budget cuts in County Executive Joel Giambra's budget -- at least the one with no sales tax increase -- Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz had this helpful suggestion: "What we need are partners, not finger-pointing and slash-and-burn budgets."

We're not real crazy about the slash-and-burn budget proposal, either, although nobody with a detectable pulse actually thinks that will be enacted. As for the other two items, we would have this observation and question: Nobody ever deserved to have a finger pointed at them more than our state legislators, and exactly what kind of partnership does Tokasz have in mind?

The State Legislature, after all, is the "partner" that refuses to reform a program that, for all its good works, is largely responsible for causing 54 of 57 counties to raise property tax levies an average of 11 percent this year. And now that the program is threatening to become the monster that ate Erie County, taxpayers here are looking at a double-digit increase in property taxes or a higher sales tax or a combination of the two.

Thanks, partner.

WHERE DO WE START?: The Associated Press moved an interesting story this week about a movement among medical educators and some hospitals to encourage doctors to apologize for mistakes. Sounds OK to us, but why stop with doctors? What about National Hockey League players and owners for failing to save the season, or State Sen. Dale Volker for refusing to fight for a job-saving power bill for Western New York or Mike Myers for "The Cat in the Hat." There are a lot of sorry situations out there.

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