"... Oh, I don't remember. Now there's Secret Service protection. But I've done it for many, many years. I don't recall and frankly, I don't see how it matters." - John McCain answering the question, "When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?"
Good Monday Morning,
The Big News Story this Monday morning is that according to news reports we're apparently at some level of war with Iran and have been so for some time. Though it is unlikely US troops are on Iranian soil, the CIA has been running covert operations to weaken Iran's physical infrastructure and undermine its political system. But this time we've really stepped in the manure. Iran is not Iraq and unless the administration pulls a quick reversal we will likely see the entirety of the Middle East in flames and that is not - regardless of what Armageddon-wishing Christians and the State Department may believe - a good thing. It's just bad. Really bad. Not bad like missing the Lotto by one number bad. But bad like root canal without painkillers bad.
The Feds have put a freeze on new solar energy ventures that are placed on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. These are the millions of acres we collectively own, mostly in the southwest, where the sun strikes the planet in just the right way to produce copious amounts of free solar energy. The problem, says the government, is that the environment may be damaged by solar power's infrastructure needs and two years - at a minimum - are required for additional study before new applications for solar powered plants can proceed.
But it's the BLM land thing that is really the corker here. These are the lands which Congress leases to cattle ranchers with few environmental restrictions and on which ranchers place more cattle than the land can safely feed thus stripping away vegetation, destroying sensitive eco-systems, compacting the soil and polluting vital water resources.
Yet, according to the government, putting solar panels on BLM lands requires two years of additional study.
Just a few months ago Congress awarded oil industries, already raking in monumental profits, billions in corporate welfare handouts then slashed tax credits for the alternative energy industry making it difficult to find venture capitalists willing to invest in these startups. Then the government pulls the plug on siting these new, clean, renewable energy plants on BLM lands.
What's really happening is this:
The oil and gas industries are doing everything they can to hold off new, alternative energies (read: competition) and they and Congress are willing to place the nation into an irreparable energy situation to maintain their profits. What happens to the economy if Iran closes the Straits of Hormuz in retaliation for our meddling in her affairs and we have nothing to fall back on and nothing in the pipeline? Does this policy encourage US energy independence or does it smack of profiteering?
Luckily for us, our current Congressman has not been bought and sold by the oil and gas lobbies nor the corporate farm lobby. But for others in this nation and for the nation as a whole, the picture painted here is not a pretty one and short of some sort of meaningful citizen rebellion I really don't see how this will change and electing more Democrats to Congress (as was done in 2006) has not solved the problem.
Looking closer to home, County Executive Bondi is schedule to make some sort of decision on the Domestic Partner Registry bill that is currently awaiting his signature or veto. There's a tiny rumble out there that he may decide to hold a second public hearing. But what was remarkable about the first was that once the call to arms was placed, people took the time off from their lives seeing the importance of the issue. And though the County Executive specifically invited those he thought would speak against it, by the time we were done organizing we had a packed room with every seat occupied with people standing in the rear and spoke in favor of this legislation 4-1.
It is true that legislative bodies should not hold public hearings during the day when the public-at-large cannot easily attend and I look forward to Mr. Bondi changing the time of future public hearings. But calling a second hearing on this issue would do naught but delay implementation of the Registry and there's no good that can come of that. Not for Mr. Bondi, not for those who stand against civil rights and not for Putnam County at large. We need to be facing the future as a united county not as one divided over an issue like this and especially not one divided by political gamesmanship.
Mr. Bondi needs to sign the bill and bring us all one step closer to equality. Please put together a short note and send it by fax (if someone has the County Executive's email address please send it along!) to his office at (845) 225-0294 or call the office at (845) 225-641 x200 and let them know that you support the Registry and urge him to sign it into law today.
Finally this morning, Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter, both exemplars of moral sexual (mis)behavior, have co-sponsored a proposed amendment to the Constitution which would ban same-sex marriages. It does not, as far as I can tell, ban soliciting gay sex in public mens rooms nor of visiting prostitutes. All in all, it's business as usual in Washington, DC. And that's the News That Matters.
A lawyer has sent a letter to Assemblyman Greg Ball demanding that Ball reprint and republish a political mailer and advertisement that features a photograph of his client wrongly captioned as John Degnan, Ball's Republican opponent.
The photograph actually shows Peter Hansen of Patterson, who is the Brewster village clerk and a frequent critic of Ball's. The letter, written by attorney Christopher Maher of Carmel, was sent out last week to the assemblyman.
Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects
By DAN FROSCH
DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.
The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The summer season along Connecticut's shoreline and lakes is being marred by beach closings due to bacteria and contaminants.
Many swimming areas, coastal and inland, are well-groomed and well-managed. But on any given summer day, dozens of swimming spots are one good rainfall away from being shut.
The problem is that storm water runoff carries into the water feces from wild animals or pets and contaminants from highways, subdivisions, malls and farms.
Over the last decade, swimmers have lost at least 3,000 days to bacteria-related closings, based on a review by The Hartford Courant of 10 years of closure data for Long Island Sound beaches and state parks, and four years of records for lakes and ponds.
At the Connecticut shore's 144 beaches that report testing data to the state, 65 closed for one or more days in 2007.
You could have taken a nostalgic drive through the past on Thursday night, through the dreamy green landscape at the outer edges of the Catskills, past sleepy fishing towns like Roscoe and Downsville, to the lovingly restored Walton Theater, built in 1914 for vaudeville acts, honored guests like Theodore Roosevelt and community events of all shapes and sizes.
And, if you got there, you would have received a distinctly less dreamy glimpse of the future. You would have heard an overheated mix of fear and greed, caution and paranoia, of million-dollar gas leases that could enrich struggling farmers, of polluted wells, pastures turned to industrial sites and ozone pollution at urban levels. You would have heard anguished landowners from Wyoming and Colorado, facing issues now improbably appropriate to the Catskills, present their cautionary view of an environment dominated by huge energy companies where some will get rich while their neighbors might just see a hundredfold increase in truck traffic without much else to show for it.
Such gatherings are being repeated throughout a swath of upstate New York, from Walton to Liberty to New Berlin, as thousands of landowners, many of whom have already signed leases with landmen fanning out across the state, contemplate a new era of gas production now hovering almost inevitably over New York’s horizon.
Sweeping federal probe found violations at 71 of state's construction sites
By STACY SHELTON The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 06/12/08 Four of the nation's largest homebuilders agreed Wednesday to pay $4.3 million in fines for allegedly polluting streams and lakes with dirt from their construction sites carried in stormwater runoff.
Seventy-one of the sites were in Georgia. Muddy runoff is among the biggest threats to the state's rivers and lakes. It also harms wildlife and vegetation dependent on those waterways, including fish and river otters.
The consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., and jointly announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, ended a sweeping, six-year federal investigation of hundreds of subdivision construction sites in Georgia and 33 other states.
The School Bus May Not Come for Your Kid This Year
High Oil Prices Force Cost-Cutting Nationwide
Families aren't the only ones examining their driving habits as gas prices climb. Municipal governments, police departments and school districts are also tightening their belts, as the budgets local taxpayers fill get stretched by high fuel costs, the Los Angeles Times reports today.
Expect to be hearing about the issue now, as your local governments cut back ... or later, when they ask you to increase their budgets at tax time.
In suburban school districts like Seattle's Northshore district, the Times reports, school bus routes are being cut, or children are being asked to walk farther to their bus stops so the bus has to make fewer stops and squeeze a few more miles to the gallon.
Diesel, which runs most school buses, has been at or near all-time high prices per gallon, and currently sits at an average of about $4.76 a gallon. Gasoline prices hit a new record, of nearly $4.09 a gallon, and that has some police departments eliminating patrols or even putting its beat cops in golf carts to save on fuel.
When Walt Whitman crossed the East River on the Brooklyn Ferry, the sheer ecstasy of the trip made him see the future. It was us, the coming generations of urban dwellers who would draw the same energy he did from his wonderful town and its waterways.
Whitman imagined an essence of city life that is still palpable — and intoxicating — no matter how many changes we lament. But I doubt he could have conjured one thing that we can see for the next three and a half months: the waterfalls in our midst.
Four of them, to be exact. Together they form a mammoth work of shoreline land art called “The New York City Waterfalls.” It is the brainchild of the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson working with the tireless Public Art Fund and a host of public and private organizations and donors. Between 90 and a 120 feet high and up to 80 feet across, they cascade into Whitman’s beloved East River from four dense, plumbed scaffolding structures on or just off the coasts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Governors Island, making some of New York’s most thrilling waterside vistas more so.
Sometimes Mr. Eliasson’s falls are almost miragelike, especially after dark, when unobtrusive lighting makes them shimmer white against the muffled cityscape. It is at night that you have the greatest chance of hearing them from a distance, otherwise the rush of water is drowned out by the city. But their quiet heightens their strangeness, day or night. It is as if they were in their own movie, a silent one. And in a way they are. They could almost fool King Kong into thinking he is back home. They are the remnants of a primordial Eden, beautiful, uncanny signs of a natural nonurban past that the city never had.
If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it. At least Mr. Obama, however limited his experience, has called for America to act on actionable terrorist intelligence in Pakistan if Pervez Musharraf won’t. Mr. McCain angrily disagreed with that idea. The relatively passive Pakistan policy he offers instead could well come back to haunt him if a new 9/11 is launched from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Should there be no new terrorist attack, the McCain camp’s efforts to play the old Rove 9/11 fear card may quickly become as laughable as the Giuliani presidential campaign. These days Americans are more frightened of losing their jobs, homes and savings.
But you can’t blame the McCain campaign for clinging to terrorism as a political crutch. The other Rove fear card is even more tattered. In the wake of Larry Craig and Mark Foley, it’s a double-edged sword for the G.O.P. to trot out gay blades cavorting in pride parades in homosexual-panic ads.
Some on the right still hold out hope otherwise. After the California Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, The Weekly Standard suggested that a brewing backlash could put that state’s “electoral votes in play.” But few others believe so, including the state’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has vowed to enforce the law and opposes a ballot initiative to overturn it. Even Bill O’Reilly recently chastised a family-values advocate for mounting politically ineffectual arguments against same-sex marriage.
“Frankly, I think our Planning Board has ruined Route 6 as it is. It isn’t a pretty street anymore. I’ve seen beautiful places go.” - Regina Marini
Good Friday Morning,
It's going to be a hot one today so all those nice, neighborly rules apply. Check on the elderly, make sure your outdoor pets have shade and plenty of cool water... you know the drill.
Last evening's dinner here at the Asylum consisted of a salad made entirely from the garden. Lettuce, radishes, oregano, basil and young carrots. The pasta had sauce canned from last year's tomatoes. This year's tomatoes are already fruiting and if the deer would stop eating the zucchini I'd have some of those by week's end. Hows your garden doing?
There's a Members Event at Arts on the Lake this evening at 8 but if you're not yet a member of that organization you can show up and become one on the spot - and you'll be happy you did. There's more information about all that here.
Three Putnam towns are now Lalor free. Add Putnam Valley to Carmel and Kent. Where's Philisptown, Patterson and Southeast in all this? Does anyone know? The last time I drove down Route 9 and 9D those signs were as thick as crabgrass.
Today marks Bill Gates' retirement from Microsoft. (I'll bet he'd send me to the Water Expo in Spain. Anyone got his number?) Regardless of whether he does or not, millions of techno-nerds know that that the most famous of their own got his start as the stereotypical pale, pimply faced kid in a garage and will hold a moment of silence in his honor. They won't turn their computers off, however, that would be going too far. They'll just stand in front of their screens for a moment silently cursing Vista and wishing for DOS 3.1 to make a comeback.
I remember those exciting early days of the home computer revolution and had my first BBS up back in the late 80's running on an IBM XT. A little later I had the honor of creating and publishing the very first all electronic newsletter, ModemNews. Here's a blurb about it from 1993 bearing one of the first uses of the term "E-Zine":
"There is also an E-zine called MODEMNEWS, which used to be a nicely laid out ansi magazine. It used to come as one .EXE file, which when ran, would display the entire contents of the mag in spectacular ansi graphics. The (ansi) ads in this magazine were truly fascinating...
This was back in the day when a 1 megabyte hard drive weighed the same as a small car. Back in the day when my first modem was a 300 baud unit made with spare parts duct-taped to a piece of cardboard. Based on my experience with Verizon's DSL service these past few weeks, I ought to dig that sucker up - it's faster and more reliable.
I'd also like to thank all those who wrote about yesterday's News That Matters and feel encouraged by the outpouring of support for the Domestic Partner Registry Putnam County residents have shown over the past few days - but the battle is just beginning. I don't know if there's a public comment period beyond the hearing held this past Wednesday but even if there isn't it cannot hurt to bring the case directly to Mr. Bondi's office and encourage his passage of the bill by Tuesday. Please put together a short note and send it by fax (if someone has the County Executive's email address please send it along!) to his office at (845) 225-0294.
Well, enough of all that and enjoy the weekend. Here's the news:
ON a hot and humid afternoon recently at the Mahopac Farm here, two domestic geese shared swimming space with a Canada goose in a tiny pond bordered by weeping willows worthy of an artist’s canvas.
Nearby, two goats stood on picnic tables. A family visited a small, adjoining playground and its two ponies. A statue of Lenin, more than 10 feet high and once the property of MGM, towered feet from two pigs lounging underneath a nearly six-foot-tall statue of a camel.
The sign at an entrance to this 33-acre property on Route 6 reads: “The Mahopac Farm. We Grow Smiles.” For years, that has been the case. But now the property, which once supported a playhouse, a country store, a museum and a petting zoo that still exists, is being sold for commercial development.
The proposed 300-acre project would continue the extensive changes along the Route 6 corridor, to the dismay of some residents. The developer behind the proposal is Paul Camarda, of Ridgefield, Conn., who has been building in Putnam County for two decades. Mr. Camarda is in contract to buy two last pieces, the farm and an abutting Mobil station.
Under his plan, the farm would become the site of a Whole Foods supermarket, a bookstore, a restaurant and 3,000 square feet of retail space. The other acreage would include a Target store and 300 town houses and apartments, as well as, in a village setting designed to encourage pedestrians, 150 apartments and corporate, hotel and retail/restaurant space.
Mr. Camarda said it would take 5 to 10 years to complete the development, called Union Place.
The Putnam Arts Council has scheduled its mandatory seminar dates for those who wish to apply for 2009 grants. Funding is awarded each year for projects in all art disciplines that take place in Putnam County and are open to the public. Two re-granting programs are offered each year - the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Putnam Arts Fund supported by Putnam County government.
The application deadline is Sept. 19. Pre-registration is required for the seminars: July 16, Tilly Foster Farm, 4 p.m.; July 22, Desmond Fish Library, 5:30 p.m.; and Sept. 4 at Tilly Foster Farm, 10:30 a.m. Appointments may be made if these dates don't work for applicants. Dates and times of seminars are subject to change.
RYE - Nearly a month after the city's leaf-blower ban went into effect, police are responding to at least two complaints a day for the dust-kicking, noisy garden tools.
Before the ordinance, police received only occasional calls about leaf blowers - usually when more than one was being used on a property, Rye Lt. Joseph Verille said.
"It's certainly an additional task for officers to respond to it," Verille said, noting that an officer must catch someone using the leaf blower in order to issue a summons. The Police Department is keeping a list of homeowners and landscapers who have been warned.
Municipalities, many already running unhealthy deficits, are facing a new world of cost issues in the face of increasing fuel prices. Most municipalities use fuel on the large scale, with various administrators, surveyors, building code inspectors and other city officials zipping around the city to conduct their business. As cities are looking for solutions to fuel prices, they could be thinking too small.
Mayors that met at the United States Conference of Mayors discussed the results of a survey of over a hundred municipalities, 90% of which said that they had changed operating procedures to minimize fuel expenditures. The result have been soft measures so far. Mayors have been encouraging their staff to carpool, visit sites that are near each other at the same time, encouraging staff to take public transit and turn off the lights when a room is empty. Budgets for 2008 seem to have been built on $2/gallon gas and soft measures are inadequate unless cities want to go the way of Vallejo (municipal bankruptcy).
However, today the shine is off the Studebaker. Levitt & Sons has gone bankrupt. A victim of overreach and the sub-prime mortgage crisis. What’s left of the Detroit auto industry is hemorrhaging cash as they scramble to survive in a $130 per barrel, SUV killing world. In an effort to save our vast investment in suburbia and our automotive lifestyle major auto companies and a few entrepreneurial startups are designing and beginning to promote plug-in hybrid, all electric, compressed air, and hydrogen fuel cell cars as the answer to rising gas and diesel prices.
I have to question whether we will just transition painlessly to the next generation “power train” or will this new autopia be a game of fossil fuel whack-a-mole before we have to face up to to the unsustainable reality of suburbia? In the short term the answer is a tentative maybe as we navigate the two decades between today’s emerging crisis of peak oil and tomorrow’s crisis of peak coal.
June 26, 2008 -- A five-year project has revolutionized scientific thought on the evolution of birds and the results are so surprising that now even the textbooks will have to be rewritten, a study said Thursday.
"With this study, we learned two major things," said Sushma Reddy, lead author and a fellow at The Field Museum in Chicago, Ill.
"First, appearances can be deceiving. Birds that look or act similar are not necessarily related. Second, much of bird classification and conventional wisdom on the evolutionary relationships of birds is wrong."
The results of the largest ever study of bird genetics are so widespread that the names of dozens of birds will now have to be changed, says the study to be published in Science magazine.
John Carvel, social affairs editor The Guardian, Thursday June 26, 2008
One in five lesbian and gay people have been victims of homophobic aggression over the past three years, a survey of hate crime will reveal today. Their experiences range from beatings and sexual assault to persistent harassment and insults, often from neighbours and workmates.
The charity Stonewall commissioned YouGov to carry out the first comprehensive national survey of homophobic crime, which analyses the experiences of more than 1,700 lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The poll found that 12.5% had been the victims of a homophobic crime or incident over the past year, and 20% over the past three years.
The Station That Dared to Defend Carlin’s ‘7 Words’ Looks Back
By GLENN COLLINS
As the encomiums for George Carlin have rolled in from stand-up legends, celebrities and scholars, his death at 71 has also been noted at a diminutive, iconic and iconoclastic radio station in Manhattan, WBAI-FM.
Its broadcast of the comedian’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” became a landmark moment in the history of free speech. In a 1978 milestone in the station’s contentious and unruly history, WBAI lost a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that to this day has defined the power of the government over broadcast material it calls indecent.
“It’s a bad time here for us because George Carlin was part of the family,” said Anthony Riddle, the station’s general manager. “I think all the producers are dealing with it in their own way,” Mr. Riddle said, some doing commentary and others running archival material, including a bleeped-out version of the “Seven Words” routine.
The 1978 ruling, often termed “the Carlin case,” was actually called Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, and turned on a 12-minute Carlin monologue called “Filthy Words” that appeared on a 1973 album, “Occupation: Foole.”
Dems Who Flipped On FISA Immunity See More Telecom Cash
By Chris Frates / The Politico
House Democrats who flipped their votes to support retroactive immunity for telecom companies in last week’s FISA bill took thousands of dollars more from phone companies than Democrats who consistently voted against legislation with an immunity provision, according to an analysis by MAPLight.org.
In March, the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity. But last week, 94 Democrats who supported the March amendment voted to support the compromise FISA legislation, which includes a provision that could let telecom companies that cooperated with the government’s warrantless electronic surveillance off the hook.
The 94 Democrats who changed their positions received on average $8,359 in contributions from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint from January, 2005, to March, 2008, according to the analysis by MAPLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the connection between campaign contributions and legislative outcomes.
Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial: Carlin's work went far beyond 7 words
Of course, George Carlin's legacy always will be tied to those "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television'' and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling on those naughty words. But it was Carlin's everyday observations - those casual musings and the way he phrased them - that embodied his memorable career as a comedian. Carlin, who died Sunday at 71, leaves behind treasures of humor that will be handed down from generation to generation.
Consider his observations on, well -stuff - and people's propensity to collect things and have a hard time parting with them.
"That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.''
Carlin found humor in most things, including the scrambled way we sometimes communicate: "Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?''
By Joe Rao SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist posted: 27 June 2008 7:00 am ET
Two bright planets will approach each other in our evening sky during the next couple of weeks. They are Mars, which was so brilliant during the Christmas season of 2007 and has since diminished dramatically in brightness, and Saturn, which has adorned our evening sky since midwinter.
Both worlds are now visible about one-third of the way up from the western horizon as darkness falls.
And as a bonus, located between these two planets is the bright star Regulus, in the constellation of Leo, the Lion. Yellow-white Saturn, shining sedately at magnitude +0.4, is located above and to the left of Regulus, while the much dimmer Mars appears below and to the right of Regulus. At magnitude +1.6, Mars has now fallen to the rank of second magnitude and appears only one-half as bright as Saturn. Regulus, meanwhile is roughly midway in brightness between the two planets.
On this scale of brightness, smaller numbers represent brighter objects.
If you watch the sky carefully through the next two weeks, you'll be able to take note of the changing positions of these two planets and nearby star, relative to each other.
Yesterday was one heck of a day. It was one of those days where I run all over the place doing PlanPutnam type things and wondering why no one has sent me to Spain for the Water Expo and how come I can't find a benefactor so I can do all this full time! You rich, caring, wonderful people, you know who you are...
The booming you hear in the distance this morning is mortar training at West Point. Relax. It's not the next American Revolution... at least not yet.
Michael Lalor's campaign signs are now gone from both Kent and Carmel. Thanks to your help in ridding our roadsides of the constant advertising. Are they still up in your town? If so, do something now: write your town hall and demand that your local laws be enforced. If you have written and they still remain, write to let me know and I'll step in.
I went to the County office building for the 2pm public hearing on the Domestic Partner Registry, passed recently in a brave and bold move by the Putnam County Legislature to find the room full. At first glance, half were clearly supporters who had found out about the meeting via this list and from emails sent out by you. Others in the room were personally invited by the County Executive, others such as ministers and pastors and the like. Mr. Bondi personally invited minsters and justices of the peace in a letter that stated, "I thought that you, as someone who is involved in performing marriage ceremonies, would be interested in providing your feedback... I hope that you will make it a priority to attend."
But no one else I know, not any civic or community leader, not PlanPutnam nor anyone who might predictably speak in favor of this bill was invited by the County Executive. The hearing, though legally noted in newspapers as required by law, was also not posted to the county calendar, nor on the County website. Several attendees thanked PlanPutnam for posting the meeting for they would have not known from any other source.
Todays' column is going to focus specifically on that meeting because something this important happens only rarely in a place like ours. It was difficult to hear some of the names of speakers and their affiliations properly so I'll do my best to note this below with "(?)" afterwards. If you spoke and I referred to your comments incorrectly or misheard your name or affiliation, please let me know. This is not an article in a journalistic sense, but a personal editorial opinion about the meeting and you should read the rest of this piece with that in mind. While I do strive for accuracy and inclusiveness, my personal opinions are scattered throughout.
Mr. Bondi could not make the public hearing yesterday and according to what you heard or thought you heard, he was either in his office holding other public hearings or had a family emergency and was dealing with that. Though not surprised, I was disappointed with his absence and my comments to the record reflected this.
Deputy County Executive John Tully(pictured here) handily ran the meeting which started on time. He was calm and even handed, looked interested at what each person had to say and only once had that "Oh my, here we go again," look on his face. There's a skill in that and he deserves credit for keeping the meeting moving smoothly over a subject that could have - and in some instances did - reach across the emotional divide from calm to impassioned.
More than 20 people took the lectern to speak on the issue.
With few exceptions, those from the clergy predictably spoke about how a Domestic Partner Registry would weaken marriage. With marriage, they say, you make a commitment to the other person that is hard to break but that with the registry all you need do is go to the Clerk's office and dissolve it with a form. This is not entirely true, marriages are easily broken and more than 50% of married couples in this country seem to have no problem dissolving their commitments. The difficulty, I assume, arises from the cost of such, what with lawyers and whatnot. But this impediment doesn't seem to be able to keep people together for very long, regardless of what the clergy had to say.
Thankfully, few in the ministry spoke about how marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman. One minister asked, if we allow same-sex couples to marry, where will it end? We've heard this before coming from the fundamentalist Christian movement with some pastors suggesting that people would marry their pets and farm animals and it makes me wonder what kind of fantasies these guys harbor deep within their (im)mortal souls.
Thomas Jackson from the Second Baptist Church was one who used the man-woman story (Leviticus 20:13 or Leviticus 18:22 and 29 depending on which version of the bible you're reading,) as a reason the domestic partner registry should be vetoed. Reverend Tony Colbert(?) from the New Life Christian Church claimed the registry was an "end run to gay marriage", that if we were "one nation under god," that we should heed god's word on these matters. And Dr. Phil Doctrow(?) from Mahopac gave us a long dissertation on moral values that touched on so many subjects I'm not even sure where to start. FOIL the tape if you're interested.
If you've had the opportunity to read Leviticus, the book upon which those who stand against same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general use as a basis for their objections, you'll know that the same chapters include a prohibition against mixing cattle in fields (sheep and cows together is a no-no!), mixing fibers in clothing (a wool-cotton blend? Bad!). You should never shave your beards or your hair, you should never pierce your ears (nor any other body part), you should never mark your body in any way. You should be kind to immigrants since you were once yourself an immigrant in Egypt. Cursing your mother or father is met with the death penalty. You may only marry a virgin. That if your hand or foot is broken or you have any physical disability you are forbidden to approach God. That you should leave the corners of your fields unharvested and some grapes on your vines for the poor and needy. That your employees should be paid every day - on the day - for their labor.
Why then do these assuredly holy men, those who use the word of god to condemn, not obey the very word of their god themselves? According to Leviticus, the punishment for that is - death.
On the other side of the argument, and also from the ministry, was the Rev. Kenneth Mast of First Presbyterian Church who said that this was a civil matter, that there was no official theology on the issue and looked forward to the Registry's passage. Mr. Mast was joined in that sentiment by Karen Burger from Drew Methodist who said that we need "greater justice" for gay and lesbian residents. Following was the Reverend Martin (?) who said that god's law has been used to support slavery, the subjugation of women and Jews and other horrors throughout history and how it was time to take a different view.
Of the residents who came to speak only one spoke against the bill. A gentleman from Put Lake said that we should not legislate immorality, that he'd heard "a lot of smoke..." and that gay "acts and relationships" are not genetic but choices that people opt to make. That unlike being born with blue eyes or with black skin, homosexuals choose that lifestyle.
Hilda Brown, a retired corrections officer from Kent, spoke about her partner of near 4 decades and how she'd like to be able to formally and legally commit that relationship and that through her job in corrections she's seen the results of weak religious marriages.
Others who spoke in favor were Vic Tiship from Kent and Judy Allen from Putnam Valley who read a letter from a neighbor of hers, Craig Lucas, a man in a long-term committed relationship. Cindy Katz, and Jerry Ravnitzky, both from Carmel. Mr. Ravnitzky said that he'd been married for a long time and did not see - or even know - that the registry was going to constitute a threat to his own marriage! Dagmar Swanson, an elderly lady, spoke about the compassion such a registry would create for people as did Edie Keasby a long time Putnam County resident from Patterson. Lynne Eckardt from Southeast, and David Juhren of Cold Spring who wrote me afterwards saying in part,
"...I was moved by how many clergy from various denominations were there in support of the domestic partner registry."
Scott Havelka, a representative from The Loft, A GLBT organization in White Plains, took the podium and and said that there were 1324 different rights that married couples benefit from which would not be bestowed on those on the registry and that Westchester has had a Domestic registry since 2002 and Rockland since 2007(?) and the world did not end.
But the two most interesting speakers were both ministers, Larry Maxwell from Patterson and Brian McIntyre(?) from the Lakeview Church. Both men presented impassioned speeches about how marriage can uplift people, benefit children and lead to healthier and happier lives. Mr. McIntyre quoted from a Rutgers study that pretty much says that marriage is the be-all-and-end-all of happy tidings. Aside from the fact that he selectively quoted from that study, neither man ever used the terms "gay" or "homosexual" or "same-sex" and neither implored the word of god as a basis for denying equal rights. In fact, from both their testimonies they, perhaps inadvertently, gave the impression that they disagreed with the registry since it didn't go far enough, but would support gay 'marriage' since marriage, in and of itself, was the tie that binds families and people together.
At the end of the meeting County Legislator Tony Fusco took the lectern to explain his abstention vote on this matter. He said that there were "holes in the bill" which might inadvertently affect innocent parties though he was not explicit regarding what they were. But he also said that he would support full civil unions and "would fight" to see that passed.
While the County Executive is an ace at walking both sides of any issue, seemingly supporting diametrically opposing positions at the same time, I really don't see that many choices for him. But there are three possible scenarios off the top of my head;
1) He will sign the bill into law bringing Putnam County into the 21st Century, 2) He will veto the bill, await a Legislative over-ride, and then speak about how he supports equal rights but "has problems" with the current bill. 3) He will send the bill back to the Legislature asking for a little touch up here and there, then drag his feet for months while "in negotiations" with them and nothing will happen. He will claim he supports equal rights but do nothing active to prove that support and at the same time be able to show the church that he's on their side, too.
But he's a crafty dude and when dealing with any issue he's always full of surprises and bears an even thicker Teflon coating than Ronald Reagan whose picture hangs proudly on his office wall.
All in all it was an exciting day for Putnam County. The Legislature's bold move, the outpouring of support for such and the civil nature of most of the speakers. (I really don't appreciate being called immoral by anyone with a haircut. See the bit about Leviticus above.) Mr. Bondi says he will make a decision come Tuesday and you can be sure we'll be watching.
And for today at least, that's the News That Matters.
Why we allow elected officials to run public hearings during the work-day is beyond me and there ought to be a law against such things but until there is, or until egalitarian representatives are elected to government, those who would seek to get over on the public will hold them when they know it's hard, if not impossible, for you to attend. Why do the business of the people when the people can be around to participate? We'll just mess stuff up, I guess.
So goes Bob Bondi's public hearing on the recently passed Domestic Partner Registry legislation which will be held at 2PM in his offices on the third floor of the County Building in Carmel this afternoon. Thanks to all who have sent notices to their email and friends lists over the past few days. Even if we cannot get people out due to the intentional and unfortunate timing of the public hearing, the County Executive knows he's under a microscope and that his actions will be very closely watched.
If you can get away from an hour or so, this should be quite a show. But watch the guy: he has a way of saying one thing then interpreting it differently within whatever context is suitable for him at the moment - and I have the battle scars to prove it.
The Suozzi Commission is in the news again. Last week the Putnam County News, perhaps the best source in the county for local news reported:
"Shortly into the question and answer period, however, Suozzi's credibility - and the Commission's report - appeared to be seriously damaged when, asked to comment on the Cahill Bill, Mr. Suozzi said he didn't know anything about it. As the bill (Assembly Bill A04746, a school tax reform bill that would "make provisions for the state to assume all costs of basic quality education and for the elimination of real property taxes for the support of education.") was explained to him people could be heard commenting throughout the auditorium."
That was me doing the questioning and the explaining, by the way. There are also letters making their way into the editorial offices of newspapers across the region yet Albany is aloof to a real solution to our property tax problems and is still gaga over caps which will do nothing to solve the situation. Why is this no surprise? Until incumbent state reps face serious challenges in their home districts nothing will change.
As always, you can visit PlanPutnam.Org for a wealth of local information or to sign up for this (almost) daily newsletter.
LAKE CARMEL - The water in the cove near where Kitchawan Road meets Lake Shore Drive East is beginning to look carpet-like and green. Other parts of Lake Carmel most likely will follow suit soon, as warm weather, excess nutrients in the water and a lack of weed-eating fish allow plant growth to flourish.
As the lake community in Kent gears up for summer, residents have received a letter from the town alerting them that their season may not be weed-free.
"I don't see it being different than last year," said Wanda Schweitzer, chairwoman of the Lake Carmel Park District Advisory Committee, referring to the 2007 summer, which was notable for the lake's weeds. "Until we get the carp in, it's not going to get any better."
That's not going to happen until fall. Since last year, Kent officials have been trying to replenish Lake Carmel's population of sterile grass carp. But the town and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, whose approval is required, were unable to agree on the design of a barrier meant to keep the weed-eating fish in Lake Carmel.
HV Tourism Launches "Everything Dutch" Website and Offers Free Maps in Celebration of Henry Hudson's 400th Anniversary
In celebration of Henry Hudson's 400th anniversary of exploration and settlement along the Hudson River Valley, Hudson Valley Tourism has launched a special "Everything Dutch" website and is offering free maps detailing events and historic sites throughout the 10- county area.
By logging onto www.everythingdutch.org, visitors will be able to request their free maps and plan various excursions to a series of exciting events, historic sites, museums, gardens, art galleries, parks and more that depict the Dutch culture.
The Dutch influence is everywhere throgghout the Hudson Valley from the Dutch Reformed First Church of Albany, dating back to 1642, to the Knickerbocker Mansion, a 1770 Schaghticoke estate providing a unique example of early Dutch architecture. Fort Decker, located in Port Jervis, served as a home, military post and trading store for the descendants of Garretson Decker of Holland. The Dewint House in Tappan is the oldest surviving building in Rockland County, and served as George Washington's temporary headquarters during the Revolutionary War
If you weren't already convinced that sprawl is a major problem in Connecticut, how much are you paying for gas to drive to work?
Companies in suburban and rural industrial parks are now putting that question to prospective workers. With the price of gas well north of $4 a gallon, an employee facing a long commute to a job that pays $10 to $20 an hour might not net enough at the end of the week to make the drive worthwhile. By the same token, a company is reluctant to invest in an employee who may leave after a short time because of the cost of transportation.
The Courant recently reported that some companies are asking prospective workers to try the drive before committing to the job. This represents a sea change in Connecticut. The massive postwar move to the suburbs was predicated, more than anything else, on cheap cars and cheap gas. People and companies moved to distant subdivisions and industrial parks because they could drive. Now we reap what we have sown.
The imperative now is public policy that dramatically reduces our need for petroleum. Most of the state lacks easy access to public transportation. That has to change.
Khurram Saeed and Steve Lieberman The Journal News
Bicycle versus car. The roads remain the venue for the David-against-Goliath battle played out countless times every day on Lower Hudson Valley streets, from narrow single-lane roads snaking along the Hudson River to wide avenues through busy shopping districts.
Even though both bicycles and motor vehicles are entitled to use the road, their operators sometimes act like spoiled children and don't do a good job of sharing.
Most of the time they play nice, drivers and cyclists agreed, but sometimes ignorance of the law, as well as occasional malice, causes emotions to run high. Adding to the tension during summer weekends are the hundreds of New York City cyclists who invade Rockland and Westchester.
LITITZ, Pa. — Dorothy J. Merritts, a geology professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., was not looking to turn hydrology on its ear when she started scouting possible research sites for her students a few years ago.
But when she examined photographs of the steep, silty banks of the West Branch of Little Conestoga Creek, something did not look right. The silt was laminated, deposited in layers. She asked a colleague, Robert C. Walter, an expert on sediment, for his opinion.
“Those are not stream sediments,” he told her. “Those are pond sediments.” In short, the streamscape was not what she thought.
That observation led the two scientists to collaborate on a research project on the region’s waterways. As they reported this year in the journal Science, their work challenges much of the conventional wisdom about how streams in the region formed and evolved. The scientists say 18th- and 19th-century dams and millponds, built by the thousands, altered the water flow in the region in a way not previously understood.
They say that is why efforts to restore degraded streams there often fail. Not everyone agrees, but their findings contribute to a growing debate over river and stream restoration, a big business with increasing popularity but patchy success.
Many hydrologists and geologists say people embark on projects without fully understanding the waterways they want to restore and without paying enough attention to what happens after a project is finished.
In part because most projects are local and small scale, it is hard to say exactly how much Americans spend each year to restore rivers and streams. A group of academic researchers and government scientists, writing in Science in 2005, put the figure at well over $1 billion, for thousands of projects. Efforts are under way to bring more academic rigor to the business.
Sewage Right-to-Know Bill Passes House of Representatives
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 By: American Rivers
Landmark Bill Requires Sewage Treatment Plants to Notify Americans in the Event of a Sewage Spill
Contact: Mike Bento, American Rivers, (202) 291-3117
Washington D.C. - For far too long, Americans have been kept in the dark about the steady stream of untreated sewage that pollutes our rivers and lakes. Today, thanks to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), that could change. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed a landmark bill requiring sewage treatment plants to notify Americans in the event of a sewage spill.
“The safety of our water should never be a guessing game,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “Thanks to the Sewage Overflow Community Rightto-Know Act, people will know when their local rivers have been contaminated by sewage. When contaminated tomatoes were discovered in supermarkets, they were pulled from the shelf. We need the same warning when our waterways are polluted. Knowledge is power, and in this case, knowledge can mean the difference between staying healthy or falling ill.”
With oil prices skyrocketing, demand for solar power is booming. And New Jersey, which has used a rebate program to help install more solar panels than any other state but California, is getting burned by its own success.
There is a backlog of more than 700 applications for the rebates, and property owners have to wait months, even years, to get solar panels installed. The program, which is paid for by surcharges on all utility bills, has been shut down several times over the last three years because applications far outpaced rebate money. Some solar installation companies have had to lay off workers while they waited for rebate checks to be sent.
All this has convinced New Jersey regulators that it is time to wean solar energy from public subsidies altogether. The state plans to replace rebates with energy credits that can be bought and sold on the open market.
As it works out the details of the transition, New Jersey — not the place most people associate with solar innovations — finds itself at the forefront of a growing national debate about the role of government in helping stimulate this sector of the energy economy.
Help us conduct an experiment in the parks! Feeling experimental?
Weeds to WheelsIn partnership with Steel City Biofuels and GTECH, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy invites you to come learn whether garlic mustard, one of the most serious ecological threats in our parks, can be turned into something useful! On Saturday, June 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., we’ll be in Highland Park pulling garlic mustard and collecting its seeds. Then, on Sunday, July 13, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we’ll be at Blackberry Meadows Farm pressing the seeds and watching a demonstration of how biodiesel is produced from seeds to the gas tank. Our hope is that garlic mustard, like other plants in the brassica family, will be a useful source of biofuels.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a non-native, invasive plant that puts stress on ecologies throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States, including our parks in Pittsburgh. Brought to the U.S. as a culinary herb, it has no natural enemies in North America and, if left unchecked, can crowd out native wildflowers, destabilize soils, alter soil chemistry, and threaten ecological balance. If we want to maintain healthy parks and support strong biodiversity, we must curb the spread of garlic mustard!
Biodiesel can be made from any source of fat or oil including soy, palm oil, hemp, fryer oil, and other brassicas like mustard and canola. The efficiencies of these sources vary depending on the amount of oil and other factors. How does garlic mustard stack up? We don’t know! Biodiesel can be made safely at home in small quantities and used in cars with diesel engines with no modification required. It is cleaner-burning, can be locally produced, and reduces our impact on global climate change.
If you’d like to participate in any part of the event, please RSVP to Erin Copeland at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re planning on coming June 28, wear sturdy shoes and long pants you don’t mind getting dirty. And if you have a pair of scissors, bring those too (they’ll be handy for separating the seeds from the rest of the plant)!
Abandoned Farmlands Are Key To Sustainable Bioenergy
ScienceDaily (June 24, 2008) — Biofuels can be a sustainable part of the world's energy future, especially if bioenergy agriculture is developed on currently abandoned or degraded agricultural lands, report scientists from the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University. Using these lands for energy crops, instead of converting existing croplands or clearing new land, avoids competition with food production and preserves carbon-storing forests needed to mitigate climate change.
Sustainable bioenergy is likely to satisfy no more than 10% of the demand in the energy-intensive economies of North America, Europe, and Asia. But for some developing countries, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential exists to supply many times their current energy needs without compromising food supply or destroying forests.
Elliot Campbell, Robert Genova, and Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, with David Lobell of Stanford University, estimated the global extent of abandoned crop and pastureland and calculated their potential for sustainable bioenergy production from historical land-use data, satellite imaging, and ecosystem models. Agricultural areas that have been converted to urban areas or have reverted to forests were not included in the assessment.
The researchers estimate that globally up to 4.7 million square kilometers (approximately 1.8 million square miles) of abandoned lands could be available for growing energy crops. The potential yield of this land area, equivalent to nearly half the land area of the United States (including Alaska), depends on local soils and climate, as well as on the specific energy crops and cultivation methods in each region.
Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:35pm EDT By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Diseases caused by worms and parasites are draining the health and energy of the poorest Americans, an expert said on Tuesday.
And diseases associated with the developing world, such as dengue fever and Chagas disease, may become a bigger problem for the United States as the climate changes, said Dr. Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington.
"The message is a little tough because they are not killer diseases -- they impact on child development, intellectual development, hearing and sometimes even heart disease," Hotez said in a telephone interview.
He said the diseases help to keep people mired in poverty, as infections may last years, decades or even lifetimes.
"Throughout the American South during the early twentieth century, malaria combined with hookworm infection and pellagra (a vitamin deficiency) to produce a generation of anemic, weak, and unproductive children and adults," Hotez wrote.
The parasitic diseases are having similar effects now, he said.
Monday 23 June 2008 by: Brian Stelter, The New York Times
Getting a story on the evening news isn't easy for any correspondent. And for reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is especially hard, according to Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News. So she has devised a solution when she is talking to the network.
"Generally what I say is, 'I'm holding the armor-piercing R.P.G.,'" she said last week in an appearance on "The Daily Show," referring to the initials for rocket-propelled grenade." 'It's aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don't put my story on the air, I'm going to pull the trigger.'"
Ms. Logan let a sly just-kidding smile sneak through as she spoke, but her point was serious. Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever.
"If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts," Ms. Logan said.